Who is going to tell you how to live?

I’ve been reading several books on this hot cultural topic of homosexuality.  I overheard a man recently say something like, “Homosexuals make up between 2-4% of the population and there are less than 170,000 same sex unions in the nation – this isn’t a very big deal.”  I wonder what it was like in the days and weeks after Roe v. Wade back in 1973?  Surely, abortions were uncommon and the population affected small.  No one can now say that decision was a light one, can they?  I suspect we are in a similar cultural moment.

Still, this issue brings to the fore a common (if unstated) argument in favor of homosexuality: “Who can tell me how to live?  I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”  You see, buried in here is the “I can do whatever I want and no one can tell me otherwise” ethic.  So, this is really a statement of authority or rather, priority.  A Christian (or anyone claiming to be) has to contend with a very different ethic: I can not do whatever I want because God can tell me otherwise.  (The Lord’s Prayer is an easy proof text, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven….”)   In shorthand the choice becomes: Scripture interprets Experience or Experience interprets Scripture.  In other words, will I allow the Bible to tell me how to live even if it is uncomfortable or asks me to deny things that I greatly desire?  Or, am I going to follow down the path of my desires and then retool my understanding of what the Bible or the church says?  This matters because of the Bible’s clear and unequivocal condemnation of homosexual activities.

For those who don’t really hold to the Bible as the authoritative testimony of God, then this isn’t an issue.  But, for all who do make room for Jesus Christ in life, it is THE issue.  The honest Christian who believes that homosexuality is allowable or even commendable knows that he is denying the authority of the Bible.  Here’s what pro-homosexual New Testament scholar, Luke Timothy Johnson, states about what is really happening:

I think it is important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience of thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us (Cited in Kevin DeYoung, What does the Bible really say about Homosexuality, 132).

As you can see in Johnson’s quote, what makes him convinced is experience.  Specifically, the “conversion” experiences of family members, friends, co-workers and media personalities who “come out.”  These people are hailed for their courage and hated for the mental gymnastics they put family and friends through.  Well, maybe not hated but at least they force all people around them to choose: are you going to be “happy” for me and my new found “freedom to be me” or will you become my enemy by telling me this is wrong?  Don’t you see how happy I am?”  These coming-out conversion stories are always immediately connected to identity re-identification (see my earlier post, “I am…lost?”).

Every “conversion” story is a story about exerting personal authority over God’s authority; it is saying: “My interpretation of what I’m experiencing has more weight than God’s interpretation of what I’m experiencing.  And, your interpretation should be just like mine.”  There are other issues found here but no less.

I am….lost?

“I am [insert abbreviation or acronym].”  How we fill in that blank has radically changed over the years.  Two hundred plus years ago it was, “I am an American.”  One hundred and fifty years ago it was, “I am from the South.”  Less than fifty years ago it was, “I am having free sex.”  If you were to study how our country’s consciousness has evolved on this since our founding, I think we’d see a  balkanization, that is, a rapid dividing and sub-dividing ourselves into smaller and smaller special interest (or behavior) groups.  Most popularly, today, many answer “I am a homosexual” or “I am a lesbian.”  The rest of us don’t know with what to fill the blank and we certainly don’t know how to handle those who fill it with a rainbow word.  The cultural stream has been moving us down its length in our little rubber inner tubes until now the Christian finds himself in an unfamiliar and scary land.

In a series of posts, I want to discuss this phenomenon.   Not balkanization per se, but how in our cultural moment, our identity – the way we describe ourselves – has been reduced to our sexual practices.  At issue today is that there are people (Christians and non) who believe it is correct and morally praiseworthy to fill in the blank with their sexual practices.  The line between identity (“I am”) and practice (“I do”) has been painted over.  What I believe we cannot do, is turn to the Bible in moments of proof-texting weakness and try to use that as a map and compass to get our bearings.  Indeed, the Scriptures are the light unto our path and a lamp unto our feet (Psalm 119:105) when used rightly.  There is no other way out of this but we must be circumspect.

