- December 20, 2016
Practice what Jesus preached
With Christmas around the corner, I would like Christians and others to try and practice what Jesus preached.
Jesus didn't believe in an ''eye for an eye.'' He believed in turning the other cheek, not shooting first and asking questions later. Instead of casting stones and judging people, he believed we should treat people the same way we want to be treated.
Believe it or not, he actually thought it was better to give than to receive, and he even thought we should love our neighbors as well as our enemies. Jesus believed in peace, love, forgiveness and helping the poor.
I think the world would be a better place if Christians practiced what Jesus preached.
The lens of ‘God’s radical love’
Regarding Earl D. Powell’s criticism of Lake Shore Baptist Church and LGBT membership:
I respect his dedication to protecting our integrity when it comes to grounding the church in Bible-based teaching. I agree with him that to dismiss Scripture and its “wholesome teaching” in favor of “man-made fictions” would uproot us, leaving us scampering to find more and more attractive ways of making God into our own image.
At Lake Shore, we have read the Bible with its multitude of voices, its diverse accounts of experiences with God, and we continue to find the essence of God’s character is love. It is therefore through the lens of God's radical love that we read Scripture, including passages on sexuality.
While I do not have the space to give a full account of my own journey with respect to LGBTQ+ membership, I would like to offer this brief outline. My confidence that same-sex relationships were sinful began to change when I opened my ears to the voices of LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. I started to understand sexual orientation was not a choice and could not be changed, despite sincere attempts at conversion therapy.
I thought the only option must be celibacy, but I found the voices of Scripture seemed to describe celibacy as a gift not everyone had, not something to be imposed. Going back to verses that seemed to condemn same-sex relationships, and I found that in each case, condemnation of committed, monogamous, same-sex relationships didn’t seem to be the authors’ intention. (A helpful examination can be found inGod and the Gay Christian, by Matthew Vines.)
Furthermore, I began to realize reading Scripture in a way that led to condemnation of same-sex relationships could also lead to the passive endorsement of slavery. This is where it becomes necessary to read Scripture as accounts of God’s people learning to embody God’s love, often falling short and having to open themselves to change. The only choice left to me was to do just that, to move past my hold on being right, to repent and to more faithfully love my neighbors. In this case, it meant respectfully and lovingly accepting those engaged in monogamous, committed, same-sex relationships.
So, when others cite texts like 2 Timothy 4:3-5, I hear phrases like “men will not tolerate wholesome teaching,” “listen to the truth” or “pander to their own desires” as admonishments to those who would not open themselves enough to let God’s love change and transform them.
I see this in the lives of the religious elite that Jesus so often rebuked for their refusal to read the law in light of God’s ego-crushing and radical love. It is an admonishment to those who would choose comfort over love. Likewise, phrases like “stand fast … meeting whatever suffering this may involve” sound to me like encouragement to embody God’s love, even when that means the internal suffering of having to change my mind and admit I was wrong, the small suffering of being thrown out of a convention or whatever greater sufferings come our way.
Finally, I would like to address the question of what we may consider grounds for church discipline. Forgetting the church’s call to love may be grounds for church discipline. Sweeping sexual assault under the rug to save face, ignoring the voices of the poor or oppressed in our community, these things we may consider grounds for church discipline. Abusing the Bible, not recognizing it for the beautiful cacophony of voices and experiences of God it represents, and not reading it all through the lens of God’s love, yes, that would get someone in trouble here.
Zachary E. Helton
Helton is youth pastor at Lake Shore Baptist Church in Waco.
In defense of opposition to Moore
I noted the youthful seminarian's description of my editorial, and I am writing to point out Jake Raabe is simply wrong that "opposition" to Russell Moore "isn't about theology or doctrine: it's purely about his opposition to Donald Trump."
My editorial on Moore has nothing to do with the politics of the nation or the Southern Baptist Convention, except how it describes Russ’ behavior—and my prefacing statements make that clear:
"Moore rightly points out Trump’s moral flaws—and character should count—and he has a right and responsibility to comment on Trump’s policies and to share his view of what these might mean in terms of Christian values.
“But Moore’s dislike for Trump goes beyond the pale, translating into disrespect and even contempt for any Christian who might weigh these considerations differently than Moore …"
Raabe also is wrong in his strawman claim that Russ lines up with the consensus of Southern Baptists on theology or doctrine. Indeed, Russ makes it quite clear he considers Southern Baptists' understanding of the gospel is inadequate.
Finally, Raabe implies the backlash is simply "the SBC" requiring "all leaders to support specific candidates." Instead, that is precisely what Russ was doing by insisting everyone agree with him.
I trust readers to decide for themselves, and I know you do, too. So, here’s a link to my article: “Editorial: Does the ERLC represent the SBC?”
Hall is editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message.
Moore’s voice “necessary”
Perhaps the grandest irony in a recent hit piece against Russell Moore, current head of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is that the author accuses Moore of acting with disdain toward those who disagree with him—all the while acting with disdain toward Moore for his disagreement.
Then, when my good friend Jake Raabe responded to the attack by pointing out how this level of dialogue is damaging to our Baptist heritage, the author lashed out again, dubbing him a "youthful seminarian," in an attempt to discredit his prophetic voice. As much as the Protestant tradition has relied on ad hominem, perhaps we should lay it to rest to hold a conversation like adults.
To question Moore's ability to represent a Baptist institution is a bit of an oxymoron, because the very term "Baptist" means an amorphous conglomerate of many different folks led in very different directions by a God who has many different ways of communicating with us. Some within the SBC have spent much of the last few decades in the pursuit of a monolithic viewpoint, on everything from theology to politics.
In many ways, the SBC has ceased to be Baptist. Walter Wink explains that all organizations go through different periods and in different ways are good, fallen and in the process of redemption. The SBC has been moving away from a distinctly Baptist identity to one that Moore describes as a sort of cultural conservatism rather than the revolutionary nature of the gospel or Baptist history.
Voices like Moore's are necessary to call the SBC to be more than just reinforcing a particular political party. To silence him is to enter into the fallenness of the control of man, rather than the lordship of Christ, over all of us.
This response isn't an attack on the original author or even really on the attack piece he wrote. Instead, it is out of concern for my brother, whose conservatism may have become his idol, to the point of rejecting another brother simply for disagreeing with the party line.
Although I do not agree with Moore on much theologically, he is a necessary presence at the table if I am to listen to where God is at work.