Table Talk!
Table Talk!


In church circles these days you hear a chorus of voices frequently speaking of the "table." There is an emphasis that all should be made to feel welcome when gathering at the "table." The table in question, of course, is the Lord's Table -- the place where we come to receive Holy Communion and take of the bread (symbolizing the body of Jesus Christ) and drink from the cup (the contents symbolizing the shed blood of Jesus Christ). In so doing, we remember His death on our behalf through which sacrifice He made possible total forgiveness of our transgressions in whatever form they have been committed.

However, the new "table talk" emphasis is nothing more than another well executed strategy on the part of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered) crowd and its sympathizers to gain full acceptance within the church and in the process effectively lay a guilt trip on any who would be so brazen as to question their views and attitude toward the "table."

In recent years certain terminology has come into usage in the quest to have the same gender coupling lifestyle fully acknowledged and accepted as a normal arrangement in the same manner as marriage between a man and a woman is accepted in our culture. The terms "gay Christian brothers" and "lesbian Christian sisters" have been liberally employed. Or the general term, "brothers and sisters," has been applied to all people no matter their behavior patterns in life. And so, is it not logical that all "brothers and sisters" including our "gay Christian brothers" and our "lesbian Christian sisters" should be welcomed at the "table?"

In order to maintain a clear and correct perspective on this, one must settle certain issues which are at the heart of the controversy, and whether or not God has at any time addressed these issues.

Issue #1 - What makes us "brothers and sisters" anyway?

A heresy of the first magnitude that's been around a long time capturing the minds of a large segment of the population, which continues to win "converts" at a shocking pace, is that which declares that all human beings are children of God. This would most certainly include all who are sexually "oriented" in such a way that males prefer to be sexually intimate with other males, and females likewise with other females!

But what has God revealed concerning just who are OR who are not His children? John in his letter makes a very clear distinction that some are children of God and others are children of the devil [1]. Paul speaks of those who are "children of wrath" prior to their experience of being given life with Christ [2]. Jesus referred to some persons of being like their father, the devil [3]! Jesus also laid down some specific demands as to what is required to become a child of God, including that mysterious experience known as the "new birth," which at times has been questioned, mocked, and even outright rejected within the ranks of some who claim they are "Christian!" [4]. He also indicated that at a future point He will issue a call which will result in two possible resurrection experiences -- a resurrection unto life and a resurrection unto condemnation [5]. Paul in one way or another referred to an experience that brought one into a new and acceptable relationship with God. In Christ one becomes a new creature with old things passing away and all things becoming new [6]. Peace with God is experienced through Jesus Christ [7]. And in the experience of being born again from above and becoming a part of the "family of God" there is the undeserved privilege of becoming heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ [8]. Significant in this is the witnessing work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness with our spirits that we are indeed the children of God. It's quite simple really -- no witness means no assurance with any and all claims to being "Christian" all shot to pieces! While in the animal world and the plant world we sometimes have come up with what are called hybrids, no such creature exists in the human realm in relating to God -- no person can be a child of the devil and a child of God at the same time!

Issue #2 - Where does this thing called repentance come into the picture?

With all the talk about all being the children of God no matter what one's "sexual orientation," there is a strange silence about something which is referred to as "repentance!" The Scriptures use the word quite often. One reason is that God has informed us that we cannot be reconciled to Him unless we repent of all sin. This matter is never placed before us as an option as though we can sit down, ponder over it a while, and then take it or leave it and still be "Christian" either way. God issues a command to repent and we either meet that condition and in so doing experience forgiveness and cleansing, or defy the command and insure our future damnation [9].

Genuine repentance involves three things:

  • Our intellect (mind) -- a consciousness of sin, and the fact that we are under condemnation and need to turn from our sinful ways, attitudes, and desires. But in order to truly repent, one must first of all be honest enough to admit being guilty of having sinned! As you know, the same gender coupling issue rages over the question as to whether it is a sin for 2 men or 2 women to engage in sexual intimacy with each other. God has established the boundaries of what is and what is not acceptable sexual activity. The only sexual intimacy approved by God is that which takes place between a man and a woman within the bonds of marriage -- everything else is condemned and forbidden! Scripture references on the forbidden are found in Leviticus, Romans, and 1 Corinthians 10. However the same gender couplers have denied, rationalized under the guise of "scholarship," twisted, and perverted these and other Scriptures, and for good measure have thrown in the idea that God is now giving us a "new revelation" on sexuality which says basically that it's ok for two males or two females to be sexually involved with each other!

  • Our emotions -- the impact of what we really are and what we've done causes grief and remorse -- a feeling of deep regret at having sinned against God and one's fellow human beings. This kind of remorse was very obvious on the day of Pentecost as Peter preached and it began to dawn on the gathered assembly that they were guilty of participating in the brutal death of the Son of God! The Scriptures use the term, "cut to the heart!" And then the desperate cry came forth, "What can we do?" Peter told them what they needed to do, and the first thing on the list was the need to repent! [11].

  • Our will -- a conscious decision is made to turn away from all that is sinful by way of our behavior patterns, our desires, our attitudes, and our manner of speech. Repentance is never complete until there is the exercise of our will and a clear abandonment of that which the Holy Spirit has shown us to be totally unacceptable to a holy God! It is in the area of the will that far too many come up short -- there is a refusal to turn away from sin and forsake it, and no where is this more in evidence than when it comes to sexual sins of fornication, adultery, incest, rape, sodomy and lesbianism!

Issue #3 - Coming to the table is by invitation with conditions attached!

There is a variety of rituals utilized in the experience of Holy Communion among groups claiming to be Christian in faith and practice. Deeply rooted in Methodism is one ritual that has been around for quite some time. The invitation is in one sense extended to all who are present but then suddenly becomes quite "biased" toward the members of the assembly by dividing them into two classes! You say, "That cannot be!" OK, then, read it for yourself and see -- here it is:

"Ye that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in His holy ways: Draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort, and make your humble confession to almighty God." [12]

If you have some persons who are unwilling to repent and are not living in love and charity with their neighbors, then by the terms of the invitation they are excluded and have no claim in accessing the table! Bear in mind that this thing of living in "love and charity" with others does NOT mean that one compromises the principles of Christian faith and the standard of holiness which reflects the nature of the God we claim to serve! Or course the same gender coupling crowd claims it is not a sin for two males or two females to be sexually involved in a "loving and committed" relationship as they call it. Therefore to these people the repentance issue does not apply. And we who insist that it does are tagged with those attractive labels such as homophobe, bigoted, prejudiced, mean-spirited, and obviously we are very un-Christian by making an issue of the sinful practices of sodomy and lesbianism! Let's take this a step further. Supposing a single high school teacher is sexually involved with one of his 15-year-old female students. Things like this have happened, didn't you know? The claim of this couple is that they are in a "loving and committed" relationship, and that neither of them dates or is involved in any way with another person. Further, they claim to be "Christian" and should have the right to come to the table with no one objecting! And following the example of the same gender couplers this pair adamantly rejects any Biblical texts to which you may refer and interpret as being applicable to their "arrangement!" "Those don't apply to us," they say, "and besides God is giving a new revelation which shows that how we live is acceptable because of our deep love and commitment to each other." This pair in its claim of a "loving commitment" even has an answer to civil authorities who attempt to bring a charge of rape against the teacher because the female "partner" in this relationship is regarded as being under legal age of consent -- they simply claim the laws are "unjust" and need to be changed so that couples such as they will be fully accepted in our society. In addition, any church rules or standards that consider the lifestyle of the teacher and his teenaged partner as being "incompatible with Christian teaching" must be changed as well, because God is a God of love and He welcomes ALL persons, no matter their sexual "orientation" to the table!

"Absurd!", you say. Hey, don't jump on me about it -- isn't that the line of reasoning the same gender coupling folks have been using over recent years? So who are we to object if other couples are sexually "oriented" a bit differently and want to live freely and openly in a "loving and committed" relationship, being accepted in church because they are "Christians" and in society which prides itself on openness and diversity of lifestyles? Such acceptance would also help reduce the possibility of any "hate crimes" being committed against them as well! This whole thing sort of opens up what some refer to as a can of worms, does it not?

Has the time come to consign to the scrap heap all communion rituals which suggest the need to repent of all sin, including sexual varieties such as those mentioned above? The chorus of voices that chat about the "table" is saying that's how it should be -- either explicitly, implicitly, or by brazen practices! We come to the table with our sin, and then leave, taking our sin back home with us and continue to indulge in its deceptive pleasures!

Issue #4 - Biblical authority is to some an ever present reality and to others it doesn't amount to the proverbial "hill of beans!"

There are still some of us (although the ranks seem to be growing much thinner with the passing of time) who hold to God's inspired authoritative record on all matters of faith and practice when it comes to ethics, morality, and spirituality. Yes, 2 Timothy 3:16,17 is still taken seriously by a small minority![13]

But due to massive favorable and sympathetic media coverage of the same gender coupling movement and its agenda, it is much more acceptable in our culture to reject the moral standards clearly spelled out by our Creator, do a skillful juggling act in Scripture interpretation, beat back the opposition with terminology such as referring to Romans 1 as a "clobber passage," and remind us constantly that God is providing "new revelation" in the area of human sexuality! Hence the need to dialog, discuss, negotiate, understand, "agree to disagree," respect one another and then gather at the table as "brothers and sisters."

The greatest tragedy in this will be the fact that more and more persons who claim they believe the Bible and that they are "evangelical" by way of identity in the church will wilt under the pressure, begin tapping their toe to the rhythm of the same gender coupling beat, and join heartily in the chorus, "Let's all come to the table, because we are all brothers and sisters!"

But take heart, real brothers and sisters -- you who know what genuine repentance is all about and the life transforming power of Jesus Christ -- one of these days God will sort this thing out, confirm beyond all doubt the integrity of His moral standards, judge those who have lived by His Word and those who haven't, and establish new heavens and new earth wherein dwells righteousness only! [14] Just make sure you keep on contending, REAL brothers and sisters! (Jude 3 & 4)

By Clayton D. Harriger
Retired Elder in Full Connection
Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference
The United Methodist Church
Presently serving as pastor of Gipsy Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Gipsy, Pennsylvania
Easter 2001


References:

1. 1 John 3:1-10
2. Ephesians 2
3. John 8:44
4. John 3:1ff
5. John 5:28,29
6. 2 Corinthians 5:17
7. Romans 5:1ff
8. Romans 8:16,17
9. Acts 17:24-31
10. Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9,10
11. Acts 2
12. Ritual - The United Methodist Church, The General Services and Occasional Offices of the Church, Adopted by the General Conference 1964, Published by The United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville, TN, pp 21, 29
13. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
14. 2 Peter 2 & 3; Revelation 19 - 22

Points to Ponder in Light of the Above Discussed Issue!

To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.

Titus 1:15,16 (NKJV)

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty."

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NKJV)

Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.

2 Timothy 2:19-21 (NKJV)

But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them," then He adds, "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin. Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord." And again, "The LORD will judge His people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Hebrews 10:12-31 (NKJV)

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