"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Pride Stains Us All and Is Erased By a Painful Fall

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:1-4)

If anyone were to ask me how a true Christian can be identified in today's world, it would be the last sentence of the text above.
"In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." 
At the church I pastor we have state prisoners who attend worship services weekly. The state Department of Corrections recently changed the rules for their attendance. Now, the offenders must wear their orange DOC pants and shirts. Unlike other offenders (that means the rest of us), a worshiper can spot incarcerated offenders immediately. They are forced to wear orange. It's a humbling experience to these Department of Correction inmates because they are forced by the state to do something they'd rather not do (wear orange jumpsuits when attending church). But God is changing their hearts. They come. They're different. They've been humbled.

These DOC men are paying for their crimes in prison. Justice is being served. As Christians who are the church called Emmanuel Enid, our job is to put the interests of these prisoners above our own.

These prisoners coming to worship are not sexual offenders. Enid's Department of Corrections facility doesn't house sexual offenders. But Emmanuel has had a few convicted sexual offenders that have gotten out of prison at other facilities and attend corporate worship services or ministries (i.e. Celebrate Recovery) on our campus. The rules for these state convicted "sexual offenders" are a little different. By law the sexual offender must notify Emmanuel in advance of their attendance, and by our church policy we must have a photo of the sexual offender to pass around to all of our greeters, leaders, and workers so that they'll know this person by sight. In addition, state registered sexual offenders are escorted by someone on our staff the moment they step on our campus until they moment they leave our campus. That policy does not negate my desire to get to know these offenders. Any legally tagged sexual offender willing to attend worship under these strict guidelines has been humbled by his crime and is welcome at Emmanuel. We will do our best, however, to protect people who attend Emmanuel from becoming victims of any predatory behavior.

There is another man who dresses like a woman and attends Emmanuel every Sunday and Wednesday night. He's made a choice to dress like a female. I've taken him to lunch and gotten to know his story. He's not homosexual, but he enjoys wearing a dress, pearls, high heels, getting his nails done, and all the lipstick and rouge associated with females in our culture.

The conversations I've had with this cross-dresser have been personal and at times painful. I've had to explain to him that he needs to use the Family Restroom at Emmanuel, not the men's restroom. We had another church attender, a woman with small boys, who expressed fear seeing the cross dresser go into the restroom with her young sons. This man knows that state and local laws forbid him from using the women's restroom. He'd be arrested. The law requires him to use restrooms designed for men because male is his birth gender. Dressing like a woman is a choice he's making, a choice that brings discomfort to some, including the fellow attendee with small boys who were using the same restroom as he. After our lunch meeting and discussion, he said he would use the Family Restroom in deference to others. He still attends Emmanuel.

Ironically, this cross dresser began attending two years ago at the invitation of a friend to see "if Christians mean what they say when they announce "We Love Everyone." He's been coming for two years and I believe he'd tell you that he considers me a friend and that he feels loved by me and others at Emmanuel.

To love someone means that we are willing to get to know that person, accept them regardless of their decisions or differences, and never hesitate to engage in tough, loving conversations for a good purpose. Unlike the Department of Correction inmates who attend Emmanuel, this man dresses the way he does by choice. Were he to desire membership at Emmanuel through publicly professing his faith in Jesus Christ, we would ask him if he's willing to give up dressing like a woman when he attends corporate worship for the sake of others.

Humility by deferring to others is the mark of genuine Christianity.

We don't expect non-Christians to defer to others. Pride puts self first. Humility puts others first. Al of us by nature are proud. Supernatural grace from God breaks the proud and makes them humble. Those who desire membership at Emmanuel must show evidence of a willingness to put others first because humility is the key trait of true Christianity.

Emmanuel has some well-dressed adulterers, addicts, and abusers who also attend our corporate worship services. We welcome them all. Many of them cover their selfish actions and have never been humbled. But every now and then one of them lands on the front page of the local newspaper. The scandalized in Enid are welcome at Emmanuel. We let them know that we accept them where they are, but we also know that God's grace will never leave them where they are. It's God's business to take them to that place where they haven't yet arrived.

God gives His grace to humble the proud. And he uses His people to convey that grace which humbles.

We have homosexual couples and lesbian couples who attend Emmanuel just like we have well-dressed adulterers and sexually immoral heterosexuals who attend Emmanuel. We can't change anybody.

