The Problem with the Public Debate of Sin

For some time, I have been troubled over the way that we, as a society and as individuals, approach conflict. Civil discourse has given way, in large part, to guerrilla-like tactics and all-out war in the very halls that once were a symbol of maturity and civility. The following post flows from my troubled spirit. As such, much of this is therapeutic for me. I just feel like I need to be transparent and to add what is hopefully a respectful voice to the conversation.

I’ve been on the verge of shutting down all of my social media accounts for about a year.

Why?

Because there is a certain burden associated with standing by and watching a few of your friends – a few of your vocal friends – become those obnoxious, narrow-minded individuals who prove little with their rhetoric, who often react strongly on the basis of misinformation, and who, quite frankly, eclipse the value of their “stand” on a particular issue with their words of bias and hatred. That saddens me.

For example, I am troubled over a young man who I once believed showed great promise in the field of peacemaking. But his online posts revealed bias, bigotry, and almost total disregard for anyone who thinks differently. I am certainly tough enough to hear his opinion and rancor, but it is just painful and embarrassing. And I often wonder what damage he is doing to others and for the peaceful cause of Christ.

I have other friends or acquaintances, both personal and online, who have taken far different positions from me on political matters, theological matters, health and lifestyle matters. They have stated their opinions and made their arguments. Respectfully.

The quietness of their voices belies the volume of their message. By speaking appropriately, at the right time, and with a humility that comes from valuing others, their words were heard.

On a number of the issues these friends address, I don’t find myself persuaded. Yet, I do experience a deeper understanding of both them and of myself. And I’ve found that when I respond in kind, our conversations and our relationships grow stronger. In many cases, we find true resolution to the challenges that threaten to separate us.

People are finding a lot of issues to fight over in the political realm. The economy, gun control, immigration. In recent days, with the United States Supreme Court considering cases involving same-sex relationships, the bile vomited from both sides of the issue is revolting at its occurrence and the stench it has left behind is stifling.

WARNING: The following is a statement of my beliefs.

I believe in God and in Jesus Christ.

I believe that God tells us through scripture that homosexuality is a sin.

However, I also believe that God has made it clear that

  • Adultery and fornication are sins.
  • Murder and covetousness are sins.
  • Lust, lying, and idolatry are sins.
  • Personal promotion over the needs of others and anger are sins.
  • A good portion of my personal motivation is worldly and, thus, sinful.

And I believe that God makes no distinction between sins. He despises them all because he sees what sin does to us, his beloved. God loves us even though we are sinners.

I see no need to enter into public debate of my beliefs because of the inherent problem with the public debate of sin.

The problem with the public debate of sin is that sin is not debatable or negotiable. It is what it is. We don’t have the option of deciding what is sinful and what is not.

Therefore, I also believe that God has made it clear that

  • I am to love all people, regardless of their beliefs.
  • I am to respect every one.
  • I am to converse and work with others in an effort to build relationship and, where needed and available, reconciliation – regardless of their belief.
  • I am never to do anything that drives others further from God because of my weakness in conveying God’s spirit and being.
  • I am never to do anything that soils the image of God with others by acting like . . . well, like me. I am called to walk in God’s steps and take on his demeanor and spirit of love.
  • I am to challenge my own beliefs, ferret out errors in my thinking and behavior, and seek a brighter understanding. While God is all-knowing and wise, I am only a work-in-progress.
  • I can have hope in a God who loves, who listens, and who provides grace for my failings.
  • God will make the judgments about people. That is not my job.
  • I can, with a desire to obey God, become a person who others see God through — even when I set clear standards and expectations and disagree with them.

And, I also believe that my failure to seek the things on this last list is just as sinful as the things on my first list.

Right now, we are confusing the concept of sin with the concept of public opinion. We seem to believe that the Supreme Court’s decisions on this issue or that issue will be a blow to the kingdom of heaven. How shortsighted can we be?

You can’t legislate or litigate morality. You can’t make people accept God’s invitation to holiness and a joyful life. You can’t publicly debate sin and expect to see large scale conversion as a result. In fact, you most likely will see the opposite.

Here’s what we can do:

  • Live in accordance with our understanding of God’s hopes and desires for us.
  • Encourage others to come to know God.
  • Encourage each other in holy living.
  • When we disagree, never let our personal motives or feelings derail the hope for reconciliation and future relationship with others.
  • Exercise our voices appropriately. Talk with humility. Speak truth. Explore questions with integrity. Vote. Stay engaged and remain helpful when the vote goes against us.
  • Love every single person – family, friends, strangers, and especially our enemies.

