If you follow my blog, you know that quite a controversy has been stirred up in Harrisonburg about the opening of "The Tilted Kilt" here in town. A couple of weeks ago, following on the heels of two separate Op-Eds raising a variety of concerns about the business, an ad appeared on the back page of the newspaper. It stated:
The River Church WELCOMES THE TILTED KILT TO HARRISONBURG. We know that The Tilted Kilt has come under some fire from people who claim to speak on behalf of people of faith, but we at The River Church want to stand firm in support of business and job growth in our community. While some may pray that the restaurant fail, we believe prayer is best suited to matters of love, hope, healing and peace. ... If you are interested in a church where love and tolerance reigns as it did for Jesus, check us out! All our [sic] welcome!
Now first of all, just to be clear on the facts, my Op-Ed did not mention the word "pray" or "prayer." It did not, in fact, even mention Jesus or Christianity, but focused on the various types of harms that businesses like TK pose to various members of the community and their relationships.
But the clear implication of The River Church's advertisement is that my condemnation of the TK business model (exploiting women's bodies for profit, appealing to men's sexual appetite, damaging relationships) is directly at odds with the "love and tolerance" of Jesus. Unfortunately, this isn't a novel idea, but one that plagues the Body of Christ at every turn. Many Christians and churches have been cowed into silent retreat from the moral debates raging in our society by this stinging accusation that our rejection of certain systems, laws, lifestyles or ideas as "wrong" is a message of judgment and therefore unloving and not Christ-like.
To be sure, Jesus was loving, and He welcomed even the most notorious of sinners to His side. But He never shrugged His shoulders at their sin. His message to the woman caught in adultery was not, "Go, your sin doesn't matter." It was, "Go, and sin no more." He knew all along that her sin, and mine, would cost His life.
The idea of "tough love" sounds trite, but real love is tough. In fact, it is impossible for one to really love another while condoning the other's sin, because all of God's laws have been given to us for our good. And certainly love does not affirm sin as a virtue! A Christian welcoming a business built upon lust into her community is like a mother welcoming a sexual predator into her daughter's bedroom.
How can we, having been rescued from the hopeless existence of a life apart from God, remain silent as friends and neighbors gorge themselves on the counterfeit pleasures of a darkened world? How can we, having been rescued from the quicksand of our sin, tell others who are sinking that they are on solid ground?
When I attended Elkton Pride Day some time ago, I had a long conversation with a Unitarian Universalist minister. I was seeking to understand how he reconciled his views on homosexuality with the Bible. At one point I asked him, "How do you believe people can be saved?" He responded that basically, we just do the best we can to be good. Our conversation came to an end then, as I simply explained that this was a message of condemnation to me, because I know that I am not good. Even the "good" that I try to do is tainted by sinful motives and pride.
And this, essentially is my point. The message of "I'm o.k., you're o.k.," is candy-coated poison. I'm not o.k., and you're not o.k., and that is why Jesus was tortured and killed. But because He took our punishment, there is hope for us, and something so much more, so much better, than the rubbish this world is peddling.
I know a place, a wonderful place
Where accused and condemned
Find mercy and grace
Where the wrongs we have done
And the wrongs done to us
Were nailed there with Him
There on the cross.