Maybe we in the West were so steeped in Christianity for so long that its words ceased to be shocking and became merely familiar words. However it happened, somewhere along the way we forgot something very important: the Bible is offensive.
In his article titled “When You Defend Phil Robertson, Here’s What You’re Really Defending,” Josh Barro has this to say about the controversy over Phil Robertson’s GQ interview:
3. Robertson hates gay people. Robertson in [a speech at a church in] 2010: "Women with women, men with men, they committed indecent acts with one another, and they received in themselves the due penalty for their perversions. They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, God-haters. They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil."
This last one [#3] is key. My inbox is full of "love the sinner, hate the sin" defenses of Robertson's 2013 remarks. But Robertson doesn't love gay people. He thinks they're, well, "full of murder." His views on gays are hateful, inasmuch as they are full of hate.
Barro sees this quote from Robertson as being the key bit of evidence that he hates gay people. The only problem is that this quote didn’t originally come from Robertson, it’s from Romans 1:26-30, and the passage is far worse than Barro thinks, because the “they” referred to in the second half of the quote isn’t who he thinks it is.
If this chapter—and the words of murder, envy, and strife—were only about gay people, then most of us could just rest easy, express some righteous indignation against “the other guy,” and then walk away without feeling personally confronted or facing any nagging fear of our own condemnation.
But the passage is much worse than that.
Romans 1-3 calls homosexuals sinners. And me. And you. And everyone under the Law, and everyone not under the Law, and…well, everyone. As the very first verse following the section quoted by Robertson points out:
Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself, for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.
The first three chapters of Romans are devoted to making it clear that God disapproves of your lifestyle of sin. No one except Jesus is exempted from these chapters. No one. Barro should be much more offended than he actually is.
The Duck Dynasty controversy is a good indication that our culture has come out of Christianity far enough to start feeling the impact of its radical words once again, and that’s not a bad thing if it can cause people to reflect on three things: 1) I am a sinner, 2) God is a perfect Judge, and 3) I need a savior.
If the media think the Bible only applies these three truths to gay people, just wait until they figure out how “hateful” the Bible really is. My hope is that when our culture finally does feel the full weight of the offense, the conclusion of Romans 1-3 will once again be seen as equally radical:
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Knowledge of these radically beautiful truths has to begin with knowledge of something radically ugly, something very offensive indeed: our own sin. Let one and all discover their just condemnation so we can show them the cross. We are all “by nature children of wrath, even as the rest,” make no mistake about it. As Phil Robertson has made clear about his own life, “Among [condemned sinners] we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh”…
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-7).