Perhaps sensing that morale was low within our Hebrew Syntax class, Dr. Betts rallied the troops by sharing this story with us on Thursday:
“I was beckoned out of the classroom during drills one day and this guy was crying and shaking uncontrollably. I figured something really terrible must have happened. After he composed himself I asked him what was wrong and he said, ‘H-H-Hebrew.’ I got mad at him. I had backed over my son with my car and nearly killed him earlier in the semester. That’s a trial. Hebrew is a privilege that men around the world would give everything to study, and you’re crying about it?”
I glanced at my boss as he tried to freeze his smile in place. The conversation had been innocuous enough, a guest talking about his rather passionate distaste for the plastic flower vase that came standard in his wife’s Volkswagen Beetle. But then he switched tones to the universal we-all-know-’bout-them-queers voice and quipped, “I mean, some guys are cool with the plastic flowers and all in their car, but they’re usually the ones with the rainbow stickers and all on the backs of their cars, if you know what I mean.”
Little did he know that one member of the conversation was openly gay.
Perhaps unlike any other sin, homosexuality conjures up the ‘us verses them’ mentality within our hearts and our churches. Preach a sermon on the evils of homosexuality and the degradation of American society and you’ll have ‘amens’ flying like teenie-bopper screams at a Justin Bieber concert.
This demonizing of homosexuals is Satanic on a number of different levels. And I do say Satanic intentionally, for it tears down some in our own midst and drives away others who might otherwise become our brothers and sisters.
First, it communicates to believers who war against homosexual impulses in their own hearts that they are substandard Christians for having to fight that battle. Victory against sin will not be achieved without the help of the community of believers, and by demonizing one particular sin those individuals who struggle with it are cut off from the very thing that they need to help them win, for their sinful struggle is something that would lead to the community condemning them as well.
And second, it destroys the message of the gospel. Do we treat the rest of the unconverted like we treat the homosexual unconverted? Do we respect the homosexual unconverted in our speech the same way that we to the arrogant unconverted? Our actions should be winsome to both. Are we as winsome to the man who frequents the Pink Pony as we are to the woman who worships $500 purses?
I think part of what fuels this is the definite “creepy” factor in homosexuality. It opens a lot of doors that we don’t want to look behind. We’re used to thinking through the implications and questions about pride or lust or gossip. But the questions homosexuality produces are strange and uncomfortable. Does my male boss think that I’m cute? Suddenly that’s a question that’s on the thought radar.
As dangerous as this sounds, we have to normalize homosexuality in our Christian culture. By “normalize” I do not mean that we should consider homosexuality an acceptable practice that glorifies God. He abominates it. Those who practice it are hell-bound. But as a sin, it cannot shock us. We must not react to it with the demonization of its practitioners. Homosexuality is an understandable byproduct of Genesis 3, and we live in a post-Genesis 3 world. It doesn’t take long for humanity to move in the text from “naked and unashamed” to the attempted homosexual gang-rape of angels.
In a world that either reacts with bigotry or blessing, we as Christians must show a third way. We call to repentance out of a deep desire to see them know Christ, to find what they’re looking for in all the wrong places. But we also respect and treat with honor and compassion and kindness, for those we are called to render to all men, not just those that live like us.
You needed a Savior. That’s a terribly humbling fact. But there are many different kinds of saviors. Some saviors save by inspiration, men whose courage and candor stir the hearts of those around them to do great things. Others save by example, painting with their lives a canvas of images to imitate.
But those are not the kinds of Savior you needed. The kind of Savior you needed is not so photogenic as the first two. You needed a Savior that had no stately form or majesty. You needed a Savior whose only crown would cause blood to run down his head as thorn pierced scalp, enduring sin He would be paying for only moments later. You needed a Savior whose clear and penetrating call from the cross spoke what was to have been your lot: My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
We all know the answer to that question. This is no Savior whose saving comes on the white wings of an appeal to the courage or goodness of those being saved. This is a Savior who is both the ransomer and the ransom. To save others, He must give Himself. It is a great manner of mercy to ransom another, to give your gold for their freedom. It is a far greater degree when your own body and the rending of your union with the Father is the ransom.
But we could have had no other Savior. If God was to save, He had to give His Son. An infinite debt may only be paid by an infinite being. And so it was to be that Jesus Christ, the god-man, was smitten of God.
By His stripes we are healed.
To Miss Sarah Edwards, [at] Lebanon
My Dear Child,
Your mother has received two letters from you, since you went away. We rejoice to hear of your welfare, and of the flourishing state of religion in Lebanon. I hope you will well improve the great advantage God is thereby putting into your hands, for the good of your own soul. You have very weak and infirm health, and I am afraid are always like to have; and it may be, are not to be long-lived; and while you do live, are not like to enjoy so much of the comforts of this life as others do, by reason of your want of health; and therefore, if you have no better portion will be miserable indeed. But, if your soul prospers, you will be a happy, blessed person, whatever becomes of your body. I wish you much of the presence of Christ, and of communion with him, and that you might live so as to give him honour, in the place where you are, by an amiable behavior towards all….
I remain your loving father,
To master Timothy Edwards, at New York:
My Dear Child,
Before you will receive this letter, the matter will doubtless be determined, as to your having the small-pox. You will either be sick with that distemper, or will be past danger of having it, from any infection taken in your voyage. But whether you are sick or well, like to die or like to live, I hope you are earnestly seeking your salvation. I am sure there is a great deal of reason it should be so, considering the warnings you have had in word and in providence. That which you met with, in your passage from New York to Newark, which was in the occasion of your fever, was indeed a remarkable warning, a dispensation full of instruction, and a very loud call of God to you, to make haste, and not to delay in the great business of religion. If you now have that distemper which you have been threatened with, you are separated from your earthly friends, as none of them can come to see you; and if you should die of it, you have already taken a final and everlasting leave of them while you are yet alive, so as not to have the comfort of their presence and immediate care, and never to see them again in the land of the living. And if you have escaped that distemper, it is by a remarkable providence that you are preserved. And your having been so exposed to it, must certainly be a loud call of God, not to trust in earthly friends or any thing here below. Young persons are very apt to trust in parents and friends when they think of being on a death-bed. But this providence remarkably teaches you the need of a better Friend, and a better Parent, than earthly parents are…
Your Affectionate and Tender father,
Timothy Edwards was 14; Sarah Edwards 13 when they received these letters from their father. Harsh? No. But rather weighted with the understanding that in the face of the terrors of hell and the kindness of Christ, anything less than the fullness of reality is worthless. Euphemisms and baseless optimism won’t cut it.