The Second Coat of Paint

01 Sep

If you’re just joining this conversation, you might want to pop over to the first post on this topic here: someday I’ll figure out how to arrange all this webby stuff so that you can just click on the word “here” and all that http mumbo-jumbo will be invisible.) If you read through the comments on that post, you will see that I’m floundering around trying to answer questions that I already admitted to being ill-equipped to answer. God help me, I am trying, but I still feel like I’m skirting a couple of the big issues. So here comes my attempt to slap a second coat of paint on the barn.

The expected (but no less terrifying) question has been raised: Is homosexuality a sin?

I’m going to paint with a broader brush for a moment. The Bible makes it pretty clear that sex (heterosexual OR homosexual) outside the context of marriage is sin. I think that’s fairly standard doctrine in most traditional Christian churches. But it’s also a huge blanket statement.

Let’s take a step back from the gay/transgender/etc. layers of the discussion for a moment and look at a slightly simpler situation.

Imagine a commonlaw couple. By conservative, Biblical standards, they are living in sin. I could get in their face and tell them they need to repent and stop their immoral behaviour. There may be an element of truth to my words, and some people feel that’s the only justification needed to proceed in such a manner.

I feel differently.

I feel my first response should be to show love. We are called to be like Jesus. He came and built friendships with people and ended up dying for them (us) while they (we) were still seeped in sin. He didn’t expect anyone to clean up their act before He embraced them – and neither should we.

Once I express love and acceptance for this couple just as they are, perhaps we will begin to form a friendship. And as our friendship deepens, I will begin to see layers to their relationship that complicate the aforementioned blanket statement that condemns their life of sin. Maybe one of the partners is growing in their faith such that they want to change things about their relationship status, but the other partner isn’t on the same page. Maybe they have children. Maybe one or both of them have been traumatized by former marriages and divorces and they are terrified of re-entering that institution.

There are a whole lot of ‘maybes’ that can only be counselled, comforted and healed by God through His Spirit and His direct work in their lives. Any blanket statement of judgement (whether it’s true or not) would hinder that, and possibly destroy it. Some of those ‘maybes’ could involve an issue of personal sin, but some of them are issues of injury inflicted by someone else, or heartaches and vulnerabilities that are really hard to work through. It’s not up to me to categorize and place blame.

Now we come to even more complicated layers: homosexuality, gender reassignment, polygamy, interracial relationships, divorce, plus any number of other issues that divide liberal Christian from conservative Christian from agnostic from atheist… The barn is too big for me to paint!

Maybe I’m still skirting the issue of sin, and you are welcome to call me a coward if you feel you must, but I just can’t make a broad, condemning statement to the whole world-wide web.

Am I saying there’s no place for person-to-person confrontation of sin? Absolutely not. There is great benefit in having trusted friends to whom you can say, “I don’t understand what God is trying to tell me in this. I have a problem with what the Bible says about that. Where did I go wrong and where do I go from here?” Mentoring relationships can be mutually beneficial as an opportunity to grow and learn in your journey with God. But trust has to be firmly established in the relationship long before sin can be discussed and addressed.

I don’t have that established, personal, trust-founded relationship with the faceless masses of the blogosphere. I do not know the various layers that make up your personal conflicts and confusion. That is why I refuse to make a blanket statement of condemnation.

With that (and with fear and trepidation), I hereby open it up for further discussion. Go.


Posted by on September 1, 2012 in God, Personal Growth


Tags: , , , ,

15 responses to “The Second Coat of Paint

  1. Ruth

    September 1, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    Here’s my two cents worth. I have come to understand that a sin is a sin, no matter if it is known by others or not. Some sins are obvious to the human eyes and others we never know about. God loved ME so much that is sent His ONLY son to DIE for ME!!! He forgave my sins and some of those sins some would think are doozies.

    I don’t think that man has all the answers but I found that Pastor Mark Driscoll does a good job with the question of homosexuality.

  2. Anita Neuman

    September 1, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    Thanks, Ruth! I have seen a number of Mark’s sermons and respect many of the things he says. I’ll have to check this one out!

  3. Jaclyn

    September 1, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    amen…amen…amen. I love Tony campolo and many of his thoughts on this issue. There is one clip in particular that I love…when he addresses that whole ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ slogan….every time I hear it I get goosebumps.

    • Anita Neuman

      September 1, 2012 at 2:22 PM

      Awesome! Thanks, Jaclyn. I’ll look that one up, too!

  4. C.J.

    September 1, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    Not sure what happened…I wrote a comment but I don’t see it anywhere…the gist of it was you’ve got it! lol You never know what you are getting into when you don’t personally know someone, and it is not our place to judge someone else.

    • Anita Neuman

      September 1, 2012 at 5:07 PM

      You posted a comment on the other post – is that the one you’re looking for? Regardless, thanks for the comments and encouragement.

  5. The Orchestra Director's Wife

    September 1, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    The way I see it, the minute I point the finger at someone else for their sin, I have three fingers pointing back at me. If I draw the circle around myself and take care of the person inside, I have plenty to keep me busy.

    From what I have seen, there are a lot of Christians pointing out other people’s sin, but they are so chocked full of the sins of hatred and pride. Some think that homosexuality is the worst sin in the book, but last time I checked, there was no ‘rating scale’ on which sin is the worst. Sin is sin, and we all have it…that’s why we need a savior. 🙂 The other person is the one who will answer for their sin, not us. We’ll be judged for all of our own sins.

    I like your idea of loving the sinner, but hating the sin. When it boils down to it, I believe that any sexual sin is just a hunger for love, anyway, yet misdirected. Jesus was all about the sinners, not those who seemingly had it all together.

    Thanks for having the courage to broach a difficult question. You make excellent points.

