Jason Collins and the Dangerous Arguments of Time and Love

When Jason Collins went public with his homosexuality earlier this week, it didn’t surprise me. Not because I had some insider information or I always had my doubts about his sexuality. It’s just that anyone with any idea whatsoever about what is going on in our culture knows that an announcement like this was bound to happen. And it’s only a matter of time before more prominent athletes will be making similar announcements.

But what did surprise me was the response to the Collins announcement. It probably shouldn’t have but it did.

In examining the fallout of Jason Collins’ public statement and the controversy surrounding Chris Broussard’s response it seems as though everyone in the media began to fall all over themselves just to prove that the dreaded homophobe label didn’t belong anywhere near them.

In doing so they used two basic defenses. The first one is based on time and the second is based on emotion.

The time argument says, “I have no problem with what goes on in your bedroom. After all, it is 2013.”

This is a very dangerous argument but it is one that is to be expected when we have abandoned established truths like we find in the Bible and replaced them with fluid or relative propositions. It is dangerous because anything that is divorced from a set standard has a way of regressing. What may initially look like freedom turns out to be quite the opposite. Sort of like the kite that has worked its way free from that annoying string.

Human sexuality is no different. Today, with it being 2013 and all, homosexuality is completely acceptable. But in a little while, say maybe five or six years from now, don’t be surprised when you are expected to be tolerant of grown men who are sexually attracted to 12-year-olds. “After all,” we’re sure to be told, “it is 2018.”

The second defense, the emotional one, is equally as dangerous because it arrives at the same point. It says something like, “As long as two people love each other, why should they be kept apart?”

More often than not, love in our culture is synonymous with sex. Do a quick survey of the songs on the radio or ask the average guy on the street to define love and this is where you will end up. Christians with a basic understanding of the Bible see love as self-sacrifice that delights in the good of another. The best example of this is the cross (Romans 5:6-11). A culture, no matter how sincere, that has rejected the cross cannot fully understand or practice love.

And that’s why the love argument, taken to its next logical step, is a dangerous one. The man who really, really loves twelve-year-olds isn’t concerned with self-sacrifice that delights in the good of another. All he wants is sex. And for our culture that’s good enough to be considered love. And who are we to stand in the way of two people who really love each other?

To be clear, Jason Collins is not a pedophile. By all accounts he is a very well-educated and hard working individual who has achieved a level of success that few will ever know. But, as is usually the case, the story is bigger than the headline. Jason Collins is the headline. Our culture’s response is the real story.

And we should all be concerned.

Concerned, not just for what may happen to our nation or the family structure as we know it but for the souls who hang in the balance.

Sadly, for many Christians, their concern has only led them to proclaim that homosexuality is a sin. This is a true statement (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). But it is not the full story.

After listing examples of unrighteous behavior that will keep people from inheriting the kingdom of God, of which homosexuality is one, Paul gives a very clear picture of genuine grace.

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11

Homosexuality is a sin but it is not a sin that is beyond the reach of a loving and forgiving God. Christians do violence to the gospel when they only announce the sin and leave off the opportunity of forgiveness.

As a Church, may we not get too caught up in the media’s response and agenda. Yes, it is dangerous and it is important for us to know how to respond. But we must remember that Jason Collins and others like him are not agendas. They are not news stories. They are people.

And yes, they are sinners.

But that’s exactly who Jesus came to earth and died to set free.

And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them,“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:16-17 (ESV)

Not So Friendly

The dog at the end of my street is friendly.  Well, at least that’s what some kid told me.

I have my doubts.

While the kid was telling me all about animal friendliness, that dog had a look on his face sort of like a young Ozzy Osbourne might have while gazing at a winged creature.  My kid was standing next to me, scared to death.  I told him not to worry because the dog wouldn’t bother him.

Judging by the look on my kid’s face, he had his doubts.

A few days later, my morning run took me by that house.  You know, the one with the friendly dog.  As I ran by, he came out to tell me good morning.  Nice and loud.  He was even kind enough to chase me a little.  On the way back, he wanted to say hello again.  This time he showed me his teeth while saying it with a growl.  But this time, I had a stick.  A really nice stick.  An Old Testament stick.  It helped to keep the dog from being so, well, friendly.

People have a way of hiding the ugly truth.  No one ever says that their dog is an annoying nuisance to society that would be better off if it were shipped to some glue factory.

And the same is true of the human heart.

It’s like we are in a never ending theatrical performance where our job is to convince others, ourselves and even Jesus that we really are just fine.

