Friday, March 20, 2009


A contemplative moment. I don't like what I've experienced the past few hours. Let me be specific.

One thing is... I'm always surprised when a belief about the equality of women in the Kingdom [non-hierarchical] leads someone to say that the same thinking that led to that will lead to homosexual behavior being approved as if both [equality of persons and acceptance of immoral behavior] are linked and both are immoral. My guess is the female gender would have a sense of being disrespected tremendously by that. [And rightfully so...I'm even sure some whose behavior is of that nature would object to the disrespect as well.]

The fact that someone would try to justify doing it by saying they are speaking only of a failure to use sound principles of biblical interpretation which bring about the one [equality of gender] and would bring about the other [sexual orientation acceptance] doesn't change the disrespect. It exacerbates it. They are attempting to say that to believe in Kingdom gender equality is a result of the acceptance of a cultural standard rather than a biblical one. Not withstanding people CAN see the scriptures differently both using good principles of interpretation since we see through a glass darkly at present, the fact is that cultures, including the American one, DO NOT have a gender equality belief at all. The pay scale adequately shows that as a multitude of other gender prejudiced things do. The same could be said for racial equality.

In fact, were christians to be truly biblical in relationships especially in marriage and family life, it would upset the apple cart of our culture as well as all other nations, beyond measure. It would be tantamount to the turmoil Jesus caused when He brought about a radical view of equality regardless of race, gender, or social background to the life of His own religious and secular culture. How transforming and disturbing is that to a hierarchical, racial, male -dominated culture!! But, alas, it will take His return for culture to truly be transformed that way. That is unless one becomes truly a biblical christian. Then it would be seen as a reality albeit in a microcosm in a marriage and family where there is mutual respect, value, submission and love all under Jesus as Lord. That sounds like the picture of a truly biblical local church as well.

A second thing...resulting in my uneasiness and repentance is... I've found that, if we're not careful, in our zeal [my zeal] to disprove the charge that our culture has dictated our gender-equality position and will bring about the approval of homosexual behavior unless changed, we can come to a person-bashing position under the disguise of theological correctness. There is no doubt in my mind that the sexual behavior under discussion is of the same moral category as that of adultery and fornication and is not the best for human relationships.

That said, we must never forget that Jesus was identified as one who "ate with publicans [tax-collectors who were the dregs of society] and sinners." [Luke 15:1-2] May that same charge ever be laid at our feet as His followers and people of His Kingdom. Whatever one's definition of "dregs" of society [some would say religious people are] we are to recognize and embrace their value as a human being and be ready to express grace, mercy, and love to whomever fits your particular definition of that word "dregs."

I personally hold to two conflicting opinions here. I do believe certain actions [the three named earlier] are immoral and destructive actions. I also believe those guilty of such actions are to be people I embrace and love as I've been loved of the Lord. That is my greatest desire. I would hope NO ONE experiences rejection from me whatever their particular behavior might be. With regards to sexual child-abuse I'm still on the journey of non-rejection of the one who is serving a fifteen year sentence in prison for my grand-daughter being attacked. However, I AM on the journey.

But I also hold to a different definition of "dregs." I don't mean to be cruel here, but I'm rapidly approaching a belief that the "real" dregs of society in the day of Jesus were the religious people who thought more of their belief system than they did of the mind boggling reality of God's revelation of Himself in the Son seen in His receiving of the so-called outcasts. I'm not sure the same isn't happening today. That "They were first called christians" event was in Antioch as the people saw believers embracing people of every stripe some of whom were then broken by that love and the gospel that followed and came to know the love of God in Christ. "See how they love" was the testimony of the day for believers. That love is still the biblical standard for us I believe.

