Faith and Sexuality: a synchro-blog

June 24, 2009

Greetings all those who pass this way today.

I’m sorry that my post is hitting the charts a little late.  You’ll have to forgive me, I was participating in an alpine hike that ended up being a little more grueling than I had anticipated!

Today I am a part of a synchro-blog…a conversational blog between many writers.  Here is the host site: www.btgproject.blogspot.com where you will find other (more punctual!) writers.  Our synchro-blog is centred around the topic of faith and sexuality.  The project is hosted by New Directions – a Canadian organization which reaches out to people who are asking questions about  faith and sexuality.

The Christian Church always has a particular dillema on its hands:  we are called to live peaceably together and yet we find ourselves disagreeing on certain doctrinal points or positions.  Aside from faith and sexuality this exists in many different areas: in church polity (one church has pastors – another is run by elders); in sacramental positions (one dips, one sprinkles, one fully immerses); in worship (brass bands for some, pipe organ and choirs for others, guitars and drums for yet another).  Even within any particular denomination or sector of the Christian Church there is a lack of harmony for any number of reasons (just ask my Catholic friend Jackie).  I’m pointing this out because I think it is valid for us to notice, at the outset of this discussion, that Christians agree on very little accross the board – – except for the most very basic doctrines…and even these are debated by some!

Still, we have learned that having these differences among us is not the end of the world!  In time we come to overlook the things in our fellow brothers and sisters that we may not fully understand or agree with – important things! – and we offer grace…because that’s what Christ has offered (and continues to offer) us.

I don’t want to be branded a heretic, but I believe that one thing we can do begin to bridge the gap between those who are LGBT affirming and those who are not is to experience the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper together.  It is one of the most profound moments in our churches worship service because it is at that moment that Christ comes to each of us – as we receive the body and blood – and imparts grace to us.  No one around us is more fitted or worthy.  No one beside us is granted a ‘special’ blessing in its impartation.  It is truly unifying.

Since we are not the judge of any person’s heart, I believe that it is incumbant on the Church to do this – to receive the elements together despite differences and to pray that God would grant us diving insight into how his grace ought to be poured out freely to those around us…especially brothers and sisters in Christ.

Now I know that there are many churches who view same-gender attraction and/or same-gender relationships as sinful.  This is tricky because these people often exclude the LGBT community from the Lord’s Table (in the same way it might exclude someone who has gotten a divorce or cheated on their taxes…really?).  I would say that the church needs to revamp its understanding of this sacrament.  I believe that what makes a church sacramental is not that its members receive the sacraments…but that the church offers it.  And if Christ himself has offered himself for the world, who is the Church that it would turn ANYONE away from the Lord’s Table…regardless of its view of the human form receiving it.  This principle goes far beyond the discussion of faith and sexuality…and I think it has the potential to be contentious – – not something that the BTG Synchroblog is looking for.  However, I need to at least suggest that one of the reasons that the LGBT Christians in our churches have felt and have been marginalized, is that their ‘offense’ is so public.

We all, regardless of sexuality, life-philosophy, brand-of-Christianity, or our favorite colour of jellybean, approach the Lord’s Table as humans broken and fallen.  The Church best not be so proud as to look at any specific ‘group’ of people, wag its finger and say keep away…not if it has any measure of self awareness.  Let the table be a place of welcome, a place where even the seeker is permitted to partake.  Not just for the straight Christian, but for his seeking friend.  Not just for the lesbian Christian…but her lesbian friend who is not a Christian.  I think we would be completely amazed at how God works through the administration of his grace…he is so good at that.

Peace and Love

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22 Responses to “Faith and Sexuality: a synchro-blog”

  1. Wendy said

    Thank you for this offering …. some good insights and suggestions have been emerging through the day … and while no one writer can say it all in a blog post – i think you’ve touched on a very important experience of welcome and unity. Though this will be a challenging post for some – I too see the offering of the Lord’s Supper as a means of grace to be offered generously.

  2. Nathan said

    Excellent thoughts. Thank you. I especially like the last sentence – “I think we would be completely amazed at how God works through the administration of his grace … he is so good at that.”