But Jesus sees through the performance.

One day he sat down with a lady from the wrong side of the tracks.  A lady with a past.  A lady that wanted to keep that past a secret.  A genuine performance artist.

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”  The woman answered him, “I have no husband.”

“I’m just fine, Jesus!  Nothing to see here.  How about some water?”

Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands and the one you now have is not your husband.  What you have said is true.”  John 4:16-18 (ESV)

Jesus could have ended the conversation with that gotcha moment and continued on his way.  In fact, he could have avoided the conversation all together.  But instead he kept talking.

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ).  When he comes, he will tell us all things.”  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”  John 4:25-26 (ESV)

And then something happened to the woman.  Her theatrical performance had come to an end.

So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did.  Can this be the Christ?”  John 4:28-29 (ESV)

The woman that wanted to hide everything was now celebrating the fact that a man cared enough to look beyond her act.

The beauty of the gospel is that Jesus sees through our performance to the very core of our heart.  Warts and all, as they say.  And he has every right to simply walk away.  But instead, he showed his love for us by laying down his life for our sins.

We never truly appreciate the love of Christ until we grasp the depth of our sin.

People like to say things like, “We are all God’s children” or “God is a friend of us all.”  But nothing could be further from the truth.  These are just lines from the theatrical performance.

Apart from Christ, we are not friendly with God.  We are children of wrath who fight against him.

But in Christ, we are no longer enemies with God.

In Christ, we are God’s children.

In Christ, warts and all, God calls us his friends.

You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.  John 15:14-15 (ESV)

Throwing Up and the Afterlife

Throwing up has a way of making you think that you’re going to die in the next three to seven minutes.

I think that’s why my son wanted to talk to me about heaven yesterday.

He woke up crying in the middle of the night.  I’ll never get used to waking up to that sound.  Nor will I ever get used to seeing my son laying face down in his own vomit like some 1970s rock star.

He was fine.  In fact he was laughing.  But he spent the rest of the day feeling weak and scared that he was going to throw up again.  When I got home from work we played Legos but he couldn’t handle it.  He still didn’t have his strength so he laid on the couch while I played Legos.  That’s normal, right?  Okay, good.

That’s when the questions started coming.

One son was asking questions about monster trucks while my nauseous son was asking questions about heaven.

“Will we wear clothes in heaven?”

“Are monster trucks loud?”

“Do babies go to heaven?”

“Why are monster trucks loud?”

“Who will we see in heaven?”

“Will there be monster trucks in heaven?”

I think that I needed that conversation just as much as my kids did.  Earlier in the day I was thinking about the best way to educate my two sons.  Most of my options involved monthly payments of $4578.23.  I thought about getting a second job as a monster truck driver but changed my mind when I found out that I’d have to grow another mullet.

When we think about the role of a father we typically only think about the responsibility to provide (1 Timothy 5:8).  But this is only part of the job.  Along with providing, fathers are also charged with instructing (Ephesians 6:4).  I once heard a father who did very well on the providing aspect of his job but neglected his role as an instructor make a chilling statement about his rebellious daughter.

“I don’t know where I went wrong.  I gave her everything she ever wanted.”

I think that’s where he went wrong.

It’s easy for fathers to hide in their work, constantly convincing themselves that they are providing for the family.  But the real work of fatherhood is not done in the office, as important as that is.

The real work of fatherhood is done in the living room floor surrounded by Legos and trying to answer theology questions.  It is there that my children learn what it means to live in awe of the glory of God.

And in their own way, that’s a lesson that they are also teaching me.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (ESV)

Church Drama

I met a pastor’s kid last weekend.  Whenever I meet a pastor’s kid, I always pay careful attention to what he has to say seeing as how there are two pastor’s kids living in my home.

The pastor’s kid that I met wasn’t a kid anymore.  He’s all grown up now and to the best of my knowledge he is no longer involved in a church.  That really got my attention.

The now grown pastor’s kid told me that he moved something like 50 times before he got out of his teenage years.  His father had a special calling.  He would look for churches that were either dead or quickly dying and come in to try to lead them in healing and restoration.

I was shocked.

“Man, I’ll bet that you’ve seen your share of church drama.”

The look on his face told me all that I needed to know.  It also explained why he’s not in church now.

