Thursday, April 22, 2010

Can God Be Failed?

READING THE STORY OF JENNIFER KNAPP, the renowned Christian recording artist who went walkabout seven years ago... she has now revealed she’s in a same-sex relationship. If there’s one thing that will always spark a lot of interest and discussion in Christian circles it’s the ethics of homosexuality, whether ‘in the faith’ or not.

Let me put it upfront; this article is not about a definitive answer to its title. It’s not even a comment or a view on homosexuality. It’s much broader. In some ways it’s an attempt at empathising with the sinner’s condition—one that’s alive and well in every person, and yes, every Christian too!

Christians are sinners too... yes—we’re apt to sometimes forget this though, aren’t we?

I don’t usually venture into specific ethical debates. I try and actively avoid these contemporary issues and the specifics of ethical Christianity because I find it’s too easy to polarise—people are expected to have a view—and that, in my experience, never usually glorifies God. If my views separate me from God I’m not being obedient. This is a sin. Having an opinion is more often than not being sinful. It’s not about sitting on the fence; it’s simply about not having a view on things that will often hurt people either way. It’s what we should strive for—not having a view, so we can “enjoy” the tension of the ethical argument.

Are some people charged with making decisions? Yes, they are. They have to have an opinion—God anoints them for this task. This is never an easy job, but it must be done. But, not many of us have this sort of role and certainly not arbitrarily.

So, let’s dig deeper into one of the issues for Knapp in all that’s gone down with her coming out.

She said,

“That’s one of the frustrating parts of my Christian walk, the scenario that if I don’t get it right, that I’ve somehow failed God and failed my faith.”

What a burden that is. Some would say it’s unfair. Others would say it comes with the territory of enjoying her level of success. Yet, I’m unsure Knapp would see her success—apart from being able to work in the area of her passion—and at least the costs of that success, as a blessing. In fact, I get the impression she feels at least somewhat cursed, and certainly now condemned, for it.

The burden Knapp is identifying with is too much a burden for a human being to bear—this is why Jesus came as our Saviour. And we believe that Jesus can forgive any weight of sin provided there’s an accord of repentance at hand. This is Knapp’s responsibility—as it is our own when it comes to us.

Knapp’s sin is none of my business; and mine is none of hers. It’s God’s business, and only with the person concerned.

The Christian music supporter base—like any supporter base—can be incredibly fickle. Legalism is the default human thought condition. Most people will not think diligently and prudently about emotive things; they’ll instead take the leap their lower brains tempt them with. This, of course, is a great sadness. Is God glorified in judgmental thinking? Of course he’s not.

And the real issue Knapp has wrangled with is the same issue most of us wrangle with—an issue we all have; an ongoing issue of sin (or issues, plural) that plagues us.

I feel I’ve spent years obeying God, eradicating “this” behaviour and conforming “that” practice, and still I have my issues where I could easily feel I’m failing God. I’ve long given up on thinking I could please him of my own “good” works—in how well I apparently (or not) obey him.

That’s why we have been blessed with his grace. We’ll never be perfect. This is not to say I’ve given up on spiritual progress. Spiritual progress is the very core to our purpose in life.

And for the short-sighted Christian, him and her with little vision of grace and love—the person forgiving little because they’ve been forgiven little, they will condemn the person practicing their homosexuality when truly it is only God’s role to acquit and condemn. How are we—mortal human beings—to apportion weight of judgment?

We are only to love.

Can God truly be failed? Well, yes and no. Does it matter, really, when we consider that sin will mark us all our lives? I don’t think it matters much so long as our intent is right and eyes and hearts are fixed on Jesus. Faith as this is a simple practice of looking forever inwardly, ensuring our vertical relationship with the living God is sound; that’s hard enough to maintain without getting self-righteous—and getting self-righteous is sure to spoil the task of remaining vertically right before it’s even begun.

We have all failed God in a game where quantification of sin is irrelevant. We have all sinned.

Should we love homosexual people unconditionally as we’re supposed to love “straight” people unconditionally? This is God’s test for us. The answer is an undeniable, “YES!”

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.


Mark Moring, “Jennifer Knapp Comes Out” in Christianity Today. 13 April 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2010.

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