Christ on the Cross between the Two Thieves, Peter Paul Rubens (1577)
In all the polarizing responses coming out about the Duck Dynasty saga from Christians hunkering down in one ditch or another, it might be a good time to consider the fact that the ministry of Jesus, and therefore the ministry of the Church, begins with an indiscriminate command to all–“Repent!”–because Phil Robertson stands under the wrath of God in precisely the same way that the LGTB community stands under the wrath of God, in the way that Pope Francis and Tim Tennent and Billy Graham and Barack Obama all stand under the wrath of God, equidistant from the standard of righteousness by which alone they can be saved.
It is such a terrible prospect, indeed, that Jesus knew he could not make his way down the paths of a fragmented and compromised world pointing out groups and ethics and opinions and platforms–this ditch or that ditch–that might serve as an alternative for repentance. He pointed to himself and said, “Follow me,” down a path that will always, insofar as it is the one Jesus walked, take blows from both sides of the road from ditches ever in a holy war, both condemning the other for unrighteousness while unwittingly standing condemned before God in self-righteousness.
If the Church is going to find its center in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is going to have to come to grips with the fact that repentance is not simply a departure from our most sinful categories, it is also a departure from our most righteous categories, and the expanse that is envisaged in the command to “Love your enemies” is never even a fraction of the expanse that God has condescended in his stubborn insistence in loving you, which means that even the most unloving and unrighteous among us, whether for you that means “bigots” or “gays,” are still love-worthy. And if we are going to be committed to truly hating sin and loving God, our way of calling bigots or gays to repentance—rather than spinelessly affirming one or the other, so as to not lose friends, even if it means falsely assuring them that God accepts them just as they are—is going to begin by dealing with the greatest sin of all, pride, and proceed to the other side of the ditch, into homes and lives and conversations, where the only common ground is, “No one is righteous, no not one,” the solution to which is not inviting the ‘other’ to your side, or telling them to remain in their own, but emerging from both sides to stand together in the middle of the road where the judgment of the world and the salvation of God come to an acute intersection, while the ditches on either side are swallowed up in flames.
So make sure if you are going to condemn either party involved in this debacle that it does not come across as though the other party, or you yourself for that matter, is not also condemned. And then be thankful that “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” and proceed in the ministry of the Church in declaring the only thing that matters–“Christ crucified!”–which is only intelligible to those who know they are under the same sentence (Lk. 23:40).