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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Pastor's Response to World Vision's Decision on Same Sex Marriage

Walk to the Light (John 9:1-41; 10:7-10, 19-21)
Rob Tennant, HillSong Church, Chapel Hill, NC
Sunday, March 30, 2014
4th Sunday of Lent

            John 9:1-10:21
As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who had been blind since birth. Jesus' disciples asked, “Teacher, why was this man born blind? Was it because he or his parents sinned?”
“No, it wasn’t!” Jesus answered. “But because of his blindness, you will see God work a miracle for him. As long as it is day, we must do what the one who sent me wants me to do. When night comes, no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light for the world.”
After Jesus said this, he spit on the ground. He made some mud and smeared it on the man’s eyes.Then he said, “Go and wash off the mud in Siloam Pool.” The man went and washed in Siloam, which means “One Who Is Sent.” When he had washed off the mud, he could see.
The man’s neighbors and the people who had seen him begging wondered if he really could be the same man. Some of them said he was the same beggar, while others said he only looked like him. But he told them, “I am that man.”
10 “Then how can you see?” they asked.
11 He answered, “Someone named Jesus made some mud and smeared it on my eyes. He told me to go and wash it off in Siloam Pool. When I did, I could see.”
12 “Where is he now?” they asked.
“I don’t know,” he answered.
The Pharisees Try To Find Out What Happened
13-14 The day when Jesus made the mud and healed the man was a Sabbath. So the people took the man to the Pharisees. 15 They asked him how he was able to see, and he answered, “Jesus made some mud and smeared it on my eyes. Then after I washed it off, I could see.”
16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus doesn’t come from God. If he did, he would not break the law of the Sabbath.”
Others asked, “How could someone who is a sinner work such a miracle?”[a]
Since the Pharisees could not agree among themselves, 17 they asked the man, “What do you say about this one who healed your eyes?”
“He is a prophet!” the man told them.
18 But the Jewish leaders would not believe that the man had once been blind. They sent for his parents 19 and asked them, “Is this the son that you said was born blind? How can he now see?”
20 The man’s parents answered, “We are certain that he is our son, and we know that he was born blind. 21 But we don’t know how he got his sight or who gave it to him. Ask him! He is old enough to speak for himself.”
22-23 The man’s parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. The leaders had already agreed that no one was to have anything to do with anyone who said Jesus was the Messiah.
24 The leaders called the man back and said, “Swear by God to tell the truth! We know that Jesus is a sinner.”
25 The man replied, “I don’t know if he is a sinner or not. All I know is that I used to be blind, but now I can see!”
26 “What did he do to you?” the Jewish leaders asked. “How did he heal your eyes?”
27 The man answered, “I have already told you once, and you refused to listen. Why do you want me to tell you again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”
28 The leaders insulted the man and said, “You are his follower! We are followers of Moses. 29 We are sure that God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where Jesus comes from.”
30 “How strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from.31 We know that God listens only to people who love and obey him. God doesn’t listen to sinners.32 And this is the first time in history that anyone has ever given sight to someone born blind.33 Jesus could not do anything unless he came from God.”
34 The leaders told the man, “You have been a sinner since the day you were born! Do you think you can teach us anything?” Then they said, “You can never come back into any of our meeting places!”
35 When Jesus heard what had happened, he went and found the man. Then Jesus asked, “Do you have faith in the Son of Man?”
36 He replied, “Sir, if you will tell me who he is, I will put my faith in him.”
37 “You have already seen him,” Jesus answered, “and right now he is talking with you.”
38 The man said, “Lord, I put my faith in you!” Then he worshiped Jesus.
39 Jesus told him, “I came to judge the people of this world. I am here to give sight to the blind and to make blind everyone who can see.”
40 When the Pharisees heard Jesus say this, they asked, “Are we blind?”
41 Jesus answered, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty. But now that you claim to see, you will keep on being guilty.”

A Story about Sheep
10 Jesus said:
Jesus said:
I tell you for certain that I am the gate for the sheep. Everyone who came before me was a thief or a robber, and the sheep did not listen to any of them. I am the gate. All who come in through me will be saved. Through me they will come and go and find pasture.
10 A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest. 

19 The people took sides because of what Jesus had told them. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon in him! He is crazy! Why listen to him?”
21 But others said, “How could anyone with a demon in him say these things? No one like that could give sight to a blind person!”

