by Robert Brow  (    Aurora, Ontario         June 2008

 For too many centuries churches have been in the condemnation
 business. Other sins are mentioned but the main target has been our
 sexual behavior. Admittedly the condemnation is quickly followed by
 the assurance that the denomination can give absolution to the
 penitent. This may require confession to a priest, or some form of
 public or private admission of sin.

 We have forgotten the conclusion of Paul's argument about freedom from
 the Old Testament law : "There is therefore now condemnation for those
 who are in the Messiah Jesus" (Romans 8:1). This does not do away with
 morality. What remains are the consequences of any kind of behavior.
 (bad consequences are called wrath). As Jesus said to the woman caught
 in adultery, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on
 do not sin again" (John 8:11).

 The problem with condemnation is that God is brought in as the
 authority for the disapproval. And that leaves no room for the
 condemned person to answer back. All he or she can do is ignore the
 one, or the denomination, that does the condemning. That inevitably
 results in unbelief and a despising of God's love. But a setting out
 of consequences allows us to evaluate the force of the reasons for not
 engaging in any kind of behavior. We can also discuss questions of
 right and wrong without claiming divine insight.

 This is very important in the raising of children. They can cope with
 reasons for not doing this or that. But threatening them with eternal
 damnation is never a helpful way to make our point.

 If a person is sleeping around (which the Bible calls porneia or
 prostitution) we can discuss reasonably the health or moral dangers of
 doing this. And we will have many who may not be Christians who will
 agree with us. Paul describes the consequences when a man or woman
 leaves a marriage relationship to have a gay or lesbian relationship.
 He goes on to list "envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness" and
 other kinds of behavior such as gossip, slander, God-hating,
 insolence, haughtiness, boasting, inventing evil. These are sins we
 can all fall into carelessly from time to time. We know that each kind
 of sin is detestable and Paul adds that "those who practice such
 things deserve to die" (Romans 1:26-32). But he does not bring in God
 to threaten those who do such things with eternal damnation. In each
 case reasonable people will agree with the bad consequences of each
 item in this list of bad behavior.

Robert Brow
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