“What do you find sinful?”
That seems to be the question of the week with A&E’s decision to indefinitely suspend Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson from their network for answering this very question. The country was already talking about the Robertson family. Duck Dynasty has been a household name for some time. But now, it has just exploded. News sites, Facebook, TV, and family dinners have been taken over by this one man’s answer to an age old question. What is sin?
Some people say it doesn’t matter. They say that whether Phil Robertson’s position is right or wrong, he has a constitutional right to say it. “If We Call it Free Speech, Let Phil Speak!” they shout with their shared Facebook images of Phil Robertson with his infamous beard and camouflage. Others talk about persecution and how Christians are being marginalized and mistreated.
Is this about free speech? Is it about the persecution of Christians? While I admire the bold stand for Christ the Robertson family has taken both on the screen and off, I can’t help but think that this situation is bigger and more complicated than many people assume.
I may put myself at odds with both sides by writing this, but just as Phil Robertson has the right to his beliefs, A&E has the right to dictate what kind of people they will or will not have on their network. Their network is not public land or a private home. Whoever is in charge at A&E has rights too, and it may be their right to choose who reflects their values and who does not. Is it sad that the network finds prayer offensive and has now suspended someone for expressing the Biblical view that homosexuality is a sin? Yes, but we cannot be angry with them for disagreeing with us or failing to hold Christian values if they themselves are not Christian. If I owned a television network, I hope it would unarguably be my decision who gets a show and who does not. With my standards concerning using the Lord’s name reverently and my abhorrence of lying, I would be far more discriminating than most networks! Phil Robertson may have the Constitutional right to say what he wants, but A&E should not be forced to repress who they are either. Why do we expect non-believers to act like Christians anyway?
As far as persecution goes, Duck Dynasty is entertainment. It is non-essential. I know some people plan their week around their favorite shows or set up the DVR to record them for later, but let’s look at the big picture. There are people all over the world who live in daily fear that they will be arrested, tortured, and killed for sharing about Jesus. People show up one at a time over hours or days to witness baptisms held in small tubs in crowded apartments. People’s livelihoods are threatened, their children are taken or killed, and abortions are forced upon loving parents who cry for the babies they were never able to hold and nourish – just for following God’s law. I know a lot of Christians will miss their weekly dose of laughter with the Robertsons if A&E doesn’t budge and the family stands by their statement that Duck Dynasty cannot continue without their patriarch, but aren’t there bigger things at stake than the American obsession with reality TV?
I think Phil Robertson is a good guy. I know he loves Jesus. I have heard his testimony about repenting and turning from a life of sin and resting fully on the grace of our savior Jesus Christ. He is living proof that God changes lives. Yet, his remarks show a flaw in the way many Christians think. And that is where we turn back to the question, “What is sin?”
First off, “Sin” is much bigger than the sexual sins Phil Robertson emphasized and crassly described in his comments. Going back to the Ten Commandments, God shows that to be right with Him, we are to worship Him and Him alone, honor our parents, be truthful, etc. Of the ten, only two mention sexual sin, and the second of those, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” is only partly sexual since it goes on to condemn covetousness of all kinds. After houses, land, servants, and animals, Deuteronomy 5:21 adds, “or anything that is your neighbors.” God is holy, and His standards are higher than our attempted holiness can reach.
Romans 1 is one of the main chapters in the Bible used to condemn homosexuality. In verses 26 and 27, Paul speaks about both men and women giving up natural relations with the opposite gender and instead having dishonorable passions and committing shameless acts with the same gender. It seems simple then: homosexuality is sin. Yet, this is neither the beginning or end of the chapter. Rather than being the cause of sin, homosexuality is the result of sin. Look at verses 21-22:
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…”
So, sin is failing to honor God. To be ungrateful to God is sin. Claiming to be wise unto ourselves is sin. Therefore, sin is failing to have a proper understanding of God and man. Sin goes much deeper than mere actions. The result of dishonoring God can be homosexuality. But it is not the only result.
“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:28-32 ESV)
Yes, homosexuality is a sin, and Phil Robertson is right to not give approval to those who practice it. But as Christians, we need to be careful not to pick and choose what we consider sins based on what the hot topics of the day are. Sin is a condition of the heart and from that condition springs all manner of unrighteousness. We thank God for His mercy in our lives and we lovingly pray that others (including the leaders of A&E) would honor God, give Him thanks, and stop committing and approving of unrighteousness.