October 23, 2017

Tim Hardaway and the Sin We Love To Hate

love-the-heterosexual-hate-their-sin.gifUPDATE: Michael Medved regularly reminds me of the difference Jesus makes in how I look at a cultural issue and how a Jewish conservative looks at the same issue. Law by Moses. Grace and Truth by Jesus.

“You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people,” he said. “I’m homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States.” -Former NBA player Tim Hardaway.

As soon as I read the comments of former NBA player Tim Hardaway, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I heard a Christian come as close as possible to saying the exact same sentiment.

True to my intuition, it happened within a week. “Let’s not join the secular media in condemning Hardaway for not being politically correct, because as Christians, we hate that sin, too…..”

Someone wrote me the other day using the phrase “the other Trinity,” referring to evangelicals’ obsession with homosexuality, abortion and evolution. All are important issues, but does anyone else have the suspicion that we are no longer dealing with a balanced approach to Christian ethics, but a situation where the reactive energies attached to these issues are the engines dominating much evangelical engagement with the world?

In this atmosphere, when someone like Hardaway lets it fly with unapologetic hate-rhetoric, many Christians will feel a greater attraction to the opportunity to denounce homosexuality than to the opportunity to distance themselves from an especially ugly expression of bigotry. Ironically, is there anyone left in the galaxy who doesn’t know, or who actually cares, what conservative evangelicals think about the issue of homosexuality? Still, we have to be heard saying things about how we don’t hate anyone, but we sure know what he means. We want Jesus to be on the record as hating homosexuality, and of course, mildly offended at the hating people thing.

“Hate,” when applied to persons as Hardaway did, is the antithesis of what the Christian believes about God, the Gospel, Jesus or being a disciple. While a few creative exegetes are finding ways to use the imprecatory Psalms to allow us hate evil men with a clean conscience, the Gospels show Jesus loving adulteresses, prostitutes, the immoral woman shacking up at the trailer park, tax collectors, cowards, betrayers, thieves, violent men, liars and the general scum of the first century earth with equal divine generosity. The closest he came to the rhetoric of the imprecatory Psalms was for religious bigots and hypocrites.

Everything about Jesus is the opposite of Hardaway’s comments, right down to “I don’t want them in my locker room,” or table, or house, or wherever sexual sinners are to be found in your world. Associating with Jesus, but finding some way to cozy up to Hardaway’s disapproval of homosexuality doesn’t amount to a statement of your strong disapproval of sexual sin. It reveals your profound disconnection and ignorance of what Jesus was all about.

I have a young friend who, according to reputation, evidence and behavior, appears to be in a same-sex relationship. More than one mutual Christian friend has come to me concerned about this person. It’s a difficult matter. She is clearly not comfortable with femininity, and this relationship brings her much happiness and a feeling of being loved. In every instance, the message others want to send seems to be “She needs to know this is wrong.” (How they know the actual nature of the relationship is unknown to me. I wouldn’t presume to know quite as much.) In fact, if anything is true, I’m quite sure she knows that homosexual behavior is wrong in the eyes of the Christian God believed by the Christians she knows. She’s heard that from me on several occasions, with an open Bible, all the relevant verses and an earnest explanation of what God desires and commands in the area of sexuality. (Hebrews 13:4)

At the same time, I’ve made it a priority to love this individual. She needs love from friends like me. I’m sure Jesus would love her, and I’m sure he wants me to. I try to give her dignity and respect every day. I want what she’s heard from me to be matched with unparalleled acceptance. It’s important to me- really important- that I apply the Gospel to myself as well as to her.

You see that’s the problem that any Christian should be able to see with Tim Hardaway’s comments. They are totally vacant of the application of the Gospel. The Gospel greets and diagnoses all of us as sinners. The Gospel is like God in Genesis 6, a passage I teach my students over and over:

5 The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. 6 So the LORD was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. 7 And the LORD said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.” 8 But Noah found favor with the LORD….
11 Now God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence. 12 God observed all this corruption in the world, for everyone on earth was corrupt. 13 So God said to Noah, “I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence. Yes, I will wipe them all out along with the earth!

