As we pulled up to the entrance of Six Flags on the first day, I was so excited I was shaking.
Seriously, I don't know who was teeming with more nervous, excited energy--me or the kids.
As we made our way into the park, I was taken back to the days of my own childhood. Each and every summer, my parents took our little family to this Texas-sized amusement park. It is one of my most treasured childhood memories.
However, as I led my little family down the familiar, curvy paths, I began to notice some transformations the park has experienced since my last visit as an adolescent.
And I am not talking about rides...
Same sex couples walking hand in hand. Rainbow capes, some solid rainbow, some half United States flag and half rainbow, hanging and being sold right next to the Batman, Superman and Flash capes.
There were no large church youth groups in matching t-shirts struggling to organize and stay together.
The dynamics of one of my most favorite places on Earth has been radically changed by our evolving culture.
Eight hours later, as we dragged our tired kids with their half eaten cotton candy bags behind us to the shuttle, I reflected on our full day. And although we had tons of fun, one thing was evident to me: the politics of sex, homosexuality and defining marriage have permeated even the most unlikely and innocent of places--my favorite family amusement park.
And this revelation made me think...
Over the past couple of weeks, I have witnessed an almost constant onslaught of name calling and disagreement on social media. There has been guilt on both sides.
But the most prevalent accusation I am seeing and the most widely accepted slam by the world, is that Christians, most specifically those Christians refusing to conform their definition of marriage to include same-sex relationships, that these people are JUDGMENTAL.
Yep. It's the world's favorite and most effective accusation against believers. I am, on average, called this at least three times a week.
The words themselves have terrible connotations.
But surprisingly, for two words so frequently and widely used, they are misunderstood, and with relation to the Word and the non-conforming Christian, grossly misrepresented.
Today, I am hoping to clear up some of the confusion.
Okay, I want to preface this by saying that no one, not even a Bible scholar and spiritual giant like Billy Graham, knows what Heaven or Hell will be like. Their mysteries are keep from us by a loving and infinitely wise Creator. We know there will be no pain, no sickness, no tears. Sure, we read about streets of gold, gates of pearl and mansions on hills, but the glories of Heaven are going to be far more amazing than our feeble minds can imagine.
And likewise, the tortures and agonies of Hell will be far more horrendous than we can ponder. We read about lakes of fire and about second deaths. Scripture gives us vague glimpses and basic designs, but the reality of eternity, whether spent in the presence of God or separated from Him, is that none of us know and simply won't until we get there.
So, with that said, we shall proceed...
The last couple of weeks have been rough for Christians living in America. Well, they have been for conservative Christians. However, we must keep things in perspective. Yes, we lost a painful battle here in America. We are absolutely embroiled in spiritual warfare against an Enemy and a culture seeking to destroy and distort our closely held beliefs and our faith. But we mustn't forget that there are far more serious and far more heinous persecutions of believers occurring right now. Christians being slaughtered, raped, enslaved, beaten, beheaded, drowned, burned alive, imprisoned. I could go on and on. Pains and discrimination beyond anything we, here in America, can fathom.
Yes, what the Supreme Court did two weeks ago was bad, but it could be (and will get) so much worse.
We must be prepared and armed and ready to defend the Truth. We must stand firm in our faith. while at the same time completing and fulfilling the commission Christ placed on all believer's lives. It has been and will continue to be a strenuous balancing act between love and truth, grace and conviction.
And in light of the recent ruling and the subsequent celebrations and outrage, tremendous confusion comes in and the hurt on both sides deepens, is when a traditional marriage supporter like myself says that "gays are going to stand in judgment for their sins".
Newsflash people: we are ALL going to stand in judgment. Judgment is not condemnation. Scripture teaches us that believers and non-believers will both stand before God and be held accountable for their lives, their decisions, their sins, etc. For believers, this judgment is known as the Judgment Seat of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul says, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." Believers, those who have professed a believe in Jesus, His virginal birth, His perfect life, His torture and murder on the Cross, His resurrection on the third day and His ascension into Heaven; these folks, they are getting through the pearly gates. Their name is etched into the Book of Life and their mansions have been prepared. However, even though they are "in", they are still going to stand face to face with their Creator and see their live's works burned and judged burned before them.