The Problem of Pride

There are number of growing events in American culture that celebrate immoral behaviors with the word PRIDE. Edmond, Oklahoma is hosting its second Edmond Pride event this Saturday, October 12, 2009, celebrating behaviors that the Bible calls sexually immoral.

It's difficult for my homosexual and lesbian friends to see how I can love them like Jesus loves me and still call their sexual behaviors immoral.

I understand why it's hard for them to understand.

They vocally take pride in their sexual orientation, believing it to be the way "God made me." I disagree with them on the origin of their homosexuality, but my disagreement doesn't mean I can't be their friend. It also doesn't mean they can't attend worship at Emmanuel.

It does mean, however, that they can't be a member of Emmanuel Enid.

Why?

The same reason that a known adulterer who takes pride in multiple sexual partners can't be a member. The same reason that a cross dresser who takes pride in cross dressing and bringing discomfort to others can't be a member. The same reason that a prisoner who takes pride in his crimes of violating the boundaries of others can't be a member. The same reason that a child abuser who takes pride in his child abuse can't be a member. The same reason that a person who takes pride in their drunkenness and drug addiction can't be a member. The same reason that a spousal abuser who takes pride in the abuse can't be a member.

Emmanuel Enid loves people where they are. We can't take out someone's pride. Only God can.

To be a member of Emmanuel, one must show evidence of God's grace which is seen in the humility of a heart that puts the interests of others before his own. 

The Scriptures state..
"Flee sexual immorality." (I Corinthians 6:18)
"Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who submit to or perform homosexual acts will inherit the Kingdom of God." (I Corinthians 6:9)
It's not within our capabilities to make a person not proud of behaviors that the Bible calls wicked, selfish, or ungodly.

That's God's business.

We just love people where they are and pray for the grace that humbles. People may get angry that Christians who believe the Bible refuse to celebrate with pride those behaviors the Bible calls immoral.

Sure, even Christians struggle with sins of sexual immorality and sins of the heart like pride. But once grace breaks through, the pride begins to disappear and a willingness begins to arise to lay aside one's preferences for the sake of God and of others.

The Bible is clear that...
"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18)

22 comments:

RB Kuter said...

Yeah, Wade, homosexuals, cross-dressers, prisoners, BUT how many DEMOCRATS are welcome in your church???!!!!

Just kidding you, man. It is good that you have such diversity in the type of visitors you have and an amazing display of God's grace when your congregation receives them as being nothing more or less than all of us, sinners. Sometimes when a superior attitude begins to rise in me God jerks my chain and says, "YOU could have easily been in that situation." That's especially true with the prisoners. If I had got caught or things had gone south in many situations I would have been wearing the orange suits.

By the way, maybe some members could wear orange shirts and pants to church and sit with those visitors forced to wear them!

You are right, "humility" is the biggest pill for some of us to swallow. I choke on it too often.

Garen Martens said...

RB - My Sunday School teacher is a liberal and many classmates are OSU fans but I still love them all.

Wade Burleson said...

RB Kuter,

Yep! That's happening Sunday! :)

Garen Martens,

Hah! I love it!

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

Your Post reminded me of my brother, Hez, many years ago of playing a trick on his wife. She worked in a department store. He would dress like a woman and enter her store and play like he was looking for something to buy. He made sure she could see him. It aggravated her to death.

After several times, he stopped because:

The high heels hurt his feet. He would park his car and walked barefooted going to the store before he put them on.

A guy stopped him and said, “Honey, I’ll buy you some new shoes if you come with me.”

Christiane said...

'A broken world needs a place to bring its spiritual injuries. We need an emergency room more than a courtroom. We want healing more than judgment.'

I like to see the Church as a hospital for sinners. But the problem is that in order for this to happen, the Church must exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit as Church:
" "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (from Galatians)

The thing about God's mercy is that sometimes it transforms a person more slowly than others may like, so if a Church realizes that patience is a 'given' when nurturing a wounded soul, then the prognosis of a return to the Lord grows in accordance with the patience of those who realize that they, too, are sinners, on whom God has looked.
That a person has come to a Church tells God something, even if they are a 'mess' and struggle and fall and struggle and fall, but they are THERE for help, not condemnation OR the acceptance of their sins; but they are there to sit 'with' those who are kind, and patient, and gentle . . . . . ; they are where there is the kind of love that embraces the leper without fear and cares for him with kindness and humility.

