Red Herrings to Distract the Body of Christ

There are a number of “issues” making waves in the media currently and over the last few years.

Ordination of women, divorce rates, and others which draw us as well as the mainstream of the world away from what our primary thrust should be.

The Gospel.

More correctly, the Gospel as we first received it.

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”

Colossians 2:6-8 (NKJV)

Much has been said about what we should or shouldn’t accept in society, but this little passage has been conspicuously absent from all the discussion online and in the secular news I’ve witnessed. Especially verse 8. The concept of philosophy and deceit based in man’s traditions and the principles of the world seem to have been lost in the fog of argument around what should and should not be church policy.

In a secular society, gay couples should be afforded the same rights under secular law as homosexual marriages. But as Christians we are required to hold ourselves to the Gospel we first received. Now I’m over 40, and been a Christian since I was a teenager. The Gospel I first received, in fact until just two or three years ago the Gospel I heard preached, was that the World may accept homosexuality as a “normal” form of behavior, but it was still classified as sinful in God’s eyes. Abstinence – perhaps these are the eunuchs of nature Christ spoke of – was the way to overcome these urges. When Peter was told in the vision in Acts to get up, kill and eat, it was referring specifically to food. Paul’s letters make it clear that sexual immorality, including homosexual acts of both genders, remain outside the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He does not preclude Salvation or withhold forgiveness for those who fall into the sin, but he does not endorse it as correct behavior either.

But now we have the “enlightened age” of man’s “wisdom.” My wife is a doctor. It’s interesting reading through some of her diagnostic books to see the progression from abnormality to variance of normal that homosexual behavior has been given in the last 25 years.

But it’s a red herring. We’re so busy debating whether the people who believe they are homosexual should or should not be allowed to marry in church or at all that we forget to offer them the Gospel in its purest form.

Love and Forgiveness.

Paul’s words are brutal on the subject:

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

(Romans 1:24-25 NKJV)

In the context of the passage, Paul is speaking of sexual sin. The uncleanness in other translations is explicitly referred to as such. But even looking into this passage in isolation we can miss the bigger picture.

The Gospel is for everyone. We all fall short of perfection. I’m married, but it doesn’t mean a pretty girl doesn’t catch my attention. I have a decent home. It doesn’t mean I don’t covet more what I see on TV shows where celebrities vaunt their status with million dollar paintings and rim-flow swimming pools. We covet. We get jealous. We get angry at corrupt officials who walk away because of their connections. Congratulations. By Jesus’s standards we all commit adultery and murder several times a day.

The Gospel is we’re forgiven, not perfect. It’s Good News to us. We live with the transliteration so long we forget the meaning of the word. Most people think the gospel is just the four books in the Bible telling Jesus’ biography. Even as Christians we get sucked into it.

But when Paul used the term he meant a world free from judgement, condemnation and fear. It is a place where all should be welcome. If Jesus ate with tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners, we should be able to draw them to us by doing what He did. But we fail.

We judge before we know. I have a friend who is an amazing person but people judge her and make assumptions about her because she has tattoos. I had a friend who had so many piercings he set off metal detectors at airports. He was also an amazing preacher. When I met my wife I could sit on my hair, tuck my beard in my belt and rode a large Harley-Davidson. I’m a big guy. I also led the kids work at my church and the families loved it (although it did freak out the newcomers).

Red herrings. Appearances. Behaviors. We try to clean the fish before it’s caught. Small wonder that numbers in many churches are dropping – especially more uncompromising traditionalists who only see the outside.

We’ve forgotten to be lamp stands. We’ve forgotten to be salt. We’ve learned to be Pharisees far too easily. Some of us have become distracted by things we should deal with eventually, but allowed them to become the central issue right away.

Live right and godly and they’ll see the difference in our lives. Then introduce Jesus, gently. Let them into our hearts and let them into our lives and let the love God gives us reach out and touch them.

Living with red herrings will just cause us to smell like old fish.

And nobody needs that.