Open Forum: The Ninety-Nine And the One
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (Matt. 18:12-14, NIV)
Thus did Jesus summarize what Christian ministry should look like as he set the example by going out of his way to reach out to the outcast, the wounded, the “sinner” and all those looked down upon by society.
From the perspective of Exodus, Focus on the Family and their allies, members of the GLBT community would certainly be considered “lost sheep.” Surely, then, Christians in the above groups would consider it all the more urgent to give freely and sacrificially of their time, energy and resources to identify and meet the needs of those “lost sheep,” following Jesus’ example of unconditional and self-sacrificial love that hopes for the best without demanding anything in return.
And we do see a considerable outpouring of time, energy and resources from these groups. Unfortunately all of that effort has been redirected to support a declaration of war against the aforementioned “lost sheep,” who have been labeled a deadly threat to the rest of the flock by virtue of their current location.
Compassion gets redefined out of existence as love becomes something to withhold pending a sinner’s repentance. Ministries that once sought to help those in need divert more and more of their resources to political crusades as the church sets aside its spiritual mission to wage a holy war against the rest of the world.
On the rare occasion that a lost sheep does return (usually on hands and knees, and only let back in after acceding to a list of ultimatums), it’s immediately paraded around as a trophy and its testimony wielded as a weapon against those that remain “unrepentant.”
But maybe God won’t mind if a few million of “these little ones” fall through the cracks as a result of the church’s crusade to establish a “Christian” nation. It’s all being done in His name, after all.
Sounds like a good time to ask: What would Jesus do?
Eugene: To realize that many Christians cannot perceive the words of Jesus, can cause quite a grieving process. I enjoy Kubler-Ross’ model of grief, as I think it covers much that we experience.
And I really cannot tell from your letter where you are in the grieving process. If you are angry, I offer you a hug and empathy; if you are bargaining with them, I will wait until you tire of the heavy burdens they lay upon you; if you are depressed, I hope that you will hold to Jesus all the closer.
I offer that at the end of the grieving process does come acceptance – not surrender, but a quiet calm acceptance that many are called to maturity, but few wish to answer the call.
The scripture is like an automobile – the scripture does not change its theme. After all, your quote in Matthew is even more stark in Ezekiel 34, where the lost and the strays are to be sought out by the shepherds, and the fat sheep are rebuked for driving out the weak sheep. And yes, the shepherds are removed from their office for their irresponsibility.
But the maturity of the ‘driver’ is what matters.
The immature see the car as a vehicle that allows a rush to battle, an excuse to isolate from the ‘sinner’, a reason to avoid the wounded, a marker for successful division, and on and on. The mature see the scripture as a vehicle that allows a walk towards peace-making, a measured response to ensure they eat and drink with ‘sinners’, a call to heal the wounded even at personal cost, and a marker for practicing the art of reconciliation.
If Jesus is speaking to you about maturity, then luv, you are blessed. Drive your car as He did. Hugs; Caryn
Hmmm….a metaphor from the animal kingdom is way too simplistic. Human beings are unique to one another in ways sheep never will be. Sheep are dependent and mild mannered animals.
They are more easily controlled and cannot and will not form a collective to fight injustice against themselves or another.
The metaphor is very telling. It denotes an unquestioning and fully controlled population. The one lost sheep among sheep…can be carried off by wolves too. The shepard is merely uninterested in competing with a wolf for the same dinner.
However, our various and sundry conditions that we know more about in human beings, still doesn’t mean that homosexual adults are sheep and are to live as mindless followers or with little more status than a child.
Straying doesn’t always mean lost, but following one’s own heart and mind too.
And sometimes without someone like that, most of us would still be living in very dark times.
I’ll remind you of the physician Samuel Cartwright who made up a condition in black slaves called “drapetomania”. He defined it as a mental disorder among blacks born to slavery who would continually plot to or actually run away. In his mind and in public education, the inferior status of blacks and blacks themselves was to also define blacks as or with little more mental and intellectual prowess than an animal.
In this, I find that gay men and women are placed in that dehumanizing category. As people who are not ‘meant’ to be, meant to be self determined or ‘meant’ to compete in the mainstream with the heterosexual majority. Regardless that homosexuality isn’t a condition of morality, but simply and condition that if it’s mentioned in the Bible, is indigenous to human beings and all cultures.
