Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Call to Precarious Balance

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Staying balanced is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for the Christ-follower.  After all, extremes are easy: love without truth, truth without love, accept everything, allow everything, or condemn everything. It requires no effort to be carried away by the emotion of the moment, and it requires little effort to just go numb and feel nothing.

But we are called to walk a much more difficult path, and follow the example of our Way, Truth and LIfe. The very ones the religious establishment considered the most sinful, Jesus felt compassion for and became their friends.  They in turn felt his love and were drawn to him. And he did this without ever condoning their sinful activity.  I think Jesus’ response of sadness and compassion is because he knew how harmful and destructive sin is to our most important relationships. He wanted people healed and restored to the intimacy for which they were designed.

Consider lying and dishonesty as an example. A person may try and convince themselves and others that little white lies harm no one. They may even conclude if the lie is not detected, “it’s all fine” and "nothing happened."

That, however, is itself a lie, a deception. Every lie is breach of trust and it undermines the stability of the relationship.  Undetected lies breed more lying. The liar often lives in fear of being discovered, nagged by a sense of guilt, an inner unrest that leaves him or her uneasy. He can no longer interact openly with the other person, and the tension grows, becoming palpable, leaving both the liar and the lied-to feeling unsettled. There is something very ‘not right.’  Instead of transparency there is suspicion, instead of sharing there’s hiding, instead of honesty there are more lies.  Instead of fully giving to one another, there is minimal self-disclosure, and any apparent openness is cautious, guarded and self-protective. All this is a death-knell to intimacy, be it emotional, sexual or spiritual. The relationship begins to die, and it makes no difference if it is between parent and child, worker and boss, husband and wife, or between a person and God. The only thing that puts the relationship back into balance and restores the state of intimacy is a return to the original design—complete honesty, confession, repentance, and forgiveness. And from there, a renewed commitment to honesty and integrity, to rebuild the broken trust and regain shattered intimacy.

Jesus knew all this – after all He created people and designed then for close and intimate relationships.  How could he not feel compassion for people suffering the effects of sin? So Jesus approached people openly, giving them a taste of his love, acceptance, compassion, and tenderness, and when their spirits were awakened to their thirst Jesus pointed them in the way they should go—repentance and faith in him. But always in that order - love, compassion, friendship, then the Word and the double-love command. True love for God is reflected in how we love – with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and then loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. Without obedience and submission to God's pattern for relationships we cannot experience the intimacy we both want and need.

And that is the great tragedy of same-sex “marriage” it can never be what God intended marriage to be. People who choose same-sex relationships rather than heterosexual ones, never experience the maximum, most alive intimacy with another person in the way God himself prepared and designed it. God designed two sexes so that when they came together they could experience a metaphysical unity, a physical, sexual and spiritual connection enabled by their diverse physiologies they could never experience apart from one another.  It is a union that is paralleled only in God. The Triune God. The God who is Three and One.

“And the two shall be one flesh.”

This cosmic unity can only fully occur within the context of heterosexual sex, when image of God male unites with image of God female. And this can only be experienced at its maximum capacity, joy and fulfillment in a monogamous marriage, because only in that context does it have the blessing and approval of God. To replace that relationship with a sexual expression not sanctioned by God (homo or hetero) is to forfeit the opportunity to experience the maximum level of intimacy and love available to us - not only with another person but with God himself.  In addition, any sexual expression outside this intended design is going to ultimately damage and harm the participants.

It is like when I grab my wood chisel and use it for a screwdriver. I can make it work – sometimes quite effectively; I can make the screw turn. Let's face it, under certain circumstances it is a whole lot easier to grab the wood chisel. I don't want to invest the time and effort to get the tool I need. Furthermore, I don't want to deny myself the ability to get the job done without further delay.  But something always gets damaged in the process, and in most cases it is both the chisel and the screw.  Eventually, if I persist, I’ll end up doing irreparable damage to both. It’s the inevitable result of ignoring the intended purpose and design.

Now there is certainly excitement, attraction, sexual pleasure, and a certain experience of love, intimacy and commitment outside the context of monogamous, hetero marriage. But that is a result of our being made in the image of God with a capacity for such things. It is a sort of common-grace, something we get despite our behavior, since we don't cease to be image of God, just because we rebel against Him. You can still get the satisfaction of tightening the screw with the wood chisel.  However, such experiences will likely be superficial, and instead of providing long-term satisfaction, will leave a lingering thirst, or a sense that something is missing.  And just as dishonesty in a relationship undermines and smothers deep, true and lasting intimacy, introducing a sexuality not sanctioned by God does the same. It is impossible in that context to experience the relationship as God designed it. Sin of any kind, but especially sexual sin, introduces a sort of virus into the relationship that impedes its development, and sooner or later ends up killing it unless the situation is remedied.  It is not surprising then that so many go from relationship to relationship, from partner to partner (or multiple partners) and their relational thirst, instead of being quenched, becomes more acute.


All the while Jesus, in his perfect balance of tenderness, compassion and truth, still wants intimacy with his creatures, and invites them to savor his love through repentance, forgiveness and communion with Him.  When he sees me with my nicked-up chisel, stripped screw head and skinned knuckles, he doesn’t fly into the room, screaming at me to look at how much damage I'm doing and telling me how stupid I am for tightening a screw with a chisel, carpenter that he is.  Rather, he acknowledges the importance of the screw being tightened, then lovingly and patiently invites me to look at the damage. If I have eyes to see, he then invites me to lay down the chisel and take the time and effort necessary to go get the screwdriver and experience the joys of intended design.  

This is the difficult yet engaging balance that characterizes the very heart of Jesus. So how can we who have already tasted of His love, offer any less to those who have never experienced it? It's possible to accept and love the person without approving of their behavior - after all we do this with our kids all the time. And people know when we truly love them and care for them, even when we don't agree.  It's the reason my wife and I got invited to the same-sex marriage of a dear friend, and It's the reason we've chosen to attend. We love her deeply, and we care about her and what's important to her -- and so does Jesus.  It's the precarious balance Love calls us to walk. 

5 comments:

Mom Jones said...

This is beautifully written, Joel; provoking, thoughtful, kind, and true all at the same time.

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