Sunday, August 26, 2012

This May Hurt a Little



There once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. To amuse himself he took a great breath and sang out, "Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!"  -- Aesop's Fables

A day after the rain, the sunshine this afternoon is so brilliant through my office window that I almost need sunglasses to focus on the keyboard.  The clouds in the sky drift against the bright blue, moving from along the horizon across the unlimited heights above and away into the distance, slow and seeming without purpose..  The breeze is gentle and all seems as it is meant to be.  The simple brilliance reflects the truth of God, the control He has over all the earth and we within it.

But somewhere this afternoon clouds threaten rain and fierce winds.  In other places, it is dry and hot and still.  Still elsewhere, ice covers the earth for miles and much of life is forbidden.  That too, expresses the truth of God and His control.  Floods and droughts . . . . soft rains, cool breezes . . . searing heat.  Where we are in a moment or space can make us wonder at that truth -- God's control -- and perhaps open ourselves up to the chance of becoming a victim of lies, a doubter of truth.

And the truth is, we are surrounded by peddlers of self-proclaimed wisdom, the most damaging of which often comes from pious observers who claim to have never been in a trench or pit, but are sure they know why others have and how they are either on their way to unavoidable suffocation . . . or supreme freedom.  "If you just follow my guide," which often reads like the multi-language sheets that come with "some-assembly-required" purchases.  All those tiny diagrams and lists of parts and tools and step-by-step instructions.  And when you're finished, the question is simple:  "What should I do about this cut on my thumb from the people-proof plastic packaging?"

White lies are pervasive in our society.  We justify them because we know the truth hurts.  With some discernment, a little white lie here and there can be a generous offering.  But lies to prop up ignorance or justify judgment are more damaging than the most glaring and searing truth.

When I was a little boy, I remember lining up in the hallway to swallow down a sugar cube containing a dose of polio vaccine.  It was sweet.  A couple of years later, I remember going in for a tetanus shot after stepping on a nail which penetrated my tennis shoe.  The nurse said "This won't hurt a bit."  I howled louder than I had when I stepped on the nail.  Her little white lie felt like I was going to die.  Two years ago after a significant surgery, I returned to the doctor's office to have the staples removed.  The nurse looked right at me and said "This is going to hurt, so we might as well get after it and get it over with."  It hurt . . . but I knew we were going to get after it and get it over with, and I appreciated the honesty.

Honestly . . . would it hurt that bad for us to just be honest with each other?  Sexual brokenness -- whether it manifests itself as homosexuality, sexual addiction, pornography, idolatry, adultery, self-indulgence or another form -- hurts.  It wreaks havoc.  It can destroy the broken one and devastate the lives of those who are close enough to feel the impact of the personal implosion.  In the mean-time, while we debate whether it is too painful to be truthful, we let culture administer so much anesthesia that all affected become numb.


The villagers came running up the hill to help the boy drive the wolf away. But when they arrived at the top of the hill, they found no wolf. The boy laughed at the sight of their angry faces.
"Don't cry 'wolf', shepherd boy," said the villagers, "when there's no wolf!" They went grumbling back down the hill. 

Sometimes the search of the broken begins with the cry for attention.  The hurt of dressed-up dishonesty is magnified when the broken one lies to himself, in part because he buys into the lies of the ones who tell him that being broken is a gift.  "You just need to learn to express your specialness."  "Live the life you've been given."  "Accept yourself as God made you."  "Drop the denial; put down the mask; bask."  What?  Like a plane with no wings, destined to never leave the runway?  Never to see the view from on high?  If brokenness is a gift, would someone please provide the gift receipt so it can be taken back?


Later, the boy sang out again, "Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep!" To his naughty delight, he watched the villagers run up the hill to help him drive the wolf away.
When the villagers saw no wolf they sternly said, "Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Don't cry 'wolf' when there is NO wolf!"
But the boy just grinned and watched them go grumbling down the hill once more. 


I can almost understand the failure of churches to offer real help and genuine truth to sexually-broken people.  However, the word "failure" in that sentence overwhelms the word "almost."  And the word "truth" trumps all.  As it should.  Sometimes crying wolf is just a practice round.

Too many times, churches -- and especially church leadership -- like to deliver the truth in a simple one-word package:  "abomination."  They say it as if they had never before seen a person in your condition, or as if it were an alternating verse in the Bible, interjected throughout to counter-balance all the ones about grace.  If that's the case, then they must not understand the jokes they've been laughing at . . . or telling, about the abominably broken.  I once had a minister appointed to be my accountability person tell me that he understood, cared and would walk with me all the way.  I heard him also at a men's meeting, rousing the crowd with funny jokes about limp-wristed gay men.  I knew full well that I was not the only man in the room who struggled with SSA.  I was left wondering which pastoral persona was the truth:  A counseling one-on-one or a group breakfast stand-up routine?  Was he intentionally trying to be confusing?  No.  Was he clear on the truth?  No.

Abomination above all abominations?  Perhaps if you are ignorant, or fearful, or both.

And then you have the gay sympathizers.  They don't want you to feel bad, so they dress your wounds with the balm of acceptance and affirmation.  Not of you, necessarily.  But of your brokenness.  The balm is a curious concoction made from the watering down of the Gospel and the squeezing of the fruit of confusion.  Rather than focusing on what the doctor (Jesus) ordered, they prepare a prescription based on what He did not.  End result:  you're not broken at all.  Welcome to the island of misfit toys.  Lie.