DI LOGOGod asks us for very little because God has everything covered. Let’s quit debating and begin meaningful conversation. We can accomplish far more by pursuing peace than we can by waging war.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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56 thoughts on “The Problem with the Public Debate of Sin

  1. This is possibly the best Christian writing I’ve seen on this topic. While I disagree that “God has made it clear that homosexuality is a sin,” I understand why you believe this and agree that we are “to challenge my own beliefs, ferret out errors in my thinking and behavior, and seek a brighter understanding.” More importantly, the rest of your writing shows me that you’re more interested in loving a person than outing their sins. I believe that shows a 1 Cor 13 kind of love, a love that focuses on the heart of a person rather than their flaws. I’ll definitely be sharing this with my friends and family!

    • Thank you, Tyler, for your kind words. In my weaker moments, I sometimes secretly wish that I had all knowledge and complete assurance that I am right about everything. Indeed, my words that “God has made it clear that homosexuality is a sin” must be framed as my belief. I know good people who don’t share that belief. Yet, I am pleased and honored to be able to be in conversation with them. Thanks again. Blessings!

  2. Looks like some interesting thoughts, but I can’t read it. The ridiculous social buttons floating on your page cover up a significant amount of text on mobile devices, and can’t be dismissed. You should try viewing it to see what I mean. Specifically, I’m on an iPhone. Can’t wait to read it!! 🙂

  3. Thank you, Mr. Cope for this entry. I received my MS in OHRD at ACU and completed the week long Mediation session at ACU (worth every penny, I might add). I have been reading all my Facebook entries this week, and I have been so down, discouraged and confused about this week’s “bile”. Thank you for no bile, but a refreshing reminder of where my heart/mind need to focus…God Bless you.

    • Candis, thank you for writing. I am glad that these words were helpful for you as you sought that focus for your thoughts and life. It is often hard to hear above the “noise” of confrontation. We all need a time and a place to get back in touch with God’s peace. Have a blessed Easter!

  4. Thank you, Joey. Your voice is a great encouragement to me, and I hope it will be to many others, toward authentic relationships.

    • Thank you, Carisse! You know of my great love and respect for you. Thanks for reading my “stuff” and for your kind words. See you soon!

  5. Mr. Cope, Thank you! This is exactly how I have been thinking but could not put into words. I will be sharing w/ friends and family. I too have my Masters in OHRD w/ a certificate in Conflict Resoultion… Looking to go back and get my Masters in CR this June… I’m very much about peaceful CR and the debate about “sin” has been hard for me to express… this is eloquently stated. Thank you very much.

    • Sharon, thanks for your kind words. I have always seen your peacemaking heart and I am excited that you are going to be back with us again. Blessings in your quest for peace!

  6. Well said Dr. Cope! As I read the post, it allowed me to search within myself and discover where I fail in some areas. Social posting can and is often used to berate others while still thinking we are being obedient to Christ. Thanks for the reminder!

    • So good to hear from you, D! You’re right, even good intentions must be tempered with thought and prayer. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  7. Well said, Joey. God has called us to love others, not to litigate morality. Thank you for sharing the wisdom God has given you. I am reminded of Mother Teresa’s words, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

    • Wow, David! I had not seen those words from Mother Teresa in a while and had forgotten that powerful message. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Joey, thanks for not leaving Facebook. Your humor and perspective there is welcome. Despite the vitriol and anger all too prevalent over some issues, I still believe social media can be a place for civil and informative discussion between friends who see things differently. Some days that’s a harder case than others.
    As for this post, beautiful. I’m always grateful that deciding who and what is sinful in the lives of others is a matter for God’s judgment, not mine. I’ve more than enough to deal with in my own inadequate attempt at the Christian walk, including my occasional flirtations with being judgmental!

    • Cheryl, thank you so much for reminding me of the good of social media. Indeed, it can be — and is — a place where much good is done and where people connect wonderfully. I walk with you in that path of relief knowing that God is making the calls. And I’m so eternally grateful that our God is big and powerful and merciful enough to undo anything I might do in my fumbling way. (And just because I KNOW that God is the one to judge, it doesn’t keep me from wanting to help out from time to time. 🙂 Maybe we should form some sort of a league for recovering judges!) Thanks again for taking time to comment!

