The Dangers of Double-Mindedness

Title: The Dangers of Double-Mindedness

Text: James 1:5-8

Time: March 25th, 2013

 

 

A few weeks ago I heard about the trouble of a modern folk singer by the name of Michelle Schocked. Apparently she’s losing all her fans and can’t find anyplace to perform her songs because she offended her primary audience in San Francisco by some comments she made at a recent concert. In the middle of a musical set she reportedly said, “”If someone would be so gracious as to please tweet out ‘Michelle Shocked just said from stage, God hates faggots.’ Would you do it now?” She then went on to say, “I was at a prayer meeting yesterday, and you gotta appreciate how scared folks on that side of the equation are. I mean, from their vantage point, and I really shouldn’t say ‘their’ because it’s mine too, we are nearly at the end of time. And from our vantage point we’re gonna be, uh … once Prop 8 gets instated, and once preachers are held at gunpoint and forced to marry the homosexuals, then I’m pretty sure that will be the signal for Jesus to come on back.” What happened was the audience started walking out in protest and the management of the venue pulled the plug on her immediately. As a result, nearly all her future concert performances have been cancelled. A few days later she issued a statement where she said her support for the LGBT community has never wavered and “If I could repeat that evening, I would make a clearer distinction between a set of beliefs I abhor and my human sympathy for the folks who hold them.” So apparently here is a contemporary folk singer who is a Christian but who is torn between her Christian beliefs and between her artistic and professional loyalties – and her need to be a part of both worlds. I couldn’t help think of the New Testament passage found in James 1:5-8, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” Now I don’t want to judge Michelle Shocked the folk singer too harshly, because after all we’re all double-minded to some extent in our Christian faith. Nobody lives and believes Christianity one-hundred percent. But it’s so obvious what happened with her, and it’s such a common problem in the Christian community, that I thought I’d address the topic. It’s the old problem of one foot in and one foot out of the world – or in other words, sitting on the spiritual or moral fence. “Yes, I’m a Christian, but yes, I also love the world” – that’s the problem. But God is asking people to make a choice, whether they are with him all the way or not. Let’s look at the problem further.

 

First, there’s the Christian side of the fence. James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” Now notice in this verse, as an example, the good promises of God are offered – in this specific case, the offer is for wisdom. The promise says if we ask God for wisdom, we’ll receive it. Who doesn’t want wisdom? And who isn’t willing to ask God for it? So if wisdom is given simply for asking, then by all means let’s ask. This is just one example, but the Bible has hundreds of such promises. God offers us good things in exchange for faith in him. That’s one reason why we see so many people here in the United States who identify with Christianity in one way or another; it’s because they see certain promises that God makes to them in exchange for faith. So they take the deal and believe and hopefully receive some of the promises, whether they are promises of peace, success, health, or prosperity, for instance. I don’t know the specific case of singer Michelle Shocked, but I read that she attends a lively African-American church and sings in the choir and evidently attends Bible studies and prayer meetings as well. It sounds like she is a Christian believer, and based on her comments, she believes what the Bible teaches concerning the immorality of homosexuality and sin. For example, during the comments that caused her so much trouble she stated, “I was at a prayer meeting yesterday, and you gotta appreciate how scared folks on that side of the equation are. I mean, from their vantage point, and I really shouldn’t say ‘their’ because it’s mine too, we are nearly at the end of time.” So here’s a case where she’s identifying with the Christians at the prayer meeting or Bible study. She goes on to say, “And from our (Christians) vantage point we’re gonna be, uh … once Prop 8 gets instated, and once preachers are held at gunpoint and forced to marry the homosexuals, then I’m pretty sure that will be the signal for Jesus to come on back.” She clearly wants to identify with Christians, she wants to say to the world that she believes certain things along with other Christians, so she goes out of her way to make it clear that she’s not just describing other people’s views, but she’s also describing her own as well. She started out neutral, just describing what Christians feared, but then went on to include herself among those Christians. I don’t know how long she’s been a Christian. She also says she’s not just a Christian but also a fundamentalist – an even stronger brand of Bible-believer. In many ways she showed a lot of courage to identify herself with Bible-believing Christians, especially in front of the audience where she was performing. But it’s these views that got her into trouble, that prompted the audience to walk out, the manager to close her down, and future performances canceled. Would she hold to her Christian convictions or would she backtrack? Unfortunately, she caved in.

