I read a headline this morning while scrolling through Facebook that read, “Lady Gaga: Pence is the worst representation of a Christian.” The headline was from the Hello Christian blog and further quoted Gaga as saying, “To Mike Pence who thinks it’s acceptable that his wife works at a school that bans LGBTQ. You are wrong. You said you should not discriminate against Christianity. You are the worst representation of what it means to be a Christian.” Gaga reportedly said this in a recording from her performance at Park MGM in Las Vegas that was shared on Twitter.
The next headline I read made me smile. It was from a Stream Blog by Dr. Michael Brown: “Lady Gaga: You were born this way but you need to be born again!”
And there it is laid out for you: Cultural Christianity vs Gospel Christianity.
You see, in Cultural Christianity love, tolerance, acceptance, inclusion, and embracing whatever the culture deems appropriate is how the church should act. And if you don’t, you are whatever label they choose to brand you with for not aligning with these views.
Gospel Christianity, on the other hand, knows that love, grace, mercy and forgiveness are accompanied by righteousness, holiness, obedience, submission and God’s absolute truth. Not everything in the culture is acceptable nor can be tolerated and embraced when it goes against God’s truths.
Now, I’m the first to say that Christians often – most often – get this next part wrong! We’re really good at distinguishing between the culture and God’s truth but we suck at telling that truth in love with grace. Most the time we do so in an almost mean-spirited kind of way, which in my mind is just a great a sin.
But I digress. Back to Lady Gaga!
So, is she right? Is the Vice President the worst representation of what it means to be a Christian because his wife took a part-time job at a Christian school which bans LGBTQ?
As an evangelical Gospel Christian, I would say she has it absolutely backwards – Pence, and more to the point his wife, is well within the bounds of God’s absolute truth to work in such a place. Pence in no way is shaming the name of Jesus because his wife works at a Christian school.
But Gaga brings up a bigger point that has been difficult for the Christian community – what do we do about the LGBTQ community, including kids? How do we treat them? How do we interact with them? What role do we have to play if any?
One of my students made a great point in class about a week ago. She noted that churches are quick to demonize homosexuals but say nothing about divorce, which God also hates. She’s right! The church has gotten to the point where we are selective about the sins we “accept” and those we pillar. Two things have happened to cause this. First, congregations have rebelled against sermons focusing on sin. Second, pastors have lost their nerve in the pulpit to preach on sin, fearing how the “sheep” may react.
However, scripture is pretty clear about how we are to handle this stuff. Hate the sin – all sin – and love the sinner – all sinners.
Let’s be honest, no matter how good of a Christian you are you’re still a sinner. Every day you rebel against God in some way. And unlike the church which picks and chooses which sins are more egregious than others, God makes no such distinction. Rebellion is rebellion. This is why we all need Jesus – we all rebel and need a savior! So, no matter if your sin was gossip or adultery; divorce or homosexuality; stealing or murder – you sinned and need Jesus!
But here’s the hard part: It’s always easier to see the sin in someone else and not yourself. Jesus addressed that by telling us that we are not really able to “take the speck out of someone else’s eye” until we’ve pulled the log out of our own! In other words, until you admit that your sin is just as bad as the other guy’s sin, you’ll never really get it. That’s why everyone dropped their stones instead of throwing them at the adulterous woman in John 8. If you are without sin, Jesus told the mob, you throw the first stone. Not one was able to hurl even a pebble. When you recognize your own sin first, you tend to be much more grace-filled toward the other guy!
I’ve been asked before how I balance relationships with my LGBTQ friends. It’s pretty simple, honestly. Here’s what I do:
1. I love them! There are two of my friends who come to mind right now with whom I had more fun during periods in my life and their friendship means a lot to me! Just thinking of those times makes me smile as I write this!
2. While I don’t agree with their lifestyle, I don’t judge them on it. That’s God’s job not mine.
3. I tell them the truth and it’s not that they are going to hell! The truth is that God loves them as much as He loves me and has something better for them than what they are choosing even if that is hard or impossible to see at the moment. And by choosing I mean acting on the impulse not choosing as in deciding to be LGBTQ.
4. If the conversation were to go deeper, I’d explain that one does not go to hell for their sin – Jesus died for the sins of the world. People go to hell for not accepting the gift of grace Jesus has given through His taking our punishment for our sins. Thus, they need to meet Jesus and have a relationship with Him!
5. None of my LGBTQ friends have accepted that invitation as far as I know, which is their right. So, I pray for them. I want them to know Jesus the way I know Jesus. The deeper my relationship with Jesus gets, the more I follow Him and do as He commands me to do which is true freedom! I want that for all of my friends!
6. In the meantime, my friends are my friends no matter their baggage. Believe me, my friends have plenty of my baggage to put up with as well!! Imagine it from the other side – you’re gay and friends with a middle-aged white baby-boomer conservative evangelical pastor with an extremely colorful past! Man, that’s tough!
Back to Lady Gaga!
I get where she’s coming from. From her point of view, it would seem LGBTQ are discriminated against for not being able to attend that school. I’d encourage her, however, to look at it from God’s point of view. Such a school would not be able to validate LGBTQ in any way, shape or form and be true to God’s absolute moral truths.
Here’s the thing that I think separates Cultural Christianity and Gospel Christianity that people like Lady Gaga actually don’t really know:
Gospel Christians are not defined by their sin while Cultural Christians are.
Jesus freed me from my sins – I am no longer a slave to them! Certainly, I still sin but sin doesn’t control me and is not who I am!
For the Cultural Christian, however, sin is their defining mark. We must accept the person embracing whatever sin because it’s not loving to do otherwise. Cultural Christians cannot “correct” someone in sin because sin is no longer sin.
And this is the big lie! There is no freedom in accepting someone’s sin! Accepting someone’s sin is actually keeping them in bondage and is the most unloving thing you can possibly do! Accepting someone’s sin is actually saying they don’t need Jesus in that part of their life! And when you don’t need Jesus in part of your life you don’t really need Him at all.
Like every LGBTQ person out there, I am a sinner – I’m just like you! However, where we differ is this: I hate my sin. I fight against my sin. I confess my sin and rebellion to God. I do all I can to turn from my sin. And I accept that I will never be able to overcome my sin which is why I need Jesus as my personal savior.
Lady Gaga, I think you’re wrong. Mike Pence and his wife are not the worst representations of Christianity. They are, in fact, doing all they can to honor the Lord. My prayer for you and all the other Cultural Christians out there is that your eyes will be open to God’s truth and you realize that it’s okay to love someone but hold them to God’s standards. It’s okay to struggle with temptation and fight it. It’s okay to even be born this way yet die to yourself as we are called to do and not act on those innate feelings and desires. In other words, it’s okay to try your best to be holy because God is holy and still love everyone made in God’s image.