    I hope we are always amazed by that. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Sarah said

    I’m not so sure your idea with the Holy Communion or Sacrament would work but maybe we’ve placed rules around Holy Communion that was never suppose to be there in the first place.

  4. edwardnortonfan said

    “I believe that what makes a church sacramental is not that its members receive the sacraments…but that the church offers it. And if Christ himself has offered himself for the world, who is the Church that it would turn ANYONE away from the Lord’s Table…regardless of its view of the human form receiving it.”

    At my church, the bulletin says “All are welcome at this table to receive the bread and the wine made holy. Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith, you are welcome here.” That’s probably better than any other church I’ve ever attended. They offer God’s love to everyone and they don’t exclude anyone. What people do with that grace is up to them.

    Thanks for posting your thoughts.

  5. Mark Petersen said

    Your idea to celebrate the eucharist together took my breath away. I love it. Thanks for a great idea.

  6. Beth said

    Thanks for this post; it is beautifully written and full of truth. I’m from an open communion tradition, and though I can see why some of the “closed” folks believe what they do (from Paul’s letters), I still believe that it is Jesus’ table, and that Jesus would welcome anyone who is truly hungry for Him. You’re so right – communion brings us into communion not only with God, but with each other. A very diverse church in my neighborhood recently did a sermon series on homosexuality and faith, and they ended each service with communion, for some of the same reasons you mention. It was powerful.

    Here’s a quote from a book I read that you might like, called “Take this Bread” – it’s written by Sara Miles, a lesbian journalist who finds God at an open communion service…

    “Instead of being God’s freely given gift of reconciliation for everyone – the central point of Jesus’s barrier-breaking meals with sinners of all descriptions – communion belonged to the religious authorities. The entire contradictory package of Christianity was present in the Eucharist. A sign of unconditional acceptance and forgiveness, it was doled out and rationed to insiders; a sign of unity, it divided people; a sign of the most common and ordinary human reality, it was rarefied and theorized nearly to death. And yet that meal remained, through all the centuries, more powerful than any attempts to manage it. It reconciled, if only for a minute, all of God’s creation, revealing that, without exception, we were members of one body, God’s body, in endless diversity. The feast showed us how to re-member what had been dis-membered by human attempts to separate and divide, judge and cast out, select or punish. At that Table, sharing food, we were brought into the ongoing work of making creation whole.”

  7. Sonja Dalton said

    The Lord’s Supper is not to be offered to those who refuse to repent of (turn away from) their sins. By participating in the supper while persisting in sexual behavior that defies God, a person would, according to scripture, bring condemnation upon himself.

    I Corinthians 11:27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

    Christians are called to holiness. Those who practice sexual immorality (and other grievous sins) are to be expelled:

    I Corinthians 6:9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people… 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one… 13 … “Purge the evil person from among you.”

    The only homosexuals that are to eat the Supper are the ex-gays:

    I Corinthians 6:9 …Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such *were* some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    A true believer cannot go on sinning (Hebrews 11:26-31); He must be transformed (Romans 12:1-2).

    Jude writes of church members who persist in sexual immorality:

    4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…

    And of their participation in the Supper (love feast):

    12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

    You see, the Lord’s Supper is HIS, not yours to pollute as you please. It only “works” if we do it His way. The church was not established to “build bridges” with the world but rather to worship in Spirit and Truth and to disciple repentant sinners:

    Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and *make disciples* of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 *teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.*

    • Ian said

      Sonja,

      Let me qualify my reply here by saying that I am indeed a good friend of Jay’s, and think that his contribution to this blog initiative was well thought out and written with a deep sensitivity to Jesus’ imperative command to love God and love neighbor. It is good of you to offer a response, and I would like to take a few moments to offer my own thoughts.

      First, it’s clear that you are approaching this topic from a certain viewpoint about the authority of scripture – that it gives us clear guidelines about how we are to live, and even outlines in black and white who can participate in the Lord’s supper. I would say, however, that the purpose of reading and interpreting the Bible is so that the church may become “the kind of community that tells and tells rightly the story of Jesus” (Stanley Hauerwas). As we learn to understand the Bible as the story of God at work in and through creation, we learn how to live out our own stories with a view to embodying the redemptive work of God in the world around us; participation in the story is what is most important, not finding the meaning of or explanation for it.

