Leave the Ignoble Behind

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Pretty up-to-the-minute for something written in 1859, right?

Each generation believes it has created it’s own extremes. In fact, it’s an age-old trap that has just been carried forward. The sin of our forefathers still destroys us.

The litmus tests of extremists are in full effect today and are just as unproductive as ever. Their bi-product is never progress, only pain.

  • You’re either an evangelical conservative or a mainline liberal, chose a side.
  • You’re pro-LGBT or your anti-LGBT, which is it?
  • You’re either pro-union or anti-union, take your pick.
  • You’re a tea party love or a hater.

As if the middle ground were the enemy. As if being reasonable and understanding all sides of issues were not possible. As if compromise and working things out were akin to selling your soul to the other side.

In truth, Jesus asks us to reject the ignoble extremes to live in the noble tense middle.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
John 13:34






26 responses to “Leave the Ignoble Behind”

  1. Jeremy Sarber Avatar

    It reminds me a lot of cheering for your favorite team in the Super Bowl. Even if we don’t have one, we love to pick one in the big game and cheer our heads off. Only you’re talking about matters that are much more serious. I agree with you. Very rarely, in my opinion, are the extremes in the right.

  2. James Avatar

    Actually you can still love people and not be “on their side”. God loves gay people but is not on the side of sin. So I think your second example is a little misplaced. God can’t say that He hates something but stand in the middle on it. I am not on the LGBT side but I love people who are gay.

    1. Katie Avatar

      Christians do stand in the middle all the time. God hates divorce, but as a church and society both we’re totally ok with that. We’re more okay with that than with homosexuality (divorce is legal and divorcee’s welcome in church without being told they’re condemned to hell or that they are committing adultery if they remarry) and Jesus mentions divorce 3x recorded in the bible (Mt 19:1-9, Mk 10:1-12, 1 Cor 7:27) so it must have been important. Know how many times Jesus mentions homosexuality? Zero.

      1. Katie Avatar

        I meant to say “Christians stand in the middle on things God hates all the time”. Like Adam said we aren’t big fans of middle ground usually unless it’s something we want to do , then we move it to the middle ground.

        1. adam mclane Avatar

          Thanks for the clarification and comment. Definitely adds to the discussion.

        2. James Avatar

          So Katie, are you saying that homosexuality is not a sin. My point was that Adam’s second example had to do with sin. It is not a sin to be an evangelical Christian or a mainline liberal, it is not a sin to be pro-union or anti-union, it is not a sin to be for or against the tea party. God hates homosexuality and divorce. There is a provision for divorce but God also hates adultry. I guess I’m not getting why you are responding to me personally. I love people who are divorced but I think divorce is a sin or was caused by a sin, and I love gay people although I know that the Bible says it is a sin.

          1. Nick Arnold Avatar

            “My point was that Adam’s second example had to do with sin.” I disagree. His example has to do with the rights of people who are gay, not whether or not it’s okay to be gay. At least, that’s how I read it.

            Is it possible to love gays and be a supporter of equal rights for gays while still saying it’s a sin?

          2. Katie Avatar

            I replied to you personally because your comment didn’t make sense to me.

            “God can’t say that He hates something but stand in the middle on it. I am not on the LGBT side but I love people who are gay.”

            Your first sentence says that God can’t be in the middle, but your second sentence says “I’m in the middle” because if you love them then you’re not on the Westboro side either. “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” is a middle. Rather it’s meant to be a middle by people who don’t understand what the word love means. Actually it’s much closer to the other side. You either love people the way they are or you don’t know what love means. For example, since we’re already talking about it, you can’t say that you “love people who are gay” and then vote against their civil right to marriage in “the land of the free”. To do so would not be loving. You don’t love someone by forcing your beliefs on them via laws or any other way. My point was simply that christians are very familiar with middle ground, but only when it is in our personal best interest, like a divorce, and that it’s not that much better than the right or left. I think it’s great that LGBT’s were included in Adams list of extremes, because it’s uncomfortable and it is something that most people are extreme about. And no, to answer your question i’m not sure that homosexuality is a sin. Paul mentions it specifically once (Romans 1:27), but there’s a lot of debate about what he meant and his specific audience and so forth and i’m not a biblical scholar who read the original text so I’m really not convinced either way. What I do know is that it’s not my business what other people’s sins are. It is ONLY my business to love them unconditionally as God loves me. It is not our job to hate sin in other people, only ourselves. We just set ourselves up to be self righteous, condescending pricks when we pretend that we can judge someone to be “the sinner” because of this or that and then still love them the way God calls us to Love. That’s a lie from the Deciever. The moment we label someone as “the sinner” we cease to be able to see them as beloved of God, made in His image and treat them accordingly. Nick hit it right on the freakin head. We’re called to Love.