Whatever the clinical name for it, the fact remains that our fellow citizens who are Christian, seemed determined to look at gay people as if they are bad children.
This is the similarity in TREATMENT by religious societies that gay people have in common with women and blacks.
Among our other gifts, unlike sheep…is curiosity, intellect and physical prowesss to order our world monumentally AGAINST nature.
So the arguments before gay people regarding what is or isn’t natural, is determinedly hypocritical when many Christians accept daily, a great deal that isn’t originally natural or profoundly mysterious.
There is no real quest for truth, when it comes to gay people. Many Christians are militantly incurious about gay lives and what OTHER things of merit gays and lesbians have to offer the world, or how OTHER societies eventually or always accepted it.
And this incuriosity is almost exclusively about homosexual people.
So sheep are sheep and people are people. And maybe some Christians wish people WERE more like sheep…which is a folly as profound as wishing gay people weren’t who they really are.
It’s an analogy used in scripture — it never asserts that people are the same as sheep. The (then) contemporary example of the shepherd’s devotion to his flock was used to illustrate a point. I’m not sure how taking it beyond that limited scope serves any purpose.
OT, it would be very helpful if you could format your comments correctly. I have no idea how you achieve that combination of hard returns without spaces, but the end result is very difficult to read, especially with long comments such as the one above. If you need help with this, please let me know.
I’m confused as to what grief you are assuming on Eugene’s part. He never mentioned grieving for anything, so I guess I missed something. Are you using this to describe your perception of his concern with the treatment of gay people by the Church?
And OT, I had no problem reading your comment. David sounds as though he is unnecessarily critical.
I suppose that depends on what is considered unnecessary. I’ve been reading Regan’s posts for years, and unless they are short I have a difficult time reading them. They almost always contain numerous hard returns, which lead the eye to expect a break for another paragraph, but they don’t break. Others have mentioned this to me, and I have privately offered to help Regan figure out what she is doing to make it happen.
If in your desire to commend her for something you enjoyed reading you overlook an issue which might cause others to skip over what she writes, well that doesn’t really help her get her point across. Everyone has something to gain by our helping her to format her comments correctly.
Since her last comment is a great example of the issue, I thought I would point it out to her again on the spot so she might be able to figure it out, or others might recognize how this might happen. It’s not a big deal, but your comments made it necessary to explain further.
I too was able to read Regan’s comment. However, the lack of line spacing between paragraphs did take a distracting few seconds to figure out. No need for this when hitting the enter key one more time would take care of that.
Good grief. Regan, Caryn, Eugene, I loved all of your comments. Thank you.
Dear David: I often check on the person speaking, really. Eugene never said that he was ‘grieving”, but I do so want to check and make certain that the speaker is not overlooked, and then, that the speech is addressed.
As said in the Bible: ‘We have this treasure in jars of clay’. I am concerned often about the clay jar. If we agreed with Tannen’s writings in “You Just Don’t Understand”, we’d most likely say that women look at both the jar and the treasure, most often in that priority; and that men most often discuss the treasure first, and then later check on the state of the jar. In my mind, both approaches are wonderfully valid sets of communication, and I like to think that each set brings a healing touch to the Body of Christ.
Eugene’s thoughts were excellent ‘treasure’. And, Eugene may be one of the strongest clay jars on this earth. I truly do not know him or his status. But, I am also aware of other readers, and so feel compelled to craft words that ‘bind the wounds’ just in case someone else with wounds is reading. Much love in Christ; Caryn
I’m wondering if the question is not: “What would Jesus do?” but rather: “What realistically can we expect?”
I was mildly surprised by the new announcements from the Mormon (LDS) Church about tolerance…no…I mean…their trying to understand their gay members. I certainly do not expect anything on par with their revelation in 1987 about blacks and their priesthood. But, it was an eye-opening moment when I read the recent Mormon acknowledgment of just how powerful the gay-attraction factor is and that maybe, just maybe, all the counseling and shock therapy at BYU was for naught.
Realistically, I do not expect Mormons to wane from promoting anti-gay legislation, preventing adoptions by same-sex couples or certain high-powered Mormons from advocating ex-gay therapy groups.