I spend a lot of time wondering why it has to be this way.  Why does it have to be a curse for a kid to grow up in a pastor’s home?  There are a lot of answers to that question.  Some pastors neglect their families in pursuit of ministry goals and some pastors place heavy burdens on their children.  But another contributing factor has to be the church drama that the child of a pastor has to witness.  Simply put, sometimes a pastor’s kid can get caught in the crossfire between people who claim to love Jesus but just can’t seem to get along with each other.

In Acts 1, Luke takes the time to list the disciples by name who were gathering in the upper room waiting for the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised.  Among those names are two brothers whom Jesus nicknamed Sons of Thunder.  This is another way of saying that James and John were two tightly wound men who were probably hard to get along with.  There was also Peter who liked to talk a big game about himself.

But the two men on this list who really stick out are Matthew and Simon the Zealot.

Matthew was a tax collector.  Tax collectors in Jesus’ day were hated and considered thieves and traitors.  I know that’s hard to imagine but just stay with me on this.  Simon was a part of a group of people called the Zealots.  This means that if automobiles were invented back then, he would have had a truck with a Don’t Tread On Me sticker on the back.  And yet these two men, along with Peter, the Sons of Thunder and several other large, diverse personalities were in one accord, devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14).

There is a big difference between unity and conformity.  Conformity is when everyone pretty much gets along because they’re all alike.  Unity is when people from different backgrounds can get along because they share a common link.  For the church in Acts, that common link was the resurrected Jesus and the promised Holy Spirit.

Church drama does not happen because too many different personalities from various backgrounds are sharing the same church building.  Instead, it is a direct result of too little Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

One day, a few decades from now, when someone asks my two sons about their childhood, I hope that they answer with a smile as they talk about the joy of growing up in a community of believers who each had their own quirks and personality defects but who shared a common link of a resurrected Savior and an active Holy Spirit.

The Safest Street in Oklahoma

Dylan is three years old.  The other day he was playing outside and he had to go the restroom.  A number one, if you will.

This is never good when you’re three and playing outside.  Inside is a long ways away.  Well, Dylan is resourceful and he had the perfect solution to his dilemma.

But it turns out that little Dylan’s resourcefulness cost mommy almost three grand.

I’m glad that I don’t have to raise my kids on that street.  If I did, by my math, they would cost me somewhere around 9.8 million dollars.

To the Undecided Voters

Maybe you still don’t know who to vote for tomorrow.  Who could blame you?  I mean it’s not like either of the two candidates has been on TV or anything.  Who is it that’s running for president again?

Anyway, while you’re still trying to make up your mind you should consider this guy.

And remember what Thomas Jefferson once said.  “Any man who uses lightsabers and kung-fu dubbing in his commercial will be an excellent fit for any political office.”

 

 

The Economics of Trash Can Basketball

A few evenings ago, when my sons told me that they wanted to play basketball, I immediately thought of all the reasons why we couldn’t play basketball.

We don’t have a goal.

We don’t have a basketball.

It’s football season.

They didn’t care about any of that.  It was already settled in their minds.  We were playing basketball.

While I was constructing our basketball court I thought about all of the things I would need to buy so that we could play real basketball next time.  After all, anything worth doing is worth doing right, right?  Money is no option when it’s for the children.

I’ll need a good concrete slab over here.  Nothing elaborate.  Maybe just half the size of a regulation basketball court.  Oh, and if we could get a logo painted on it, that would be great too.  Something like Sanderz Boyz Ballaz.  Keep it simple.

Construction was complete when I moved our outdoor trash can into the yard and put a bucket on top of it.  There was a strong scent of rotten fish with a hint of mustard.  When we started playing I felt like one of Fat Albert’s friends.

For a ball we used one of those balls that you get at Big Don’s Kwick Dollar.  You know, the kind that weighs something like .02 ounces.  It was sort of orange so we had that going for us but there was no way any of us was dribbling it on the grass.  I decided that we should skip the dribbling part and just carry the ball, sort of like what happens in the NBA every night.

When we started playing, something strange happened.

We were having fun.

My oldest son was diving for loose balls like Charles Oakley in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

My three-year-old kept laughing.  Crazy laughing.  No matter what happened.  And he wasn’t wearing a shirt or shoes.  He was our Dennis Rodman, only with more tattoos.

And my wife and I were having a blast.  I’ve always wanted to know what it felt like to dunk on someone and now that I have a three-year-old and a trash can for a basketball goal, I finally know.  Trust me, it’s awesome!  You should’ve seen me.

Our basketball game reminded me that something doesn’t have to be regulation size or have flashing lights to be fun.