          3. James Avatar

            Really Katie?!? The only way we show love to people is by approving of all of their garbage? I guess we have two different definitions of love. Mine is: God is Love. But the Bible talks specifically about the fact that God hates certain sins. So does that mean that God doesn’t love people who commit all kinds of sins?!? The Bible is very clear. I believe what it says. And yes I can love someone and believe that what they are doing isn’t right. I also don’t think I have to vote a certain way to prove my love for someone or a group of people. I’m not judging anyone. All I’m saying is that I don’t have to be approving of sin. I don’t think any of us should approve of sin. But my guess is this is about you being upset that I called homosexuality a sin. If Adam had used the example of murder or gossip we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion, but he wouldn’t have used that example, probably because Adam was going for a reaction. Well, here is your reaction Adam. Look, we are all sinners, but I don’t need God or anyone else to approve of the sin in my life, that is not Love, that is the opposite of Love.

          4. adam mclane Avatar

            @james – To be clear. I used the LGBT issue because it is a prime example of the lack of productivity in extremes and litmus tests.

            The same could be true of where you get your news. If you get your news from Jon Stewart or Fox News… both a constructions of how to look at issues. But rarely (and uninterestingly) those two divided sides have to lay aside their differences to move things forward together.

            Katie/James- I’m really digging this critical look at the issues. Thanks for letting me watch and play host.

    2. Ansel Taft Avatar

      I believe Adam’s point on item two is that the folks who are polarized against the LGBT community believe that if you’re not with them (e.g. Michele & Marcus Bachmann), then by default you’re pro-LGBT.

      Did anyone else see this week’s Daily Show segment on Mr. Michele Bachmann? Apparently Marcus Bachmann’s counseling service tries to pray the gay out of people. I heard he also prefers leeches for his headaches and every afternoon he has a moon cheese snack.

      Adam, I appreciate where you’re coming with this post, and I know I haven’t been a part of your community for long, but I am increasingly intolerant of those that are intolerant of others. To me, the idea that being gay is a choice is one of the most egregious lies ever perpetrated.

      1. Ansel Taft Avatar

        Interesting article on the above. Obviously written by a liberal voice, but the point is made: http://themoderatevoice.com/116439/michele-bachmanns-husband-problem/

        1. James Avatar

          No one has talked about the concept of whether being gay is a choice or not a choice.

          1. Roy Avatar

            My thought is, Does it matter? If people are born gay, does that make the sin any less? If you think yes, then what about other “conditions” that people seem to be born with and we still consider them sins. Pedophilia (one example among many, not equating pedophilia to homosexuality) is one example that comes to mind. If a person is attracted to children and they can’t control it, then how can we say what they are doing is wrong? I know people don’t like any kind of slippery slope argument but it is still relevant.

  3. Roy Avatar

    I agree with you Adam. We can’t seem to find a middle ground on anything. We are very extremist. I think this is true for all people. We need to be able to call people to repentance of all their sin but still showing the love of Christ. The problem is that others want to make us look different then we actually are in order to advance their own agenda. I see this in people who say they are tolerant of everyone, except when it comes to Christian and then they just don’t understand.

  4. Nick Arnold Avatar

    As Christians, I wonder if perhaps we aren’t to take sides except that of love, as James (the commenter, not the book) hints. We learn to “not regard anyone from a worldly point of view” (2 Cor 5:16), or any issue for that matter. The issue isn’t pro or anti anything, but how can we show God’s love in this situation.

    Good discussion.

  5. A Drive-by Toga Avatar
    A Drive-by Toga

    Well…mmm….yes and no.

    We must also be careful to not fall into the danger of always looking for the middle ground. Sometimes the “extremes” ARE correct. In the geocentric v heliocentric solar system debate, for example, one extreme is correct.

    (And one wonders where one could fall with a topic such as evolution. What constitutes “middle ground”—OEC or theistic evolution?)

    Indeed, part of the trick is to be the one defining the “extremes” to make oneself look reasonable for being “middle ground.” If I am a “50” on something, all I have to do is define the extremes as “0” and “100.” Voila—I am perfectly middle ground. If, however, the extremes are actually “0” and “1000”—we see I am not so middle ground, am I?

    What is the middle ground on same sex-marriage? What are the extremes?
    What is the middle ground on Christian doctrine? What are the extremes?

    I do think many problems have multi-faceted solutions, and demanding “one size fits all” can certainly be problematic, on the other hand, “4” is the answer to “what is 2+2?”

    The harder question is agreeing when we have middle ground, and when we do not.

  6. adam mclane Avatar

    I’m a little leery to comment because I don’t want to kill any conversation.