    • Anita Neuman

      September 1, 2012 at 5:07 PM

      Thanks so much, ODW! I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment!

  6. jcmmanuel

    September 2, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    Very good thinking, again (not that I have anything to ‘approve’ here, mind you – I’m just being rhetorical).

    A few phrases I like very much: “Any blanket statement of judgement … would hinder that, and possibly destroy it”, and: “person-to-person confrontation of sin” (the emphasis on it being a person-to-person thing). And most definitely I like this one: “trust has to be firmly established in the relationship long before sin can be discussed and addressed”.

    In fact you can’t do anything wrong anymore as far as I’m concerned. Clearly your foundation of faith is compassion (empathy) and understanding – to me that’s what Christianity is all about, Christianity IS compassion. Nothing else matters more that these very basics. Any theology will be wasted on today’s skeptics an post-modern agnostics unless they can observe those very basics in those who claim to be Christian. If we can’t shine the love of God then no bible quoting can solve that problem for us.

    On the subject of sin, I think the concept is too narrow. The word has a religious context (more than the word ‘evil’) and fits in no one’s cognitive dictionary anymore (except conservatives). Yet, most people have a notion of evil of course (so let’s stick with that one, for God’s sake – in the name of good communication). ‘Sin’ is also hard to understand because of Genesis 3, where it’s clear (even from a theological point of view) that this is not about sin in any normal definition there (like stealing, killing or telling lies). And the fact that it was disobedience with regard to God doesn’t make it any easier – it means that the story wants to teach us something about knowledge of good an evil – but no one today (except conservatives) has a good idea about what that is, and certainly do people sense that when we are talking about sin or evil in general, Genesis 3 is far from being helpful. If you’re not a (Jews or) Christian then Genesis 3 is totally cryptographic to most people.

    Genesis 3 was perhaps never meant to influence the general idea of ‘sin’ to begin with. Already in Genesis 4 we are talking ‘murder’ – a very different beast. Sin against God and sin against our brother or neighbor are different things – Genesis 4 is already a post-Eden era already. And yet… Christians use the word ‘sin’ as if there is some kind of crystal-clear concept of sin which we can read straight from those old pages. Nothing could be further from today’s reality.

    Already the simple statement that sin means “missing the mark” isn’t as simple as it sounds. We all know that not every ‘missing a mark’ in our lives ‘marks’ a sin (pardon the pun). James says something about our weaknesses (as opposed to sins). Moses allowed divorce even while apparently this wasn’t the original idea. Point is we have to distinguish things, with a heart that understands the language of love. The way of Jesus.

    We all “needanewman” 😉 – the Jesus of the Gospels, not the Jesus of the Republicans.

    • Anita Neuman

      September 3, 2012 at 10:11 AM

      Ha! I certainly CAN do wrong – and do regularly. But the sentiment behind the compliment is much appreciated. 🙂

      I’m intrigued by your definitions of sin, and your thought that sin against God and sin against others are different somehow. I agree that “missing the mark” is a rather meaningless phrase. I would say that sin is anything and everything we do that is contrary to the righteousness/holiness of God. And we’ve all done plenty of those things! Therefore, sinning against other people is still sinning against God. So whether it’s murder or eating fruit that God said not to eat, it’s sin. All of us have sinned and need the grace and forgiveness offered by Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

  7. C.J.

    September 2, 2012 at 9:09 PM

    Wow, great comments! ODW you are so right, there IS NO rating scale for sin! How do we forget that so often? And JC I totally get what you are saying about the clarity of sin. Personally, I can pinpoint my own sin based on what it does to my conscience. And I’ve got enough of it going around myself that I don’t really have the room for anyone else’s if I am taking my own sin seriously.
    Anita, I actually had posted something here first before following the link and posting on the other one…but oh well LOL

  8. jcmmanuel

    September 2, 2012 at 10:43 PM

    Right, C.J. … That’s the spirit. We are our own first responsibility in judgment.

  9. jcmmanuel

    September 3, 2012 at 4:51 PM

    Oh, and to Anita (I missed your comment last time), the difference between sin against god and against others… You suggest that “sin is anything and everything we do that is contrary to the righteousness/holiness of God” – that could be a definition of sin that works for a Christian (who may still have an awful lot of questions about how such sin is being defined exactly). To most other people this makes no sense at all – not at this point. A non-believer has no clue what that’s all about. So at that point we have our secular concept of what’s wrong – and fortunately, we have things like Human Rights declarations and all sorts of other things that preserve much of the wisdom of the past.

    We always have a common basis for these things (certainly in the West, but Christianity is, after all, the only religion that has penetrated in every country around the globe, with the exception of just two Islamic states if I remember well). Paul of Tarsus understood that too – as he was arguing at the Areopagus on the basis of words spoken by pagan philosophers.

    • Anita Neuman

      September 3, 2012 at 9:02 PM

      Yes, by that explanation, I would agree that people definitely have a wide variety of opinions regarding what qualifies as sin/wrong/immoral – whatever you want to call it. But I think that humanity generally accepts the existence of right vs. wrong. Right? That’s one of the results of Eve eating from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

      Maybe we’re talking in circles now. I’m not a very good debater (which frustrates the tar out of my husband). I think I’ll back off the conversation for now and give my confused and tired brain a break. 🙂

  10. jcmmanuel

    September 3, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    And of course – I should add – it may then be possible to talk about Christian concepts too. What I meant was that this is not always where we should start, in a world where people have long been alienated from Christianity as a club of weirdo’s who don’t have their both feet on the ground anymore, have no sense of engaging with their own world. The point is you always have to start somewhere. And quite often, we need to understand our culture before we can make sense to people (this is what Paul did).


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