by James A. Wilson
Canberra (Australia) columnist Ian Warden will likely never see my response to the monumental display of his ignorance of the Bible coupled with the planet sized arrogance to declare himself an expert. I write anyway because he is not the only person in the world to attempt to inflict his dis-ability on the rest of us and – who knows – somebody might be listening. I write to challenge; neither Ian Warden nor anyone else is obligated to know scripture unless they are interested in what God has to say, but if anyone is going to comment on the Word of God I think I can ask them to read it – in its context – and actually pay attention to what it says before proceeding to debunk it. Warden has done neither.
In his column for December 8 he has yet another go at Aussie footballer Israel Folau. The athletics icon was stripped of his position and team membership for writing politically incorrect things about marriage on Aussie social media and having his comments noticed by the gay president of Qantas Airlines, the principal sponsor of Folau’s team and league. Australia has embraced gay marriage; it is the law of the land and that is that for the foreseeable future. But Australia’s political and cultural elites have gone further; dissent from the accepted position is simply not tolerated. This intolerance left Folau without a job some months back.
The good news is Australia’s justice system recognized the injustice of penalizing a man for saying what he believes to be true and good. Folau is still without a job, but professional football has settled eight million dollars on him as compensation for the attempted muzzling it imposed on him. This is what has Ian Warden so incensed.
Some of Folau’s comments about gay marriage were admittedly harsh, even to my traditionalist ears. Yet this is precisely the point at which freedom of speech and faith must make its stand. If we defend only speech with which we agree what have we achieved? The purpose of freedom is to allow truth to float to the surface amid the flotsam of what tickles our ears; if we instinctively recognize truth without the cut and thrust of debate we have no need of speech at all. But revelation does not emerge upon truthful instincts; wars and bullying abound in the absence of asserted and respected freedom of expression. Speech and faith are God-given rights carrying God-breathed responsibilities.
Meanwhile, Ian Warden lectures us on what the Word of God says according to his myopic and disbelieving view of it. He cites Mark 10:25 – accurately – to the effect that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He uses the verse to bash Folau for being wealthy, asserting Jesus hates the wealthy and would consign Folau to hell if either Jesus or hell existed. In his contempt he releases the words from their context, without which they have no meaning whatever.
Jewish people of Bible times believed if you had money you must be good, otherwise a just God would not permit your success. Most people today believe the same thing. But Jesus Christ is a whole lot more radical than most believers comprehend. He begins where they think God smiles and says – in effect – not even your wealth will get you anything that lasts. Reality is nothing will get you anything really real except abandonment of self and all sense of entitlement in favor of repenting into a really real relationship with the Way and the Truth and the life.
This is the chapter that includes the story of a rich young man who goes away unhappy because Jesus wants him to sell his property and follow Him, but it also includes the story of children – the childlike, actually – being the stuff of the Kingdom. In it poor men James and John are challenged to give up their ambition to judge others. It shares the story of Bartimaeus, who in seeking healing of his sight must abandon his permission to beg and go to work for the first time in his life. Jesus has nothing against rich people per se, although he has little use for the selfish, rich or poor. He wants it all, and in exchange He means to give it all, per Mark 10:28-31. He adds we are going to be mega surprised at who we meet in Heaven…and at who does not make the cut.
Jesus – through Paul – says He perfects His strength in our weakness in 2 Corinthians 12:9. This is the key – giving Him permission to work in us as He will and through the gifts He gives to some while giving others to others. Mr. Warden and those of his ilk might want to actually read the Bible with an open and comprehensive mind before debunking it. And they might want to consider Romans 12:14, learning there we are called without exception to bless and curse not. There is always John 8:7 as well; it says to let only those without sin themselves accuse others.
The good news is Jesus loves Ian Warden as much as He loves Israel Folau and every gay person on the planet. His life was not too much to give that we might have life and that abundant. The catch is we need to acknowledge the Giver if we would fully exercise the gift. After that the Son of God is happy to deal with our faults on a case-by-case basis. It is the difference between uninformed contempt and mega informed compassion.
This informed compassion clothes the child in the manger.
James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, Kingdom in Pursuit, and his first novel, Generation – available at Bounty Books or at firstname.lastname@example.org