Burning the High Horse

First of all, you should know this is going to be a post about religion. It is directed from a religious person toward religious people.

I know that a lot of the people who will read this are not Christians and don’t ever plan on taking up that particular cross and I want you to know that I am not here to change your mind on that. I’m writing this to correct what I think is a sickening oversight in modern Christianity, but if you want to read it anyway, I’ll do my best not to get too preachy.

I’ll get to it then.

“I don’t hate the sinner; I hate the sin.”

This is a plague, a rot in our souls that we parade about like it’s a peace flag destined to bring our “enemies” flocking to our side. “Our side,” like it’s some kind of war between churchgoers and the heathen. “I don’t hate that you’re gay; I hate that you have gay sex.” I’ve heard this and variations of it often and I cringe every time.

Tell your car mechanic, “I don’t hate that you’re a mechanic, but you do terrible work.” Does that sound like an intelligible thought to you? Are those words you would deliberately conjure together and deliver as a representative of who you are? Of course we don’t hate the occupation, or the sexual orientation or religious conviction. How could we? Those are just titles we give to people who perform certain activities. We disconnect the two in rare cases we don’t want to face head-on because it’s our only defense mechanism against whatever it is we’re afraid of about these people.

When Jesus came into our world, he spent time with people from every walk of life. The religious people of his day called him a drunkard and a glutton because he ate and drank with “sinners.” Did he care what they thought? Did he care about all of the sins these people committed? In every instance that Jesus is specifically mentioned in the Bible as having spent time with a religious outcast (for whatever reason,) he was more concerned about them than the things they did. He asked questions, searching to understand them.

Because that’s who he was. He lived his life specifically with the intention of setting an example for those who would follow.

And what do we do? We whine and we moan and we complain because “that guy” came out of the closet. “We always knew he would,” we say, and then turn around and lament that he wasn’t raised in a more “godly household.”

For the record, I AM SORRY for people like this. I AM SORRY that we suck so incredibly hard at living with our own decision to love unconditionally.

Christians, we are called to more and less. We are called to be more than just another cult of failures who pretend to be one thing and do the opposite. And at the same time, we were never asked to pour so much concern into the choices of others. We were told to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, not others’.

In Huckleberry Finn, Huck is presented with a choice. He’s been taught that sinning will send him to hell, and is convinced that he must turn in a runaway slave because it’s the right thing to do. But after writing a note to give the slave up, he changes his mind and says simply, “All right then, I’ll go to hell.”

We praise his choice, because we know it was the right thing to do. Why can’t more of us choose hell over our religious games of right and wrong? Why do we continue to ignore that statute set for us by Jesus and persist in spreading hate and bitterness around us?

When Jesus died, he did not do it just for the ones who have it all together. He didn’t do it just for the ones who needed a little extra grace. He did it for everyone, be they rapist, hipster or gay. He didn’t care then and he doesn’t care now how broken we are or how unbroken we think we are. What he wants is for us to find ourselves in him and live that toward other people.

The rest will come with time, not judgement.

* * *

Done preaching. If you don’t think you’re religious, but you stuck with me through that, thanks for bearing with me. I get that my audience isn’t dominantly Christian and I like it that way. I don’t have a lot to say on the topic of religion in general anyway because there are professionals who do it better. But, in the future, if you’d prefer to avoid these posts, I’ll stick them in the Religious category so you know right off the bat and can give me a hard time about it in my next post.

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6 thoughts on “Burning the High Horse

  1. Once Jesus met a woman who committedadultery with many men. The religious leaders of the day were following the statutes set down by church doctrine and beginning to stone her. He stopped the stoning and accused them of judging her for being a sinner, while not judging the husband or their own sins. This was right. The woman thanked him after they left, and He smiled at her, His love deep and wide, His Grace for her complete. “You are forgiven he said,” But then he said something else. “Go and sin no more.” And this was also right.

    No, the stones we throw are not the correct way of dealing with sin, and we should be dealing more grace than we do. But neither should we just accept sinning. We should all be echoing Christ’s words…”Go and sin no more.” And that should be our highest desire for anyone, especially ourselves. There’s a place for hating sin, hating the fact that because of our actions we are separated from God. Hating the things we do that increase that distance. Hating that that happens to other people too, because the contract of how much we love the relationship with God, and the closeness that comes of being obedient to Him, makes the feeling we have towards the distancing seem like hate in comparison.

    And that’s what most people mean when they say that. Or what they should mean.

    I can sense that if you were to meet a bigot, you would feel the same hate of his actions, and would perhaps feel very hard pressed to love the man regardless. And that, that is exactly what you are judging as wrong. Because bigotry is a sin.

    And so what does grace do to a man? It does this. It gives them the ability to love, but it also gives them the ability to strongly desire that the sinner “go and sin no more.”

    • jjoelw says:

      When I see that I’ve made a mistake, I hate it. I hate the things that I do wrong and the things in my life that hurt people. But that’s my life, the one I’m in control of and that I am responsible for.

      What I’m talking about here is Christians who think it’s their responsibility to go around calling out other “sinners” who are no more guilty of screwing up. In some cases, I’d dare say they have their lives together even more than the Christians who hide behind the rulebook.

      I am personally far less concerned that people would “go and sin no more” than I am with how my life affects theirs in a positive way. Because I believe that I am called to refrain from judging. That is my personal, religious conviction that I hold strongly to.

      Let me put it this way: if in any situation, I am given a choice between accepting with love and rejecting with judgement, it’s my responsibility as a man of God to react with love. I do this because I believe it’s the right thing to do and because I know that it brings people closer together. Those two reasons are inseparable.

      John Scalzi put it very well when he was asked about his take on transsexuals*. “Why make it harder for them?” It’s a simple response toward a very targeted issue, but it applies across the board. If at all you can avoid it, why make it harder for them?

      * Scalzi’s response in context: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/12/28/on-transfolk/

  2. Brad says:

    Well said. It seems it is way too easy, when following the “love the sinner, hate the sin” mindset, to place all, or most, of our focus on hating the “sin” rather then loving the “sinner” (which we all are anyway)

  3. DavidW says:

    I think at the heart of the situation, you are right. If we do not love someone (regardless of their lifestyle) we have issues. However, I have am not a fan of the “accept everything” school of thought. By letting those around us sin we are failing when we could be helping. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

    Another Bible passage to take into account whenever discussing judging is 1 Corinthians 6:3: “Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!” God has given us knowledge and wisdom. Applying these in love can be incredibly effective. I will say that abusing these spiritual gifts, like the abuse of any spiritual gifts, are incredibly devastating.

    • jjoelw says:

      I wouldn’t read that as an invitation for us to impress our convictions on others, but as encouragement to be critical of what we see going on around us. And Christians, as people who have taken a particular level of accountability upon themselves, should definitely do that and make decisions accordingly. For our own lives, so that we become better examples of what Jesus wanted.

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