Lest someone hear this as love with no doctrinal foundation or lest someone think this love will lower the scriptural standard for immoral behavior, let me say, I do not mean that at all. I DO mean that the same love, experienced in Christ and founded upon the truth of scripture WILL be shed abroad by the Holy Spirit to people who may be a bit unlovely. Even those in their theological cages they've built for themselves. In other words, it isn't any less important to love the elder brother of Luke 15 than it is to love the younger one. [The prodigal] My problem used to be not loving the younger guy of Luke 15. I learned better. Then I struggled loving the elder guy. But when God's love is REALLY shed abroad thru me it will go to both the elder and younger bros. [The legalists and the immoral ones] just as the father did.

Finally, what I've said all says more about me than anyone else. I'm a work in progress and, as one of my favorite commenters Aussie John says, it comes with some "ego bruising" going on if real growth happens. It's happening and my ego is no longer in tact. Not that it has grounds to be intact and, after all, this is a "praise the lord" thing as you can see. comment approval button has been punched once again. [It was only recently opened anyway] I find I need time to think over negative comments that might be posted and when they need, I can answer them privately through e-mail as I've done many times over the past two years of blogging at least those which I deem too critical in spirit to benefit anyone. I realize that someone may view this my being unable to take criticism. Trust me after pastoring for forty years a thin skin is NOT my problem. My problem is really the opposite. I answer in like kind too easily. That is the flesh I struggle with and, perhaps, will until Jesus comes. So as an alcoholic would be wise to refrain from the area of temptation, so should one who tends toward an addiction to setting people straight who, unjustly, in the opinion of the one offended, criticizes people he knows and respects.

This is obviously a rather long apology for a job not done well but an apology it is. Since done in public the apology is in public.

Paul B.


Bob Cleveland said...


I am personally convinced that Jesus' reaction to all my foibles and missteps and mistreatments of Him and His creation is NOT anger.

I had a great Dad and I always wanted to please him. I didn't know what would happen if I ever crossed him, but I didn't want to find out. And .. I suppose the biggest fear was not that I'd anger him, but that I'd break his heart.

Something inside me says that, when we feel that way toward Jesus, we might have a shot at leading a life He would find pleasing. May it be, in my life.


Bobby Brown said...

"But I also hold to a different definition of "dregs." I don't mean to be cruel here, but I'm rapidly approaching a belief that the "real" dregs of society in the day of Jesus were the religious people who thought more of their belief system than they did of the mind boggling reality of God's revelation of Himself in the Son seen in His receiving of the so-called outcasts. I'm not sure the same isn't happening today. That "They were first called christians event was in Antioch as the people saw believers embracing people of every stripe some of whom were then broken by that love and the gospel that followed and came to know the love of God in Christ. "See how they love" was the testimony of the day for believers. That love is still the biblical standard for us I believe."

Excellent comment Paul. Right after Paul makes his comments about homo-sexuals in Romans 1 he says in Romans 2:1,3, " Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. (Which one of us has not practiced adultry at least in thought if not in deed?)
And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?"

Paul Burleson said...

Bob, Bobby,

You know guys, I've come to the conclusion every blog has it's unique purpose. Some are for people to air their hurts and get some listening support if nothing else. Some are to debate theological issues. Some are to present opinions on theology or whatever.

I think this blog is for Kingdom friends to share thoughts and insights on whatever is being discussed without judgment, condemnation or fixing people who might be thought of as a bit different on a particular issue.

I kind of like it that way. I'm tired of the anger that is so prevelant in our culture and often even in the Church. Maybe here we can speak, think, challenge, unburden, learn and a whole lot more as we choose. It will take an atmosphere of a spirit of grace being present. May that begin with me.

Good thoughts both of you.

Aussie John said...


You blessed me greatly with this offering, as did Bob and Bobbie with their comments.

I have come to apply the account of the Prodigal Son as more an account of the Father's great love for both a wayward sinning son, like me, as well as for a legalistic Pharisaical son, which used to be me.

I am ashamed of being experienced in being the latter, but I can assure you the lessons (one, a false accusation,from a fellow Pharisee, so very harsh that I didn't think I could recover) of these last 20 years or so are well learned, but not always practiced, and still being learned.

