Harder Family

Harder Family

Sunday, June 6, 2021


Matthew 22:36-39 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like ie: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Love. That is a term we hear tossed around all the time. Love yourself, make love not war, spread more love, all we need is love. In the church, there has been an emphasis on God being the God of love. Although love is one of God's attributes, it is not His only attribute. When we focus on only one aspect of who God is, we lose sight of who He really is. 

When we are talking about God, I would caution not to just focus on God being love. He is love, but He is also just, righteous, holy, judge, eternal, and infinite. To only focus on one attribute that we find easy to understand and find appealing, is to really steal from who God is. So when we talk about God, I think we need to keep in mind that He is more than love, but His love for us is expressed in the mercy and grace He pours out on us.

What about believers? When it comes to believers, what should define us? In this case, I think that love is the one description that should describe us. The joy, hope and love of God, which dwells in us, is what separates us and distinguishes us in the world. When the world sees the church loving one another and loving those around them, it makes Christianity appealing. It catches their attention because it is so different from what we see in the world around us. The world says, "We need more love", but how many are really experiencing that in their lives? Our friend from China told us that when he came to America, he was so astounded by Christian's love for not only one another, but also their love and kindness toward him. It was so different then anything he had experienced in China. The love that he saw made Christianity attractive to him. 

Another question I pose is this: do you find prideful people attractive or does it put a bad taste in your mouth? A few years ago, Wayne and I attended a Christian conference. Although the preaching/teaching was theologically sound, there was something about the event that bothered me. There was an air of pride and arrogance not only in a few speakers, but also in many of the believers who sat around me. The conversations and attitudes spoke not of love, but of an arrogance like they had arrived because they had their theology straight. 

In comparison, when I walked into Celebrate Recovery, I found a group of believers who were humble and Christ-like in their attitudes. They were very aware of their brokenness and how God had healed them. They loved on everyone that walked through those doors and there was no attitude of arrogance. There was no indication of "hmmm...we are much better than them." 

These two pictures remind me of a story Jesus shares in Luke 18:10-14 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people - robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

As followers of Jesus Christ, I think we need to remember from where we came. If not for the Holy Spirit opening our eyes to our need for a Savior, we would be just as lost as those around us in the world. I think we too often expect the world to behave and act like Christians. How can someone who has not been transformed by Jesus look like Him? If we are honest, how many of us who love and follow Jesus don't always look like Him either? Are we maybe focusing on the wrong thing? Are we too focused on the behavior of the world instead of the lostness of the world? If we obeyed Jesus' commands to us - 1) love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength; 2) love others as we love ourselves; and 3) go and make disciples of every nation (sharing the gospel with the world around us)- would we see a marked difference in our world? I think too often we try to fix the fruit and not the root. The root of the problems our world faces is that they are lost and in need of Jesus! 

I say all of this to lead up to something that God convicted me of this week after reading a post by a pastor friend. He challenged Jesus-followers to take this month of "pride" and take a posture of listening. He said that too often the church has caused damage and hurt in others, whether intentional or not. He discussed the problem in the church of cherry-picking sexual ethics. We always hear the sin of homosexuality discussed, but how often are the other sexual sins discussed? Do we talk about how many in the pews are into pornography, are having sex before marriage, having affairs, or divorcing their spouse? In Christopher Yuan's book Out of a Far Country, he discusses this topic as well. He says that the Bible only supports one sexuality and that is holy sexuality. Holy sexuality is chastity in singleness or faithfulness in marriage. God's design for marriage is between one man and one woman. As Paul said, not everyone is called to marriage, and yet the church has almost made marriage an idol. So what are single people supposed to aim for in their lives? They should aim to honor God with their lives and also pursue holy sexuality. 

If you read Christopher Yuan's book, you will discover that he was gay and when he became a Christian, his whole life was transformed when the Holy Spirit entered. Part of his story that I love is the faithfulness of his mom. His mom prayed every day for her son for seven years. Her knees are actually calloused from praying for her son to be saved. In an interview I listened to the interviewer asked Angela, Christopher's mom, "When did you realize that God loves my gay son?" She replied, "I began to see that Christopher was just like I was, a sinner who rejected Christ. And that God loved everyone - even Christopher - regardless of what they do. I thought that if God can love my son, then I could still love him as well." Their story is so powerful! If you haven't read the book, I highly recommend reading it.

