I’m not quite sure how it happened, but we have (at least) seven children.
Recently, my three-year-old daughter wanted a piece of the action with one of the big-kid games called Connect Four. It was the end of a long day and I really didn’t feel like teaching her to play the game, so I tried to let her win as quickly as possible. When she refused to cooperate I took matters into my own hands, and strategically connected four of my own chips. Game over. “Oh no, Daddy. The game’s not over till we fill up the whole thing.”
Reluctantly, I submitted, as we dropped a chip in every single square. What felt like an hour later, her face lit up as she looked into my eyes and said, “Now that was a good game, Daddy!”
How exactly was that a good game?
“Because I was with you.”
My heart melted. The purpose of the game was to be with daddy. Yeah, that really was a good game.
The way you know if something is good is if it fulfills its intended purpose.
That’s why I don’t get angry with my tennis shoes when they don’t drive nails into the wall. That’s why gay internet phenom Antoine Dodson still eats Chick-fil-A. (Youtube it.) And that’s why my little girl was thrilled to play the longest game of Connect Four in human history.
So how do you know if a human is good?
You have to know the purpose.
I heard a lot of Christians and atheists and gays and straights over the past week talk about their goodness. I heard about how well-behaved conservatives were as they waited in line at Chick-fil-A. I heard about how good a man is for being true to himself, coming out of his closet, and pursuing his happiness. I heard about how virtuous Christians are when they tell the offensive truth.
But the only way to know if a human is good is if that human fulfills the purpose for which he or she was made.
The Chick-fil-A drama has me thinking. What might be the church’s purpose in times like these? What about a man who is attracted to other men, despite his fierce attempts to deny this over the years? What about a woman in a marriage that leaves her unhappy?
Now listen, I’m neither a philosopher nor a social scientist. I write words like these to stir our faith community to think. Anybody else is welcome to listen in, but try to read it like I’m writing it – family talk.
So let me tell you why I’m still chewing on all the fast food drama.
For the life of me I cannot figure out why Christians are most known for being anti-gay.
How in the world did this happen? Jesus never talked directly about homosexuality, and the rest of the New Testament says very little about it. Is the Bible clear on the matter? Yes. What I can’t figure out is why we’ve been duped into obsessing over this sin while we drive by so many others. Why are we so distracted by the politics of homosexuality? Is our current approach to this really in line with our purpose?
Can you imagine what would happen if Christians started demanding that politicians draft legislation that lined up to scriptures like these: ”Do not resist the one who is evil. And if anyone would sue you for your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” (Matthew 5:39-40) Or, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.” (Mark 10:11) According to Jesus, at least some heterosexual remarriages are not holy unions at all; they are adultery. I really hope my Christian brothers and sisters can appreciate how inconsistent we appear to the average man on the street when we demand laws to reinforce some portions of biblical morality but not others.
Should we roll over and play dead? No. I’m asking us to pick the right fights. If we’re going anti-, let’s go anti-poverty. And anti-injustice. And anti-disease.
What if we emphasized the things Jesus emphasizes? Yes, the Bible speaks to sexual immorality. But what about other forms of immorality? How about financial immorality? Jesus talked about financial promiscuity (greed) ten times as often as he talked about sexual promiscuity. Is it not immoral to do nothing while 27,000+ children die today of preventable causes related to their poverty? I hear the cliche, it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship. But what kind of relationship? God described it like this: “He judged the cause of the poor and needy … Was not this knowing me, says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 22:16)
Want to know what is overwhelmingly clear in the Bible? Love the poor. Help the stranger. Drop your self-righteousness.
Many Christians responded to last week’s post with words like these: Come on, Mike. Don’t be ashamed! Jesus told the harsh truth and so should we.
Here’s my hesitation: I’m a Jesus guy, and I want to be like him. I’m sincerely stunned at the thought that he was broken, so I wouldn’t have to be. That he lived the life I should have lived and then he died the death I should have died. That he took my record and gave me his. That he absorbed my death and gave me his life. That he took my place on death row and then gave me a place in paradise. I’m stunned at the thought of a king that doesn’t strut. There have been moments when I’ve read the gospels and been bothered by Jesus’ modesty. ”Just tell them who you are!” I’ve thought. But it’s always been his way – never to force, only to woo. And it’s incredible.
The way of Jesus is not just true, it’s beautiful.
This is precisely where we Christians are so prone to wander off-purpose. In our efforts to get the message right, we forgot it’s also beautiful.
That’s why hookers and murderers and children and lepers saw something in Jesus they found irresistible. That’s why people that were never religious met him, saw his beauty, and gave up everything to follow.
I don’t have a problem with offending people; Jesus said that would happen. I do have a problem with being hated for different things than he was hated for. Look around. That’s where we are. I’m not ashamed of Jesus or his cross or his words. But I am ashamed of the man-made distortions that cause the people of Jesus to present a version of the truth stripped of its beauty. Don’t forget your purpose.
So let’s clarify this sin issue. If I heard it once, I heard it 50 times this week: Calling homosexuality a sin is an act of hate in and of itself. I don’t want Chistianity’s “kiss” of truth. Your problem is not just your breath; it’s your message. How dare you call something a sin at all.
Now I’m stuck. Because it’s not just homosexuality. It’s lusting in the heart. It’s wanting more stuff. It’s refusing to forgive those who mistreat you. It’s coveting another person’s success. It’s looking down on people who look down on people. It’s calling your own shots.
It’s believing anything besides God will bring you ultimate happiness.
People don’t go to hell for being gay. Or greedy. Or lustful. Or deceptive. People stand condemned because of self-righteousness. Because we think we are good enough. Because we want to be our own lord and savior. Self-righteousness isn’t religious, it’s human. It’s our native sin. All my children learned to justify themselves long before they learned to lust. We’ve got to give it up. That’s why I love John Newton, the slave trader-turned hymn writer who said, “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly. I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior.”
Amazing grace only makes a sweet sound when you know you’re a wretch.
I hear all the controversy about how people were born. Well, here’s the Bible’s take on it: all of us were born wretches. All of us.
But that’s not all. We’re also loved – with a love that cost God deeply.
We’ll never be satisfied until we find goodness. But goodness is attached to purpose. And there is only one person in the universe that can accurately tell us our purpose. The one who made us. The one who loves us.
This is why I feel for the woman stuck in a dull marriage, believing that a better man could make her happy. Or the gay man, believing that another human could complete him. Or the Christian, believing that his moralism could save him. It’s a wild goose chase.
Our souls long for something no human partner can ever fulfill. We were made for God himself. The whole purpose of the game called your life is to connect the chips and realize you will never find what we you’re looking for until you realize who you’re looking for: your daddy in heaven. If only you realized how good this relationship is, you’d pay the ultimate price to get it.
But you can’t.
So he did.
And that’s good news.
Click here to read the Chick-fil-A part 1