            The Pharisees who confront Jesus are people thoroughly committed to God’s ways; however, their zeal for the law blinds them to the work of God among them.   They know how they think God is supposed to act.  When Jesus does not act that way, it does not matter that he healed a blind man.  In their understanding, blindness is a sign of punishment from God.  Only God can undo that punishment.  And God would not do so on a Sabbath day.  The sinner has been blind his entire life.  He can wait one more day for healing.
            Because blindness is a sign of sin and the Sabbath is for rest, not work, not even the work of healing, they miss the sign from God, the healing.  Some Pharisees do get a glimpse.  Like Nicodemus in chapter 3, there were Pharisees who saw Jesus in action and they knew he was from Gog.  Full understanding would not come until after the resurrection, but they were open.  Others, stubbornly stuck in their traditions, could not allow themselves to see.  Jesus called them blind.
            Where is the church in America blind today?  Where are we guilty of missing God’s healing because we are blinded by rules we have determined to be essential? 
Think of the issue of our time, same-sex marriage.  The conversation on homosexuality in Evangelical circles generates so much smoke and noise that followers of Jesus do not see where God is at work.  Failing to see, we fail to join in God’s work.
            World Vision is an international Christian organization that does child sponsorship.  They partner affluent Americans with extremely poor children, people who live on less than $.99 a day.  In sponsorship, someone signs up to pay $35 each month to sponsor a child.  Also the sponsor writes letters to the child and prays for the child.
            The funds make sure the child gets at least one meal each day, a uniform, supplies, and school fees paid.  In some places, sponsorship funds also contribute to clean water projects.  Without these things, someone goes hungry, drinks infested water which leads to disease, lacks basic education and is thus unemployable, and lacks healthcare.  Sponsorship saves lives, prolongs life, and increases the quality of life.  World Vision is an evangelical organization that shares eternal life by sharing the gospel in all their programs.
            World Vision recently announced same-sex couples in committed, monogamous marriages relationships would be allowed to be employed.  World Vision did not endorse same-sex relationships.  World Vision said that whether one is pro-homosexuality or anti-homosexuality is a decision to be made in concert with the leadership in the local church.  Some churches feel one way about the issue, others feel another.  World Vision works with Christians of many stripes.  World Vision’s mission is to carry the gospel to the poorest of the poor through witnessing and through sponsorship programs.  They work with churches that affirm homosexuality as a lifestyle choice and with churches that condemn it.
            Because of World Vision’s decision to employ people in same sex marriages, sponsors opposed to homosexuality have ended their partnership with World Vision declaring them are a non-Christian organization.   These sponsors know that $35/month is saving life, prolonging life, and enhancing the quality of life.  They know that children all over the world hear the gospel through World Vision. Their $35/month helps make that possible.  They know World Vision is not preaching a gospel of homosexuality.  World Vision preaches and teaches the same message of salvation from Jesus preached in evangelical churches.  The former sponsors know that.  But their opposition to same sex marriage is so vehement, they assume World Vision does not represent God.
            These ending their sponsorship and taking away money they’ve given to kids who desperately need it – these are the Pharisees who refused to believe God would heal on the Sabbath.  Enslaved by their own ideas, they missed seeing Jesus.  You’re blind, he told them.  People who cut off sponsorship to stand on principle are equally blind. 
In Ethiopia, I washed a girl’s feet, a girl from a Muslim family.  Then, she washed mine with the most tender care you can imagine.  I’ve never felt so loved quite like that.  Why?  God brought us together through sponsorship.  She and I have seen God.  People are missing this because they cannot imagine God working outside their rules.
            For the record, I believe the Bible teaches that God is glorified in sexual relationships that are between a husband and wife.  Any other sexual relationship is outside of God’s vision for humanity.  Marriage or celibacy as a single person: this is God’s plan for human sexuality.  Anything beyond is sin. 
            Other Christians see it differently.  Can a practicing homosexual be Christian?  Anyone who declares Jesus is Lord and worships him is a Christian.  No one is a perfect disciple; certainly not me.  As a pastor, I would not perform a same-sex union.  As a friend, I would attend one. 
            Jesus came to show the light – to free us from sin.  Restoring sight to a blind man was a sign that pointed to Jesus’ life work.  He frees us from sin’s grasp.  He gives us abundant life in which we are sons and daughters of God. 
            Look around the world.  Where the blind receive sight, the hungry are fed, children go to school, and the sick get medicine; in all these works, God is at work, we join Him.
            The debates over homosexuality matter, but that conversation is secondary.  The main things is announcing that Jesus is Lord and his coming is a sign of the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom.  Announcing the gospel supersedes secondary.  Conversations on that topic should be done in love great patience and grace on all sides, and without driving us to nullify each other’s Christianity. 
            Jesus is the Light of the world and his light is shining in the world today.  We are healed of our blindness when we walk to the light. 
            The last I heard, World Vision was going to reverse their decision and now not hire same-sex couples.  It made me sad to think that Pharisees complaining about broken rules trumped the work of caring for orphans and extremely poor children.  They are unable to rejoice when a blind man receives his sight. 
            Jesus said, a thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.   If you heard me to endorse homosexuality as a Biblically acceptable life style, you have not been listening.  What I have done is present a story in which Jesus puts the full, abundant life – the life freed from sin’s clutches – as his top priority.  And in that story, some believers choose the rules over the abundant life.
            How do we respond?  Do we strive with everything in us to walk with Jesus and help people have abundant life.  Or we do stand in the corner, wringing our hands, griping because someone’s Christianity doesn’t fit our standards.  I want to be where Jesus is – where healing is happening.   I want to walk to the light and walk in the light.  I pray that we all want that.


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