Monday, March 19, 2012

Causing the little ones to stumble

See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 18:10)

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.


Jeff Winter said...

I have experienced time and time again pro-gay organizations exploiting so called bullied teenagers that express themselves homosexually. These young people seem to go out of their way to flaunt their homosexually. Then they are bullied. Organizations like GLSEN and GLAAD will make these young people their poster children to raise money for their cause. This tactic makes me sick. There is much deception in the homosexual community. I appreciate Viola Larson's words. They are thoughtful and well expressed

Viola Larson said...

Thanks Jeff,
I just feel terribly sorry for all the young people caught in the LGBT movement with no one ministering them in a real way.

Anonymous said...

I had hoped to go back to an earlier topic of some days ago and answer some questions that gracious people asked it happens, thanks to those who prayed for my family in its time of need. But I am to JUSTIFIABLY livid to do this now!

Blaming the victim for his or her own bullying. amazing...and vile

A new low.

I certainly did not flaunt my gayness (no one uses the term homosexual except bigots who want to make gayness sound 'clinical' is the equivalent of anti Christians calling all conservative Christians "Fundys") but my life was made a living hell when I was a teenager.

And if they ARE open as gay and teenagers, that is still no excuse for bullying. Period.

I understand why so many people tell me you have had such an important role in helping them see the right way to vote at the Presbytery level, often after very conservative upbringings and theological understandings that you helped them overcome, and to then begin working for inclusion.

Mrs. Larson, many of the people involved (no one is "caught"...the word is insulting and uncouth in its inplications) are active members of the PCUSA and other Christian Churches, thank you very much, and are being ministered to by pastors, elders, parents and others who love them very much, and hope to see them grow in the faith, share the Gospel, and live happy and good lives that are pleasing to God.

Respectfully...and I would ask this privately if I could...truly, I would...but I will ask it here; do you honestly HEAR how you sound when you write such things, yet are still surprised at the reaction?

Anonymous said...

Mrs Larson, my apologies...I forgot to put my name and city...

Gene, Atlanta

As it happens, after reading the 1st post again, I actually became phycically ill, and had to excuse myself.

One last thing. I know you, for some reason, consider this person a friend. fine. But if you put up a blog, the point is to express information, and allow input. Here is some input you wont like, but should well consider. People like Jeff Winter are the REASON that GLBT rights have progressed so rapidly in the denomination and society. As uncouth as I find him and his hateful words, I admit my side does owe him a great, great deal. But that still does not make blaming the victim, no matter how one tries to sugarcoat it, acceptable.

Atlanta, GA

Viola Larson said...

I have some questions for you. What does the gospel mean to you? Is it good news that Jesus died on the cross for sins and our salvation or is it something else. Do you believe that Jesus can begin a transformation in your life? Do you believe the Bible is God's word? Most of all do you love Jesus and why do you love him?

Anonymous said...


Reflecting on this comment thread, I would only say that we should not even inadvertently give the impression that victims of bullying ... whatever the reason of the bullying ... brought it on themselves. Obviously, there are differences to each case, but I think in general no one wants to be bullied. Anyone who has been bullied knows that.

Bless you all,

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Viola Larson said...

Thanks John, I think you are correct but I don't believe I said that they deserve bullying in my post, and you are right no one does.

And what I should probably say is that of all the lesbian and gay teens I have known, and I have known a lot of them when my children were in high school they were all different and most of them very nice but sad. They were mostly girls and most of them had been abused by males.

Another thing I should say is that one gal was horrible and a real problem even attempting to fire bomb our house. And another bad incident was a student teacher who after I had invited her for tacos I found she was preying on some of the girls. The school tried to cover it up but were caught doing so. So you see just like everyone else there is the good the bad and the ugly but everyone including me needs forgiveness and the love of Christ.

Viola Larson said...

And Gene I asked you those questions because I want to have a real discussion with you.

Anonymous said...

Viola, I did not mean to imply you were condoning bullying. You are one of the most compassionate people I know. But I found Rev. Winter's comment to unfortunately give that impression. I know he has a good heart and a desire to serve all people, but his comment on its face sounded pretty bad.

Bless you,

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Jeff Winter said...

At times I can come off as being rough and non-pastoral. My comments of several days ago can appear that way. I have been involved for years helping men, women and youth move away from unwanted same-sex affections. I have a big heart for those who struggle with their homosexual feelings. I am greatly troubled when young people are bullied by insensitive and sometimes violent people who have a difficult time with their same-sex affections. I am equally troubled by some young people who go out of their way to be bulllied because of their same-sex attractions. I become very angry when pro-gay organizations grab hold of these gay-identified youth and make them their poster children to raise money.

Viola Larson said...

Thanks Jeff, that does clarify your position in a better way.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Doug Hagler said...

Do you see any value at all in the experience of the people you are supposedly loving? That the loving part almost never gets through to them? Working in behavioral health in San Francisco, probably 80% of the people there, recovering from nervous breakdowns and suicide attempts, had been hurt horribly by supposedly Christian family members and community members "loving" them. At what point does it matter that what you see as loving, the other person experiences as anything but loving? Or is the sole measure of your actions your own theology?

You feel sorry for "all the young people caught in the LGBT movement with no one ministering them in a real way". I've seen almost nothing but destruction brought about by that "real" ministering, and am currently involved in helping multiple people in my community overcome the damage that "real" ministering did to them. I feel sorry for every person, especially young person, who has to suffer through that "real" ministering.

Does that matter? Does it have any impact? Or do we need to hear about the "homosexual agenda" some more? About how evil homosexual organizations exploit victims of bullying (who of course supposedly earned it by 'flaunting' themselves, whatever the heck that means)?

Doug Hagler said...

Oh, Doug Hagler
Pasor, Dalton Presbyterian Church
Dalton, OH

Viola Larson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Viola Larson said...

I think that the kindest practice of a Christian is to keep loving those who are locked into sin. And there are all kinds of ways that can occur-the love I mean. If we were not talking about LGBT people I think you would agree with me. You just don't agree with my belief that that kind of sex is sin.

So either I am doing wrong or you are doing wrong in that case. But I will stick with the biblical view of sex between a man and a woman in marriage.

Anonymous said...


To respond to your post it would be necessary to get specific about what you mean by "loving" and "real ministering". If you were to get specific, I suspect we'd be able to find both areas of agreement and disagreement. I'd agree, for instance, that a father's rejection of a son due to his sexual preference would certainly not be an example of love, but I do think that the ministries of One By One and Exodus International are examples of real and loving ministries.

You've asked if the experience of those who suffer matters and informs my position and I can readily respond that it does.

My question for you is whether part of the woundedness of the population you work with is directly due to their embrace of homosexuality. There are wounded alcoholics who have been abused by family and society in all sorts of ways, yet this doesn't mitigate the fact that a component of their woundedness is the alcoholism (and the drinking behavior) itself. That they have been abused by those who claim to be acting in love is tragic and should be taken into account by anyone attempting to love and minister to them, but it doesn't alter the fact that the drinking itself is contributing to their misery and must stop if they are to become whole.

If homosexual behavior is sinful and your ministry to homosexuals does not take this into account, you are enabling behavior which is self destructive. The compassion you feel doesn't alter this.

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA