Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" has to be the funniest mass-murder story ever written. (Granted, that's a small category.) The main character is a silly old woman setting off on vacation with her son and his family, squandering their goodwill, and ours, while on the road. Halfway through the story they stumble into the hands of The Misfit, a murderer who's broken out of jail with a band of fellow sociopaths. The woman lapses into hysterics as her family is killed one by one and the gun finally points at her own head. Then, in a characteristic O'Connor moment of truth, she recognizes the murderer in metaphorical terms and reaches out to touch his shoulder: "Why, you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!" The Misfit immediately shoots her three times through the chest.
"She was a talker, wasn't she?" observes one of the gang. But The Misfit says, "She would have been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."
Literature is open to interpretation, and to me O'Conner's old lady looks a lot like the Church: often silly, distracted, and hypocritical, but at her best when there's a gun to her head. That's when we realize what's at stake, and recognize where we're from, and reach out to those who need Christ as much as we do. I suggest that's where we are now, or soon will be. And it's not all bad.
How did we get here? Part one of this series suggests that the gay agenda will be used to make biblical Christianity-and transcendent authority itself-seem not only irrelevant but also evil.
Part two examined the nature of homosexual sin, which, more than most other sins, is explicitly rooted in personal identity: "This is who I am."
Part three asked, "What would Jesus do?" and answered with what He did-surrender everything for us, that we might surrender all to Him.
That brings us back to the Church, ideally a community of surrendered souls. The Church is, or soon will be, in a position where every declaration in favor of traditional marriage or biblical sexual standards is interpreted as hatred. When we defend ourselves against the charge we are said to be "obsessed" with our idea of sexual sin. Where we point one finger, three fingers point back at us: Hypocritical! Judgmental! Hateful!
Some of those charges will sometimes be true, because inside the Church we still sin. Our touchstone when challenging others should always be 1 Corinthians 6:11, where after a list of incorrigibles (which includes homosexuals), the Apostle Paul adds, "And such were some of you." Actually all of us stand accused by that list, whether greedy, lying, swindling, or idolizing-"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."
We must remember who we were. But we also must remember who we are: the body, the witness, and the fellowship of Christ. The Church's primary mission is not to reform society but to extend the love of Christ to individuals. This may involve soup kitchens or walk-in clinics or prison ministry or counseling those who want to leave the homosexual lifestyle-whatever God calls each one to do. It may even involve circulating or signing a petition to get a traditional marriage amendment on the ballot. But the Church must not fool herself (again) that politics is the solution.
Jesus is the solution, now and always. We are His ambassadors, pleading with the world: "Be reconciled to God!" (2 Corinthians 5:20) The message is offensive, in two ways: It goes on offense by challenging the basic inclination of human nature to make its own rules. And it offends for the same reason. Early Christians understood this. It's time we did, too. Hand-wringing over the sorry state of our culture is defensive and reactionary. We should stop hand-wringing and start hand-reaching. There should be a sign hanging outside every church door: "Sinners welcome." That includes homosexuals, even practicing homosexuals. If they are willing to come and quietly hear the Word of God preached, we should welcome them. If they want to join the church they must submit to the authority of Scripture and church leadership like other members. If they fall and repent, we should encourage and pray for them. If they fall and do not repent, we have no choice but to withdraw from them and take their contempt. But we must not return that contempt, for "such were some of us." If we understand the great mercy that has been shown to us, we can forgive seventy-times-seven any other sinner who genuinely repents, and feel compassion for the defiant.
We're going to look ugly to the world, like O'Connor's scrawny old woman, but to our Husband we're beautiful. Ultimately it's His fight, not ours-and oh, by the way: "I have overcome the world."