      There is no denying the reality that all readers of the Bible approach the text from different backgrounds and specific perspectives or lenses that influence how they read and interpret it. The fact that this conversation is taking place proves that. However, if faith communities begin to see the Bible as the primary place wherein we discover the story that informs who we are to be, the focus can be removed from whether or not we agree with one another [which we probably won’t] to whether or not we are becoming more loving people in the process.

      I agree with you that Christians are called to discipleship and holiness, that we are meant to turn from old to new ways of living in this world. In fact, I think that’s precisely what Jay is getting at as well. The church was established to bring people together and to show the world what God is like and what he cares about, as seen in the person of Jesus. He was constantly calling into question those who made it known that they had it all figured out, and in turn was befriending those who were seen as necessarily excluded. If disciples are called to imitate Jesus, then how can we not also do the same and invite those who the church currently excludes to come to the table and experience this same sort of loving kindness?

      So, while I strongly disagree with some of your conclusions about what the Bible says on this matter, and would question some of the logic used in your argument, I can’t bring myself to pick at them because it would probably be a fruitless exercise. Again, what is most important is that, regardless of whether or not we agree, we can all strive to embody the love of Christ in the process of wrestling with these issues. And, as Jay has pointed out, there is no better place to experience that unifying love than at the communion table, to whom all are invited.

      • Al said

        Ian: Mark & Sonja certainly get into it below, but I really appreciate your gentle response to Sonja. As I have been reading many of the synchroblog posts, and even more comments, I have seen a great number of people dialoguing with generosity, but a few who feel that they will be well served by strongly expressing their theology. It has been very obvious to me that that style of assertion only raises everyone’s blood pressure, and doesn’t tend to change anyone’s mind. Your approach (on the other hand) demonstrates the love Christ calls us to. Thanks for taking the high road, and responding in the opposite spirit to what I felt in Sonja’s comments (although I can understand Mark’s desire to answer Sonja’s statements).

    • mark said

      Sonja; throwing Bible verses at people is not really that helpful. Let me give you an example.

      1 Timothy 2:11 “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

      Now, I’m sure that you agree that Jason is a man and you are a woman. This verse clearly indicates that you were out of place attempting to teach him and usurp his authority. Learn from him with silence.

      Now, you obviously believe that passage of scripture is not applicable to you(for some flimsy reason) and if someone were to use it against you you’d probably be pretty mad. The point here is that you should not(as you have done) simply take a bunch of scripture verses that sound like they agree with you and quote them at someone you want to prove wrong. It’s not effective.

      Now, let’s see some of the things you said.

      First
      You said: “The Lord’s Supper is not to be offered to those who refuse to repent of (turn away from) their sins.”

      Which you backed up with the scripture: “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”

      That was a poor choice – the scripture you quoted clearly says “let a person examine himself” not “examine people before you offer them the bread and cup.” Your argument here is completely ridiculous.

      Second
      You said: “Christians are called to holiness. Those who practice sexual immorality (and other grievous sins) are to be expelled.”
      Based on: “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people”

      This is a better argument at first glance. Until you realize that homosexuality is not sexually immoral. I’m not really sure why you think that… You never said. Additionally – do you really expect us to expel greedy people? And revilers? It sounds as if you are reviling homosexuals, which by your own logic means you shouldn’t participate in the Lord’s supper…

      Third
      You said: “The church was not established to “build bridges” with the world but rather to worship in Spirit and Truth and to disciple repentant sinners”

      I personally believe you need to repent of the sin of being a reviler and homophobia, both of which you don’t sound repentant of, so I don’t think that you should allow yourself to take communion.

      This blog was not about building bridges with the world, but rather building bridges with other Christians. There are always going to be Christians who disagree with you about what is permissible – some think that women should cover their heads and learn in submission and quietness(which you and I disagree with), some believe that it is a sin to have money.