Christiane said...

REX RAY,
I needed that story today! That was great! (still smiling) God Bless!

Christiane said...

Please pray for the Kurds in Syria who are being slaughtered by the Turks as we speak. They were our allies for years.

May God have mercy.

Wade Burleson said...

Christiane,

The Kurdish situation is very, very sad. I know many Christians who are Kurds and they are about to be slaughtered. Erdogan is an evil thug.

Wade Burleson said...

Rex,

Funny! ;)

Chris said...

The greatest part about Emmanuel is the consistent love despite our shortcomings.

I watched the service online this past Sunday and saw the part where you shared about wearing oranges to preach next Sunday. I immediately thought that was an excellent idea. After further thought, I wasn't sure ECCC would take it so well, but hopefully they understand your heart and not try to make it an issue.

Outside of that, the post was very relational and I obviously saw myself in a few of the paragraphs. I considered sending an e-mail to you directly for these questions, but I thought it may help some others if I asked on the public post, because I have nothing to hide.

In my particular situation, with crossing personal boundaries, and being on the front page of the paper as a result - that in and of itself is extremely humbling. It has forced me to look at several things in my life and even moved me to seek treatment for my addiction. While no one wants that sort of publicity, it did serve a purpose and God has used it to change me and will continue to use it to help me in the future.

Now, at the crossroads, of trying to remain in humility and accepting responsibility, while at the same time, within legal bounds, being wise and protective of freedom and life purpose, at what point does deference of my own interest for the sake of another's become foolishness?

I can think of many examples, but just in life in general, If a person has apologized and made amends to the best of their ability, and sought Biblical restoration, yet the other party refuses to accept anything less than their "standard of punishment" - does the offender just continue to defer to the offended one's wishes until the offender is "satisfied"? At one point does the offender's own bitterness or pride become too much?

In part, I am speaking specifically to my current circumstances, but in general just some situations that arise in life where one is offended (addictions, anger, abuse, gossip, slander, etc.) I would imagine many other people question this in their own lives.

I hope it makes sense, and hopefully I can get a better understanding of applying the post to my own life.

Christiane said...

Hello Wade,
yes, the attacks are underway and began very soon after President Trump told Erdogan that he was pulling our troops out of that area. That phone call took place on Putin's birthday.
There are two Trump Towers in Istanbul Turkey, so Trump is personally very pressured to keep Erdogan happy. Erdogan pushed for Trump to remove our soldiers some time ago, but those closest to the President discouraged it, notably Senator Lindsay Graham. This time, President Trump blind-sided everyone and not even the Pentagon or his supporters in Congress knew ahead of time what he was up to. He also didn't notify our important allies.

I guess the news bubbles vary in how they present this story. (sigh)

But yes, it is a very sad ending for these brave people. They didn't deserve to be slaughtered on the whim of one man, no, least of all an American president. The Kurds would have stood by our soldiers and not abandoned them, you bet.
Erdogan wouldn't dare have attacked the area unless Trump cooperated and removed our troops. Wade, I am very troubled by what is happening. We've never treated our allies like this before.



nce said...

Did you switch offended with offender accidentally in the 6th paragraph? If so, that may be revealing.

Chris said...

nce - good catch - it actually appears I did twice... should say:

I can think of many examples, but just in life in general, If a person has apologized and made amends to the best of their ability, and sought Biblical restoration, yet the other party refuses to accept anything less than their "standard of punishment" - does the offender just continue to defer to the offended one's wishes until the offended is "satisfied"? At one point does the offended's own bitterness or pride become too much?

Thank you

nce said...

I really admire your commitment to the love of Christ. An adult should be able to worship with all kinds of people. Could parents of young children and those who have been victims of crime end up being "displaced" by these folks though? Can you value one group without devaluing the other?

Rex Ray said...

10-10-19
Wade,

Someone asked why I read “Dear Abby”, I replied, “I like to see problems I don’t have.” But the other day, a wife complained that her husband invited people to stay with them without consulting her. Abby took her side.

