A funeral denied.
Because the person was a sinner.
Or was it a big mistake with wasted opportunities and possibly souls lost?
I know – this is about the LGBT community. And it’s about Sodom & Gomorrah. I get it.
And I do believe the lifestyle is against Biblical teaching. There are plenty of places in the Bible where that’s made clear. Including Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18-19. But – news flash – there are sinners in Heaven! See my previous post on LGBT in Heaven?
To put this in perspective – look at when Jesus said –
Mt 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
From this statement being angry or calling someone a fool gets compared with murder. There are plenty of angry people and people who have called someone else a fool in Heaven right now. And I hope to make it one more myself. Can I take any solace from not having murdered anyone? Like somehow – I’m better than them, for not having done that? No!
And It’s not just murder and calling someone a fool that are the issue here. The point is – all of those things (anger, saying “fool” and murder) are so far from the perfection of Jesus that, by comparison, they are equal to each other. We are all so far from His perfection that it doesn’t matter what we did or didn’t do. We’re all so far from Him that by comparison – we’re all the same.
So why do we make such a big deal out of the LGBT issue?
As I said – I think the lifestyle is wrong. But who made me the judge of who Jesus will forgive and who He won’t? If stopping all sin is a prerequisite to getting into Heaven – Jesus is by Himself as the only human representative. That was hardly worth dying for. After all – He was already there! He came here to save some of us. But if perfection is a requirement – beforehand – for entry to Heaven – He died for nothing. Because we’re not going to succeed in meeting that requirement of perfection first.
So – is there some evidence that the LGBT lifestyle is somehow – in and of itself – a showstopper for entry to Heaven?
Sorry – Sodom and Gomorrah won’t work.
I say that because of another book in the Bible – Ezekiel. Check out Ezekiel 16.
It’s a very descriptive – graphic in some translations – of God’s message for Ezekiel to give Jerusalem about “her detestable practices”.
At the very beginning of the chapter, we read,
Jerusalem as an Adulterous Wife
Eze 16:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her detestable practices 3 and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says to Jerusalem: Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. 4 On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. 5 No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.
6 “ ‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” i 7 I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew and developed and entered puberty. Your breasts had formed and your hair had grown, yet you were stark naked.
Eze 16:8 “ ‘Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.
Moving on just a little bit –
Eze 16:15 “ ‘But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his. 16 You took some of your garments to make gaudy high places, where you carried on your prostitution. You went to him, and he possessed your beauty. 17 You also took the fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver, and you made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them. 18 And you took your embroidered clothes to put on them, and you offered my oil and incense before them. 19 Also the food I provided for you—the flour, olive oil and honey I gave you to eat—you offered as fragrant incense before them. That is what happened, declares the Sovereign LORD.
Eze 16:20 “ ‘And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough? 21 You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols. 22 In all your detestable practices and your prostitution you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, kicking about in your blood.
Things aren’t looking so good for Jerusalem. The people are even sacrificing their children to pagan gods.
God has had enough. The word from Ezekiel continues –
Eze 16:35 “ ‘Therefore, you prostitute, hear the word of the LORD! 36 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because you poured out your lust and exposed your naked body in your promiscuity with your lovers, and because of all your detestable idols, and because you gave them your children’s blood, 37 therefore I am going to gather all your lovers, with whom you found pleasure, those you loved as well as those you hated. I will gather them against you from all around and will strip you in front of them, and they will see you stark naked. 38 I will sentence you to the punishment of women who commit adultery and who shed blood; I will bring on you the blood vengeance of my wrath and jealous anger. 39 Then I will deliver you into the hands of your lovers, and they will tear down your mounds and destroy your lofty shrines. They will strip you of your clothes and take your fine jewelry and leave you stark naked. 40 They will bring a mob against you, who will stone you and hack you to pieces with their swords. 41 They will burn down your houses and inflict punishment on you in the sight of many women. I will put a stop to your prostitution, and you will no longer pay your lovers. 42 Then my wrath against you will subside and my jealous anger will turn away from you; I will be calm and no longer angry.
