Before Jesus tells his disciples not to despise “one of these little ones” he explains that all those who convert and become as children will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus also teaches that any who causes those who believe in Him to stumble, would find it better to be cast into the sea with a millstone hanging about their neck. Jesus adds to this the story of the shepherd who leaves his ninety and nine sheep to find the one straying, concluding “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that any of these little ones perish.” And so the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is beginning to carve out the heavy weight of death as she stands over a dark and troubled sea.
This item on the More Light Presbyterian site, Affirming Churches Can Save Lives of LGBT Children & Adults, is simply foolishness as is the article they refer to, written on the Huffington Report. The statement from both articles that, “There are many more Tyler Clementi tragedies waiting to unfold if we continue to close our minds to the harm caused by religious teaching’s bias and intimidation toward gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender individuals, …" is loaded with bias, intimidation and innuendo that is untrue.
Certainly the Church is called to love all sinners, no matter their sin. And Christian parents sin horribly if they exclude children who believe they are sexually different. But the greatest sin is embracing the sin of a child or adult and not including truth in your loving response to them.
Any person who is a sinner, as we all are, is to be loved and cared for, but that love and care includes discipline. And discipline means guidance, teaching and accountability. There are several ways of causing a little one to stumble. By our own actions, being a poor example, or offending by hard and unloving attitudes. However in the PCUSA an emerging way of causing those who belong to Jesus to stumble is by encouraging the stumbling. Too many are calling sin no sin and ignoring the basic need of the sinner, which is to find forgiveness and transformation in the cross of Jesus.
As the apostle John puts it:
If we say we have fellowship with him [God] and yet walk in the darkness we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He himself is in the light we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 6-10)
To love Jesus is to love other little ones with the kind of love given to us. If we cause these little ones to stumble by encouraging them to keep walking in sin, we also spurn the life giving death of Christ. Over and over various Presbyterian groups who are advocating for ordination of gay and lesbian candidates and marriage of same gender couples are rejecting biblical care for those who belong to Jesus.
In the midst of the verses I have quoted is this, “… whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.” What does it mean to receive a brother and sister in the name of Jesus? Why does that mean that the receiver receives Christ? Dietrich Bonhoeffer points out that we do not properly have access to brothers and sisters without Christ as the go between. As Bonhoeffer puts it in his Life Together:
Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ. (21)But taking this thought of knowing and relating to one another through Christ alone, Bonhoeffer carries it to my first subject. How do we treat the brother and sister who is sinning? And in particular I am thinking of those who ignore sin, and call sin not sin. Bonhoeffer writes:
Reproof is unavoidable. God’s Word demands it when a brother falls into open sin. The practice of discipline in the congregation begins in the smallest circles. Where defection from God’s Word in doctrine or life imperils the family fellowship and with it the whole congregation, the word of admonition and rebuke must be ventured. Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin. It is a ministry of mercy, an ultimate offer of genuine fellowship, when we allow nothing but God’s Word to stand between us judging and succoring.Yes, if the church is harsh and unloving that is sin-that is bullying. But to take the sinner, in particular the young sinner, into the care of the church which includes truth about their sin as well as the truth about the love of Jesus and his transforming grace is not bullying nor is it homophobic but rather it is kindness and comes out of the righteousness of Christ. Despising the little ones, causing them to stumble, refusing to give biblical care, that is the great sin of the Western Church.