 

Second, there’s the world’s side of the fence. James 1:5-8, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” A few days later, after the fall out, after the “world” – meaning the sinful, selfish system of man’s rebellion against God – after it totally and absolutely shunned her ruthlessly, she came out with an apology statement that said, “I still support lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. I was only describing the beliefs of some of my Christian friends, not my own beliefs.” She said, “It was a description of how some folks – not me – feel about gay marriage. I do not, nor have I ever, said or believed that God hates homosexuals (or anyone else). I said that some of his followers believe that.”  Now this is where she’s backtracking on her Christian convictions, because she had previously stated that these views weren’t just other Christians’ but her’s also. Now she’s claiming she was just talking about views she doesn’t hold herself. Now what’s going on? Well, isn’t it rather obvious? She’s being double-minded, she’s trying to work both sides of the street. On the one hand, she wants to be a Christian, talk the talk and walk the walk. She believes the Bible and affirms Christian morality. She identifies with Christian conservatives who are worried and alarmed over the moral breakdown of society, including the assault on the family with so-called gay marriage. But on the other hand, she also identifies with her fan-base and the arts culture she lives and works in, which is predominantly liberal, secular and immoral. She likes both worlds and doesn’t want to pick sides. Maybe she sees the good in Bible-believing Christianity, yet also sees good in the secular, worldly liberal culture as well. That’s understandable, because rarely is one group either totally good or totally bad. Clouding the situation also is the fact that her livelihood, her income, her career as an artist depends on her liberal art culture friends. If she loses them, she’s apparently washed up as a folk singer. She’s not big enough to draw in a sizable audience of Christians, so she’s really dependent on the liberal establishment for her income, her means of support. So there’s pressure for her to conform; and it looks like she bent to that pressure and did conform. In other words, she backed off her Christian convictions to please her worldly friends. Now what’s the lesson for us all?

 

Third, the Lord is calling us to decide where our loyalties rest, with him or the world. 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” There’s really no place for sitting on the fence; we must choose whether we’ll follow after the Lord or not. Michelle Shocked is trying to sit on the fence, trying to have it both ways, trying to please the Lord and please the world. But it won’t work. She’s “gonna have to serve somebody,” in the words of another folk singer, Bob Dylan in his popular Christian song. “It might be the devil, or it might be the Lord, but she’s gonna have to serve somebody.” Now I don’t want to judge her too harshly, because all of us on occasion are inconsistent and act out of Christian character. She not the only one who’s tried to sit on the spiritual or moral fence, or play both sides of the street, as they say. But as it was said many years ago in ancient times, “Choose ye this day whom you will serve,” Joshua 24:15. Jesus said it more bluntly in the New Testament, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple,” Luke 14:26-27. Here’s clear indication that God expects us to make our choice, for or against him, and then live with the consequences. Now in many ways I feel sorry for Michelle Shocked; I sympathize with her and her situation. She probably didn’t realize what she was getting herself into by making the casual comments she made. She didn’t think she’d be forced to choose between loyalty to the Lord, or loyalty to the world, but that’s basically what it became. Now she also brought a lot of trouble on herself by using such inflammatory rhetoric in public. The vast majority of Bible believing Christians would never believe or say, “God hates faggots.” There are some, of course, that do say that – for instance, the Fred Phelps family and his church in Texas, who are famous for making provocative statements in public – but whether they actually believe it or are just saying it to get attention is debatable. Most Christians believe God hates the sin, but loves the sinner, not that God hates the sinner along with the sin. But Michelle Shocked made the statement and brought trouble upon herself by doing so.

 

But Christians face similar conflicts every day, whether it’s on the job, or in the neighborhood, or at school, or even in church. There’s always the tension between pleasing the Lord and pleasing the world. The world seeks total conformity to its agenda, and right now in our culture the gay activist agenda is so-called same-sex marriage. Anyone who doesn’t support it is vilified and attacked for opposing it. Michelle Shocked made the unwise decision to state biblical Christian views on the subject in public before a mostly liberal audience. She even went further than Christians do in stating “God hates faggots.” Why did she make such a controversial and extreme statement? Did she miscalculate her audience? Was she trying to be funny? Was she testing the limits of free speech? Was she just being rebellious and politically incorrect? Whatever she was up to it didn’t work out very well. Hopefully she can recoup and salvage her career. But her follow-up response was an even bigger mistake, because she basically backed off her solidly biblical convictions and recanted of Christian morality in respect to homosexuality. It would have been proper for her to apologize for her inflammatory rhetoric about God hating faggots. That wasn’t too Christian, and it’s not correct either. So she should apologize for making that statement. But her going on and affirming support for the LGBT community, with their push for same-sex marriage and their pressuring Boy Scouts to promote homosexuality is wrong. This contradicts the Christian convictions she earlier affirmed. This betrays her brothers and sisters in Christ, and the church she attends, and especially the prayer group she meets with. But more than anything else, it betrays the Christ who she claims she follows. Are we willing as Christians to walk away from the world and it’s sinful ways? Are you willing to lose everything for the cause of Christ? Jesus put that question to the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22). He asked him to give up everything and come follow. The man refused to do it. Would you give up all to follow Christ? Are you willing to give up friends, a career, money, property, social standing – or anything, out of loyalty to Jesus? I think the whole incident with Michelle Shocked makes us all ask these questions. What would we do in such a circumstance? Would we stand firm in our biblical Christian convictions, or would we give way to the worldly pressure to conform? I think we should do a lot of soul searching and determine where our heart is – with the Lord or with the world? Let’s pray.

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