I am a christian and I am proud of the fact. My faith makes it clear that I should be willing to share my faith whenever and wherever I can, but sometimes that can be made hard. Not because of beligerant athiests (most of the most hardcore athiests I know are lovely) but because there are some supposedly Christian organisations that portray the Christian faith in such a bad light that it makes me feel ashamed to be branded as a Christian.
Recently an article was written in the Daily Mail by Jan Moir. It had undertones and overtones of shocked moralisation and suggested that Stephen Gately had died an unnatural death simply because of his sexuality and sexual proclivities. But because Jan Moir doesn't claim to speak for Christians, and although her article was so offensive that it was rapidly retweeted around the internet and caused the Press Complaints Commision's webserver to crash under high load due to it's judgmental content, it didn't cause me any shame.
However, I found my way to a press release by the Christian Voice which made me a combination of angry and ashamed.
Angry because I could suddenly see the level of hatred and judgement that tars all Christians with it's unacceptable bile.
Ashamed because the Christian Voice's tagline claimed to be speaking for Christians across the UK.
The Christian Voice claims "Homosexuals may try to justify Gately's and Cowles' behaviour by saying that some heterosexual couples get up to similar things with strangers. But there are orders of magnitude of difference."
Let me be clear here, because I believe in biblical truth, I believe homosexuality to be a sin. I also believe that wearing garments of two cloths to be a sin and thought of committing adultery to be sins. Paul made it very clear that all sin is equal, and that the wages of sin are death. I don't feel that there is a get out clause here for good people.
There is no concept of second class sin, and no concept of second class sinners in Jesus's eyes. Even if you are a Christian and believe that your sins are forgiven, you are still a sinner in the eyes of God. His self-substitution on the cross defeated sin when standing before God in his role as Judge. But it does not make us sinless, it covers those sins up.
Jesus and Paul were very clear that other peoples sin was not our problem or within our christian remit, and that the only sin we should concern ourselves with is our own.
"Judge not, lest ye be judged" is how it is often translated, "Remove the plank from your own eye before pointing out the speck of wood in another's eye"
We are not called as Christians to judge those around us who are sinners. If we are to follow Jesus's example we should be with them, feeding the hungry and clothing the poor. Jesus did not mean that just literally, he meant that we should be providing for the needs of all sinners, irrespective of their sins and their views of the sinfulness of their lives, instead giving to them openly, without strings attached.
Jesus for example did not suggest that we should only give food to the poor who won't sell that food for some material gain, and he did not suggest that clothing only the poor who wanted clothes and would be willing to listen to a sermon in exchange for the clothes.
Casting aspersions on a recently departed idol to millions, explaining why his life was sinful and holding it up for the public to see is exactly the sort of behaviour that the Pharisee's of Jesus' time tried to do. They caught a woman in adultery (and some commentaries suggest that they in fact arranged for her to be caught by encouraging the man to commit the act) and brought her before Jesus.
They asked him to stone the woman, as she had clearly broken the ancient laws, and should be judged and found guilty. This was an open and shut case, a person found in debased debauchery. But Jesus gave that woman a gift, the bible tells us he did not answer, but bent down and wrote in the dirt. He did not choose to look at her, increasing her shame, he did not call out her sins for everybody to see, instead he gave her the only thing he could, some dignity.
When the Pharisee's asked him again, he said that only one of the Pharisee's who was without sin could stone her, so let him do so. The Pharisee's knew they were caught, none of them were sinless, they all had desires and sins that they would not proclaim loudly in the square, so they slunk away. Jesus then released the woman from her sins, forgave her for her sinfulness against God, and told her to go and sin no more.
If only the people at the Christian Voice had treated Stephen Gately with such respect and given him his dignity. He may have led a sinful life, but I am confident in saying that nobody at the Christian Voice has led a sinless life, and therefore is not qualified to cast the first stone, they are not qualified to judge Mr Gately, nor should they try.
I leave you with the words of Jesus - If you are angry with someone, you have sinned as surely as if you had murdered him.