I teach this passage because it is the best description of what God saw when he looked at all of us this morning that I know of. I stress this passage because I know my students are going to cruise right past Romans 6:23 and Romans 3:23 and camp on how outraged we all need to be at homosexuality. Because, like Tim Hardaway, we don’t LIKE it. We don’t LIKE people who do it and promote it. And it’s so much easier to talk about the sins we don’t like. We can be so much more convincing and genuine.

We can also, conveniently, keep the light of truth off of ourselves.

God is just as outraged, offended and wrathful at my pettiness, pride, laziness, lying, lust and gluttony as he is at my friend’s same sex relationship (if there is one.) The problem is, I LIKE my sins. Not as sin, but as behaviors that WORK for me just fine.

Where I live, our community is ravaged by poverty. Visible poverty is everywhere, much of it of the kind that would shock and sicken the typical suburban adult. There is a plague of meth and other drugs. Federal drug enforcement has the former mayor of our county seat under lock and key. We have DEA in the air half the year. Domestic abuse, incest, fraud, stealing: they are all rampant and we all drive past them every day. We see some of the problems up close in the lives and families of our students.

But when Tim Hardaway says, “I hate gays,” it strikes a chord in many Christians, because we hate homosexuality in a way we don’t hate poverty, racism, the neglect of children, government corruption, and the violence that surrounds us. We’ve allowed ourselves to feel the hatred of one sin that offends us, while we’ve thrown the blanket of denial and minimizing over our true character.

So let me say it for you it you have trouble: If you are someone in my life who is engaged in the sin of homosexual behavior, I love you. I respect you. I embrace you as a human being like me, a sinner like me, and person to whom God offers forgiveness and grace in the body and blood of his Son, Jesus. The Gospel is good news for both of us. My sexual sins are grevious to a holy God, and I need to confess and repent of them. I hope and pray you will join me, in believing and in repenting. If the way is hard, and it always is, I will stand with you. If you stumble, I will forgive you and help you pursue purity in and for Christ. If you insist that Christ did not die for your homosex, but has given it to you as a gift, I will disagree with you, but I will still love and respect you. I will still want you to be my friend, to be in my home, to worship with me and to be part of my life. I am blind to many of my sins as well, and I can’t look at you with hatred or condemnation when Christ Jesus died in order for me to be forgiven.

If what I just wrote to that friend bothers you, and if Hardaway’s statement makes you want to say something similar, but cleaned up, well I love you too, but we’ve got a ways to go to catch up with Jesus. The good news is I’m sure he’s waiting for us…as always.

[Note: I am aware that Hardaway has apologized, and I am in no way attempting to avoid the trap door I might be standing on with all other people who have written about this incident. I pray that Mr. Hardaway grows in gracious words and grace towards others.]

Comments

  1. Thanks for that “I’ll still welcome you in my home” for non-celibate, homosexual Christians who believe that God gave them their sexual orientation.
    You’re going to draw fire for that one, iMonk. And I’ve posted here before with the story of my best friend, a gay man who has been in a comitted realtionship with another man for 21 years now. You stood by your celibacy requirement, grounded in Scriptural words about homosexuality. (That “homosex” word is kind of like George Bush referring to the Democratic party as the “Democrat” party. I trust you don’t mean the same kind of slur, though.)
    It is eminently clear to some of us that God did indeed create some of his children to be homosexual. I must say that I’d trust you to abide by Jesus’s words of love, while other religious writers…
    Not trying to swell your head, but I thank you for the depth of compassion your heart demonstrates here, and in all other matters.
    We disagree about much. I would be very, very happy to call you and your civil, thoughtful fellows my brothers and sisters in Christ. Please call me the same, though my name is really- BIG SINNER!

  2. Susan:

    >non-celibate, homosexual Christians who believe that God gave them their sexual orientation

    As you know, I do not accept this as a viable option. That others do is their life, not mine, and they stand before God for their choice.

    I want it to be clear that I do not believe one can read scripture and endorse the position of sex outside of marriage for any reason whatsoever.

