Do not take the name of the Lord in vain

The Ten Commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me10 Commandments
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness
  10. You shall not covet

The Third Commandment says:

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

curse_bubbleTaking the name of God in vain is more than using it as a curse word. Any time we use God’s name flippantly or disrespectfully, we use it in vain. Jesus restated the Third Commandment by flipping it around: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9, NKJV).

Why does God care if we use His name in vain?

God’s desire is to have a loving relationship with us. In relationships, when we show disrespect for the other person, it interferes with that relationship. When we use the name of God or Jesus in a disrespectful manner, it interferes with our ability to have the kind of relationship with Jesus that we were created to have. Taking God’s name in vain doesn’t change how God thinks about us; it affects how we think of God. It reflects disregard and indifference on our part toward God. When we use God’s name in vain, it inhibits our ability to love Him the way we should.

What does it mean to take God’s name in vain?

Names of GodIn the Hebrew, there are four consonants used to spell God’s name. In English we see them as YHWH. We pronounce them as Jehovah or Yahweh. We also use many other names for God: Jesus, Lord, Savior, Father, Christ, and so forth. The Bible actually lists over 300 titles for God, many of which are commonly used as names. Using God’s name “in vain” means using it in any way that is disrespectful, false, or trivial. We can do this by using it as a curse word. We can also use His name in vain by claiming God says something that contradicts or isn’t supported by the Bible. An example that’s getting considerable attention right now is the claim that God thinks homosexuality is acceptable to Him. This belief is clearly and repeatedly refuted by the Bible, yet many people, even Christians, claim it’s true. Invoking the name of God in an attempt to justify sin is using God’s name in vain. We also use God’s name in vain when we make false promises, such as “I swear to God that I’ll do such-and-such.” When we do this, we are lying in the name of God, and using His name flippantly. There are any number of variations on using God’s name in vain, far too many to describe in depth in a brief blog. The point it, we all at least occasionally use God’s name disrespectfully, falsely, or irreverently. We all have missed the mark of the Third Commandment.

What is the consequence for taking God’s name in vain?

“…the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

As with any sin, taking the name of God in vain interferes in our ability to love God. It separates us from Him. It does not change God’s attitude toward us, but rather, changes our attitude toward God. For those who have never placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, sin prevents them from knowing God and from spending eternity in His presence. For those of us who have been saved, it interrupts our fellowship with Him. Using God’s name in vain reflects disrespect for God in our hearts, and the consequence is broken fellowship with Him.

What can we do about it?

VainFirst, if a person has never received forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ, never been saved, and never made Jesus Christ Lord of their life, that’s the place to start. Everyone has sinned, and the only way for God to forgive is by our receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

For those of us who are saved, we need to begin by cultivating a love and reverence for God’s name. We need to grow in our relationship with Him. We need to value God’s holiness and give God the respect He is due. As we grow in our relationship with Him, we will begin to respect and revere the name of God and the name of Jesus. Taking the name of the Lord in vain will become the exception rather than the rule. Although we will never obey this commandment (or any other, for that matter) perfectly this side of Heaven, as we grow closer to Jesus, our sinful tendencies will become less and less.


Why Use Reason When You Can Just Mock People?

no reason neededI didn’t bother blogging about the recent Ken Ham / Bill Nye debate, because I figured enough other people were already blogging about it. However, I ran across a blog by Ronald Bailey on entitled How Really to Debate Creationists: Bill Nye versus Ken Ham that I thought deserved comment.

Bailey begins with the typical argument that Nye shouldn’t have debated Ham, because creationists shouldn’t have a platform to promote their views. Basically, if you can’t beat ‘em, shut ‘em up. Not exactly a reasoned response.

Bailey continues by stating – or, more accurately, misstating – several creationist concepts, ranging from man and dinosaurs coexisting to fossil formation during Noah’s flood to why the Big Bang doesn’t make sense. Rather than actually giving rational arguments for why he thinks these concepts are wrong, he simply labels them “nonsense.” Ad hominem attacks are not a reasoned argument.