Could it be gays/lesbians need to form realistic expectations and not speculate as to what Jesus should have a Church and its membership do. Can we expect religions to change centuries of dogma in our lifetime? I think not.
Make peace with yourself and then finding your relationship with Jesus (or whomever) might be without an organized religion.
That lost sheep might find another path to the Shepard.
“Can we expect religions to change centuries of dogma in our lifetime? I think not. ”
Why not? They’re going to have to change at some point, and the greater visibility of GLBTs along with growing understanding of homosexuality seem to make this the ideal era to do so. There are plenty of congregations that already are making that change, or working towards it.
Dogma, even with the weight of centuries, does change sometimes. Why not this? Why not now?
Thank you for your concern. Personally I’ve worked through most of my disillusionment with the evangelical church, but I know there are always others out there who need to know that they’re not the only ones wondering why they can’t see the emperor’s fancy new outfit.
The church may or may not fully come around on this issue within our lifetimes, but change can and sometimes does happen that quickly. If you’d told me three years ago that I’d someday be writing for XGW, I would have phoned the men in white and asked them to reserve a nice, padded guest room for you…
For the good of our society, for the good of our fellow citizens, the culture war must stop. This attempt by political force, manipulation and scare tactics to bring this nation ‘back to God’ must end. The culture war is an unreasonable response to an changing world and should be cast aside, because it is doing far more harm than good. It is dividing us as a nation for all the wrong reasons. I call on Christians to consider that the culture war has already made Christianity an object of derision, has caused people to hold Christianity in contempt not because of a dislike of beliefs but because of a dislike of tactics. Is that what Jesus intended the Gospel to be about? Do you really think Jesus is honored by secret meetings, political threats, hateful street preaching and quasi-psychology? Is it really about deciding which candidate meets some single-issue litmus test? Or judging the worth of someone’s spirituality based on their sexual orientation or gender expression? Is this how trivial it’s meant to be? Because if so, then it will be by your own hands that Christianity is swept from the public stage, swept aside as a philosophy that can’t survive in the complex world we find ourselves in; a philosophy that in its search for truth doesn’t care who it hurts in that pursuit.
Excellent PW, and I agree 100%.
I personally wonder if our doctrines on The Tribulation — which are what, less than 200 years old? — and the intensification of this “end times” thinking by Hal Lindsey in the early 70s has helped shape this destructive adversarial dichotomy. I don’t see support for this in my overall reading of scripture, not at all. Yes, they describe a war against evil, but not against people. What we are experiencing from these culture warriors today is like some ugly, distorted, cancerous version of what God intends.
Rome had much in common with the US, and yet I don’t see any evidence of the kind of political culture warriors we have today in Rome, or anywhere else in those times. It’s all some bizarre “American Religion” we have let take over and I’m not sure if it has anything to do with Christianity at all. My stars, Peter LaBarbera? Bob Knight? This is the face of Christ?
It makes me sick.
There are real churches where grace is practiced more than just a soothing dogma. Where those who stray really are sought or at least given the knowledge that they are wanted.
I know these churches are few, and far between, but I am grateful for them.
I am equally upset at the churches that war culturally and yet provide no substance. It is hollow, it closes any door for any repentant (completely regardless of what issue), and certainly does not seek to show the compassion and love of Christ. It is Pharisaical, for certain–to enter into a show of righteousness culturally rather then practice loving God and neighbor.
May God help us all to learn to extend grace and love, overcoming our feelings of personal rejection, while yet not becoming sentimental Santa-Clause types who bless all and merely give presents.
Please specify which Pharisees you mean. I’m sure you don’t mean Hillel the Elder, for example, whose teachings parallel Jesus’ extremely closely and were 130 years old by the time of his crucifixion.
don’t worry, i promise this is the last i’m going to mention anything about it.
I agree with Emily: People should be specific about whom they’re criticizing. Sweeping generalizations are not cool.
The point has been made, let’s move past this.
I was waiting for the Alan Chambers vs. Anthony Falzarrano Caged Texas-style smack-down to move to this open thread (from the “scared straight’ thread).
And I had my pop-corn all ready.
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