Later, he saw a REAL wolf prowling about his flock. Alarmed, he leaped to his feet and sang out as loudly as he could, "Wolf! Wolf!"
But the villagers thought he was trying to fool them again, and so they didn't come. 


So, what is the truth?

The truth is that homosexuality and heterosexuality, can result in very sinful behavior.  Sexuality is a gift from God and heterosexuality is the package in which it is presented.  Giving a pass to anyone who sins sexually is nothing more than cultural bias.  Sexual sin is sexual sin.  I personally think Jesus would have spent just as much time drawing in the sand for the homosexual as he did for the adulteress.  And he would have given the same advice:  "Go and sin no more."

There are those who want to attribute some Biblical approval for homosexuality that just isn't there.  It's a feel-good philosophy that seeks to let misguided and hurting people off the hook, but doesn't set them on firm ground. 

Don't fall for the fallacy that if Jesus had really cared about the issue of homosexuality, he would have been more specific.  Jesus embraced scriptural truth. 

Don't hide behind the eunuchs, who did not choose to be what they were forced to be. 

Don't excuse yourself because you think the things you do are not that bad, as in "well, at least I don't . . . . "  Sex outside of marriage is sin; the Bible is clear on that. 

Don't wave the twisted scripture banner.  The Bible is clear that sexual relations between people of the same sex is sin. Don't dilute the Word of God to the point it becomes just more words of man.

Don't.

Christians who find themselves falling again and again need to seriously reject any relationship that is weakening their relationship with the One who can actually help them escape the regimen of sin to which they are giving in..  Jesus.  It gets really hard to trust your life to Jesus if you change His Word to suit your needs, or if you elevate any other person to a place higher He is in your life. 

So, don't.

We tend to listen too much to too many, weighing this interpretation against that one and signing on to the one that feels best at the time, which might be a moment of determined repentance or weakened resolve. If we are teetering on the edge, longing to sacrifice ourselves to self-satisfaction, we grasp for words of comfort wrapped around the you-can-t-help-it-that's-just-how-you-are time-stamped justification. Pretty soon, the shiny little wrapper comes of; the truth reveals itself and test again the limits of forgiveness. 

Something else that is just not true is that this is a sexual addiction from which you can not escape.  The truth is that you can be free of engaging in homosexuality, viewing pornography, having sex outside marriage, habitual masturbation-based fantasy and sexualized idolatry.  But, it might hurt.

So, we may as well get after it and get it done.

In recent days, a Christian music artist and a country music artist -- both women -- made news by proclaiming themselves to be "out."  The announcements came via the web, with appealing portraits of the two women, the peace of self-acceptance on their faces.  Freedom.  The inner sorrow had been air-brushed away.  Sometimes it is easier to surrender to whoever will listen than to continue to cry out.

At sunset, everyone wondered why the shepherd boy hadn't returned to the village with their sheep. They went up the hill to find the boy. They found him weeping.
"There really was a wolf here! The flock has scattered! I cried out, "Wolf!" Why didn't you come?" 

The truth is, if Christian men and women who struggle were not so afraid of the response they might receive if they were to turn to their brothers and sisters in the church, we might see a different kind of outing, the sprouting of wings on broken planes, the healing of festered wounds, the throwing open of secret doors, the safe embrace of Christian love.  The peace of grace-acceptance.  The bearable lightness of forgiveness.  A chin-up countenance of clarity where once ruled a cast-down countenance of confusion.

When do we no longer cry out?  When do we no longer turn towards those who do?  I guess the answer to those questions would be similar to "When do we no longer pray?"  And the answer is, when we have given up on God.  Then we've bought the big lie, and all the little white ones no longer matter.

If you are a struggler, don't give up.  Don't proclaim yourself done.  If you are a Christian who does not struggle, don't stick a fork in the struggler and make a declaration.  If you want to turn him over to God, do it with determination, not with dismissal.

An old man tried to comfort the boy as they walked back to the village.
"We'll help you look for the lost sheep in the morning," he said, putting his arm around the youth, "Nobody believes a liar...even when he is telling the truth!" 

Yes, I know the story interwoven is but a fable.  Like a parable.  But, the truth is, we have so mangled the truth that we have destroyed the trust.  The broken patch themselves up and the rest of us either pretend to not notice the Band-Aids, or we call 911 and have them carted off for someone else to deal with.  How can we justify that?

Would you rather have a parable?  Straight from the mouth of Christ?

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor? In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have. 
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" 
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."  
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." -- Luke 10:29-37

One more truth:  it's just not that hard.  Love them like Jesus. Have mercy.  Maybe you don't have all the answers, but being at a loss for words doesn't vanquish the broken from your list of neighbors.  You can still lift the broken from the side of the road. 

If you are the broken, don't be fatally discouraged by the numbers of the passers-by.  Keep heart.  Someone will stop.


In Him,

Thom

If someone you know is hurting, or if you need more encouraging truth for your own struggle, please consider purchasing my books at half price at this link: BridgeBack Ministries Books.  I'm confident you will find them helpful, but If you are not pleased with the books, I'll refund your money. God Bless.

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