That convicted me in years past that I’d gone overboard on, “…I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.” (Matthew 25:35 NLT)

After work at LTV, I’d drive about 20 miles to work on a house I was building to sell. I’d pick up hitch-hikers. Many didn’t have a place to stay. I’d invite them to spend the night with us.

One guy’s feet smelled so bad; he left his shoes in the hall. Next morning, I told him they were on the front porch.

Often, my wife Belle, would move furniture to prevent our bedroom door from being opened as there was no lock on the door.

I went overboard with one couple, Terry and Faye. I drove a pickup. Even though Terry was a small guy, there was not enough room for the three of us since Faye was so large. She sat in the back of the truck. He’d given up finding a job and was going back where they came from. I told him I’d hire him to help work on my project. I sold him one of our cars. Belle asked why I sold it so cheap. “I don’t want to lose any more money than that.”

After three weeks, Belle said it was them or her leaving. I paid one week at a motel. He got a job driving a truck, had two girls and named us as their god-parents. Every so often, he’d say, “Faye wanted me to ask a favor.” (Always involved money.)

Terry was a ‘motor-mouth’; knew everything about everything and talked so much he’d drive you crazy. Faye had been abused as a small child, and told me she hated men. I told Terry he was just a ‘meal ticket’ for her.

After he suffered severe brain damage, she took the girls and left. He couldn’t remember what happened. His foreman said he fell off the loading platform, but the doctor said it looked like the damage was from by a pipe.

He lived with his parents. As the years went by, he’d call and say someday he’d pay even though I’d tell told him to forget it. When he stopped calling, I believed he was no longer on this earth.

Wade Burleson said...

NCE,

"Can you value one group without devaluing the other?"

I think you can. Admittedly, that's difficult because the perception of a victim of a crime will be different (naturally) than those who have never been victimized.

We value both groups.

Wade Burleson said...

Chris,

Great question.

Right now I can think of a circumstance where a CHRISTIAN woman, not a criminal, believes a CHRISTIAN man sinned against her by telling lies "to her and about her," but rather than meet with the man (who is sincerely desiring to know what it is she believes is a lie and seek forgiveness for it - not defend), the Christian woman refuses to meet, refuses to reconcile, refuses to forgive.

So - yes - it happens - especially in the scenario you describe.

There comes a time when you just simply have to give it to the Lord and shake the dust off your feet and move on. The inability to forgive crushes the soul and spirit.

Wade Burleson said...

Chris,

"I watched the service online this past Sunday and saw the part where you shared about wearing oranges to preach next Sunday. I immediately thought that was an excellent idea. After further thought, I wasn't sure ECCC would take it so well, but hopefully they understand your heart and not try to make it an issue."

I asked each of the men in ECCC in orange BEFORE I announced it publicly if they'd be offended. They lit up. They said not only would they not be offended, it would help them invite other "new" prisoners to church when they explained what I did. In addition, the manager at ECCC (you know her) thought it was fantastic.

Your concern was my concern too.

Wade Burleson said...

Rex,

Sometimes people mooch.

When I get around a moocher, I speak the truth in love and never give - just encourage, love, and accept the moocher for being a moocher, but don't enable the behavior.

I've met many.

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

You’re so right. They joined our church, and it soon became, “I just love my church!” But it didn’t take long for the church to look the other way when Faye told her troubles and held her hand out.

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

You quoted Scripture saying, “… in humility value others above yourselves.” I thought back to an event that happened last week at the Bonham VA Retirement Home. I was there asking if my 93-year-old cousin could retire there. Two weeks before his ship was scheduled to invade Japan, the ‘Bomb’ ended the war.

Somehow, these two big guys (in their 70’s) had a disagreement. One shoved the other so hard, he was almost horizontal when I caught him by his shoulders. He slammed into a counter with my hand as a cushion. Being on blood-thinner, made my hand bleed a lot. They disappeared fast. I guess they thought they might get in trouble.

I gave the lady that was giving me the information about 30 copies of my Dad’s story of “When is My Daddy Coming Home” to give to veterans. At the end, it has a picture of the slide. The lady said, “My 8-year-old granddaughter went down that but her name was never put on the list.”

I took the information and tomorrow, I’ll give her a list with her name on it. Her granddaughter will be 19 now, and the number of people is 677 with the total trips of 1,573.

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