I am sure that if I said, tell me John 3:16 that almost all of you could rattle the verse off to me. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life." God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to this earth with the sole purpose of dying in our place. He took our sins upon Himself and bore the consequence of our sin so that we could have a chance at a relationship with God. Sin is missing the mark of perfection. None of us can be 100% holy, so we all miss the mark. We miss the mark by lying, cheating, stealing, gossiping, causing discord, sexual sins, anger, jealousy, loving money more than God, etc. Somehow throughout history, we have slowly made a hierarchy of sins. I think in part we have done this because if we say, "Well, at least I don't do THAT sin", it makes us feel better about ourselves. But doesn't that sound a lot like the Pharisee in Luke 18? We shouldn't be comparing ourselves to others, who are also missing the mark, but we should be comparing ourselves to Jesus, who lived a perfect life. When we try to measure up to Him, we will find ourselves always falling short. So why have we decided that certain sins are the ones we talk about? Is it because it's easier to point things out that we don't struggle with so that we feel better about ourselves? 

After reading the challenging post, I started contemplating a few thoughts. One of my thoughts was if the church had been real, and I include myself completely in this, could we have avoided causing damage in some people's lives? If I struggle with porn and never share that with anyone, which causes me to feel shame and worthlessness because I know that those actions do not please God, I'm going to just keep spiraling down further. Satan will know how to attack my thoughts and pull me deeper down. In the same way, what if you struggle with same sex attraction or struggle with your sexual identity? No one would ever dream of sharing that in any small group. All the gossiping ladies would have that spread all over church. But what if we were more real? What if we discovered we weren't the only ones struggling with a certain sin? All of a sudden you don't feel alone and God can start working in your life to make you more like Him. 

Jesus loves people, that is why He died. He loves gay people, He loves straight people, and He loves anything in-between. We don't have to fix ourselves and try to be a certain thing before He will love us. He loves us as we are BUT, He loves us too much to let us remain that way. Just like any Jesus follower, the Holy Spirit is constantly working in our lives to make us more like Him. It is a process called sanctification. So although a murderer, a thief, a liar, a porn-star, a homosexual, or an adulterer can be saved and love Jesus, God will not allow you to remain in that sin. He will work on you and transform you into looking more like His Son Jesus.

Showing love is the only way to treat people who are different than us. It reminds me of the story of Rosaria Butterfield. She was a lesbian professor who attacked Jesus, Republicans, and patriarchy in an article about Promise Keepers. The days to follow resulted in many letters. She created two piles: one for fan mail and one for hate mail. She received one letter that didn't fit in either pile. It was a letter from a pastor who was very kind and inquisitive. He challenged her to support what she wrote in her article by asking deep questions. She threw the letter away because she didn't know how to respond. She later took it out and ended up spending many hours with the pastor and his wife. The love of Jesus that they showed her over the next few years is what God used to transform her life forever. Her book Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, is worth a read. If you want to know how to best interact and show the love of Jesus to the LGBTQ+ community, these two book are a great place to start because you see how God uses our prayers and LOVE to change lives.

So in this pride month, what can we as Jesus followers be doing to show the love of Jesus? First, I think we have to remember from where we have come. We are sinners saved by Jesus and He is slowly transforming us into His image each day. We too were once lost and in need of His saving mercy and grace. Shouldn't we show that same love, mercy and grace of Jesus to people who are lost? No one will be won by shouting "Jesus hates gays", which we have established above is a complete lie! No one is going to be won over if we just focus on the "fruit"/behavior and not consider that "root"/heart of the issue, which is salvation. 

Second, we need to remember the commands Jesus gave us while He was still here on earth: love God, love others, and share the gospel (which is really a beautiful weaving of loving God and others). Our job is to present the gospel. It is God's job to save and transform lives. 

Third, we need to remember to be humble. We should all strive to be the like humble tax collector beating on his chest for God to be merciful to him. The day we start to feel like we've arrived and we have things "all figured out", is the time we need to ask God to help us see ourselves for who we really are, sinners saved by a merciful and loving God.

1 comment:

  1. So so good. You may or may not know that Corinne is gay. I hate even writing that word. We do have calluses on our knees, and while we wait on God, we just love on her. And her friends.