If salvation is based on the sacrifice of Jesus alone…and our whole relationship with God is based on Jesus, why do we as Evangelical/Fundamentalists base so much of our judgement of a person’s salvation on what they do? And do we have that right? (these are not the big Question by the way, just ruminations.)
Here is the scenario (the dilemma)…
Suppose there are three guys who 15 years ago all made a “commitment” to Jesus, and were “saved” in their youth group when they were 13 years old. They all were model young adult Christians and all of them felt called to full-time ministry.
Now they are all 27/28 years old. There have been many changes since that night around the campfire at the youth retreat where they repented of their sins and give their lives over to God.
Ryan, dropped out of Bible college after his girlfriend became pregnant and had an abortion. he felt that he had failed God and after months of depression and a suicide attempt started to get his life together.Today he works at a dance club as a bartender and lives with his girlfriend. He holds on to that day he was saved but feels to ashamed to attend church, so spends an hour or two a week reading his Bible.
Tom finished Bible college and went on to get his Masters in Divinity from a well-known fundamentalist University. He is the pastor of a small church in Orlando, Florida. he is married and unknown to his congregation is verbally and sometimes physically abusive to his wife. He has spent many a sermon preaching about how women need to learn their place, because feminism has corrupted the natural order of things. and his church as been active in protesting gay pride parades,and abortion clinics, and although Tom has never said this out loud, he delighted in the murder of two abortion doctors, feeling that they had brought it upon themselves by murdering unborn children. he spends two hours each day in prayer and Bible reading and expects nothing less from his congregants.
Our last person is Chris. for most of Chris’ life he has struggled with feelings that there was something not right within. Chris did not fit in with guys, or girls, for that matter and was a loner. ridiculed and mocked Chris spent a lot of time crying alone. Coming to understand who Jesus was and what Jesus did, allowed Chris to feel alive for the very first time. After graduating from college, and moving to New York City to pursue a career in culinary arts Chris finally came to understand what the struggle had been. Chris was a woman “trapped” in a man’s body. for the past 6 years Chris has been working with a therapist that specializes in helping people transition to their “real” gender. Chris now felt free and thanks God for bringing her to this understanding. She is heavily involved in her church, which is open and affirming to her. She sings on the praise team, has memorized huge portions of the New Testament, and works as a volunteer answering phone calls from young people at a Crisis Services agency.
Now the question…
Who do you think is a genuine Christian in this scenario just presented? would love to hear your thoughts.
16 thoughts on “A Dilemma…And A Question”
Thanks for writing, but I think the point of your post is that we aren’t supposed to answer that question, only to worry about ourselves.
Well I know this much, Jesus loves each of them and knows the struggles of each of them, and I know this… I’d sure like to know Chris and have her in my church family.
My Dear Brother,
As I think we have in prior times, challenged each other in love, and having confidence in the intent in each others words, so we challenge each other in this post.
I agree with Drew that I get the sense the dilemma you wrote was more rhetorical so I won’t engage the specifics. Rather I will focus on the generalities of judging – since that’s the matter of reflection.
Allow me to publicly remind both of us how much you are loved and appreciated as a brother in Christ. God has, in a sense, made my pulse stronger because of the work He’s done in you. Your focus on grace and insistence to love is beautiful and I would be so very sad if it were ever lost.
That being said, this kind of argument can and often does reduce itself into a judging or not polemic, with one side arguing verses stating that we are called to judge, and others siting those stating we are to love.
It’s my thought that scripture does indeed direct Christians to discern, to test, and to make judgement calls. I can provide the verses if needed, but I think you know them. At the same time we are cautioned about judging others; and pressed to look inward first. Lastly, we are told to love, and to speak the truth in love.
Romans 1, I believe, levels the playing field in a way that shows us that human kind is subject to all sorts of deviant and deplorable behavior; homosexuality is but one of them. The problem is, imho, that we all tend to focus on criticizing the sins that offend our sensibility; and I think for a number of reasons that homosexuality offends more peoples sensibility than say, gossip or slander, or drunkenness, or strife, etc. etc. etc, and conversely we go easy on those who share our own.
I believe that the problem you’re getting at is largely due to this misunderstanding or ignorance of Romans 1 and an ignoring of ones own “sin of choice”.
hopefully this makes sense. for what its worth, and as your brother in Christ,
Well said. It’s pretty easy to throw stones at those who struggle with the sin of homosexuality when you have absolutely no temptation to that particular sin.