  9. Thank you, Joey, for articulating what I feel. Harley and I were having that discussion last night about law versus the living out our destiny in Christ Jesus our risen Lord.

    • Thanks, Theresa! In truth, what humans decide in terms of right and wrong must always be viewed out in that very destiny you identified. Hope you and Harley are doing well!

  10. Dr. Cope,

    I am so grateful that a friend of mine posted a link to your blog on his FB wall. Thank you for the wisdom that you have shared in this post, your call for a peaceful, respectful, civil, Christ-like spirit in the discussion of differences, whether with our secular culture or with other believers, and challenging each of us to redirect our indignation and vitriol into humble self-examination, holy living, and being a loving witness of the risen Christ. I look forward to reading more. Wishing you a blessed and happy Easter!

    • Tim, thanks for your kind words! It seems fitting that all of these discussions are circulating during this time of Easter — a time of divine humility and grace. May your Easter be one of great blessing!

  11. Thanks, brother, for a very meaningful post. You expressed wonderfully a conversation I had with a friend this past week about the difficulties of reading some very hurtful words and yet not knowing how to respond. You are a great friend and elder (official or not!)

    • Thank you, Jim! These are sometimes delicate conversations — even with friends! But the important thing is having them. Glad that you are.

  12. Joey, Iam proud to have called you friend for over 50 years. I know you write from the heart and mean every word… You do a lot more the you know for Christ…always love reading your post… take care friend…

    • Thank you, Danny! Your friendship has been a bright spot through the years. Hope you and yours are well! Come see us!

    • Brandon, thank you for your kind words. I am so glad that you and your family are back among us. Thank you for your powerful ministry at Abilene and your continuing influence through Zoe. I’m looking forward to Sunday.

    • Thanks, Danny! I was encouraged by your words, as well. Appreciate you and the way that you allow God to work in your life to bring His love and care to others.

  13. Thanks, Joey, for the blessing of this thoughtful post. You expressed so many of the things I believe and want to express, but simply have not been able to think it all through and articulate it effectively. So I have remained silent, not for fear of sharing my beliefs but rather for fear of doing so in a Jesus-honoring way. You have done that. Thank you for thinking this through and caring enough to share it.

    • Jan, thank you for your kind words. I understand exactly what you are saying. We all want to have our words understood and we fear our ability to do that well. I’m certain that my words will not be entirely clear to every one who reads them. Yet, it is my hope that we can all come to a point where we can ask questions and seek better understanding with respect and love. I truly hope that if I’ve missed something or if others have perspectives that will impact my understanding that I will have the opportunity to listen and continue the conversation. Jan, you share yourself in so many ways and your love for God and for others is evident. Thank you for your friendship and for your life-long example of following Jesus.

  14. Joey,

    You eloquently, biblically, and lovingly put to words what has been on my heart but could not find the words to express. Thank you for this. Praise God for this word. All I can say is thank you and amen.

    Blessings,

    Jeff

    • Jeff, thanks for your kindness. Some things are hard to grapple with. I’m sure that God is not completely through leading me through the complexities of this world or the questions raised. I am certain that He is leading all of us to a place where we can safely and earnestly talk with those with whom we disagree, find common ground for community, and work together toward better relationships. I can sense your spirit and its reflection of His Spirit living in you. Blessings on you, as well, as you do God’s work.

  15. Dr. Cope,

    You seem to be a beautiful person. My wife’s family reposted this blog over and over again with glowing words attached, but I worry that this post makes the same mistake that they often do when talking about uncomfortable topics, they call for civility at the expense of justice. Human sexuality is a complex topic. I happen to believe that the Bible is wrong on homosexuality, women, slavery, genocide, and a few other things. Regardless, Abilene Christian University (ACU) and its Church of Christ sister schools have been notorious when it comes to inflicting and responding to religious and physical violence upon LGBTQ persons. Whether you believe homosexuality is a sin or not, one should be able to recognize injustice and hate. I counseled someone just a few months ago who spoke of [physical abuse] by fellow students as punishment for being gay while he was a student at ACU. I asked what was said when he asked for help, he said that he was told to go to repairative therapy. The stories like this are endless from Church of Christ and other conservative institutions. There are even members of my own family who have been victims. With regard to issues of human sexuality, one cannot talk about civility in dialogue, because all of your conversation partners are unable to talk as they hide in the closets of your institutions. Some say it is sin to open up wider spaces of conversation on issues of human sexuality, I call it love. Dr. Cope, I can tell from the way that you write that you truly love Jesus. I hope that you will be a part of opening up wider dialogue and bringing some of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters out of the closets they are currently forced to inhabit at your institution and many others just like it so that they can join in these civil conversations you seek to create.