You may be asking – so what does this have to do with Sodom and the LGBT lifestyle? It’s coming.
Eze 16:44 “ ‘Everyone who quotes proverbs will quote this proverb about you: “Like mother, like daughter.” 45 You are a true daughter of your mother, who despised her husband and her children; and you are a true sister of your sisters, who despised their husbands and their children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. 46 Your older sister was Samaria, who lived to the north of you with her daughters; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you with her daughters, was Sodom. 47 You not only followed their ways and copied their detestable practices, but in all your ways you soon became more depraved than they. 48 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done.
Those last couple verses say – very clearly – that Jerusalem was even worse than Sodom.
Sounds bad. You’re maybe thinking you know what Sodom did – and that these people are even worse. And God brought judgment down on all of them. But let’s continue.
Eze 16:49 “ ‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. 51 Samaria did not commit half the sins you did. You have done more detestable things than they, and have made your sisters seem righteous by all these things you have done. 52 Bear your disgrace, for you have furnished some justification for your sisters. Because your sins were more vile than theirs, they appear more righteous than you. So then, be ashamed and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.
‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me.
Did you notice – “detestable things” is the last one in the list of offences. Before them was listed arrogant – overfed – unconcerned – and failure to help the poor and needy.
Sodom did have a problem with the “detestable things”. But they had a lot of other problems too.
does that now mean the arrogant / prideful people don’t get into Heaven – can’t have church funerals?
does that mean overfed / overweight people don’t get into Heaven – can’t have church funerals?
does that mean unconcerned people / people who don’t care about important things – don’t get into Heaven – can’t have church funerals?
does that mean selfish people who won’t help the poor and needy – don’t get into Heaven – can’t have church funerals?
As I said – if all that’s true, Heaven’s a pretty empty place. Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God – but the only other presence is that of the Holy Spirit. Oh yeah – and the angels. Two thirds of them. Just like it was before God created Adam. Pretty empty. None of us.
So tell me – this seems like a logical progression – if LGBT lifestyle is enough to get someone barred from having a church funeral – then surely the things that God lists before that in Ezekiel 16:49 must also be bad enough to have people suffer the same fate.
Is that what people believe – those who barred this funeral – or those who were happy about it being barred? If that’s you – is that what you believe? What does that mean to your own funeral? What does that mean to your own chances of being in Heaven? I know it would rule me out.
True honesty – looking at what God said – not just believing in God but actually believing God – it can be very brutal. It can be very eye opening. And also – hopefully – will be very heart opening.
Think my assessment is to harsh?
Eze 16:53 “ ‘However, I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters and of Samaria and her daughters, and your fortunes along with them, 54 so that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all you have done in giving them comfort.
Still think it’s too harsh?
The service – had it taken place
You can read about this on The Washington Post web site.
The issue had to do with a few pictures where the deceased person, Vanessa Collier, was kissing her wife, Christina Higley. About 10 minutes before the service was to start, the church wanted the family to edit out the pictures from the prepared videos on the CD’s that were to run during the service. (BTW – have you ever tried to edit a video in 10 minutes? Can you imagine doing it under these circumstances? And, do you honestly think they even had the equipment with them to do this?) Anyway, the scenario in the sanctuary was this –
“Her casket was open, flowers laid out and hundreds of people sitting in the pews.”
Hundreds of people.
This is where I get to wasted opportunities and possibly souls lost.
Think about it. Hundreds of people! What an opportunity to show the love of Jesus. I mean really – were these people going to be shocked when they saw pictures of Vanessa and Christina kissing? Highly unlikely. These hundreds of people were their friends and family. They already knew the relationship. There would have been no surprises about the pictures.
If anything – there might have been surprises that the pictures were shown. And those would have been good surprises. How many of those hundreds of people maybe hadn’t ever been to a church? How many stopped going because of the way they were treated? How many would have maybe had second thoughts and actually started to attend this church, had the funeral taken place?