      There are practicing homosexual Christians who have a strong relationship with God, and in whom the work of the Holy Spirit is evident – you are denying this(which is what I meant when I called you a reviler). And claiming that only people who live according to your narrow, intolerant, illogical set of rules can experience God in their lives. That is completely ridiculous.

      If the church is divided against itself it cannot stand.

      • Sonja Dalton said

        Quoting Bible verses is helpful; quoting them out of context is not. The instruction in I Tim 2 is given regarding the assembly. We know that women have Biblical authority to teach men in settings outside the assembly (for example, in personal dialogue such as we are having here) because Aquila (husband) and Priscilla (wife) together taught Apollos (male) in Acts 18:26.

        Homosexuality is explicitly forbidden in both the OT and NT. In the OT, it is called “detestable”; both the effeminate and dominant positions in the act/relationship are condemned in I Cor 6. Additionally, “porneia” (translated “sexual immorality” or “fornication” in various versions) is cited as sinful all through scripture. The definition of “porneia” includes any sort of illicit sex: adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, sexual intercourse with animals, with close relatives, with a divorced man or woman, etc.

      • mark said

        “Quoting Bible verses is helpful; quoting them out of context is not.”

        Let’s look at the context of 1 Tim 2, shall we.

        “9I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

        11A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15But women[a] will be saved[b] through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

        Where does that say “in the assembly”?

        Notice that Paul’s reasoning here is similar to the homosexuality passage in romans – he first uses the created order, then the effects of sin as a reason why women should not teach or have authority over a man.

        You said that because we know of an exception to this scripture we can say it is false – Now, a major sticking point in the debate is that we know practicing gay and lesbian Christians who genuinely seem to experience God’s grace, and live spirit filled lives and who are being used by the Holy Spirit. God seems to not mind having communion with practicing homosexuals, so why are you allowed to prevent practicing homosexuals from having communion with God?

        Regarding the “clobber passages” you mentioned… You’re ignorant and naive if you think that the issue is as straightforward as that. It is clearly not explicit due to the high number of theologians who are smarter than you or I who don’t believe that they are. If they were explicit we wouldn’t be having this argument.

        Porneia means “illicit sex” true. But when you say “therefore all homosexual acts are immoral” you are arguing in a circle – someone who doesn’t believe that homosexual acts are always illicit will not have to agree that homosexual acts are immoral either.

      • mark said

        Quoting Bible verses is helpful; quoting them out of context is not.

        PS: I think that the anti-gay verses you talked about are taken out of context. For various reasons that others have also written about. Which defeats your whole argument if you are allowed to get around things in scripture because you don’t like them.

        My point is not that women should not teach in church, I believe they should teach and have authority over men… My point is that people like you are inconsistent in your Biblical hermeneutic.

  8. jasonlocke said

    Thanks friends for your replies!

    Wendy: I think that there is an incredible relationship between grace and generosity. Plan on writing abook any time soon?

    Beth: Thank you for your encouragement. I am familiar with Sara Miles’ book and her testimony. A friend leant it to me recently…I have yet to return it!

    Sonja: Thank you for stopping by. I am not going to comment on your post just yet. I am hoping that others will engage it first.

    Peace and Love,
    -JL

  9. James said

    Wonderful suggestion, Jason.

    I think a good case could be made for your proposal on the basis of historic, orthodox Christian sacramental theology. The sacraments have traditionally been viewed as possessing a certain “objective” holiness. Because the Christ has identified himself with the cup and the bread (“This is my body / blood”) we have his promise that he is present. That means both a) we don’t “make” the Lord’s Supper happen by approaching the table in a meritorious way, and b) we don’t need to be anxious about whether or not our sinfulness makes the sacrament invalid. The efficacy of the sacrament does not rest on our worthiness but on Christ’s promise. In these simple elements God’s grace is objectified because he has promised to do so.

    The problem with Sonja’s comment about “polluting” the Lord’s Supper is that it leads to endless uncertainty about the presence of Christ at the table. If the validity of the sacrament depended on us, it would never be valid. Think about it – even apart from Jason’s proposal, on a regular Sunday morning communion service: if you start to ask yourself if the table is “polluted” by the people who are approaching, you will end up either having a witch-hunt mentality, or you will never be able to trust in the grace offered in the bread and wine.