    Love and blessings,

    Rev. Jeff Hood
    Southern Baptist Minister
    Denton, Texas

    • Reverend Hood,

      Thank you so much for taking time to comment and for sharing your views and concerns with love and respect. I, too, sense that you are a beautiful, caring person who deeply loves Jesus. I am so thankful that we share that common ground.

      I am saddened by your report of the young man who suffered abuse at the hands of fellow students. I am also saddened that he was left with the feeling that his abuse was not addressed or handled with justice. I have no direct knowledge of all of that, but such occurrences are, indeed, wrong. [I hope you are not offended in my slight editing of your description of the physical abuse of the young man.]

      I had hoped — and still hope — that my post would indeed encourage conversations. Discussions and understanding about human sexuality are, as you said, difficult because of the complexity involved. Again, there are many such complex and emotional topics. It is my hope and prayer that we, as Christians, would be in the forefront of opening those dialogues. I certainly don’t claim to be infallible in my understanding of all things. But I certainly want to be open to my own shortcomings and constantly seeking a better understanding. I think that is part of God’s calling to all of us.

      We do disagree about some biblical teachings. I see the holy scripture as an unfolding story that leads us through some pretty dark and different times to a better place. Psalms 23 speaks of the shepherd leading his sheep through the valley of the shadow of death to greener pastures. Isn’t that indeed a metaphor to the fact that the story of God’s relationship with us has gone through difficult times with us? Yet, it all is now shaded – not with death – but the hope of life in Christ Jesus! When viewed in its full context, I don’t believe that the Bible justifies or promotes the unequal treatment of women, slavery, or genocide. In fact, I believe that a reading of scripture as a whole teaches the opposite. In regard to homosexuality, I have further questions. I haven’t stopped studying or asking God for a better understanding. Indeed, maybe clear answers are right before me and I haven’t been blessed with the ability to see them. In the meantime, I know with certainty that he calls me to treat every person with love and respect. Jesus did. That will be my focus.

      In summary, we cannot get to justice on one hand without holding an equal amount of mercy in the other. I look forward to many opportunities to sit and talk with those with whom I agree and disagree as we seek God’s kingdom.

      Grace and peace to you,

      Joey

  16. Joey,

    Thanks for your discussion on the subject of homosexuality. It certainly is difficult to discuss in public with the high emotional content that drives some of the discussion. Some of the conversation in the public arena troubles me as well. I have some strong beliefs on this subject so I have to choose my words carefully. I agree with you on Biblical teaching concerning this subject. I believe it is a sin no more evil that any other sin. I also believe love and respect should drive all of our conversations with each other. I applaud your courage to share your thoughts and beliefs. What you say and how you say it makes a lot of sense. I respect that about you.

    • Roy, so good to hear from you! This is such a tough subject – particularly as it impacts so many in our midst. Thanks for your thoughtful words. Hope to see you soon and that things are going well for you.

  17. Hi Joey. I appreciated reading your thoughts on the subject. I wrestle with subjects like what is being debated from various perspectives. A few are:

    I have my beliefs of what scripture teaches and it is in disagreement with others who also do their best to follow God.
    I have very good friends ranging in age from 18-55 who are living as openly gay/not announcing that they are gay/consider themselves struggling (their word, not mine) with their feelings as they believe their feelings are sinful.
    All I know to do is love them, talk with them, share thoughts, study and prayer with them and then love them some more.

    I see people representing themselves as Christians calling those they disagree with “morons” or worse on social media venues. I read the posts of others describing physical and emotional violence towards those they don’t agree with.
    I see intolerance towards civility and dialogue and respect of others all the way around. I am both confused and saddened by someone professing Christ to use name calling and violence as a way to get His message across. Of course, I am a sinner and failed in walking in perfection more than once so condemnation is not my task.

    As a peacemaker, I want to help but feel my efforts are just a drop in the bucket. I wrote about this topic on my blog and asked my friends who are in favor of marriage equality to read it and give me their opinions. Each of them gave a positive overall review. I asked some friends who do not agree with marriage equality to read it. Half thought it was good. Half thought I was dodging the issue.