    I’ll just quote myself from the post to answer some of the questions:
    “The litmus tests of extremists are in full effect today and are just as unproductive as ever.”

    As Nick and others alluded to, the problem is not that people disagree. People have always disagreed, and disagreeing is not wrong. What is wrong right now is the litmus test & throwing away of people who don’t bow to a litmus test.

    For instance, I believe that women are just as qualified to serve in any vocational ministry position in a local church as men are. But, historically speaking, I’ve both been on staff at and willingly chosen to worship/partner with churches who didn’t share that same view. Is it a value to me? Yup. Is it really important to me? Yup. But is it something I would take sides over, leave a job, or even change churches over? Nope.

    Moving to the middle on divisive issues isn’t saying that having a position is worthless, it’s that I don’t think we should put our differences ahead of common civility.

    Throughout history, there have been productive (even friendly) relationships between individuals who disagreed powerfully on issues but chose to work together towards progress. But today? That’s viewed as selling out.

    @toga – I do agree with you that in some instances things that start off as extremes really are not extremes, they just look extreme in light of where society is at. Wilberforce was an extremist on something everyone fundamentally agrees on now… It’s wrong for a government to participate in the human slave trade. But in his time he was an extremist. Now with historical perspective we look at him and go… “Wait, people were against THAT? Morons!”

  7. A Drive-by Toga Avatar
    A Drive-by Toga

    Perhaps I will put a different perspective on this…being definitively non-Christian. Or, regrettably I may only cause strife.

    We (the non-Christians) don’t buy, “I love gays, but disapprove of what they do.” We aren’t taken in by “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” We see this as an internal Christian justification to pick a particular sin—homosexuality—that most Christians have no issue with and hound it, all while patting themselves on the back for how wonderful God must view them. Burning with the same righteous indignation they think their God feels toward homosexual sex.

    For every Christian reading this—how many openly homosexuals do you know? And by “know” I mean have been invited to their home for one meal. (I am oh-so-familiar with Christians crying, “Some of my best friends are gay!” and then when I ask if they have ever been to their house for dinner, I am met with silence. I am not talking about a co-worker, or family member, or “visitation victim.” I am talking about an actual friend.) How do your gay friends feel about your position, “Love the sinner; hate the sin”? How do they feel about your voting against same-sex marriage? Do they laugh it off with, “Oh that’s just him/her! That’s just their position. I am sure they still love me.”

    I’ve talked with many homosexuals who are pretty adamant they don’t “feel the love.”

    You know what is so neat about the Bible? Now that it is translated in so many languages anyone can read it. Even us non-believers. We can read Romans 1….just……like……..you…..

    And what else do we see your God hates, in the same list as homosexual sex? Malice. Strife. Deceit. Attitudes deep-seated in churches, even embraced. Where is the outcry to remove those “sins”? Whisperers…backbiters. Ever been to a gossip session in a Church? They call it “Prayer meeting.”

    I have always loved Paul’s summation—“undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful.” Yep, describes about 99% of the pew-sitters, eh? Yet in that whole list who is it we constantly hear needs the love, but make sure we hate on their sin—teh gays.

    We aren’t sold on “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” Too much on that list is clutched with precious adoration by the same people who then decry what they are never tempted by.

    1. adam mclane Avatar

      Excellent comment that adds to the discussion. And you make some points true of not just the LGBT community, but also true of any party the church fails to meet in the middle.

      I do want to point out a litmus test you’ve tossed in the line about having a friend, not a relative, who is openly gay that you are friends with to the point. That was a qualifier, like, “you don’t belong in this discussion until you do THAT.”

      The flip side is the church staff member who really doesn’t have any non-church friends. (Which is a whole different problem.) But saying that gives a road block they don’t know how to get started with. Which then creates an easy out… “Well, I don’t know any gay people so the best thing I can do is not have this discussion.”

      All that to say, don’t give my straight preacher friends a way out. That’s what I mean about the lack of productivity of litmus tests. Instead, let’s start with the real life scenario many face… “So, your next door neighbors are a gay couple, how are you going to love them?”

      Because you are completely right that differences melt away over a salad and a glass of wine. But getting to that point is the hard part.

      1. James Avatar

        I understand the points made about most Christians, and most Christians aren’t doing the right thing. With that being said, my best friend growing up I met when he started coming to my church when I was 12, in 6th grade. He has struggled with his identity his whole life essentially and now leads an openly gay lifestyle with a man that is 20 years his senior. I was just invited to their house a few weeks ago for dinner. I am a church planter and the first line of our mission statement is “Come as you are”. I invited my friend and his partner to “come as they are” and they came. My friend is also a massage therapist, and you know who works on me when I need to relieve tension, my friend. So maybe you just got on the wrong train. My friend knows I love him, he also knows where I stand Biblically.

