Points to Ponder: It's How You Interpret It (Oh Really?)
Points to Ponder
It's How You Interpret It (Oh Really?)
This is part 1 of a series. See part 2.
Recently I shared with a clergy colleague my concern that we are not openly discussing many of the issues which so greatly divide our denomination. At clergy meetings, we should face these things head on. I said that I believe the main argument at the heart of these issues (homosexuality among clergy, disbelief in core doctrines such as the virgin birth and bodily resurrection of Jesus, and others) is about biblical authority. In other words, the root of the root of Methodism is scripture as the primary authority, "the whole and sole rule of faith and life" as John Wesley said. This colleague disagreed. It is not the authority of scripture but rather that there are disagreements on interpretation of scripture. I guess, in one sense, he is correct. If we can not agree on what the scripture says - no matter how plainly - it can't rise to the level of being authoritative.
That's good news to the ears of many who call themselves Christian. Who can say whether a certain lifestyle is sinful? If my interpretation says it is, but your interpretation says it is not, then interpretation becomes the authority.
...no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God] spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (NKJV II Peter 1:20-21)
A man-centered theology places inclusiveness and diversity above even the deity of Christ. Jesus was inclusive and welcoming toward all manner of sinner, but NOT all manner of sin. He showed grace to the woman caught in adultery, telling her He did not condemn her; however, He also said, "Go and sin no more" (John 8:1-11).
The Apostle Paul also was inclusive of all manner of sinner; but, in Christ we renounce these things which were leading to our condemnation.
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed (that implies the above practices are dirty), but you were sanctified (set apart from those ways), but you were justified (declared righteous by God) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (I Corinthians 6:9-11 NKJV comments and emphasis added.)
How can an interpretation of the above scripture differ to the extent that someone can pull one or two sinful behaviors out and call them blessed of God? In essence we are saying that all the others are sins worthy of condemnation - but this one is acceptable by God. Where is that in scripture?
In the above scripture, the sins were not the things that were "washed"; the sinner was washed and separated from the stains he/she once bore. Nowhere does scripture even imply that after Jesus' death and resurrection that these sins are now cleansed of their sinfulness.
In scripture, sin is defined as such by the Law of God. Jesus said He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. The law never convicted Jesus of sin; because the law identifies and declares sin. Sin never stopped being sin; Jesus just never committed any of them.
Jesus warned in His Sermon on the Mount of the deceptiveness of inclusiveness, as many well meaning humans have defined it.
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way, which leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV)
The broad way is wide open for the accommodation of many. Why then is the narrow gate narrow and made difficult to enter and to find life? Jesus is not the one who made it tough. He said in this same gospel, "Come to me. . ." He enables you to make it through the gate.
"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will fine rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:29-30 emphasis added)
Inclusiveness is the man-made, wide way. Remember, God made men and women in His image. When we try to make Him in our image, we construct the broad way and try to dress up sin so it can get in thereby. But the path is to destruction.
Holiness is the narrow way. It is being conformed to the image of Christ. Holiness is defined by scripture and imputed by Christ, not by our politically correct pleasantries and platitudes.
"Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:"(Hebrews 12:14 NKJV)
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of First United Methodist Church of Laurel.