    This issue, as I see it, is living and loving as Christ lived and loved. How many of the debates and battles we see would be overcome if we were all really striving to live as Christ? For me, that is much easier to talk about than to live out so I know it is very hopeful thinking all in all. Still, it is what I will strive for day-by-day.

    I find so many of my conflicts have been because I was living as I wanted Christ to live in me, not as Christ wants me to live in Him. Self-deception creates me to see too many issues through my own eyes, experiences and thoughts instead of through the eyes and thoughts that God would pour into me.

    Keep up the good writing. Peace to you, brother.

    • Jeff,

      You have the issue well in focus, in my view. “Living and loving as Christ lived and loved” should be the primary goal for all of us. I think your effort to engage others in the conversation is exactly what is needed. Maybe enough of us emphasizing our hopes that we can have productive discourse that preserves relationships and builds trust will make a difference. Proud to be another one of those drops in the bucket with you.

      I do think it is important for us to be clear what we believe — even if those statements are difficult for others to hear. If we can’t do that, there is no reason to expect those who disagree with us to want to enter the conversation. That transparency is necessary. As you and I have discussed, sometimes conversations don’t change anyone’s positions. However, they keep us in relationship while God has time to work on us all.

      Love and appreciate you. Grace and peace!

  18. Dr. Cope I believe your position on Christian mentality and behavior is particularly relevant in today’s divisive and venomous environment that surrounds this issue, and many others that you state. Having poured myself into learning about the issue of same-sex attraction (SSA) I am saddened by the lack of civil dialogue and understanding that exists on all sides. Believe me, I do not profess to know everything about the causes of same-sex attraction. However, I do believe there are causes and that they are heart breaking and they stir deep feelings of love and compassion for those who struggle with same-sex attraction.

    Further, I agree with you that civil dialogue that allows us to state our positions is critical to gaining a understanding of this issue. Uncontested positions become truth in the court of public opinion. Our culture, especially our churches, have submitted ourselves to messages that are one-sided and biased. However, there are experts in the field of psychiatry who are courageous and have been willing to share findings that do contest the majority of perspectives on same-sex attraction portrayed in our government, education system, media, and entertainment. When churches speak out on this issue they are labeled as bigoted and close-minded with “old fashioned thinking”. In many cases labels attributed to the voice of the church on this issue are justified. So I am joyful that your forum exist and that openness and dialogue are encouraged from both sides.

    I have not encountered anyone, who claims the name of Christ, that is more “on fire” for our Lord than SSA strugglers who have sought a relationship with Him, come out of their lifestyle, and discontinued their sinful behavior. Therefore, I believe a safe place for discussion and healing needs to be established at our churches for those who struggle with SSA (and other issues for that matter). There are those who struggle with SSA who are looking for help and they deserve our love, compassion, and acceptance into the family of God. I think God calls us to create a pathway for healing and reconciliation for those with this struggle. For those who master this struggle have some of the most powerful testimonies for God’s love that I have ever encountered and they inspire me tremendously.

    • Dean,

      Thanks so much for your openness and for being willing to join the conversation. I’m with you, I certainly don’t understand the underlying intricacies of same-sex attraction. I hope that voices from various belief systems can continue to build relationship even when we disagree. I also hope that we can hear from all sides of the social scientists who are making an earnest attempt to help us understand.

      I also share your view that those who have been trapped inside sin and worldly behavior are those who have some of the most powerful testimonies. I know that, as I recognize my own brokenness in many areas, I am developing new insight and a new love for those who seek God. I continue to pray that God’s grace will extend to all of us as we struggle — but still seek him.

      Thanks again for sharing. I know that you have poured heart and soul into this. God bless you as you continue on the path!