  3. iMonk,
    You have never confused me on your view about this, so I guess that response was for others.
    I was thanking you for your recognition that Jesus probably would have had dinner with all who “choose” Scriptually ‘non-viable options’.
    Like you, I’d like to hear what he had to say over the appetizers!
    “With God, all things are possible.”
    Susan

  4. God hates adultery? So here, for your amusement, is a modified version of what happened (original text sourced from Wikipedia article on Tim Hardaway).
    —————–
    On the 790 the Ticket radio show, Hardaway was questioned by host Dan Le Batard on how he would deal with a teammate who had sex before marriage. Hardaway said he would ask for the player to be removed from the team; “First of all I wouldn’t want him on my team. Second of all, if he was on my team I would really distance myself from him because I don’t think that’s right and I don’t think he should be in the locker room when we’re in the locker room. Something has to give, If you have 12 other ballplayers in your locker room that’s upset and can’t concentrate and always worried about him in the locker room or on the court or whatever, it’s going to be hard for your teammates to win and accept him as a teammate.”

    Le Batard was critical of his remarks, labelling them as bigoted. Hardaway responded with, “Well, you know, I hate people who commit adultery. I let it be known I don’t like adulterous people. I don’t like to be around adulterers. It shouldn’t be in the world, in the United States, I don’t like it.”

  5. I was thanking you for your recognition that Jesus probably would have had dinner with all who “choose” Scriptually ‘non-viable options’.

    Jesus sat down and dined with Tax collectors… and yet preached against greed. He dined with prostitutes… and preached against adultery.

  6. MODERATOR: This comment is appearing unedited, even though it contains about the most arrogant personal demeaning bigotry towards me as a resident of Eastern Ky that I can imagine. JFred: this is quite possibly close to your last unedited comment. Telling me to get out more, as if I am a stupid hillbilly, is offensive. if you can’t subtract that kind of bigotry from your comments, you’ll be banned.

    Michael — Because you live in a very provincial part of America where Christianity is dominated by fundamentalism, I wonder if you aren’t guilty of having a skewed perception of the gay debate in the church and the culture in general?

    As much as I appreciate your views on the hypocrisy and self-righteousness in some evangelical quarters, I’m afraid that you’re now becoming even more self-righteous when it comes to beating this drum.

    Let’s face it, you aren’t going to see many gay weddings in Eastern Kentucky and you probably don’t have to worry about your child being indoctrinated in the public schools to accept the gay “lifestyle.” But you’re simply naive if you don’t think it’s happening throughout this country.

    I suggest to you that the PCUSA church where you ministered for so long did not give you an accurate picture of what is happening in that denomination. Nearly three years ago, when delegates came to Richmond for the general assembly, a loud, large group of gay activists (all PCUSA members of course) greeted attendees in drag, beating drums and chanting slogans.

    Just before the General Assembly, I served as the committe chair on our pastor nominating committee. Not one of the candidates we interviewed from the top seminaries in the PCUSA would say that they thought homosexuality was a sin.

    So, is it any wonder that the denominational gathering is hijacked by radical gay activists, who finally succeeded last summer in paving the way for gay ordination.

    Michael, this is not a fight WE picked. Evangelicals did not just wake up one day and say, “lets go out and condemn homosexuals.” They want to be affirmed in their sin, and at least in the PCUSA, they have been. They brought the fight to us. I can tell you’ve never had to confront militant gay activism or been called a fascists for daring to challenge them.

    I ask you, is this something we should not be concerned about? What am I to tell my five year old son when the local PCUSA church celebrates the wedding of Joe and Tom?

    Tim Hardaway’s comments are in no way reflective of the evangelicals I know. The hate mongers you cite do not speak for the majority of us.

    Perhaps you would benefit from getting out of Eastern Kentucky more often.

  7. >I can tell you’ve never had to confront militant gay activism or been called a fascists for daring to challenge them.

    JFred….maybe you should ask Jesus what to do when you are treated like that.

    And I’ve been in PCUSA presbytery meetings, and in sessions with angry GAY parents. You don’t know me, sir.

  8. I will agree with part of JFred’s comment, it is not a one-sided battle, just like there are certain bigoted evangelicals who want a “gay-free” zone in their denomination. There are certain activists who want to invade certain areas and change the evangelical culture just because they are militant for their own lifestyle.

