Friday, February 25, 2011

The anointing of rudeness and offense

While talking with one of the pastors yesterday I kept on having to shift. We were in a narrow-ish walkway, him on one wall and me leaning against the other (right next to a door). Every few minutes someone would come out of the door and stand there patiently. Eventually I would remember it's culturally rude to walk between two people in conversation, and the person was waiting for me to give them space to walk behind. As stupid as this seems to me, it doesn't bother me. It's culture, perhaps inconvenient, but neither right nor wrong. Don't walk between people in conversation, don't walk and eat at the same time, don't greet someone while there is food in their mouth, don't toss things to people, etc. not right, not wrong, just culture. I once got a Thai kid to crash his bike because I greeted him, hands together nod, while he was riding by. Adults aren't suppose to greet kids this way, too much respect, but kids are always supposed to greet adults this way. An adult greets you this way and you damn well return it, even if you're riding a bike down a dirt road. I won't say trying to get the kid to crash was the reason I did it, I'll just say I was curious. Don't feel bad for the kid, we both thought it was funny.

In any case, the pastor and I were talking about homosexuality and the church/pastor's correct response to it (kinda a huge deal here in Uganda right now). I made some points he agreed with, one sin isn't more disgusting than another, we are called to love the broken, not our place to condemn, is our place to confront brothers and sisters, etc., but he kept getting hung up on what that actually meant for a pastor. It took me a few minutes to realize his concern wasn't with what scripture said, but with how the community responded. He kept saying it was very difficult to know what to do. I agreed with him.

He was understandably concerned with how the community would respond to a church/pastor welcoming in non-defensive, repentant, struggling, and believing homosexuals. Culturally, homosexuality is a nasty thing out here and it is offensive to basic concepts of nature and community. It isn't just the Christians who have a problem with it. For a pastor to accept homosexuals into the congregation, almost certainly, would mean getting condemned by the larger community, getting rejected and persecuted by other pastors, and getting fired by his leaders or abandoned by his parishioners. In essence, it would destroy his "ministry". The pastor kept arguing, for the good of the community and to protect his witness, he couldn't accept homosexuals into the congregation (to the best of my knowledge, this is a hypothetical situation).

As we talked, and I mentioned he wasn't responsible to find the comfortable solution to challenges, or to be respectable in the eyes of the larger community and other pastors, I began to realize the situation wasn't that difficult - it wasn't all that challenging. I told him he was only responsible to be obedient to God and to ask "What does loving Jesus look like?"

In Matthew, Jesus says "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." He forgot to mention the people doing the persecuting, insulting, and lying weren't going to be "the world", as we so often fantasize, but or friends, family, congregations, fellow pastors, and elders. Remember those persecuted prophets Jesus mentioned? They were almost only ever persecuted by their own people.

Being a christian leader/christian, and making the "tough" decisions, is a lot easier when you recognize it isn't your decision, it isn't your job to moderate God for his own good, it isn't your job to be respectable, and it isn't your responsibility to make life comfortable. The job sucks and it's painful, but it is easy. It's your job to obey God. The gospel is rude and offensive; it always was and it was always meant to be. Respectability, places of honor, lower case kingdoms, and legions of adoring followers were never on the table for you to work towards. This might sound bad, but it's much easier obeying God, loving Jesus, and lead meaningful ministries when you just don't care about the other stuff.

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, etc. are remembered, loved, honored, and respected. The morons, who made their lives miserable, stand forgotten or condemned.

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