This issue, like no other in my lifetime, will explode with the slightest agitation.  But in the hands of Christ, the fragility is hardened and dialogue and redemptive action is possible.

First, then, “who am I?”  I am a male person made in God’s image.  It is very simple: a non-chaotic God fashioned me male in my mother’s womb.  As a male, I am in His image.  My wife, a woman, is also equally and indelibly in His image, too.  Genesis 1:26-27 lays this out clearly

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, after our likeness….So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Once conceived and then born, there’s no going back.  My Mom and Pop looked and, yep, “He’s a boy!”  I could’ve been a boy or a girl and it was God’s choice that I am male.  My fate was sealed!  There is more, however.  Genesis 3 narrates a cataclysmic event in the life of mankind.  Christians call it the “Fall.”  What is described is our forebears’ decision to follow their own dictates rather than God’s.  He warned them what would happen if they did; they did it anyway.  So, fast-forward to me in my born maleness.  This Fall leaned into my life and from the first moment of conception, as I was being made in the image of God, I was also utterly corrupted.  Not totally but utterly.

The proof is in the pudding: once when I was young, I threw a potato at my Mom as she was driving down the highway.  I was a very little boy and yet I was a very bad boy!  I sinned because I was born a sinner.  The Bible tells us in Genesis 9:6 that in this Fallen Age at conception of all humans two things are woven together: God’s image and our corruption.  Corruption.  I am still male but a corrupt one: like a cup of water after a drop of red dye has been added.  The red dye is everywhere in me but I’m still the made-in-God’s-image-me.  I’m not the red dye.

For me, the difficultly in living as a male takes many forms.  In my soul is mingled a love for Christ and love for His competitors, that is, things that will captivate me such that I will want them more than Christ.  One of those I call “OSA” or opposite sex attraction.  My whole life I have been beset with it: gazing, fantasizing, plotting, hoping…even after I married my dear wife, the battle rages on.  I don’t have SSA (same sex attraction).  Why?  I don’t know.  I know two things from the Bible, however.  As a single man and as a married man, my battle with OSA (and other things) rages as much as any other human battles a first-tier attraction.  As a pastor, though, I know men (and women) who battle these things and more and the instruction to us all is the same:

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15)

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor (1 Thessalonians 4:3)

I also know for me to say, “I am heterosexual” isn’t a statement of identity, it is one of practice.  Remember: I am not the red dye.  Unless we recover an understanding that separates out statements of identity from those of practice, many who self-identify based on their sexual practices will be in the darkness of chaos and confusion.  There is a better way: John 14:6.

Heaven soon,

Pastor Gabe

Chores! Evil necessity or Training Ground?

CHORES – A dreadful necessity or a teachable moment?  Every now and then it is helpful to remember just what we’re doing at home.  It is S-O-O-O easy to get lost in the 10,000 little moments at home: meals, dust-bunnies, socks on the floor, bills to pay, laundry, lawns, and leaks.  One of the places where this gets sticky is chores.  What’s a good perspective on chores?

Here are some thoughts that have guided our family:

Chores-as-worldview.  Chores are training ground for the practical necessities of life as well as the practice of life in the kingdom of God.  Work and rule-following in the home are where rule following in the kingdom gets practical and practiced.

Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Chores are spiritual training as well as earthly work.  Chores are where children learn to obey rules, first from you and then from God.

Chores-as-training.  Chores are part of the process of discipling our children and building character in them.  This is one of the areas where we are responsible to train our children.  They will grow up and move out so we need to equip them to make it on their own!  Boys and girls will one day need to wash their clothing, make their own meals, clean their bathrooms, etc. Teach them that their enthusiasm for work is exactly what is expected of us in the kingdom.  Proverbs 31 indicates that teaching the girls to be this way should be a priority!   What about our boys?

2 Thess. 3:10-12, “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.  For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.  Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living”

Chores-as-normal.  Doing chores isn’t sumpin’ special: we are not doing anything special when we obey; we are just doing what family members do.  We are a family, a team, so our home is a joint responsibility.  We all work together to do what needs to be done to make our household run smoothly.  Another way to look at this is “many hands make light work.”  For little Johnny to do his chores doesn’t mean he’s doing something special.  This is with serious biblical precedent:

Luke 17:7-10, “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’?  Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink and afterward you will eat and drink’?  Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?  So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.”