      • Dr. Cope, I don’t think we’ve ever met, but I have been intrigued with this general arena of the topic of sin and found your well-written statement somehow on line. It’s a topic that has been debated in various ways for thousands of years, but the subject of homosexuality has especially caused us to dig deeper into it. The focus isn’t about homosexuality; it’s about sin. Many times I have heard the story of the woman at the well used as a lesson that we should not judge others, but there’s much less focus on the fact that Jesus told the woman to “sin no more.” In your writing, you mentioned that we all sin (adultery, fornication, lying, murder, etc.). We certainly do. And when one of us does, the rest of us hope and expect that the sinner will “sin no more.” Although we would forgive the repentant person who had committed adultery or lied or murdered, we would confront any person who CONTINUED to commit any of those sins as a lifestyle, and we would let them know that continuing in the sin is absolutely unacceptable and will bring about spiritual death (Biblical). The thing that has confused me through the past few years is that the LIFESTYLE of homosexuality is constantly equated with other one-time or infrequent sins. If anyone continued in any of those other sins, we would stand up against them, with love but firmness. It seems that when one (with love and firmness) voices disagreement with someone continuing in homosexuality, they are cast aside as haters, intolerant, etc. But one can stand up against a person continuing to commit adultery or murder, and they are applauded. My statements are not about homosexuality. Homosexuality is just the subject at hand right now. My statements are about treating all sin the same. No sin should be CONTINUED in. No person should be “given a free pass” as they exercise a sin as a lifestyle, regardless of what that sin is. My very good friend was an alcoholic. He is totally forgiven for that sin and has been clean for years. We show him love and treat him as “right in the sight of God.” If he begins drinking as a lifestyle again (continuing in sin) however, we will, while loving him, continue to remind him that he must stop/abstain from that desire. We will not be considered “haters” and “intolerant” for that stance. These are thoughts I’m struggling through, rather than biased, condemning statements. I’d be interested to hear comments/rebuttals to my thoughts so that I can learn. This specific area of sin conversations seems to be avoided, and most arguments surrounding this topic seem to be filled with fallacious attempts at critical reasoning, with some comparing of “apples to oranges” (comparing A sin with CONTINUING in sin). I believe there should be a significant difference in our beliefs about a person who has committed homosexual sin and a person LIVING in homosexuality as a continuing lifestyle.

        • Jeff,

          Thanks for expressing these thoughts. This is a particularly difficult matter for fellow believers who don’t share the same view of certain behaviors as sin. Interpretation of scripture is not absolute in every instance. I’m not certain how to deal with that other than with the loving process you outlined. If someone is living outside of my understanding of God’s plan for our lives, I think it is important to continue to express my concern for their spiritual well-being, to pray for them, to love them, to explain my understanding of God’s teaching, and to continue to model Christ in their presence.

          These are complex matters. I so appreciate your willingness to open the conversation to this important consideration.

  19. Thanks Joey. I agree that this is a difficult matter, interpretation of scripture is not absolute in every instance, and that it is important to continue to express our concern for others’ spiritual well-being, to pray for them, to love them, to explain our understanding of God’s teaching, and to continue to model Christ in their presence. Those are noble, albeit basic, fundamentals to the Christian life.
    The bigger concern to me is the comparison that I continue to hear of two very different (I believe) general areas of sin:
    1. A sin that a person has committed on occasion that the person is repentant of and does not want in their life (definitely not as a lifestyle).
    2. A sin that a person continues to commit that they are NOT repentant of and have no intention of changing. (It is a lifestyle for them.)
    My understanding of I John 3:6 deals with this differentiation.
    I believe that I am hearing more and more in our society (including from secular and Christian leaders) an attempt to equate these two very different types of sin. (Hopefully no one will hear in my words an attempt to state that one sin is more egregious than another – that’s not my point.) Although, as I stated in my previous post that my concern is not so much about homosexuality but sin in general, I see this misapplication (as I see it) applied more frequently to homosexuality than any other sin.
    I believe that I much too frequently hear the nonrepentant lifestyle of homosexuality equated with sins that individuals are repentant of.
    If we’re going to compare homosexuality with any other sin, I believe that we need to compare an ACT (or acts) of homosexuality that has been repented of with another sin that has been repented of. Or we need to compare a lifestyle of homosexuality with a lifestyle of adultery or murder. If someone continued (lifestyle) to commit adultery or murder, I do not believe that may of us would respond with the same approach as many people are toward the lifestyle of homosexuality. There is a constant cry for understanding, tolerance, acceptance, etc. for people LIVING in homosexuality. Please don’t misunderstand me …. I hope I’ve been clear, especially in my previous post, that we should ALWAYS love people first. But my point is that if a person continued LIVING in adultery or murder,or even lying, I do not believe we would hear the words “understanding, tolerance, acceptance,” etc. nearly as much as with the subject of homosexuality. And my PRIMARY point that I’m trying to understand better is that a nonrepentant LIFESTYLE of sin is being compared (very regularly in our society from many various sources) to one-time or occasional REPENTED-OF sins. With that approach, many living in a certain lifestyle could easily find rationalization for their sin.
    I apologize for my long posts. I do not intend to continue with such long entries, but I am passionately and sincerely wanting to understand this better and am very open to dialogue as I seek to grow in knowledge and wisdom.