    That’s why we shouldn’t worry that our faults will get in the way of God’s grace. And that’s a good reason for thinking seriously about Jason’s proposal. The sacrament is effective because of the promise of Christ, and none of us can claim that as ours against our neighbour. We can only claim Christ’s promise as something made to us all. The open table can be a great reminder that none of us has a claim on grace. In the midst of the heated debates over sexuality taking place in the Church today, I think that reminder is sorely needed.

    Thanks for the post, Jason.
    PS: Wesleyans can also appeal to the fact that John Wesley felt that the Lord’s Supper could be a “converting” ordinance. That means he counselled people to attend take communion even if they didn’t feel like they had saving faith – because the Lord’s Supper is one of God’s appointed means of grace.

  10. O. March said

    There are two essential, foundational concepts that must be addressed before any of this “why can’t we just get along” discussion proceeds.
    1. The veracity of the Bible. People (Christians and non-Christians) fall into only two camps in regard to this concept. One group believes the Bible, as we have it today, is the inspired Word of God, in its entirety. The other group does not believe all of that. These two groups have many bases for dialogue, but not on all important doctrinal issues. They cannot “just get along.” That should be an obvious and simple logical conclusion.
    2. Unrepentant sin. Yes, of course, all of us humans sin and, in that regard, we are all the same. The particular sin, its magnitude, the number of sins does not matter. Only one of the tiniest sins is sufficient to separate the sinner from God for eternity. Homosexual behavior is no worse than another sin and those engaging in homosexual behavior are no worse than those who lie, e.g., in terms of their standing with God. The difference between people and, again, there are only two groups of people, are those who recognize sin and repent of their sin and those who do not. They cannot “just get along.”
    Now the amazing, great news is that those in the unrepentant group will have hope for all of their lives to move into the other group, and be saved. And it is the responsibility of those in the repentant group to encourage and help their brothers and sisters and nonbelievers to get in the repentant group. This is out of love and in imitation of our Lord.

  11. jasonlocke said

    O. March:

    I have let your comment stand, though I do not think it adds anything useful to the conversation at hand.

    Your comment suggests that we are ignoring the importance of scripture and the gravity of sin. And, as a result, we are getting nowhere in our discussion. Clearly our discussion is not ignoring these important issues.

    If you think the above dialogue IS ignoring these issues, you are not taking enough time to engage the writing and think through what is being said. I would encourage you to do so.

    Thanks Ian and James for your comments. They were insightful and contribute wonderfully to the topic at hand.

    Mark – Your approach is a little harsh, however sound your logic may be. Thanks for stopping by.

    Peace and Love,
    JL

  12. Chris said

    Sorry for getting to this so far down the line Jay!

    I’m not sure how helpful my thoughts will be as I come from an affirming church (The United Church of Canada) and have come to the conclusion that the church is called to affirm LGBT folk in its life and mission, toward right relationship with God, self and humanity. So… “Sonja” and “O. March”, fire away if you must but know that I’ve had worse from better (besides… I know you will pray for me anyway… so I’ve got nothing to worry about… right? 😉

    Anyway… Jay, I think that your idea of the Lord’s supper as a means toward reconciliation, as a place for all to meet God’s mercy is absolutely crucial. One of the places I see God highlighting the human need for companionship is in the creation poem found in Genesis (I take scripture seriously, not literally and am therefore comfortable with the idea that the first Genesis creation account was probably written as a creation liturgy during the Babylonian Exile… not by Moses).

    Here we see the first community. While some will try to argue that the creation stories enshrine Male/female relationships as the archetype of committed, loving partnerships, others (like me) will argue that the basic need for partnership, for a companion is the point.

    Nobody (not even God) wants to be alone.

    So, for me, this is a great conversation Jay. Maybe someone could try to organize a time for all involved in this discussion to break bread together, either in person or over the web (Skype or something). Let’s continue to celebrate and worship a God who demolishes division.

