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03 April 2011

First Things First?

Yesterday was our fourth "Laundry Project" work day with Loads of Love. One Saturday each month a group of about 10 people go to Five Points Laundromat and wash clothes for people who can use a hand. Our target group is the homeless, but those aren't the only ones who we're able to help. Several have been out of work for long periods of time. Some may be on a (low) fixed income. (I blurred faces in the photo below out of courtesy.)

In talking with one of our clients yesterday about his blog (which I still can't find in spite of the keywords he told me to use), I found out that he's gay. I'd wondered about that, to be honest, because he looks like a guy but he sounds more like a female. He has three blogs: one about helping the homeless in Huntsville, AL, one about stopping smoking, and one about gay and bisexual men. (Since he blogs about these things, I'm not revealing anything he wants to keep private.)

(He's not pictured in the photo.)

Regarding our friend's choice of lifestyle, I wonder what Jesus' response to discovering that info would be (yes, He'd already know, I realize that), and I want to examine what my responses as a follower of Christ should be. Most of my life I've been taught that the proper sort of thing to do would be to let this guy know he's living in sin, and that he needs to turn from it and follow Jesus. In that order.

But isn't Jesus' modus operandi to say, "Follow me"? There isn't a step before that; at least, not one that a human can induce. Conviction of sin is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Part of our preaching (by the "layperson" -- not only "clergy") must be repentance of sin. I'm not denying that or in any way saying that it's not part of our message! But it seems to me that our actual idea of "conversion" is not when someone meets Jesus Christ, but when they stop doing bad stuff. In our theology most of us don't say this, but in practice it guides us.

We also face the struggle of failing to love people and failing to have compassion for them when we focus on their sin and not on their need to know their Creator through Jesus. (See yesterday's post.)

I'm curious about your view on this. There's much I'm leaving out here; I'm just trying to hit the high points. In looking at this, be careful about referring to Matthew 16:24, where Jesus says, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." He was talking to His disciples -- His followers.


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