Friday, October 31, 2014

Is This a Gift From God?

Apple CEO Tim Cook will go down in history as having said, "I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me." For those of us who have studied the Bible, that statement raises our hackles. How dare he say such a thing? Clearly, the Bible says that God is opposed to homosexuality and God doesn’t disagree with his word, so it can’t be a gift from God.

When we look a little closer at what Tim Cook is saying, he says that his experience as a practicing homosexual has given him a better understanding of the experience that minorities have had. I think we all can agree that being able to see things from the perspective of other people is a good thing. I expect that the good Tim Cook has gotten from his experiences, mixed with his belief that he was born homosexual, is why he is attributing this as a gift from God. (We need not debate whether he was born with same sex attraction or not because the truth is complicated and in the grand scheme of things, it does matter. Are we all not born with a desire to eat? And yet, God calls gluttony a sin.) Many people have the idea that if a good thing comes from something, then the thing it came from must be a gift from God.

Let’s look at an example we can better understand. Suppose a woman is raped and as a result she is impregnated. Nine months later, a precious child is born into the world. By the logic that Tim Cook is using, the rape is a gift from God because it produced something good. Of course, this is ridiculous. We know what Romans 8:28 says. That doesn’t mean all things are good, but God is able to use the bad things to bring good things into our lives. So, it shouldn’t be hard to believe that Tim Cook’s experiences with dealing with bad choices has given him the ability to better understand people who have been dealing with similar situations by no choice of their own. This is similar to saying that the drug addict who chose to take drugs has an understanding of children who became drug addicts in their mother’s womb.

As we consider this, we might want to consider whether some of the other things people call gifts from God are truly gifts. I’ve often heard about “the gift of singleness” as being a gift from God and I’ve said that it is the gift that no one wants. It is based on 1 Corinthians 7:7-8. But it seems like people (usually married people) have to work very hard when they try to explain how singleness is a gift. To me, it seems more likely that the ability to handle singleness is the gift, while singleness itself is not. That’s not to say there aren’t things to value about being single. As Paul pointed out, a single person has more freedom to focus on the things of God. If I, as a single person, want to stay up all night working on something, I don’t have a wife coming in and asking, “When are you coming to bed?” If someone calls and asks for my help, I don’t have to say, “My wife has made plans.” In the situation the Corinthians had asked Paul about, it appears that singleness was ideal, but that doesn’t mean that it is ideal right now.

Why would I say that? Well, because there was a reason why God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” It is a lot easier to explain why that is true than it is to explain why singleness is a gift. It isn’t good to spend too much time alone with your thoughts. They tend to fester into things they ought not to be. It isn’t good to have no one you can confide in. A several years ago, something happened at church. I don’t remember what it was, but it didn’t go my way. It may have occurred in a committee meeting or something and afterward I said something about it to another church member who was aware of what was happening. As far as I was concerned, I just needed to vent. I made my comment and went on about my business. But a short time later, someone in the church leadership (fortunately, I don’t remember who) took me aside to talk to me, because they’d heard, “Timothy’s upset.” So now, I had to explain my position on this thing that I was ready to put behind me and forget. After that, I had to listen as they talked about it. Had I been married, my comments would’ve likely been made to my wife on the way home from church or at the dinner table. She would’ve either helped me see where I was wrong or we would’ve come to a mutual agreement that there was nothing that could be done about it and it would’ve been over. Lesson learned. It is not for singles to vent, if you don’t want people to worry you’re about to leave the church.

Consider the Proverb, “The blessings of the Lord maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22) We should not feel compelled to call things that bring sorrow a gift of God. God is able to use those things to bring us good things, and that is a gift in itself, but the things that bring sorrow into our lives are not gifts from God.