Until yesterday, I hadn’t thought about what I had in common with people in the gay community very much. And I really had never thought of what I had in common with a controversial pastor from North Carolina.
It started with a tweet from someone I really respect. Andy Stanley, the founding pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, tweeted: “I don’t think Charles Worley will inherit the kingdom of God.”
I didn’t know who Charles Worley was, but for Andy Stanley to say something like that, I felt obliged to look him up. Entering his name into Bing (I do not Google, but that’s another blogpost), I discovered that Charles Worley is a pastor from North Carolina.
In the last week, he declared from his pulpit that all homosexuals should be put inside a big fence where they eventually would die off. That’s not exactly how he put it, and he certainly didn’t use anything but the most derogatory words, but that was the gist of it. After reading it, I watched the clip of Worley’s message on YouTube, just to make sure I was hearing him correctly.
I was. It was pretty bad stuff, and it’s no wonder it’s all over the internet. He’s being protested, and there’s a lot of bad press heading his way and toward his church. After I read a bit more about him, I wanted to see exactly what Andy meant. Why did he say that about the kingdom of God?
I had to go read the passage from 1 Corinthians where Paul makes clear exactly who will not inherit the kingdom of God. It’s a pretty strong list:
Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9-11, NLT)
That’s a lot of people, who, continuing in their sin, who will not inherit all that God has set aside for them in His kingdom. Sure, there are the usual sexual sins that are usually high on lists like this: adulterers, homosexuals, male prostitutes. Those are always the ones that folks like Charles Worley like to call attention to.
But there are also several sins in this list that people live out every day, people who call themselves Christians. Thieves, greedy people, drunkards, absuive people, cheaters. Sorry, these are also people who Paul makes clear will not see God’s kingdom.
And this is where Andy is right. Charles Worley is abusive. The NIV uses the word “reviler” instead of abusive. A reviler is one who uses language and words to cause harm, to be cruel, to say nasty things about others.
The Bible is clear about homosexuality. It’s clear on adultery and idol worship. But it is also clear about people who use their words to spread hurt and harm. People who cheat or have greedy hearts.
I’ll be honest, it’s a lot easier for me to think about God disliking people who have sexual sin than it is for me to think about how He feels about greedy people (I confess that sometimes I know I’m greedy), or how He feels about abusive people (I know that I don’t always speak well of others and that the words I say can hurt).
Charles Worley can stand behind a pulpit and claim to speak for God. He can saw awfully abusive things about men and women who were still created in God’s image, and whom Jesus still came to earth to die for and save. But he is, as Andy pointed out, in danger of missing out on God’s kingdom because he is as guilty of sin as the men and women he wants to fence in.
This is where I realize how much I have in common with Charles Worley and the gay community he is speaking out against. We are all in danger of missing out on God’s kindgom if we don’t change our hearts. Paul points out that some of the very people he’s writing to were just like that at one time. They were messed up, sinful people. But they were “cleansed…made holy…made right by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
And that’s the only hope that any of us have of experiencing and inheriting the kingdom of God.