OK, so, how do we drill down into chores?

First, there’s an adage in the Boy Scouts reminding adults that says “don’t do for a boy what a boy can do for himself.”  This holds true in chores: do not do for your child what he can do for himself.  If you do everything for your child, then he will get the notion that he is so important everyone ought to do things for him.  When will this end?  Tragically, when God puts a stop to it.  Let’s keep that from happening…

Involve your children in your daily tasks.  Talk to them, let them help, and teach them how.  When they do the work, praise them for their efforts (be sure to tell dad when he comes home so he can praise, too).  Make a list of everything that needs to be done.   Circle all the things that only you can do.  Then delegate!  Make a chore chart and rotate weekly, monthly or quarterly.  Be consistent in overseeing all that has been delegated out.  Post the chore chart where everyone can see it.  Talk to your children about it.  Make sure the consequences of disobeying are understood.  Be flexible and willing to change the chore chart as needed, as children grow older and mature.

Second, start young.  Young children are the most enthusiastic helpers.  But, be careful not to overwhelm them so when they’re young work alongside of them.  Try not to overburden the oldest child.  If there is a job that a younger child can do, give it to that child.  Of course it takes longer to do things that you could do yourself but you must take the time to teach them how to do the job.  Parents often complain that their kids’ chores are pitifully done.  True.  But is part of the reason why because they weren’t trained specifically?  So, don’t expect them to do it as well as you do.  You are the one with years of experience.  Extend grace and mercy in this area if your child has done the job to the best of his ability.  Be persistent—it will pay off.

Third, be specific.  Children (even teens) can be overwhelmed by a task, like cleaning a bedroom.  Adults often make the mistake of issuing what appears to be a straightforward command, “Clean up your room.”  The parent knows what he’s asking but does the child?  The boy might go up and pick up the floor only to leave the desk a mess and he might legitimately think he’s done the work.  Break it down into smaller tasks: make bed; pick up books; pick up clothes; pick up legos; pick up dolls; pick up dishes; etc.  If you want specific work to be done, be specific; eventually they’ll get it.

Lastly, remember this isn’t just about getting small tasks completed; it’s more importantly about world and life training.  Try to keep a positive attitude.  Be patient but persistent: whining, complaining and lack of cooperation on their part are sinful and shouldn’t be tolerated.  Give them extra work!  Keep in mind that one day that child will be responsible only to God to do the work set before him.

What about examples of what kids do by age:

At 4: feed dog, collect trash, and fold washcloths.

At 7: set-clear table, sweep stairs, unload dishwasher, fold underwear/hand towels, help mom prepare a meal, collect laundry and help sort/stain treat, clean bathroom, and help dust.

At 9: all the above*, plus fold socks/towels, help prepare meals, prepare a simple breakfast/lunch, collect laundry and help sort/stain treat, clean bathroom, help dust, clean up the yard, take out the compost, and vacuum.

At 11: all the above* plus hand wash dishes, make breakfast/lunch, prepare simple meal for dinner, sweep floors, vacuum, fold pants/shorts, mow the grass, clean bathrooms, dust, wash and vacuum the van, take out trash, help with laundry, and mopping.

At 15: all the above plus meal prep (B, L, D), dust, vacuum, sweep, iron!, help with laundry, fold shirts, mopping, and babysitting.

  • *Keep in mind that even the older ones might be called upon to do the tasks of the younger ones as needed just not normally!

Allowance?  We do not believe it is wise to pay your child to do chores.  Parents are not paid to do their work around the house or yard.  Perhaps you could pay them occasionally to do the bigger and harder jobs, i.e.: raking and bagging leaves, painting the house, etc.  Nor do we think that children should be enticed to do chores under the promise of rewards.  While God does promise the hope of heaven, He doesn’t make us work for it, does He?