Like the Pharisee, I once had all the answers. Fifty years later, I simply haven't enough time left to learn what I don't know.

I do know this, that my Father loves ALL of His children, despite their fanciful notions about their faithfulness, obedience and knowledge of everything ecclesiological, and regardless of their position on an issue.

There was an ancient secular fellow by the name of Cyrus, in the employ of Rome, who said, "I cannot understand those people of The Way, they love one another before they even meet.

How I would love to be able to make the same observation!

bryan riley said...

You encourage so many, Paul, with your candor and wisdom. I pray I don't reach your age thinking I know it all - you are proof that such an attitude doesn't have to happen. You are making disciples.

Paul Burleson said...

Auusie John,

"Like the Pharisee, I once had all the answers. Fifty years later, I simply haven't enough time left to learn what I don't know."

That is one classic statement. I think you have to reach our age to know the truth of it generally. But it is sooo true.


The statemnt Aussie J. said above says it all. But with your open spirit you WILL always be learning. By the way I've especially appreciated your last couple of comments on my other post. I got your e-mail. Thanks.

Strider said...

You do better than I do in interacting with those who disagree with you. Loving those we disagree with is especially important to me. I was a very legalistic young man who very much held to complimentarianism. As I studied and grew I became more and more egalitarian in my views. I am pretty sure that God has loved me on the entire journey! I hope others can love me as I travel this road- and I hope that I can love others as they grow in grace.

One thing about the whole 'adopting the culture' deal. It makes me laugh to think that complimentarians think they are some kind of 'remnant' who are fast dying out or something.
One billion Muslims, one billion Hindus, half a billion Budhists, countless animists- you complimentarians are going strong! Fear not!

Paul Burleson said...


I appreciate your stopping by here with comments relating to any post. However, I will not put up comments that are personally critical of anyone else even if the comment were true. The purpose of this blog does not fit that at all.

Also, I am not God's super-cop and do hold to a belief that I'm to only deal with people and things when I have first hand knowledge or a reason to believe God intends for me to get invloved. Neither exists at this moment.

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks for coming by.

I would love to discuss with you the subject of your very interesting recent post. We might do this one day via e-mail or otherwise. Just a thought.

Again, blessings on you and your family as you minister there. It is a privilege to get to pray for you.

Jerald said...

Good words Paul.
You said, "There is no doubt in my mind that the sexual behavior under discussion is of the same moral category as that of adultery and fornication and is not the best for human relationships."
I think that that is what divides many in the church. We have a tendency to give particular 'sins' more weight than other so we can castigate the sinner more and justify our outrage over their lifestyle.
Bobby brought up the passage in Romans 1 about immorality but it seems to me the real issue was, "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God."
You have some really good thoughts here Paul. Thanks.

Paul Burleson said...


Your words "so we can justify our outrage at their lifestyle" is what is a major problem IMHO. I, like you, believe ours is to learn to genuinely love [without lowering our biblical standard of behavior] with grace and mercy as did Jesus.

In fact, When our Lord expressed "outrage" it was more toward those who were themselves outraged at sinners [the Pharisees] more than it was toward the sinners that were so obvious. It's always amazing to me that that is forgotten so easily.

traveller said...

Very thoughtful post, Paul. I think Aussie John has it right. The story we call the prodigal son is really about the loving Father. He loves the law breaker and the law keeper. Although, of course, the law keeper does not really keep the law only the outward appearance of it.

One insight that Kenneth Bailey has given me is that the prodigal son did not repent when he was in the pig sty but at that point thought he could earn his way back into the father's favor. Note verse 19 where he will ask his father to be a servant. But it is when he sees the sacrificial love of the father running out to meet him that his heart is touched in such a way as to bring repentance. Bailey goes into great detail explaining how the father running out to the son is explained culturally to arrive at this conclusion. I will not go into that detail but it is quite convincing. (I highly recommend all his books. Bailey lived most of his life in the middle east and brings scripture alive by putting it into its cultural context. He fluently reads/speaks Arabic, Aramaic, Assyrian, Hebrew and Greek, not to mention English.)