How should an evolutionist deal with creationists? According to Bailey, “there is a way to beat Creationists at their own game – mockery.” He continues:

So don’t try to knock down each individual assertion of mountebanks like Ham during such a “debate,” but instead concentrate on the goal of explaining by entertaining with a bit of mockery thrown in. You will gratify your intellectual friends; annoy your enemies; and perhaps persuade some of the confused to take a deeper look into the scads of evidence for biological evolution.

Bailey links to a video of himself and atheist Michael Shermer debating intelligent designers Stephen Meyer and George Gilder. Bailey uses the “Intelligent Design by Purple Space Squids” argument to mock his opponents’ arguments.

So, according to the website, one should not use reason to argue against creation. Bailey then justifies his argument:

My talk clearly did not persaude Meyer and Gilder, but by show of hands Shermer and I did win the debate at Freedomfest.

Since evolutionists cannot win the debate with reason, they should resort to mockery and entertainment. Mockery and entertainment win debates. And apparently, mockery also determines the truth.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. They think their beliefs are based on “reason,” when in fact they are based on logical fallacy and foolishness.

Logical, reasoned arguments will not sway a fool who has set himself in opposition to Jesus Christ. Such people have already made up their minds to reject reason and the truth. However, for those who are truly seeking the truth, logical, reasoned arguments can draw people to the truth of the Gospel.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. 1 Peter 3:15

2014 Mission Trips

Hope in a World of Brokenness

Stacey and Joey Wendling Mission Trips

Monterrey, Mexico – June 2014

Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota – August 2014

Greetings from Fairfield, Ohio!

The reason we are writing to you is that we have the opportunity next summer to join with our church, Fairfield First Baptist, to provide hope in a world of brokenness by going on mission trips to Monterrey, Mexico and Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

In June 2014, Joey and Stacey once again have the opportunity to serve the children in orphanages near Monterrey, Mexico. Our church is partnering with Back2Back Ministries to serve the children in 10 Christian Casa Hogar’s (Children’s Homes), and two churches in the Rio and Cadereyta communities. Each Children’s Home has 30 to 100 children ranging in ages from 10 months to 17 years. These children come to the homes from a variety of backgrounds – neglect, abuse, abandonment, and in some cases, economic inability of the parents to provide for them. Whatever the reason, each child is truly a gift from God. It is our hope that each child would have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and have opportunities for a productive and meaningful life. Our efforts will include:

  • Construction work to improve the facilities, programs, and living conditions
  • Sorting and preparing donations for the daily distribution to the children’s homes
  • Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ though interaction and relationship building

Stacey Wendling

In August, Stacey will have the opportunity for a second mission trip before she heads off to Liberty University, this time to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Pine Ridge is an Oglala Lakota Native American reservation, and is one of the poorest communities in the United States. The poverty on Pine Ridge is devastating. It is common to find homes overcrowded, as those with homes take in whoever needs a roof over their heads. Many homes are without running water or sewer, adequate heating or air conditioning, and have black mold. The unemployment rate is about 80-90%, with a per capita income of around $4,000. Life expectancy on Pine Ridge is the lowest in the United States and the second lowest in the Western Hemisphere, behind only Haiti. Alcoholism and suicide are the leading causes of death.

Stacey and our church will be working with Next Step Ministries to serve in the Pine Ridge community to help rebuild the reservation and restore the hope and beauty buried deep among the brokenness found here. We will have the opportunity to serve in a number of ways, working with families and their children, meeting residents on a daily basis, restoring and building upon relationships with community members, rebuilding homes, churches, or trailers, roofing, drywall, and painting. Throughout this week, we will be acting as the hands and feet of our Lord to serve this community in a valuable way. It is exciting to think that Stacey can be a small part of that!

Joey Wendling

We are writing to you because we will by relying on friends and family for support as we prepare for the trip and while we are gone. Between the three trips, we need to raise nearly $3000 for trip expenses.

