“Ain’t No Pastor’s Gonna Make It To Heaven”
Not so long ago, my dad asked me why people at church don’t refer to me as, “Pastor Jonathan.” I started co-teaching a class with another pastor and whenever the class was advertised, people would say, “taught by Jonathan and Pastor Baldwin.” Maybe it’s not common knowledge that I’ve been a licensed minister for almost two years now or maybe I don’t do enough to make it know, but people usually refer to me as just, “Jonathan.” My dad was irked that people did not call me “Pastor Jonathan.” He went on a mini-tirade about how I’m a pastor and people need to call me, “Pastor Jonathan.”
When my dad finally finished his tirade, I told him that I didn’t really care. I could see that this bothered him and he was about to begin another mini-tirade. But before he could, I interrupted, “Being a pastor is what I do, and not who I am. I pastor but that should never define me. So why should I care about the title, ‘Pastor Jonathan?’”
There’s a tendency for people to define themselves and others by what they do. They take verbs and make nouns. We call those who pastor – pastors, those who teach – teachers, those who lie – liars, those who cheat – cheaters, etc. The problem with defining others by what they do is that we create a very narrow view of that person. In that narrow view, we never really see WHO that person really is. I pastor, but I am more than just a pastor. Ultimately, I know that I am defined not by what I do but who God says I am.
So why all this talk about identity and definition? I came across this article on Gawker called, “Indiana Church Urges On Four-Year-Old Boy Singing Anti-Gay Hymn.” In the article is a video of a young boy singing, “Ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven” and a church cheering him on. In the middle of the cheering the boys father yells out, “That’s my boy!” My initial thought was, “someone call child services.” Then I began wonder if it was true – “ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven.”
The problem with the lyrics (besides being totally ignorant) is that it takes homosexuality as noun. Yes, I understand that according to grammar it is indeed a noun. But why does it define a person? Why does it fate a person? I pastor but I sin. Does this make me a pastor-sinner? One of the areas that I’ve been thinking deeply about is what does it mean to love my neighbors, even if they are gay. One of the conclusions that I came up with is that I needed to stop defining people by what they do but seeing who they are in Christ. This means I must not see homosexuality as a noun but as a verb, just as I don’t see pastor as a noun but a verb.
So is it true? “Ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven.” I don’t think so. If what we do defines us in God’s eyes, we’re all screwed. No, what defines us and our destiny is where we stand in relationship to Christ. The New Testament is filled with the language of, “IN CHRIST.” I believe the reason we define ourselves and others by what we or they do is because we failed to see that our true identity is found in Christ. We must not define others by what they do but by who they are in Christ. Can a person be “gay” and in Christ? As much as a person who is a “pastor” can be in (or out) of Christ.