    Peace

    c

  13. Al said

    Jay, thanks for inspiring some wonderful discussion, and some of the other kind as well! It gives me new appreciation for the wide history regarding the purpose and process of communion, wider than I had in my experience. It demonstrates how valuable dialogue can be in growing in knowledge and grace, as we learn from each other-if we do so in humility.

  14. Here’s a summary of what I think I’ve read: The power of the sacrament/grace/gift to make us holy is more powerful than our power to defile it. This is not a license to be pretentious, overconfident, or “sin that grace might increase”; rather, it is an attempt to give more glory to the power of God to bring life than credit to the power of sin in us to bring death. If I waited until I was “good enough” to participate, I would wait with the Lord until that day when He drinks it again with us in His kingdom. Fortunately, “no one is good but God”, so if Christ in me is good enough for Christ, then Christ in me is good enough for me. To Sonja: I think I hear your heart. Rest assured that God is not mocked, and a person will sow what they reap. He will let temporal consequences (at least) affect us for our salvation; and we in fact have the command/strong recommendation from the Apostle to “remove the wicked from your midst”; that is, the separate out the people who glory in their shame; so that they may come to repentance and not think that “they can get away with sin (?)”. To everyone: I would hope we all here understand whether we agree or not. My faith is that any desire I might ever feel to be in union with another man would be a desire to reflect the image of God coming into Himself rather than to reflect the image of God coming into His Bride, us (Eph 5); so believe me, I do not take lightly what I consider to be a matter of spiritual life and death. Beyond all that, who knows for 100% sure if a loving stable monagamous prudent “keep private things private” gay union is any more glorifying to God than a promiscuous licentious “cheap sex” activity which rather than having any fear of God, instead is “in God’s face”? I don’t know for 100% sure; if the singularily nine-fold fruit of the Spirit is evident in their relationship, I would be hard pressed to reject them outright as not being siblings of the Lord, who may or may not be ashamed to be called their brother (?) (Heb 2:11). Beyond all that, I haven’t seen anyone overeating at the Lord’s Supper, getting drunk at the Lord’s Supper, or leaving other persons in the Body without any of the bread or wine/red grape juice to share in. I know that’s the only example of misbehavior that I see in I Cor 11 in regards to how a communion service is to be; and I continue to be mystified by those who say that mere lack of self examination is cause for condemnation; besides which, I have introverted self examined over-analyzed myself to death; I much rather enjoy dwelling upon Him in whom I trust.

  15. […] of the blogs from the btg project, and have commented on wonderful posts by Nathan Colquhoun and Jason Locke. It’s funny because there is this satellite radio show called Under_Score that I listen to […]

  16. Ryan Eras said

    Man, I’m never here on time. Jay, neat idea. I would hazard that one mis-step that much of Christendom takes is to draw a polarity between “sin” and “virtue”, with all of the attendant behaviours and attitudes in each camp. With this standard firmly (though often unconsciously) in mind, we tend to rank people the way we would a hockey player. He’s a great stickhandler, but a slow skater. He comes to church regularly, but he yells at his kids. This practice, along with that intangible element of how well we like a particular person, influences our judgment of them (I don’t use “judgment” in a pejorative sense. I think that you can and should discern a lot about a person by their actions. Another discussion, maybe).

    I think a more correct dialectic is that between sin and faith (whatever does not come from faith is sin). Sin is in one sense a great equalizer. All have sinned against God and fall under His judgment. God is separated from all of us because of sin. The dichotomy is that, alienated from God, the sinner stands alone in his sinfulness before God. However, the sinner also stands numbered with the rest of humanity as a sinner. God’s infinitude allows Him to judge each individual, and the only standard that will ever matter is the Lord’s, of which we have all fallen short. Our relative virtues and vices become irrelevant at this point; the only possibility of salvation lies in faith, the unmediated, direct interaction between the individual and Jesus Christ, the God-man. Faith abandons ethics, norms, and sensibilities for the sake of Christ. Without faith, it is impossible to please God.

    I think that Jay is right, that the experience of table fellowship with other people [that is, sinners] is a step in the right direction. The Lord’s supper should remind us of our sin, and inspire joy and thankfulness that God has sent Jesus Christ into the world to become one of us and to forgive our sin.

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