The last year has been a fascinating, albeit entertaining one for me with regards to the recent LGBT legislation, Supreme Court rulings, and subsequent reactions from the Evangelical Christian community of which I am a participant.
What’s particularly humorous to me, is the idea that the “c”hurch in America thinks this is a Christian country. This idea that there’s a map room in heaven, and Christ at one point allocated America like some type of voting line re-districting as His personal land of “Thou Shalt Not’s”. While there are a boat load of self-professing Christians living here, they’ve forgotten something the Big Guy told us last time He was here.
This is not our home. (Disclaimer – if you don’t believe what I believe, most of what’s written here will sound crazy. But it’s okay.)
The earliest Christians knew this. If we look at what their “society” looked like, it was more like a commune, and less like what most American Christians are living today. Graphically, here’s what the church right after Jesus looked like:
This is how American Christians think it’s supposed to look, and work:
I love America. I think it’s a great place. I do think it’s the greatest country in the world – and I fully understand that there’s a lot of things wrong here that we don’t do as well as some others. In terms of a sum total though, you could do a lot worse. But as a Christian (“little Christ” in the greek) I think of America more like my friend Nunzio thinks of North Carolina. Nunzio makes my Pizza at his restaurant, “Cicciones” in Lewisville NC. He likes it here, but he’s always talking about his house in Naples. He loves it there. He loves the water, the way the sun sets in the evenings. He talks about it like he’s always living there in his mind, and just happens to find himself here, in Forsyth County North Carolina for the time being. He doesn’t expect people in Lewisville to follow Napolitan culture. He doesn’t expect people to drive on the left side of the road. He doesn’t expect people here, well, he doesn’t expect much of anything.
If you’ve never been to Naples, he would say – you just don’t know. Being around him though makes me want to go where he goes, and see what he’s seen.
Lately, the news has been abuzz with stories about Kim Davis. She’s a clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue court certificates of marriage to gay couples, citing religious freedom as her foundation for denial.
She walked out of the jail yesterday to the tune, “Eye of the Tiger”, and I almost puked.
When asked about paying taxes, Jesus told the people asking him whose picture was on the coin. They answered, “Ceaser’s”. Jesus then said to “render unto Caeser what was Caeser’s”. Translation: You’re living in someone else’s home right now. Play by the rules.
Jesus also said, “Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”. He was communicating to people that wanted to follow him as Messiah, that living here as a Christian was no picnic.
In the northern states of India – if you accept Christ and follow him, you lose your benefits as a villager. You no longer receive monies sent to the village by the government. Your family disowns you, and you’re literally “out of the will”. You’re ostrocized.
In China, if you accept Christ – you can’t meet in a church. You have to secretly meet in your homes. If you’re caught meeting in your home, and “having church”, you go to jail. If you own a bible, you’re arrested and go to jail.
In Syria, and Iraq, Christians are being crucified. And burned alive. And their heads are cut off. They’re forced out of their villages into the surrounding hills, and “starved out” until they either die, or convert. Their wives taken, sold, or raped.
Boko Haram soldiers storm Christian areas going from home to home in Northern Africa, demanding that every man convert to Islam. Those who refuse are shot dead on the spot. Their wives are raped, and impregnated purposefully.
Ergo- I’m fascinated by someone who is an official representative of the United States Government not resigning from her position, when asked to give licenses to gay couples. It’s sort of like complaining someone gave you regular Coke, instead of Diet, and making a huge scene at an Applebees.
I’m fascinated when someone who bakes cakes for a living in a secular business environment is surprised someone asked them to stand by the anti-discrimination laws they agreed to obey when they opened a business. We’re told in the New Testament,
“”Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone,” Col. 4:5-6. (NIV)
The words, “Be Wise”, literally translate into, “Buy the time”. In essence, when you interact with people who don’t believe Jesus was Messiah, you treat you’re time with them as a special opportunity that you would have paid money for. A chance to communicate what? Grace. A chance to share a testimony with someone. Nowhere does Paul say we’re going to be carried around on people’s shoulders for believing what we believe. Remember – Paul was in jail when he wrote what he wrote. In jail for believing Jesus was the son of God.
What if someone said, “I get to talk to gay people who don’t believe in Jesus…people will literally walk in off the street to buy a cake…people who don’t know Jesus. And for the price of some flour and sugar, I get to share my testimony with them. Share the good news of Christ. Pray for them, or even maybe with them.”
What if Davis had said, “There are these people who come in to me for a marriage certificate. How can I communicate grace to people that don’t know Messiah yet in the 15 minutes I have with them? If prayer works the way Jesus says it does…if everything that happens to me is prepared beforehand, maybe I can write their names down and pray each night, or during my break. ”
We don’t get demerits from Christ for baking cakes for gay people. We don’t get points off for issuing marriage certificates to LGBT couples. We’re told there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.
Paul said that he “became all things to all people” so that they might hear the good news (gospel) of Jesus. Every opportunity was an opportunity to be “salt and light” with people who haven’t accepted Christ yet (again, if this sounds crazy to you, it’s okay – I get it).
As soon as we figure out we’re the little circle, surrounded in a bigger circle…like people in China, Africa, Syria, hell….anywhere and everywhere else have figured out – people like Kim Davis are going to make it harder to have those conversations. If you see someone like that, remember one other thing Jesus said,
“Not all who sound religious are really godly people. They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but still won’t get to heaven. For the decisive question is whether they obey my Father in heaven. 22 At the Judgment many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we told others about you and used your name to cast out demons and to do many other great miracles.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘You have never been mine. Go away, for your deeds are evil.’”
I think, if Paul was making tents (as he was known to do) he wouldn’t turn someone away in Greece for being gay. But people who came to Paul to make tents for them knew he was a flaming Jesus freak. You have to wonder – why did they do that? We’re missing an awesome opportunity to share our story, and definitely not “buying the time”.
Please don’t celebrate Ms. Davis’ release. Let it serve as a reminder that Jesus went back to prepare a place for us, and that He’s coming back soon to show us what a God equipped with carpentry skills can accomplish in 2,000+ years. Make a cake. Or a pizza. Or fill out a form. Be Jesus. America isn’t heaven (although Costner almost convinced me Iowa was).