First and foremost, we ask for your prayers. Please pray for the orphans in Monterrey, the workers in their Children’s Homes, and for the people donating time out of their summers to take trips to Mexico to work to improve the children’s lives. Pray for the Oglala Lakota people of Pine Ridge Reservation, that they would have hope, and pray for those who are working to bring them hope. Please also pray for Stacey and Joey, that they would be able to raise the funds necessary, and that God would be preparing them for the work He has planned for them.

Secondly, if you are able, we would greatly appreciate any financial support you might be able to provide. We need to raise nearly $3000 for the three trips. Gifts are tax deductible, and checks should be made payable to Fairfield First Baptist Church, with Stacey/Joey Wendling Mission Trips in the memo line.

Children in a Monterrey Children’s Home

We are so privileged to be able to tell these broken communities that there is a greater life they can live, and a greater love they can experience. That a life with Jesus can bring real fulfillment, purpose, and healing to the wounds they feel. We hope you also feel privileged to be a partner in a mission going after lost and broken people with a message of hope, as Jesus told his disciples, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” John 16:33

Should you feel called to give in support of the missions effort in Mexico and South Dakota through giving to Stacey and Joey Wendling, please fill out, cut off, and return to the address below.

Gifts are tax-deductible. Please make checks payable to Fairfield First Baptist Church.

Name: ______________________________________

Email: _______________________________________

Phone: ___________________________ (home or cell)

*Please mail to:

Fairfield First Baptist Church

1072 Hicks Blvd.

Fairfield, OH 45014

Attn: Stacey/Joey Wendling Mission Trips

You Shall Not Make For Yourself an Idol

The Ten Commandments:

  1. Golden CalfYou shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness
  10. You shall not covet

The Second Commandment says:

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4-6

What is an idol?

According to, an idol is:

1. an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed.
2. Bible.
a. an image of a deity other than God.
b. the deity itself.
3. any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion: Madame Curie had been her childhood idol.
4. a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom.
5. a figment of the mind; fantasy.

Let us consider each of these five definitions.

  1. An image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed

The key points of the Second Commandment are that we should not 1) have images or likenesses that 2) we worship. The Second Commandment does not, as some have claimed, forbid artwork. It forbids the worship of images.

Many Christians wear crosses or have artwork depicting Jesus displayed in their homes. If one pulls Exodus 2:4 out of context, it would seem that any sort of God-themed artwork would be forbidden. However, verse 5 makes it clear that it’s not the artwork per se that is problematic, but the worship of these images.

Owning a cross or a statue of Jesus can be a wonderful reminder of what Jesus did for us on the cross. However, when someone prays to the statue, or uses the cross as some sort of talisman to attempt to get closer to God, this becomes idol worship.

What about worshipping the Bible? Although the Bible is the Word of God, it’s not God. Worshipping a physical book is idolatry. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to humanity – it points us to Him, but it isn’t Him. By way of analogy, this blog tells people a lot about me, about how I think and what I believe, but reading my blog isn’t the same as knowing me. Similarly, the Bible tells us about the One who wants us to know Him in an intimate, personal manner. Don’t worship the Bible – worship the One who gave it to us.

  1. An image of a deity other than God, or the deity itself.

Here, we’re no longer talking about crosses or paintings of Jesus, but of objects representing other so-called gods. Whether it’s a golden calf or a statue of the Buddha, the worship of any object representing any god other than the God of the Bible is forbidden. It doesn’t matter if one believes the object itself is a god, or just represents a god, any worship of or through an object is sin. There is only one true God – the God of the Old and New Testaments. The worship of any other so-called god takes away from our ability to have a relationship with the true God, and thus is sin.

  1. Any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion

American IdolIn modern America, few of us worship actual objects, per se. However, how many of us worship other people? Many people derive meaning and purpose for their lives from the teachings of the Pope, Billy Graham, Darwin, Barack Obama, Joel Osteen, the Dali Lama, or a host of other people. This is idolatry. When we put our faith and trust in anyone other than Jesus Christ, we violate the Second Commandment.