        I am also a pastor who knows many non-Christians. I am bi-vocational as a church planting pastor and everyone knows where I stand Biblically but still come to me for prayer, with questions, and many have come to our little church plant where the rest of our mission statement says, “hear what God says, do what God says, and tell others how awesome He is!”

        I am aware there are other sins and I get questions about those virtually everyday. If someone asks me about something they’ve done I tell them what the Bibles says about it and love them because I too am a sinner. We are sinners saved by grace, not because we are somehow good. Only God is good.

        I asked one girl at work after many conversations if it was weird talking to me about “stuff” and she said, “No, I just look at you as one of my friends.”

        I don’t say these things to let you know I’m an amazing Christian. I say these things to let you know that I believe the Bible’s message is to stand on the side of truth but to love those people around you regardless. Not enable their sin, but love them with God’s love even when we have to say the hard things and to continue to love them with God’s love.

    2. A Drive-by Toga Avatar
      A Drive-by Toga


      To be straight with you, (hey—a pun!) I’ve had this conversation both on-line and in life with numerous Christians. A vast majority who assure me their gay friends* understand and appreciate their position of how homosexual sex is a sin, and they should not be allowed to marry.

      Likewise, I have asked this question of numerous homosexuals. Again, both on-line and in real-life. To a person, the homosexuals indicate that Christians who claim this are full of….well….not being 100% honest, shall we say?

      There is a huge dichotomy going on here.

      Obviously I don’t know you from Adam (another joke!)—perhaps you are the first exception. But hopefully you can appreciate my skepticism.

      You know what would be an outstanding article? A masterpiece? I would dearly love your homosexual friend to write a blog entry, or note or something indicating how he knows you “love him” despite your hate for what he does. How you love him, despite not being “on his side” and how you “disapprove of his garbage.”

      How he feels supported by you, despite your being against same-sex marriage.

      THAT would be interesting reading, indeed!

      Look, I’m just sharing from the perspective of an outsider. The unchurched who is familiar enough with the churched to write here, and explain why we stay unchurched. You are free to take my advice; just as free to ignore it.

      *Adam McLane, I didn’t mean the meal thing to be a qualifier to the conversation. Not at all. More a litmus test as to whether one has a gay friend. I actually got this from a Black man (I can’t recall where) who was tired of people making bigoted statements, always followed with, “and I have Black friends.” He pointed out, “You want to know if you have a black friend? Have you had dinner at a black person’s house? If you haven’t—you don’t have black friends.” I always thought that a good test.

      1. James Avatar

        Actually I was thinking about that already. I text my friend after my last comment. Was actually going to ask Adam if he wanted me and my friend to speak at Youth Specialties this year! 😉 Just kidding with ya Adam.

        But I don’t think this should be about feelings. Just because someone doesn’t feel loved doesn’t mean they aren’t loved. Many people hate God because they think He hates homosexuality. God Loves everyone. But there are many people running from Him.

        Let’s say my friend comes back and has negative feelings towards me, that doesn’t change that I love him genuinely. Even if he said he felt alienated and unloved by me doesn’t mean that I don’t love him.

        You also cannot say that just because I trust the Bible enough to say that it says what it says, does not mean that I don’t love my friend. I would honestly do anything for my friend, aside from standing on the side of sin. I would die for him.

  8. James Avatar

    By the way, if a gay couple I didn’t know invited me to dinner next door I would go. I would share bread and wine. I would just share life. If they asked me what I thought about the Bible’s view of homosexuality was, I would tell them with love. I believe it can be done because I have done it, but only through God’s grace and love. Is it hard, yes. Does God call us to hard things, yes. Does God call us to cop out, no, I don’t believe so. And when I say cop out, I mean standing in the middle on the issue of homosexuality and the Bible.

  9. James Avatar

    By the way, I never said I was against same sex marriage. At least on the governments side. I said homosexuality is a sin. I guess you could say that I’m not against civil unions. Bottom line is you can’t legislate heart change.

  10. James Avatar

    “You’re pro-LGBT or your anti-LGBT, which is it?” This was Adam’s original comment that I disagreed with. It said nothing of marriage. I guess you could say I am pro-people but anti-sin. And from what I read in the Bible living in an active lifestyle of homosexuality is living in sin. But living heterosexually with your boyfriend or girlfriend is also living in sin. And so are a lot of other things. I try to love all people, which is hard, because we are all sinners. Me approving of a man and woman living together out of marriage isn’t going to happen either. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them. I’m just not going to tell them that it’s fine, that would not be love.

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