He Said What?

That was my reaction after reading the article and listening to the video.  In fact my reaction was filled with anger, and here’s why:

This is a little bit of an unplanned post, but since a friend of mine shared a USA TODAY article with me I couldn’t keep silent. This past week has been filled with tragedy, fear, an outpouring of love and even many political responses to the evil actions in Orlando.  However, one person has chosen to respond in a way that I believe is an abuse of the gospel and is part of the reason that the name “Baptist” is incredibly confusing in our culture.

In today’s USA TODAY, there was an article and a video (you can find them both here) posted regarding the actions of a Baptist Pastor in Sacramento, California.  Pastor Roger Jimenez of the Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento openly stated that those victims who died in the attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando quote, “Got what they deserved.”  He was also quoted as saying the following:

“Are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today?” asked Jimenez. “Um no. I think that’s great. I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight. The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is I’m kind of upset he didn’t finish the job — because these people are predators. They are abusers.”

This occurred at a Baptist Church.  In fact, this is what they say about themselves on their website: “We are an independent, fundamental, soul winning, separated, King James Bible believing Baptist church–and not ashamed to say so.”  In this particular situation, I’m not going to debate all of those issues, however I have 2 issues.

First, the lesser issue is the message that this is sending to our culture, to people that we love and want to know Jesus, about what it means to be a Christ follower.   We would never – and many other Christians would never – identify with, agree with or have anything to do with this type of “teaching.”  However, our culture, our neighbors and co-workers don’t know that!

Second, the larger issue here is a rejection and replacement of the gospel of of Jesus Christ with a performance -based legalism.  Here are just a few thoughts:

  • You cannot legislate the human heart.  Jimenez seems to be arguing for a government mandated morality.  A friend of mine recently said this: “There is no government, no legislation, no political policy that can fix our world…the cross is the only solution to my sin and it’s the only solution to the world’s sin.”  Trying to legislate the heart by morality is a rejection of the good news for sinners like me.
  • There are two major ditches to the Gospel.  A ditch is something to the right or the left of a road where if you go off in it you are going to wreck.  The first ditch that destroys the gospel is a license that says – “do whatever you want.”  The second ditch is legalism which says – you can only be worthy of God or worthy of salvation if you meet certain requirements.  Both are a rejection of the gospel.  The good news is this: I’m a wretched sinner, maybe in different ways than you, but God died for me and you just the same!  We don’t clean ourselves up and then come to Jesus.  He wants to wash us and restore us – He does that!
  • In summary, the Gospel is for everyone!  I don’t get to pick and choose based on the particular sins that are different than mine.  I say this because it seems like Jimenez is trying to say that certain sins are “unacceptable” and others are “more acceptable.”  This is just not true.

We want to connect with, befriend, and even share life with people who wouldn’t call themselves “church people” – regardless of sexuality.  We do this because the Gospel is for everyone.

So yes, I am sad for the victims of this horrific act of violence.  Yes I am sad for the families because people matter – no matter their beliefs or backgrounds.  They matter!  Yes, I am praying for a city and a community that is hurting today!  And yes I am praying for my friends in the LGBT community, because I know they are hurting.

My guess is that there are some great churches in Sacramento that are “paying the price” for the choices of another church.

So, what conclusions are you drawing?  I’d love to hear from you.

He Said What?

7 thoughts on “He Said What?

  1. The first public statement I’ve read about this “pastor.” Thank you for that.
    unfortunately for ALL Christians, we have to deal with being generalized because of statements of folks like this and the Westboro Baptist Church… The same way all groups of people deal with being generalized because of the actions of a few.

    I think your statements on performances-based legalism needs to be beaten into the brains and hearts of everyone. Once they get past that, an entirely new and freer world is in store for them… It was for me, anyway.

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  2. Thank you Jamie for your thoughts. I couldn’t agree more that performance-based legalism is a huge problem in many groups. We are set free in Christ from the penalty of our sins but we are also set from the power of our sin and we need to live that freedom. That freedom also comes with an opportunity to love and influence others!

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  3. Marsha Tomberlin says:

    My heart is sadden for this pastor we all miss the boat sometimes But great is his judgement from God The greatest gift is love ,I think we need to spead more of God’s love to everyone

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  4. Jeff W. says:

    Powerful words, Aaron. I connected with what you said and I agree. We lump “outsiders” to the gospel into tight groups and then pass judgment on them as if we have been given the authority to grant redemption. This reminds me of the story in Matthew 9 when Jesus openly states “Your sins be forgiven” to a paralytic and the religious pious call him a blasphemer. I feel the religious pious in our society quickly grasp at a denominational label in order to hide behind the theology to which it holds. Without their label, they could scarcely call themselves Christ-followers. Here you’ve provided such an example. Thank you Aaron for speaking up and proclaiming what Christ’s love truly looks like: love all – regardless.

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  5. joe whiteside says:

    no question that the pastor in question over stepped many “gospel” boundaries, I don’t believe Christ would be thrilled that anyone received His just judgement. that being said, I think the pendulum is now swinging too far the other way. First, the LGBT community are not, and cannot be “friends,” for they are the enemies of the very gospel you wish to rightfully uphold. second, their lifestyle is an abomination to God (as is witchcraft, gluttony, and other sexual immorality, etc.), and therefore, they should be called out for it (same for the other sins I mentioned). third, to be friends with the world is to be enemies with God. look, I get it, we do not want to offend those who need the gospel–fair enough–and I do not wish God’s judgment on anyone (as I stated above), however, did Christ himself state that the gospel (that which his life and death brought about) would naturally be offensive to those who do not recognize him as lord and savior?

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    1. Joe, I would definitely say that there can be a line where you refuse to call sin…sin, that would be wrong. However I greatly disagree with some of your conclusions. I very much so would say that friendship with people in the LGBT community, or any other community for that matter is possible and if we are going to present the good news of a restored relationship with God through grace, friendship is imperative. Three quick thoughts on this: first, friendship does not imply absolutely agreement. Second, Jesus was called a friend of sinners, in fact this is what caused the entire 3 story parable in Luke 15 where it is very clear that spiritually lost people matter to God so they need to matter to us. I believe you are in agreement with that. Anyway, he was a friend of people who were living sinful lives, which I for one am thankful for. Third, you can’t win an enemy, but you can surely win a friend. I’ll end with this: The Gospel is offensive, we shouldn’t be.

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