Stop using Jesus to fund your pet projects

Not many days go by where I don't hear some sort of discussion regarding religious and spiritual issues. Usually, these dialogues (diatribes?) are fueled by opinions of what people choose to accept in order to make them the most comfortable.

For instance, let's jump on something very controversial and examine alcohol. I once heard a preacher say that he would rather have a viper in his child's bed than a drop of alcohol touch his lips. That's pretty extreme to be sure, but I think you understand the sentiment. And let's be honest - alcohol has been royally abused in this country and has been responsible for broken homes and trashing lives. So when someone speaks out strongly against alcohol, I completely appreciate the emotion behind that.

Yet this is where it gets kinda tricky. You see, drunkenness is explicitly condemned in the Bible but the use of alcohol is not. This is where many will adjust their suspenders and declare, "Yes, but we all know that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and putting alcohol in that temple brings dishonor to God's Spirit." Often these words are said with a cigarette in hand or after the second plate of artery-clogging fried chicken has been devoured. How much does God appreciate a grease-covered, nicotine-filled temple?

I'm not denying or ignoring the potential hazards of alcohol. I have fallen in that trap in my past and God was faithful to deliver me from a dark place. But it believe it is disingenuous at best, hypocritical at worst, to treat a subject like alcohol with such vehemence while ignoring the issues of gluttony, idolatry, and other dangers to physical health that a majority in our churches seem to struggle with.

I know, I know, this all sounds very "liberal" to my conservative friends (of which I am one), yet my point is that we like to attach the name of Jesus to issues like alcohol when in reality He has been all but silent in His specific treatment of them. Before I dissect that a little more let's take a shot at the other side of the spectrum.

The issue of homosexuality has never been hotter than it is right now. Battle lines have been drawn and here in America we have a divided populace on this issue. Those who favor same-sex relationships are quick to shout out such slogans as, "Judge not lest you be judged!" and "Love your neighbor as yourself!" These, of course, are the words of Jesus and they are liberally applied to any notion of which we are most passionate. If you disagree with an issue such as same-sex relationships then certainly you aren't loving and you are most certainly judgmental, right? After all, Jesus never spoke out against homosexuality so how can you say that He is against it?

Here's the problem with this line of thinking: Jesus did not address homosexual relationships specifically - much like He never addressed pornography as we know it today. But Jesus did announce what He believed to be God's desire for human relationships:
"Haven't you read," He replied, "that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female, and He also said: For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate." (Matthew 19:4-6)
Do you see what Jesus did there? Instead of pronouncing a whole of things that He was against, He simply and clearly stated truth. Jesus is for marriage between a man and a woman. Any kind of sexual relationship outside of that - whether it be adultery, sex before marriage, homosexuality, or pornography - is outside of the context of what Jesus taught. Therefore, this makes it pretty easy for us to determine what brings honor to God in the area of our relationships. If it's sexual and it's beyond the confines of marriage, then it's wrong.

"Love your neighbor as yourself" doesn't mean that you accept everything that others choose to do because if you don't then you'll be judging them. No, it means that you love your neighbor in spite of what they choose to do because your desire is to see them in a committed relationship with Christ. There is nothing wrong in believing that alcohol is wrong and that you have made it your choice to abstain from it. That being said, be consistent in all your ways to make sure that your temple is well-cared for for the glory of God.   

We can whittle it down to this: It is so easy to take our own agendas and turn them into pet projects as long as we attach the name of Jesus to them. We can extrapolate on other Scriptures and try to say they apply to what we want them to, but ground zero of what we proclaim must lie with the truth of Christ and what He has said in His word. God commands us to be holy, and that injunction goes well beyond a few areas that we choose to treat as more or less serious than others.

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