I was working a Christian charity event yestery aimed at meeting the needs of a poor community. I was on the grocery give away team and we were joined by a local community volunteer. After the young man had left us to go and help out with some heavier work a woman said to the group. “Oh, my, that young man was so nice and he wasn’t even a Christian.” I asker her how she knew he wasn’t a Christian and she said she asked him and he didn’t go to church. Christians, she maintained, go to church. It’s difficult not to pick fights. I did NOT tell that as a Christian minister, I avoided church for quite a few years because I couldn’t stand the bigotry. Later another woman was asserting that before Jesus came back, we’d all come to believe exactly the same doctrines, the right ones. Again, on the tip of my tough was the desire to ask her which portions of her doctrinal orientation did she expect to change before the return of the Lord. Surely she wasn’t intimating that she had it all right. Sometimes I think it might be my Christian duty to pick fights. I find it easier to judge these two than the three from your story, Actuallly, i’ve known people who were just like those you mentioned. I’ve seen Jesus in them all.
as a former christian, now adamantly opposed to all things even resembling organized religion, i can say that mark is one of the few christians i have come across who isn’t horrifically judgmental. sure, you can take whatever bible verse out of context to justify whatever you want regarding how we’re to discern others (BULLSHIT! and i used to do it myself), but now that i’m on the other side of things, i will say this – christians are some of the most hateful and judgmental people in the world. and it’s all while they’re trying to “speak the truth in love”. it’s nothing but bullshit. listen to mark if you really want to reach nonbelievers. he’s the only one among any christians i’ve met in the last ten years that i would actually be interested in having a conversation with.
There are definitely no perfect Christians as you’ve found out. I’d like to challenge you a little bit though and say that neither are there any “former christians”.
of COURSE there are former Christians. They are the very wise people who realize that many of the people who currently call themselves Christians are displaying many behaviors and opinions that neither they (or JC) would probably want to be associated with. I like to call these people “action Christians” they preach through actions rather than words….
In making this statement, you are making a doctrinal statement which is not agreed upon even among Christians. There is an underlying assumption you have made. In a way, you are also dismissing the person’s experience, feelings, etc. I think I know where you are coming from, I am just not sure your challenge is letting the person know you hear them.
You’re right, Leanne, I was driving at that doctrinal statement that not all Christians agree on. I see on the comments further down that some folks immediately jumped to the conclusion that I was dismissive of their experience and feelings. I don’t know any of those folks at all and know nothing of their experiences and feelings. I don’t doubt there were some deeply felt experiences, convictions and feelings happening.
I was just stating (again, I know Christians differ on this) that if you are truly a Christian you will persevere in the faith. Not that you won’t fall often (you will) but you will not ultimately renounce the faith and therefore there are no “former Christians”. I don’t think that diminishes anyone’s feelings or experiences it just is a statement based on scripture – (1 John 2:19 among others).
Who loved, forgave and showed abundant mercy, is closest to the genuine article.
yes, there are former christians. and that you would state that there aren’t is simply arrogant. think about the assumptions that you just made about my inner spirituality by stating that. you do not know any more about god or spirituality than I do. I just freely admit my ignorance instead of clinging to an ancient storybook.
First I want to thank you for your kind works, I am humbled and a bit embarrassed, but thank you.
Secondly, I want to say, as a part of the community that has not lived up to the claims professed, I am sorry. I have several friends that have come to the same conclusion as you have, after living their lives immersed in “christain subculture”. I can understand completely how you have come to the decision you have, more than once I have been tempted to take that step too. Peace to you my friend.
It seems like they’re all genuine Christians, on various points of their journey. I do see a sort of lead runner though, from the way you describe them. I feel like this example in inspired by the hypothetical question Jesus asked about the famous Good Samaritan. Who is the better neighbor/Christian? The on who helps… or the one who loves.
This is a beautiful piece of writing, Mark. Jesus told us to love each other. Jesus never said “get up in thy neighbor’s Koolaid and judge their business.” Nope he sure didn’t. We are put on this earth to take the darkness and make it light to the best of our ability. The only way to transcend this crazy world and all the evil in it is through love and acceptance.
let me just reiterate what the message was that i really wanted to come across here. regardless of my own personal stance on religion or christianity, i have immediate family members who are still very much a part of the church, so I must contend with them always. this is what i’ll say – when i was a part of the church and genuinely believed that i was helping people by “speaking the truth in love” and all that, i really believed that i was loving them. now i realize that that was not love. love is acceptance. balls-to-the-wall acceptance. i dare any of you to do that. you might just get a positive response. mark, again, thank you for challenging the longheld beliefs about what it means to live like christ. YOU are the one that christians should be emulating. you’re the most christ-like in your love and acceptance of anyone i’ve met recently.
you might be interested in this blog as well.