John 3:17 says that God sent his son to the world not to judge the world, but to save it.
Later in that very same Gospel, some of the religious leaders brought a dirty whore in front of Jesus to extract the appropriate type of justice–a good stoning (and not the Bob Dylan kind). (Of note, you can’t be a dirty whore if someone doesn’t purchase your services–yet somehow the dirty johns escaped this attempt at justice.)
Anyway, Jesus looked at everyone, then at the dirty whore, and said that they could stone the living crap out of her, but only the person without sin could throw the first stone. No one did. In fact, when they thought about it, they started to leave, until only Jesus and the dirty whore were left.
As crazy as Mel Gibson is, I love the way he portrays this scene in his Jesus movie. After everyone left, Jesus reached down to the woman, who lie prostrate at his feet and helped her to her feet.
It bears repeating. God incarnate–the guy who willingly gave up heaven so he could come down here and be abused by us pinheads–reached down to a woman who was counted among the least in society at the time, and he helped her up. Physically, too.
This scene came to mind this week with the passing of Fred Phelps. Unfortunately, Phelps and his followers cast a bad light on a lot of other people who believe in the same religion but practice it differently.
For some reason, Phelps’s Bible contains pretty much a verse from Leviticus and a couple other from the New Testament and nothing else. It consists of one phrase “God damn the gays.”
And, in fairness, the Bible is pretty clear about homosexuality. It was also clear about adultery, lying about being a virgin, bestiality, screwing your stepmom, incest, worshiping idols, blasphemy, breaking the sabbath, hitting or cursing your parents, being a drunkard, murder, perjury (sometimes), ignoring the priest, and not penning up a bull known to be dangerous. Death awaits for any of these things.
I suppose it’s possible that when God said he so loved the world and that Jesus came to save the world, not judge it, he didn’t mean the gays. But he also said repeatedly though the old and new testaments to love your neighbor as yourself.
In other words, even if God does damn homosexuals, I’m not him (neither are you, by the way). If I were, I would also have to order my own death, as I have been guilty of a couple of the things listed on that list. For instance, I’m writing this on a Sunday. As a child, I’m sure I hit my father when we wrestled on the floor. And, I’m also sure in a moment of anger, I have said less-than-charitable things to my parents, as well as being, from time to time, a drunkard. (Once, a long time ago, I was so loaded that I called an entire frat chicken shits. It wasn’t one of my prouder moments.)
I have also been Fred Phelps. Not that I wanted the gays killed. But I wasn’t in control of my emotions. I condemned people who dared cross me. I did things to people that were selfish and petty, all while self-identifying with Jesus. In doing so, I damaged the work of a lot of people who really believe this stuff and try to be Jesus’s hands–and not to make a fist. But when people saw me, they may have figured I was just another self-righteous hypocrite wrapping myself in Jesus to justify myself.
I should be subject to the same punishment as the woman Jesus raised to standing.
How awesome is it, then, that Jesus will reach down and take my dirty stinking hand and raise my dirty self to standing as well?
That’s the part Fred Phelps missed.
I’m glad it’s not my job to judge, because I would be horrible at it. I am small and my view is narrow and I can see into peoples’ hearts about as well as I can see through a wall.
We’re all in the same boat. And we can all be raised to standing–and it doesn’t require being “sin-free” first.