"Let's firebomb the scum". This was righteous indignation turned up to 10. They were appalled at the behaviour they had encountered. It was an insult to Christ himself. How dare they? These unclean people with their corrupt ideas and compromised way of life. Let the judgement come and let it come ruthlessly and quickly. "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" (Luke 9:54).
"But Jesus turned and rebuked them" (Luke 9:55).
James and John had an excuse – they didn't have the New Testament, didn't understand the mission of Jesus in their time, didn't yet fathom what was meant by a day of Grace. Pastor Logan Robertson has no such excuses, indeed for someone who includes the word 'Bible' in his church name his actions are inexcusable.
Robertson is the pastor of the Westcity Bible Baptist Church in Auckland, and has claimed his '15 minutes of fame' by joining the ranks of the Westboro' Church in Kansas and those who seem to think that hating gay people is some kind of Christian virtue. In his case it was to respond to a publicity email from author Jim Marjoram promoting a book about his struggles as a Gay Christian. Robertson's response was to wish that Majoram would commit suicide along with an outpouring of shocking disdain and insult.
The fact that Robertson is one of a miniscule minority among professing Christians (that is, representing a number that would almost certainly not register on any meaningful statistical breakdown of the church in NZ, never mind the world) is of little consolation. It is enough that he wears the title 'Pastor' and has a church to his name. The headlines generated will play into the hands of those who oppose Biblical faith – it reinforces the stereotype of dangerous religious fanatics. Christianity can be painted as just another bullying and vindictive religion. Just as extremist Muslims in Syria abuse and persecute anyone outside their tiny segment of the 'Venn diagram' – so go these evangelical-fundamentalist-Bible-bashing-redneck Christians.
The reality is that Robertson's views are an obnoxious parody of even the most conservative orthodox Christian views. The content of his email has more theological common ground with IS in Syria than any mainstream church, evangelical or otherwise. Sadly, for someone claiming to be a Christian pastor, Robertson's views simply expose a terrible shallowness in his understanding of some basic Christian truths.
A shallow understanding of Gospel love
Such is God's aching heart that lost people will be recovered, that the unclean will be washed, and sinners saved, He holds back His unfaultable judgement far beyond a timescale even his critics think is reasonable (2 Peter 3:3-9). All the while He shows kindness to the wicked and the ungrateful (Luke 6:35). It was when "the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared" that "he saved us" (Titus 3:4). Gospel love is not fickle, conditional or merited – it sees the soul among the sins and woos it with kindness. To act in any other way is to "show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realising that God's kindness leads you towards repentance" (Romans 2:4).
A shallow understanding of Biblical perspective
Pastor Robertson, I'm sure, would respond to the above with a set of Bible verses of his own. He would quote verses condemning homosexual activity and stating God's fierce wrath against unrighteous acts. All of course are true and are to frame our understanding of God's holiness and the necessity of judgement. But that judgement is in God's hands, not ours – "It is mine to avenge, I will repay, says the Lord" (Romans 12:19). Our call in the meantime is to "overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). Today is the day of grace – not retribution.
A shallow understanding of humility
I came across this joke recently: Two Bankers are walking past a church and see a sign outside stating, '£1000 cash if you convert to Christianity today'. One of the Bankers, rubbing his hands, says, "£1000! I'm in". And leaving his fellow Banker disappears inside the church. Three hours later he emerges and his colleague asks, "Did you get the £1000?", to which he sighs and says, "Is that all you people think about?"
The joke is a great illustration of how quickly Christians can forget their own pasts and become so judgemental about the very people they used to be. Every person contends with a fallen sexuality, we are all adulterers (at least in heart) and mis-users of our bodies – me, you and Pastor Robertson! The wonder of the gospel is that we can be changed, cleansed and begin again (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). But when we start to vilify, rip apart and castigate others it is a sure sign that we have forgotten where we came from and that pride has replaced humility and gratitude.
Is it thoroughly miserable that an opportunity for a pastor to show God's love, to extend grace and act in humility has ended up bringing such disrepute upon the gospel. That Jim Marjoram has been abused in such a way is something that Westcity Bible Baptist Church should publicly repent of and apologise for. Maybe then the true grace and power of the gospel might have the chance to be heard.
Andy Hunter is FIEC's Scotland Director.