There is an old saying, “With friends like you, who needs enemies?’
This could often be said of the church.
In the scripture we see Jesus teaching and demonstrating righteousness, holiness and a relationship with the Father. In Jesus’ teaching nowhere is the reality of our relationship with God more clear than how we treat others, particularly other believers.
Jesus was complex because He would hang out with known sinners, unapologetically. The other interesting nuance is that He did so without compromising. He didn’t capitulate to their ideology, on the contrary, his ‘friendship with sinners’ led to many sinners becoming saints.
The judgment of this behavior came fast and furious by the hand of the Pharisees “if he was a prophet he would know this woman is a sinner.” Then Jesus answered their thoughts, saying that she knew how to act and relate better to Him than they did.
So it saddened me when the church became a cliche’ of angry Pharisees with fists full of rocks ready to stone Joel Osteen for attending an event where “sinners” like Lady Gaga sang.
One thing to understand in the dynamic of the Pharisee mind or spirit is that their posture is always one of “righteous indignation.” “We are outraged at this ungodliness!!” The presupposition is that they love God so much and seek after righteousness to a degree that this ‘sinful behavior’ must have the strictest judgment “for God’s sake” or out of ‘respect and love for God”.
Like always Pharisaical, judgmental, self-righteous people just don’t “get it”.
Jesus came to ‘seek and save’ that which is lost. In order to do so, one must be around the lost, not huddled between church pews waiting for Armageddon.
What struck me about this particular controversy surrounding Pastor Osteen was the eager passion with which the Pharisees of today took to their stoning. In their religious belligerence, they missed a few facts.
The deceptive way the non-credible sources manipulated the undiscerning
a. One of the Christian tabloid websites said: “Osteen attends Lady Gaga LGBT pride event.” - For context, this is the same ‘whistleblowing” website that mocked Bill Johnson's wife for getting cancer and harassed a pastor’s teenage son to the point of his suicide. This website simply makes up stories or in this case, twists and manipulate facts to attract the less discerning. People who view these tabloid “Christian’ websites fund lies and slander just by visiting them and giving them ‘clicks”. These clickbait sites thrive on those who lack discernment and love to spread rumors. This is the sin the church should deal with. Lady Gaga is unapologetically a sinner, she is doing what she is supposed to be doing, but the church is not. In point of fact, Joel Osteen did not attend a ‘Pride event”. He attended an event hosted by Sirius Satelight radio where he has his own channel. The lying tabloid site would have you believe that Osteen is celebrating ‘gay pride’ when he was simply being a light in the darkness at his workplace. Then in a furious rage, church people presented this deception as fact furthering the lie. A word to the wise, consider the source. Tabloids are not credible, you are quoting the Christian internet equivalent of the Enquirer magazine. Church is that your depth of understanding?
Light in the darkness.
a. The bible teaches us to be ‘in the world, but not of the world.” All the world hears is that ‘Christians are fake” or “Christians are judgmental” or other derogatory statements. I have found that it is not that people in the world don’t like Christians, its that they don’t know any. Once they do know us, it paves a path that can lead them to Christ. In that red carpet event, there was a great opportunity for Joel and Victoria to influence influencers. They had an open door and they used it. We should all do that, the problem is many in the church have such a small view of God and such a big view of the devil that they run from the world instead of engaging it. Joel and Victoria were a light in a place that needed it.
Association is not an endorsement
a. The Pharisees felt holy because they didn’t associate with people who weren’t just like them. If someone doesn't have a real relationship with the Lord their only righteousness can be self-righteousness. This self-righteousness has to be maintained by positioning yourself above others by way of your habits, theology and associations. Those who have righteousness through a real relationship with God understand that “greater is He who is in me than He who is in the world.” Joel and Victoria weren’t worried that the blood of Jesus that brings their righteousness would be diminished by pop singers. They also knew that just because they attended an event with non-Christians, that it doesn't mean that they are endorsing everything all the attendees have said or done. For Joel, this was work-related, if Lady Gaga said some things that were ungodly, it would be similar to your boss telling a dirty joke at the office Christmas party. Would you be responsible for that? Of course not, it is absurd, as is the criticism of the Osteens.
The church is inward focused.
a. If the church was a dog, it would be one with its tail between its leg walking away defeated in today’s context. It feels, defeated, it feels like a victim it feels it is being bullied by the world. This reminds me of when King David faced Goliath with the armies of Israel around him whimpering and cowering. The church has become inwardly focused. They no longer see themselves as the answer, the light, the balm to a hurting world. They many times don’t have an outward focus. They don’t care that many at the Sirius event were lost, dying, hurting and maybe even suicidal. They couldn’t see that the Lord sent the top Christian leader in the US and one of the top in the world to be an ambassador to these up and outers. If the church had an outward focus and understood, “the world needs Jesus” or really believed, “Jesus is the answer” then they would have applauded God for sending Joel and Victoria into that environment. Instead, the church seems many times just to focus on itself, we must repent.
I always find it amusing that Joel Osteen comes under criticism and by who. Really, it tells me more about those critics than it does about Joel. Here is a guy who is loving, humble, clean-living and pastors America’s largest church without a salary. What is his reward? Constant grumbling from the peanut gallery.
Church critics, my advice to you; make it your goal to reach 1:10,000th of the people the Osteens have for Christ. Focus your energy there, instead of spreading lies and rumors and judgment. Also, consider a matter before spreading it. Gossips are listed with the sexually perverse in the group that will not inherit the kingdom of God. if you continue in your slander and gossip you will have those you hate for eternal company in a worse environment than the Apollo theater.