    And as far as I can tell from Romans 1 and my limited knowledge of ancient civilizations, this sin has been around just as long as adultery as been around. It has been around at least since 1400 BC, because it is in the Law. It was around (in its presesnt form) in New Testament times because Paul uses two words to describe it, one for the dominant male member of the relationship, and one for the submissive member. Wherever the knowledge of God is resisted, it creeps in. It has been around in Europe* and America longer than we have “emphasized” it, it has just become aggressive lately since we teach kids from a young age “express yourself” and “be true to yourself” and that if anybody disrespects you, yell as loud as you can to get your rights.

    *1890’s England, 1920’s Weimar Republic Germany, many medieval English and French kings, the Anglo-Saxons, many Pirates in the 16th-18th centuries, the Greeks, the Romans, the Macedonians

    I agree with your position on personal treatment Michael, and I believe that Jesus personally would act the same. But it is not that easy (and I know you know this, I am not assuming you don’t). We have denominational conflict at administrative levels about “inclusion”. The main reason evangelicals are caught in the headlights over this issue is because the fight is not over whether or not we will have lunch with a practicing homosexual, it is whether or not we will sit under the preaching of the said person. And if we will not sit under that preaching, we are said to be bigots. Church outreach and lunch policy will not solve that issue. I’m sure Jesus would eat with many people whom He would not appoint as an elder. And there are many who are disgusted at their own heterosexual lust and are dying to part with it, just as there are many who seek Christ to be free from homosexuality and struggle with it. And there are those who love their sin and think its really not that bad….but we don’t preach as hard against comfortable “lusters” like we do the other camp. Many of accepted “lusters” occupy a pulpit and saturate our minds with “bad food” but there is no battle over “their” entry into the fold because its fine with us…I don’t mind being in a locker room with a “similar” sinner…and that should change.

  9. For those of us who would insist upon having “enemies” in a culture war, those of us who want to follow Jesus still have to ask, “now how am I supposed to treat my enemies?”

    And I myself have gotten out quite a bit and seen the world (this Eastern Kentucky guy’s gotten a pretty good education, thank you very much) and will say that many evangelicals hate gay people because they think they’re gross. Not all evangelicals are so ugly and inarticulate, and many are, and they seem to make the most noise.

    Those of us on the “traditionalist” side of the debate on sexual ethics have to be really careful talking about it, because what people have been trained to hear is that we hate them.

  10. “Militant gay activism” as even an idea mystifies me. Who are these gay G.I. Joes? I’ve never met one. No, not one.

  11. I am quite touched by your reflection of the love of Jesus for sinners, from those we see as trivial to those which seem unforgiveable. The trouble lies with the evangelical church which has no room for either unrepentant or repentant homosexuals.

    At this time, I am a Christian in the upward calling of Jesus Christ for a homosexual. Celibate for twenty-five years, I have been secretly fighting these forbidden desires in my heart. My struggle has been intense and painful and dark.

    I feel trapped between a rock and a hard place. On one side are unrepentant homosexuals warring against those who have come into the Light. On the other side, Christians are angry at a “life-style choice” and fearful of contamination of the church and their country.

    The root of homosexuality, indeed the root of all sin, is abandoning the glory of God revealed for the darkness of rebellion and idolatry. In the end, all sin is love of self rather than love for God and other people.

    You will never know the struggles to openly confess my sin to other Christians. Twice previously I have confessed to pastors and elders; but, the responses have not been a balance of God’s holiness and grace. Unfortunately, many Christians have adopted the modern language—secular and political—of homosexual orientation and life style choice. And, I fear much of the evangelical church in America can no longer address sins which do so easily beset us.

    A safe church will never compromise the purity and holiness and righteousness of God; and, would also never fail to compromise, nor fail to proclaim, the grace and forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ our Savior.

    In all of us who battle with sin, we need the church. We need teachers to help me understand Scripture, intercessors to pray for us, and preachers to point us toward Jesus. We need Christian men and women to remind us of God’s grace and blessings, to help use recognize foolish decisions, and to remind us everything God said is true in Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Richard