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Opinion: The Gospel is not a behavior control program
As Christians, we need to stop keeping score of others' sins
Picture: Relevant Magazine
- Margot Starbuck for Relevant Magazine
- June 28, 2013
This week, the US Supreme Court justices heard arguments challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996. According to DOMA, states are not required to recognize a same-sex marriage performed in another state, meaning these couples are not eligible for Social Security survivors’ benefits, insurance for government employees, immigration status, filing of joint taxes and more. This dilemma is what shot Windsor v. United States to the nation’s highest court.
Though Christians disagree on this issue and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future, I wonder if we’ve given as much energy to that upon which we agree as we have to that which divides us.
Last year, my own state, North Carolina, passed a Constitutional Amendment to limit the types of domestic unions, gay and straight, that can be recognized by the state. The time, money and energy invested by Christians to ensure the Amendment’s passage—and, for some, its defeat—was phenomenal.
Long before both of these cases, I, like many Christians, had been troubled by the vehement energy I saw among Christians who had chosen to wage war on the “sins” of others.
Over the years, these fervent ones stalked doctors who perform abortions, picketed strip clubs and Planned Parenthoods and threatened to burn the Koran. I couldn’t help but wonder what these Christians—sisters and brothers of mine—were really being driven by.
And although I wasn’t waving placards with them, what was it that triggered the same impulse in me?
I have this fantasy where I connect 100 North American Christians, of all persuasions and varieties of theology, to lie-detector machines and ask them one single question:
“Would you rather a woman who’s stripping on Saturday night [insert your favorite sin of others here] quit her job and sit in a church pew Sunday morning—without actually encountering the grace of God—or would you rather she experience the radical love of God for her, as she is, and return to work the next weekend?”
I’m curious what’s going on in the hearts of religious people like me. Are we really trusting God to deal with the hearts of sinners? Are we as passionate that sinners encounter God’s grace as we are that they simply stop sinning?
Although we often fuse the two, Jesus never makes sinlessness a prerequisite for salvation.
Full Story: The Gospel is not a behavior control program
Source: Relevant Magazine