The point really being that it is not legalisms, rules and expectations of meeting those that see change in people's lives, but the love and grace of Father, most often first seen by others through us, that generates the life changing transformation of people.

This goes directly to your point that we are to show this same love to all.....the lovely and the unlovely since this is Father's heart for his human creation.

It saddens me how often we followers of Jesus miss our God's heart for humans.

Paul Burleson said...


What a great comment. I've often said when teaching the Luke 15 passage that when the "I'm NO LONGER worthy to be called thy son" was said it was an evidence of what the real problem had been all along. He never had been worthy and just had not recognized it. But what Bailey says makes so much sense to me. The boy was certainly not clear, perhaps in his own mind, of the real problem until he saw the response of the father. That may, in fact, be the heart of the gospel. It is when we REALLY see [the Cross] and hear [the gospel] the Father's response to our mess [All the work of the Spirit] that when our hearts are TRULY broken to real repentance.
I'm getting Bailey. Thanks

Kate Johnson said...

as always I enjoy reading your thoughtful posts, and this one is no different.

And you are right. It is very hurtful to be equated with homosexual sin because of a belief in equality. Isn't there a book called somthing like "Women, Homosexuals and Slaves"? Hate the title. It is also hurtful to be blamed for the breakup of the family when the research shows just the opposite - equality in marriage is a factor in not divorcing.

All that to say thank you for your thoughful post.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Awareness of sin does not necessarily lead to repentance.

For 20 years I was acutely aware of my sin. I stuggled with guilt, shame, anger but there was no repentance. Oh I cried for change. I begged for the shame and guilt to be removed. I was angry with God and myself because I always seemed to fall back into old sinful habits.

Then it happened. I was in a session with a counselor. I do not remember what we talked about but I do remember what happened. I finally recognized the truth.

God really DID love me...even in spite of my sin. For years I felt: alone (Where is He?)
betrayed (He can't or won't help)
decieved (If He really loved me then...)

In my mind MY SIN was the single most infuencial/ controlling issue in my life. It colored/pervaded my perspective, my theology, and my relationships (or lack thereof)

But as I began to "come to my senses" I realized that my sin was not too big and dark for was too big and dark for me. Yet even then, God was there. He was working. He did love me. My sin was forgiven. His grace was sufficient. Then and only then did healing began to occur and sin begin to lose power, influence, and allure.

We can preach, teach, and rail against sin all we want. We may get some level of external sin managment but this usally morphs into hypocrisy (in the classical sense of playing roles and wearing masks)not real and lasting transformation.

But...if we proclaim, internalize and model God's Love and Grace even in the midst of the sin's reality then...

Repentance and restoration occur... not because there is just a clearer understanding of but rather because we catch a clear realization of real, suprising, and amazing Grace

The percieved grandiosity of personal sin can only be ecclipses by the real grandiosity of God's love and grace.

Paul Burleson said...


An absolutely wonderful clear testimony. Thank you.

Paul Burleson said...


You are echoing what my wife has said as she has occasionally read some of the arguments FOR a hierarchical form of family and church structure.

If one wishes to make a connection to something valid one would have to view the slavery issue as that. How many christians in the past used the New Testament's apparent non-condemnation of slavery as a basis for accepting it as OK biblically?

In the same fashion to accept the NT's apparent promotion of the subjugaton of women is just as questionable. Notice I said APPARENT because the text does neither when correctly understood exegetically IMHO.

But to always [it seems to me to be nearly always at least] say that if you DO NOT accept the hierarchical position on women you will ultimately go astray in OTHER[that's the implication of their words] immoral activities too, is beyond belief to me.

Here I Dwell said...

Thanks for the post it is the same journey I have been on as well as Grace. Have you read William Webb's book "Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals"?
Hope all is well,

Paul Burleson said...


I have not read that book but you're one of several who have recomended it so I will.

Thanks for stopping by.