We do our kids great harm when we act as though good memories and good times have to be bought for 36 monthly payments of $120 with 0.1% financing.  We can blame our politicians all we want, and there’s plenty that should go their way, but we also have to look in the mirror if we want to figure out at least part of the reason why our economy is in the tank.  All the politicians did was jump on an opportunity that the American people gave them.

For a generation or two, parents have been paying their kids off instead of playing with them.  Now the bill is coming due and in a lot of cases, everything those parents bought is broken, including their relationships with their kids.  It turns out that those toys with giant flashing lights are more expensive than we first thought.

Our trash can basketball game didn’t cost a thing but our family got a lot in return.

We were together.

We were doing something.

We were having fun.

Years from now, I want my boys to enjoy good childhood memories.  I’m often tempted to think that this will require a substantial monetary investment.  But in reality their memories aren’t likely to involve any backyard state of the art basketball facility.

Instead, I think that their memories will be about having fun with each other and with what we already had laying around.

Sort of like Fat Albert and his friends.

 

“It seems like God is out to get me.”

Before I ever became a pastor, a mentor gave me some valuable advice.

“Always remember that there’s a broken heart on every pew.”

At first I thought that he was just using preacher talk.  It sounded like one of those phrases pastors tell each other at conferences in between bragging about how many people they baptized.  Broken heart on every pew.  Sure.  Thanks.

And then I became a pastor and realized that there really was a broken heart on every pew.

Some of them are learning how to deal with a mother who is dying of cancer.

Some desperately want to be mothers but no medical procedure has helped them.  They cringe with every baby dedication.

Even more are dealing with the stress and worry that comes with a slow economy.

Many people in these situations say the same thing.  “It seems like God is out to get me.”

The typical church response is to gently grab this person’s hand, give them our best Bless Your Heart Face and say, “No, God isn’t out to get you.”

That couldn’t be more wrong.

It seemed like God was out to get Jonah when he got caught in the middle of a storm while out at sea.  It seemed like God was out to get Jonah while he was fighting for air on an ocean floor.  It seemed like God was out to get Jonah while he was squeezed inside of the belly of a fish.  And it sure seemed like God was out to get Jonah when that fish spewed Jonah out and left him lying on the beach, covered in fish vomit.

It seemed like God was out to get Jonah because he was.  Jonah, in his sin and disobedience, was trying to get away from God.  God wouldn’t allow one of his own to get away.  He was out to get his man.  This is how grace works.  Grace hunts us down and restores us when our sin has convinced us that the bottom of the ocean is the best place for us to be.

I don’t know why a godly couple, a couple that would have made excellent parents, lost their baby halfway through the pregnancy.  I don’t know why my mom died at an early age.  And I don’t know why smart, hard working business owners lose it all.  It’s always dangerous to assume that we know the exact reason why God is doing something or that suffering is always due to some hidden terrible sin in the person’s life (John 9:1-3).

But we can be certain that God is out to get us.  It’s just different than we tend to think.

If you walked around the outside of my house every morning you would hear the following three things.

1.  Crying.  By that I mean the loud, weeping and gnashing of teeth type of crying.

2.  An adult male voice saying, “Hurry up before I beat you!”

3.  The voices of two toddlers saying something like, “Go quick before he gets us!”

You would then probably be tempted to call 911 and report a case of child abuse.

But if you walked inside of our house, you would have a whole new perspective.  You would see that I had just told my two sons to make up their beds.  And you would find out that they were crying because, get this, they didn’t want to make up their beds.  If you stuck around for a few more minutes you would hear me challenge them to a race.

“Let’s see if you can have your beds made up before I come back in here.  Hurry up before I beat you!”

And then you would see their crying faces quickly transform into looks of determination.

“Hurry, before he gets us!”

It always works out that they win.  I get to hug them and tell them what a good job they did.  Three happy boys.

From the outside, you thought that a father was out to get his sons for all of the wrong reasons.  A better perspective, one from the inside, revealed that you were only partially right.  Yes, the father was out to get his boys but not to harm them.  It was their well-being and fellowship that he was after.

Christian, when it seems like your Heavenly Father is out to get you, he really is.  But you can rest in the fact that he is not seeking your destruction (Romans 8:1).  His Son took that for you.  Instead, it’s your ultimate well-being and fellowship that he’s after, two things that you can’t enjoy while gasping for air at the bottom of the sea (Hebrews 12:1-11; John 17:1-26).

So yes, God is out to get us.

And we shouldn’t want it any other way.

I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.  Jonah 2:6b