There are many Christian teachers whom I respect and from whom I learn a great deal. However, it is critical that I take whatever they say and compare it with God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. I am never to take what mere man says as infallible. To do so becomes idolatry.

  1. A mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom.

The worship of spirits, angels, demons, ghosts, and the like is clearly forbidden throughout the Bible. Ancestor worship, the occult, New Age practices, and so forth all fall under this category. There are numerous passages throughout both the Old and New Testaments that clearly forbid such practices.

  1. A figment of the mind; fantasy.

SexDrugsRockNRollThis one is interesting. How many people worship a false Jesus? Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Muslims believe in a Jesus that was just a mere man, not God in the flesh. They deny the true nature of Jesus – they hold to a fantasy Jesus.

What about people who see Jesus as only loving? A Jesus that would never allow anyone to go to Hell? Or, a Jesus that picks and chooses who He will save, and who He will not, never giving some the opportunity to be saved? Both of these views deny the true nature of Jesus as revealed in the Bible. Both views are figments of man’s imagination. Both views are idolatry. Both incorporate certain aspects of God’s true nature, but deny other aspects. To worship man-made God who ignores sin is idolatry, as is worshipping a man-made God who only loves some people, but not others.

Can anyone follow the Second Commandment?

Ultimately, the answer is no, we cannot. We all get meaning and purpose from people and things other than God. Due to the limitations of our finite minds, none of us can truly understand the fullness of the nature of God, so we all worship something less than the actual God. At times, we all put other things before our worship of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We all fall short of following the Second Commandment perfectly.

Thankfully, despite our sin and idolatry, we can still be saved. If we repent of our idolatry and other sin, and place our trust in Jesus Christ, we are saved. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” We need to acknowledge that Jesus Christ alone can forgive our sins and restore our relationship with God the Father. Any other worship is idolatry.

You Shall Have No Other gods Before Me

The Ten Commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness
  10. You shall not covet

Is it possible for anyone to perfectly keep any of the 10 Commandments, much less all 10? In this series, I will be examining each of the 10 Commandments, to show how they cannot be kept, and why they point to the need for Jesus Christ as Savior.

You shall have no other gods before me

1 And God spoke all these words, saying:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
“You shall have no other gods before Me.
Exodus 20:1-3 NKJV

It is certainly true that most people in America today are not polytheistic. Few of us worship many gods, like the Greeks, Romans, or Hindus. Most Americans recognize the God of the Bible as the true God, although some worship another god, or no gods at all.

I certainly recognize the Biblical God as the only true God. All other gods are made-up figments of human imagination. So, I have Commandment #1 down perfectly, right?

Not exactly.

moses-tenFirst, none of us can actually comprehend God. The infinite, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, holy God of the Bible is far beyond anything our puny, finite minds can truly grasp. One cannot put infinite knowledge into a finite mind. Therefore, our understanding of God is limited. What I understand as God is a limited shadow of the actual infinite God. Therefore, I actually worship a false God, not by choice, but by the limitations of my own mind. I worship God as I understand Him, not as He truly is. It is impossible for anyone to worship the true God, because we cannot comprehend Him truly.

Second, we all have things other than God that motivate us. Some are motivated by money; for others, it’s power, friends and family, or physical needs. Whatever motivates us or gives us a sense of worth is our god. Whenever I do something for any reason other than that it will draw me or others closer to God, I have placed something else ahead of God. Ultimately, I make myself my own god. I call the shots, not God. I’ve broken the first Commandment.

I’ve broken the first Commandment. So what?

God doesn’t grade on the curve. He doesn’t take the top X percent of good-deed doers to Heaven. He doesn’t put our good deeds on a scale, to see if they outweigh our bad deeds. God compares us to Himself. God is morally perfect; we are morally imperfect. We all fall short of God’s standard. We all fail, and we all deserve to be eternally separated from God.

The good news is that even though we are all sinners, Jesus Christ died for us.

