Bigot or Not?

What an ugly word. Don't throw it around recklessly.

What an ugly word. Don’t throw it around recklessly.

*bigot (Merriam-Webster Collegiate): a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc.: especially: a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group).

I don’t understand why believing that a certain behavior is immoral is equated with hating those who engage in that behavior. How does one make the jump between “So-and-so believes that homosexuality is a sin” to “So-and-so hates homosexuals and is a bigot”? Where is the logic in that?

I believe that, according to the God I love and serve, sex outside of marriage or sex with a person of the same gender is a sin. But I do not hate people who engage in sex outside of marriage or sex with someone of the same gender (nor am I afraid of them, as the ridiculous word “homophobia” implies). I don’t hate, nor am I afraid of, bisexuals or transsexuals either—and if you know me at all, you know this is true.

So you say, “Well, if you think that what certain people are doing is sinful, you’re condemning them.” Really? How do you know this? How do you know where love and hate collide in my heart? Have you seen me act in hateful ways or heard words of condemnation come out of my mouth?

(And by the way, if you assume that I hate those whose beliefs oppose my own, does that mean you hate those whose beliefs oppose your own?)

“Well,” you say, “who are you to say it’s wrong? You probably had sex before marriage yourself.” You’re right. In my teens, before my first marriage, I fornicated with the best of them. And I knew it was wrong. (Like many other human beings, I often do, say, or think things even when I know they’re wrong.) But having engaged in sex outside of marriage in the past doesn’t remove my right and responsibility to hold a belief about it now.

Chain with heartBecause I’m a Christian, I answer to God. I don’t get to make up my own rules about life. If I were God, I’d allow for a free-for-all when it came to sex. I’m being completely honest here; I don’t always like what the Bible says, and I want everyone to be happy. So if I were God, I’d say, “Go for it. Have sex whenever you want, with whomever you want, and do it with gusto.” But I’m not God. I’m His child, and therefore I live according to what I believe His will is for His children… and therefore I must decide what I believe regarding sin. But I don’t hate you for holding to beliefs that contradict my own. Truth be known, I love you with my whole heart.

 

 

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To Those Who Have Been Missing Their God-Time

“Do not always scrupulously confine yourself to certain rules, or particular forms of devotions,“ said Brother Lawrence. He said this as one who knew how to “practice of the presence of God”—that is, to enjoy an ongoing, never-ending, easy lifting of the heart and remembrance to God, which invites and sustains His constant presence. He believed, as do I, that it’s not only possible but crucial that we believers settle down into God’s presence and stay there, not just during our morning devotionals but all day long, and all night as well.

Does this sound impossible? That’s because you complicate it all in your mind. You’ve learned that being in God’s presence must look a certain way… that you’re required to stop what you’re doing and kneel and open your Bible—wonderful activities, but impossible when you’re in the middle of a board meeting or chasing a toddler.

God the lordSetting aside a specific “God-time” is wonderful. If you begin (or end) each day by deliberately focusing on God in a certain place, with a certain book, don’t stop! But beware of falling into the mindset that if, for some reason, you miss out on this sanctioned portion of time because of an early doctor’s appointment or small crisis, you’ve “missed your God-time.” Beware of assuming that if you’ve neglected your God-time for that day you must wait until tomorrow to catch up—as though God is offended at having been stood up and won’t be available again until tomorrow because He’s all tied up for the rest of the day.

God’s presence is just as available as you wait in the doctor’s office or fold dishtowels as it was during your scheduled God-time. Lean your heart into Him; lift your thoughts toward Him as you walk from your office to the break room; say a quiet “thank You” as you sit at a stop light. You have not missed your God-time. Your God-time, as a believer, stretches into infinity. It continues after your regularly scheduled devotional time into the bulk of the day, even the chaos and frustrations of the day. It continues into the night. Even as you sleep, your God-time continues!

Years ago, I used to hear songs and sermons that talked about jumping into the river of God. “Why can’t I just live there?” I wondered. “Why do I ever have to get out of the river of God? Why can’t I learn to breathe underwater?”

I can. And so can you.

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Zero Tolerance for Fearful Thoughts

Many of us have bought into the lie that we can’t choose our thoughts. Think about how often we say things like, “I can’t stop thinking about such-and-such.” Or how frequently we say we’re stressed when what we really mean is that we’ve worried ourselves into a frenzy. We talk about fear like it’s a wild animal that jumps out from behind the bushes, attacking us against our will and overpowering us. We’re far too tolerant of fear when we see it in this light—as a predator against which we have little recourse. It’s time to adopt a zero tolerance policy in regard to anxiety, worry, and fear.

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Fear vs. fearlessness is far more a matter of choice than we think it is. Granted, turning from fearful thoughts to healthy ones can require Herculean strength, but the fact remains that we can choose our thoughts, and we have a responsibility to do just that.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Love Pray, the author’s friend Richard instructs her to choose her thoughts like she chooses her clothes each morning. This morning, I sailed right through the task of choosing my blue and pink running shorts and a cotton T-shirt. It’s not as easy to choose certain thoughts and reject others, but it’s just as possible. Think about it: if we were powerless over fearful thoughts, God wouldn’t have given us instructions like this one: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8, NLT). I can name a hundred topics that are honorable, pure, excellent, etc. But anxiety is never lovely, and having cold sweats because you’re fretting about what might happen tomorrow is never admirable.

Once you commit to disciplining your thought life, and if you’re consistent even when various crises arise, you’ll find yourself rejecting fearful thoughts as quickly as you once accepted them. You will walk in courage and peace in situations that would once have reduced you to a meltdown.

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“We are taking prisoners of every thought, every emotion, and subduing them into obedience to the Anointed One” (2 Cor. 10:5, Voice).