Nonbelievers on the other hand, those who have heard the life-giving Truth of the Gospel and rejected it, will stand before God in what is known as the White Throne Judgment. John writes in Revelation 20:11-15, "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Yeah, no doubt, that judgment is definitely going to suck for those poor souls. Their names will not be written in the Book of Life and Jesus will tell His Father that in their life, He never knew them. Those people will spend eternity separated from God in Hell.
So, these two judgments, these two avenues to very different eternities, beg difficult questions for the modern church. But, in light of recent events, let's consider the consequences of homosexual marriage.
Will there be gays in Heaven?
My answer is going to surprise and enrage many of my faithful readers. But I must tell the truth. The answer to that question, is simply yes.
I have absolutely no doubt that there will be men and women who lived as homosexuals in this life celebrating with us in eternity.
And here's how I know: the only way to Heaven and God's splendid eternity is through a belief and surrender to Jesus Christ. That belief and surrender doesn't make us perfect. It doesn't guarantee an easy life devoid of hardship, heartache and crisis. Jesus and His perfect sacrifice provide for us what we could never secure for ourselves: Grace and atonement.
However, with that said, here's where the rubber hits the roads. Sin is bad. All sin is bad. All of us are guilty of sin. And while I completely agree with all who argue "that sin is sin", I think we must consider reality. Some sin causes us to reject God (think witchcraft, idolatry). Some sin creates deep chasms between us and our faith (think greed, pride). Some sin is so powerful that it takes control of our lives so entirely that we lose who we are and were intended to become and begin to become what we have chosen to embody and embrace.
In many ways, for many homosexuals, not all, but many, this is the case. Whether it is because they have felt rejected by Christians and judged by the church, or because their guilt has kept them from encountering Jesus, many have fallen not only into a sinful lifestyle, but have blatantly rejected Truth and salvation.
But then there are those who love the Lord and believe in Jesus. And this is where it gets tricky for believers. Those who have practiced homosexuality will stand before the Lord and be forced to account for their perversion of His Word and now, their hijacking of His marital institution. However, just like the believing murderer and remorseful adulterer, just like the converted prostitute and the fornicating but forgiven priest, those plagued with and suffering the deception of homosexuality who have given their lives to Jesus but refused to relinquish the sin in their lives, they will be saved by Jesus and then, judged by their Creator.
It isn't about us FULLY understanding Jesus, it is about us FULLY believing in Jesus.
As we tucked our exhausted little ones into bed that night, I was overwhelmed by the day. I was surprised by how small some of the rides looked to me now as an adult. The Conquistador looked like an enormous ship when I was ten, last weekend it looked a little larger than a canoe. I was proud of how brave our kids were and thrilled that we appear to have created a couple of roller coaster lovers.
But more than anything, I was thankful that I got the opportunity to experience the excitement through the eyes of my precious children. They didn't notice all of the politics. They weren't the least bit distracted by the rainbows and profane t-shirts. They believed their daddy and me when we told them that the rides were safe and were comforted when we told them we would be right beside them. They stood in lines, held our hands and trusted us to guide them throughout this amusement park adventure. Our son and daughter weren't the least bit bothered by their surroundings--they were focused entirely on having fun and stretching every moment into a lifetime of giggles, squeals and memories.
I have a feeling that the Lord wants the same for us. He wants us to be engaged in but not distracted by the world. He wants us to be less focused on the evil and fallenness of our culture and more focused on His power and His promises. He wants us to look upward, close our eyes tightly and hang on for dear life. He wants us to sit back, buckle up and throw our hands in the air because He's got this. He has this world, with it's rainbow capes, politics, perversions, wars, corruption, greed, sickness and strife, in the palms of His hands.
He has it all under control.
We just need to trust Him.
And simply get on for the ride....