I don’t always keep God first. I cannot perfectly keep the first Commandment. It’s impossible for me to do so. But, despite the fact you and I cannot keep God first, God still wants a relationship with us. That’s why He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to take the penalty for your sin and mine upon Himself on the cross. Our debt has been paid. All we have to do is to accept forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ and give our lives over to Him. When we receive Jesus as Savior, He begins a process of change from within us. Although the process won’t be completed until we are laid to rest and see Jesus face-to-face in eternity, God will begin the process of making Himself first in our lives from the moment we are saved. A relationship with God through Jesus Christ isn’t about getting my ticket punched to get into Heaven; it’s much more about allowing God to make Himself first in my life in the here and now.

The Ten Commandments

What are the Ten Commandments?

The Ten Commandments are recorded in Exodus 20:

  1. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.

  2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

  3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

  5. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

  6. You shall not murder.

  7. You shall not commit adultery.

  8. You shall not steal.

  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

10CommandmentsThe Ten Commandments are only a small fraction of all of the commandments given in the Old Testament. In all, there are 613 commandments, covering topics including how to worship God, giving to the poor, sexual relationships, getting along with others, and many other things.

If we can’t keep them, why did God give them?

Contrary to what many people believe, the Ten Commandments are not a set of rules which, if followed, will gain a person entrance into heaven. Rather, they were given to make people realize they cannot possibly live up to God’s perfect standard.

The Apostle Paul said the following:

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. (Romans 7:7-11).

Nobody can perfectly obey the Ten Commandments (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Rather than being a means of salvation, the Ten Commandments demonstrate that we have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and all need God’s mercy and grace, which only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Even with a cursory glance, it’s pretty obvious that nobody can keep all ten commandments perfectly. I don’t know anyone who never dishonored their parents a single time, never stole anything (not even a cookie or a pencil), and never lied – not even a “little white lie.” God doesn’t grade us on the curve. He demands a passing grade of a perfect 100%. As James wrote, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” The point of the Ten Commandments is to show us that none of us can live a sinless life. This is why we need a Savior. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

The Ten Commandments cannot save us. Only Jesus can save us.

10 Commandments

Lessons from the Phil Robertson / A&E Controversy – Part 2

phil robertson

Phil Robertson

A few days ago, I posted a blog about some lessons I’d taken away from the controversy surrounding Phil Robertson’s suspension from Duck Dynasty by A&E. As events have continued to unfold, I have read numerous comments and articles by people from all perspectives about Phil’s comments, A&E’s response, the outpouring of support, and the outrage of people opposed to Phil. While I’m happy, happy, happy that A&E has decided to reinstate Phil, I do not think this is the end of the issue. There are much bigger issues at stake than whether a rich redneck Christian gets to stay on TV. Some additional thoughts:

Christians should pay as much attention to other sins as they do to homosexuality

One of my more liberal Facebook friends linked to this article by Rachel Held Evans. Although I don’t know anything about Evans, and I don’t agree with everything she says, she makes a number of valid points. Conservative Christians tend to focus on the “big” sins like homosexuality and abortion, but say little about “little” sins such as gluttony, greed, gossip, or divorce. Evans wrote:

While there are certainly important hermeneutical and cultural issues at play, I can’t help but wonder if something more nefarious is also at work.  I can’t help but wonder if biblical condemnation is often a numbers game.

Though it affects more of us than we tend to realize, statistically, homosexuality affects far fewer of us than gluttony, materialism, or divorce. And as Jesus pointed out so often in his ministry, we like to focus on the biblical violations (real or perceived) of the minority rather than our own.

In short, we like to gang up.  We like to fashion weapons out of the verses that affect us the least and then “clobber” the minority with them. Or better yet, conjure up some saccharine language about speaking the truth in love before breaking out our spec-removing tweezers to help get our minds off of these uncomfortable logs in our own eyes.

