Unacceptable

We get tired of hearing it, but it's true that our generation cares a great deal about matters of social justice. Marriage equality, human trafficking, racism--these are all things that not only make the news but make hashtags. And the United States Constitution is actually very conducive to supporting most of them.

Because America was founded as a place to escape tyranny, to escape oppression, to be accepted. Really, it's one of the most common human experiences: the need to feel accepted. I'll be the first to admit that it hurts a great deal when I'm not. It's damaging. It tears us down. But it's also going to happen. And I don't think that's always a bad thing.

photo credit: Divine Harvester via photopin cc
You won't see that sort of talk on most of the top, young evangelical blogs today. Nonacceptance is seen as abusive and irreparably harmful to a person's psyche. And it's usually followed by lots of random Jesus quotes and stories.

Let's be honest, it's hard not to like Jesus. He told us to focus on love, to seek justice for the oppressed, and to advocate for the marginalized. All of these things are true. But just like the fire and brimstone preachers these bloggers hate, they too pick and choose what verses to ignore and what passages to gloss over. And one of the key words you don't hear much anymore (though it was frequently uttered by Jesus) is "sinner."

It's a mean-sounding word, isn't it? Sinner. You can almost picture the gray-haired man saying it with a scowl on his face thumping a ragged, old Bible on the pulpit. There's no love in his voice. Just malice. A man who clearly hates those who engage in whatever practice he's railing against that week. You'd probably imagine such a man capable of saying this:
I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you--something that even pagans don't do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame...you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns.
That grumpy old man is the apostle Paul, and that's what he wrote to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 5). And no, I don't think he hated this man. But he did say to kick him out of the church. Why? Because his actions were unacceptable.

It's easy to make the Bible say what we want it to. It's easy to make the Bible accept us. But for all of his talk about love, Jesus does have standards. And this isn't the only time Paul is recorded kicking people out of the church. Because the beauty of Jesus accepting everyone as they are is that his acceptance is in spite of our unacceptability. And sometimes, having that pointed out is exactly what we need.

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