It’s not like Jesus didn’t know what kind of people He was associating with. Tax collectors – almost the scum of the earth back then, they were Jews who collected absurd amounts of money from fellow Jews and then turned part of it over to the hated Roman government while lining their own pockets with the rest of it. Prostitutes. Samaritans. Lepers. The kind of people who would be barred from having church funerals. These are the people Jesus associated with.
The Calling of Matthew
Mt 9:9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
Mt 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
Mt 9:12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Look at that last statement.
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
It’s not like any of them – or us – are actually healthy. But if we think we are – we won’t go to a doctor. If we think we’re spiritually healthy – we won’t go to Jesus because we think, wrongly, that we already have Him.
For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
If the first one didn’t scare you – maybe this one will. Again – no one is righteous. So if we think we are, again wrongly, Jesus says very clearly here that He is not calling us! He is, however, calling those who know they are not righteous. He is calling those who know they need His help – not those who think they are doing fine.
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
OK – the sacrificial system was stopped after the destruction of the Temple. But the mercy part is still what He desires. What kind of mercy are we showing when we do things like what was done with this funeral?
Are we so sure?
Do we really know that everyone living the LGBT lifestyle is barred from Heaven? Are we so sure of it that they cannot have a church funeral? Are we willing to risk our own souls for it? Or do we need to follow some “rule” somewhere – that isn’t even in the Bible?
I ask the last part because of an experience I had when I was a kid. I was in the 7th grade. In the hospital with pneumonia. Was very much into the Catholic Church at the time. I was there for a couple weeks. They had a Catholic priest coming Sunday morning to give communion – asked if I wanted him to stop in and give it to me. I said yes. Breakfast came, but no priest yet. The hospital staff told me I needed to eat. I also knew the “rules” – no eating before communion. (Like they really knew whether someone ate before going to church!) I didn’t want to spend any more time in the hospital than I had to – so I ate breakfast. The Priest finally shows up. First thing – he asks me if I ate yet. (Funny – the things we remember, isn’t it. It still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.) I said yes. He refused to give me communion and left! Talk about a Pharisee! A Catholic one – but a Pharisee nonetheless.
And where does that leave us with this funeral decision?
Who are we that we think we know who has asked for God’s forgiveness and who hasn’t?
Who are we that we think we know the future?
You see – the problem comes because, unlike God, we don’t even know who God has already forgiven – let alone who’s going to ask for, and receive, His forgiveness in the future.
Are we not putting ourselves either in His place, or maybe even over Him, when we refuse to talk to someone because we are so sure they are lost forever?
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
And it’s not like the pastor of the church wasn’t aware of at least some of these issues –
“The pastor of the church did not sleep well the next two nights,” Rolando said. “He’s really struggling because he really desired to minister to that family.”
He wanted to minister to that family.
You know – I’m not even questioning that statement. I believe what he said. He could have ministered to more than just that family.
But what was he going to say?
Somehow – I find it hard to believe that Jesus started off the meals He had with sinners y telling them that He wasn’t going to enter their house unless they stopped sinning. No – the point was –
I desire mercy
How do we get that point across when we refuse to even talk to the very people who need it?
And what of those who are removed from God and don’t know Him? Or don’t understand His commands? Earlier, I mentioned those who think they are healthy – but aren’t. It’s like the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They should have known better. But what of those who aren’t in a position to know better? Those who have received an incorrect message of what God really wants? What about them? Or maybe those that have never been to a church – and don’t know the God’s message at all from any “direct” source? What about them?
Let’s go all the way back to the end of Jonah –
Jnh 4:10 But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”
Jonah was concerned about the vine that was keeping him cool in the shade.
God was concerned about the people of Nineveh that didn’t know Him. The people who didn’t know their right from the left. The people who didn’t know right from wrong.
If the vine represents the “rules” – and if the people of Nineveh represent the people who life the LGBT lifestyle – which one concerns you more?
or the people?
“You will not find Jesus at New Hope but you will find hypocrisy,” one sign said.
That’s a scary thought.
Will Jesus be found at your church and in your life?
image from rethinkfunerals.com