Here’s the point: Don’t judge others just because they sin differently from you. We all sin, we all fall short of the glory of God. The sin of homosexuality is no more offensive to God than the sins of gossip, gluttony, or pride. All sin offends God. All sin condemns us to death. And all sinners need to receive forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ. Rather than focusing on a person’s homosexuality, perhaps we should focus on sharing the good news that all sin can be forgiven through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Perhaps we need to work a bit harder at removing the log from our own eyes before trying to remove the speck of homosexuality from someone else’s eye.

How we speak the truth is important.

One of the biggest criticisms of Phil Robertson’s interview with GQ is how he said what he said. Phil used some rather crass language to describe homosexual acts. He is quoted (out of context) as saying blacks were happy during the pre-civil rights era. The liberal media, gay rights advocates, and race-baiters jumped all over him. Never mind that Robertson was factually correct. The problem was the way he said what he said.

I’m sure that most of the blacks Phil picked cotton next to were basically happy people. This doesn’t mean Robertson supported Jim Crow laws, or that blacks were happier before the civil rights era than they are now. It just means that, from Phil’s perspective as a poor white man working next to poor blacks, they were basically happy people, in spite of their circumstances. (Yes, believe it or not, people can actually be happy, despite bad circumstances.) Since Phil’s comments were printed out of context in a side bar, we don’t know what question he was responding to. Neither do we know if his comments were edited, making them appear worse than they really were. However, if Phil had chosen his words more precisely, the controversy over them would not exist.

Phil is also correct that the Bible clearly defines homosexuality as sin. Any time a Christian points out sin, someone will be offended. However, by using vulgar language to describe homosexual acts, and by not choosing his words more carefully, he unnecessarily gave people looking for an excuse to be offended exactly what they were looking for.

Telling someone they are wrong does not mean we hate them.

There’s a meme floating through cyberspace with a quote attributed to Phil Robertson (although it’s actually by Rick Warren):

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

Rick Warren QuoteFrom a Biblical perspective, all sin leads to death and Hell, whether it’s the sin of homosexuality, or some other sin. It’s not loving to know someone is headed for an eternity in Hell, and not tell them why they are headed there and how to spend eternity in Heaven instead. Sin is self-destructive. If we were talking about other self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse, nearly everyone would recognize that the loving thing to do would be to confront the individual about the behavior, and help them find a way to beat the addiction. Substance abuse destroys the temporary body, but sin destroys the eternal soul. The loving thing to do is to do whatever we can to help people realize their sin, to repent, and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

The flip side, however, is that some so-called Christians do hate homosexuals. There are those who misuse and distort the Bible to attack those they hate. Groups like Westboro Baptist Church ignore most of the Bible and distort the meaning of other passages in order to justify their self-righteous bigotry and hatred. Lumping all Christians together with Westboro Baptist “Christians” is a logical fallacy. Fred Phelps no more speaks for all Christians than Jeremiah Wright speaks for all blacks or Dan Savage speaks for all homosexuals.

Christians are called to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15). Yes, the truth is offensive to those who do not want to hear it. But, if Christians truly love their neighbor as the love themselves, we will speak the truth in love, meekness, and fear, whether people get offended, or not.

Am I more interested in speaking the truth, or in extending grace?

Something I struggle with is pride. Sometimes, I’m more interested in winning a debate than in being used by the Holy Spirit to win souls for Jesus Christ. Sometimes, I pridefully think my logical arguments and insight will bring people to Jesus, rather than the Holy Spirit drawing people to Himself. I am a skeptic by nature, and am often more interested in arguing the facts than in extending God’s grace.

For this, I ask for forgiveness.

Grace without truth leads to false religion. Truth without Grace turns people off or turns them into legalists. Jesus, however, came in grace and truth (John 1:14). I’m beginning to realize, despite being a thick-headed sinner, that I need to focus more on extending God’s grace to sinners than in convincing people they’re wrong.

Final thoughts

Here’s another meme I found on Facebook – source unknown:

May each of us who calls ourselves followers of Jesus Christ share the truth with non-believers, in love, meekness, and fear.


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