    • Jeff,

      I do understand your point. I do think there is a difference and a distinction between these two “sin situations.” Indeed, an unrepentant person who understands his or behavior to be a sin, who desires to obey God, and then who chooses what is accepted by him or her as sin over holy living is in a perilous position.

      The real friction in this is when people don’t accept their behavior as sin. It’s pretty difficult to find a Christian who would openly purport that murder or adultery is acceptable. Yet, same-sex attraction is not always viewed by different individuals with the same criteria — including interpretation of scripture. As much as we may disagree with their position, how do we approach them and talk with them in a way that holds our future with them open? I know that some would say that, in this case, it’s not our duty to keep that future relationship in tact. That is troublesome to me.

      I’ve spent the better part of my drive to and from Dallas today (about 6 hours in total) grappling with this issue. Since I have no clear answers, I will continue to turn this over. I hope and pray that God will provide insight for all of us.

      Thank you again for your investment of time and effort. This is exactly the investment that is needed to move conversation forward. While I think we both feel some frustration that this particular branch of the conversation isn’t moving forward rapidly, I look forward to hearing any additional thoughts you might have.

      Grace and peace,

      Joey

  20. Thank you, Joey. I, too, am deep in thought, prayer, and study about this topic, and I greatly appreciate anyone who will help me struggle through it. As you drove to and from Dallas today, you were probably within 10 – 20 minutes of me at one point, and I appreciate the time and thought you gave to this topic as you drove. I especially appreciated your question about how we approach others who might disagree while keeping our future open with them. I, too, am troubled that many would not have a particular desire to keep that channel available. It seems hard to know where to draw certain “lines,” and yet keep love and grace at the forefront at the same time. Maintaining that balance is tricky, and I believe that’s why so many take the simpler route of swinging far to one side or the other – on one end, condemning (too legalistic and unloving), and on the other end, total tolerance/acceptance (too enabling and unloving).
    I put “unloving” in both of those parentheses because I believe that neither extreme truly seeks what is best for the person. Many times, the total tolerance/acceptance end is considered the more loving, but it can be just as hurtful/harmful to the well-being of the individual.
    Anyway, I, like you, plan to continue to seek wisdom and knowledge on this subject. I believe that we as a society and as a church need to come to a better understanding of how best to deal with it.

    • Jeff, the contrast between grace and “cheap grace” provides a rich area for personal introspection and community conversation. I’m hoping that others will join as we talk about ways to stay at the table — never accepting either end of the condemning – tolerance/acceptance continuum. I addressed this a little in another post entitled “The Second C – Conversation” over on http://peacebytes.org.

      I’m looking forward to hearing from you and others.

  21. Joey, this is so good! Really, really well done. I so wish that this would be the kind of discourse we could have about all of the issues. It seems that posturing, sound bites & extremism are what make the news with little or no room for reasoned, intelligent conversation with the intent of ultimately reaching a better understanding of each other. We will never reach complete agreement but why do so many have to take a scorched earth approach to those who disagree with them? Again, very well done.

    • Thanks, Ken! It is astounding to me how many issues, great and small, are pushed off as untouchable subjects. At one time, when the local grocery store had a small coffee shop, there was a small group of individuals who came together to talk about any and everything. I didn’t often have time to join them. But each time I did I went away feeling like a part of a greater community — even though I sometimes disagreed with the predominant opinion at the table. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get to such a place with all of those things that need to be discussed? Thanks again!

  22. Dr. Cope,

    Thank you for sharing these powerful words. Your words captured exactly what has been on my heart. Thank you!

    While it is simple to identify sins in our lives and, more commonly, the lives of others – dealing with matters related to sexuality are much more complex. These sins are often out in the open and clear for everyone to see. It’s easier to hide sins of lying, stealing and even adultery – making it easier to judge others and not deal with our actions.

    My prayer is that we can leave our judgements behind, realizing that we are all broken, imperfect people and press into authentic relationships that epitomize the character of God.

    Thank you,

    Jenni

    • Jenni,

      Thanks for your comment! I agree with you. While it is important for us to be constantly reconciling ourselves to God and our relationship with Him (and, thus, aligning the way we endeavor to live our lives for Him), scripture is plain in its instruction to leave judgment to God and to seek those authentic, God-like relationships. You express that so beautifully.

      Grace and peace,

      Joey