Almost everyone has experienced this at one time or another!
You know that “inside voice” and “outside voice” most of us struggle with at times (ok, sure, I struggle with this, but I’m applying this broadly—work with me!)? I remember a meeting I was in a few years ago and there was a spirited discussion on a topic I am reasonably passionate about. One of the other “participants” made a statement which I considered logically weak and immature (I was among my peers; I wasn’t berating a six-year-old!), I said in a sotto voce “Someone needs to put on their big boy pants.”
Because of the academic nature of this setting, the individual complained to the professor about my “uncalled for” comment.
The professor told him the same thing!
This is also the current state of the American Evangelical reaction to the 2016 Election season. For far too long—well, at least since the 1980 Election—American Evangelicals have rested in the fact they can choose to impact the American electoral process by merely exercising their collective wills. We (I am an evangelical Christian) have come to assume it is our right and privilege to have a candidate, and even a political party, which will minimally parrot our values back to us on demand.
Unfortunately, we have allowed ourselves to develop a sense of appreciation and even entitlement to being lied to in the process. We have become so infatuated with who we are and what we think “should be,” we are shocked, demeaned, offended, dismayed, taken aback, demoralized (do I really need to continue here?) that the two front running candidates are acting like people who do not represent who we are and our values!
No need to fear my fellow American Evangelical! Trust me, they do not represent our values!
As believers in Jesus Christ, we need to remember the Bible teaches quite clearly things will become much worse before Jesus Christ returns to this earth. We do not, and never have, lived in a Christian nation. God, through His grace and mercy, has rewarded in the past the faithfulness of His people in the United States by granting them a peaceful and friendly society in which to exercise their beliefs. Yet because God loves us and will never enable us to either harm ourselves or others, He is withdrawing this protection so that the Church in America will grow stronger and even “grow up.”
The first century Church during the days of the Apostles never under any delusion that their government loved them, represented their beliefs and values and always sought to insure their freedom to worship. Christians in the early church were hunted like proverbial wild dogs and persecution was rampant and indeed expected.
Yet the Church grew. It flourished in the face of hatred and intolerance. If American believers would force themselves off their religious couch, this almost herculean mental effort would allow them to see God is doing a similar work of His greatness in China, North Korea and many of the predominantly Muslim nations today. Not because God has provided “a peaceful environment,” but because believers in other parts of our world today actually must live their faith and know what they believe.
In 2016, American believers must come to the realization they have made a political party their idol. No political party can ever take the place of the Spirit of God or the sovereign power only found in a relationship with Jesus Christ!
It’s time American Christianity puts on their “big boy” pants……!
A Marriage of Convenience
There are some things I do not believe I will ever understand.
I went into a McDonald’s a while back and there was a sign hanging on the wall: “Braille menus available.”
Who is that sign for?
There were a couple of songs on the radio in the early seventies which have always given me fits. One was MacArthur Park: “someone left the cake out in the rain, I don’t think that I can take it, ‘Cause it took so long to bake it, and I’ll never have that recipe again.”
Seriously? Forget the cake; what about the hash brownies the writer obviously inhaled before writing this jingle?
One of the thornier issues facing Christians in general and myself as a pastor in particular is same-sex marriage. Over the years I have heard some very good men make some incredibly gifted attempts to claim the existence of same-sex marriage undermines the existence and value of heterosexual marriage. One pastor used the image of marriage being a boat and the proponents of same-sex marriage were doing the equivalent of boring holes in the bottom of the boat. In other words, if any other definition of marriage is allowed to occur, the whole of marriage would be destroyed.
I cannot more vigorously disagree.
Heterosexual marriage, in practice, doesn’t exactly have a “moral high ground” in this matter. The divorce rate in America still hovers around the fifty (50) percentile mark; those who identify themselves as Christians are not far removed from this mark. Yet it seems some of the more strident voices against same-sex marriage emanate from those claiming to be Christians—and some of the verbiage they are using gets pretty ugly!
As a pastor, I teach the entire Bible. Some believers have been trotting out the passages in Leviticus which describe the results of “men being with men” (my paraphrase) and “women being with women.” Those words are there and God was serious when He wrote them—He still is. The Bible states homosexuality is sin—along with many other activities as well. I also realize there are many people, some of whom I am friends with—who are homosexual.
If you are reading this and have chosen this lifestyle, then I most likely have hacked you off bad enough for you to throw your computer across the room! I would not recommend that action.
I do not dislike homosexuality any more than I dislike divorce, lying, over-eating, greed or any other sin. In fact, I can state along with the Apostle Paul, “I am what I am by God’s grace.” If there is anything I or anyone would consider good in my life, it’s not because I’m better or smarter, it’s because God is good.
Same-sex marriage is going to be what “is” in our country. Christians are going to have to come to grips with this. It doesn’t change what God’s Word says, it doesn’t change my responsibility to be obedient to God’s Word. We live in a democracy. If the people in this country decide this is okay, then believe it or not, God isn’t shocked one bit.
Allow me to channel my father’s words to me when I was ten years old: “I don’t care what the neighbor kids do—you belong to me!”
Our responsibility as believers is to love people with the love given to us by God and demonstrated by Jesus Christ on the Cross. This “love” is not sex, the “warm fuzzies” nor are we to embrace the definition our culture demands and then has called “good” what the Bible calls “evil.” True love is lived, it is demonstrated through our action and obedience to Jesus Christ in our lives. We do not and cannot demand obedience from those who are “not part of our family.” They may do as they choose. We are called by God to demonstrate truth through obedience.
The normalization of same-sex marriage is an opportunity given by God for us to prove the truth of our God and demonstrate our relationship to Him through our obedience. Christians should strive to have marriages so everyone who sees them would desire a marriage just like them! This is the whole point of living for Christ: demonstrating the love Christ has for this world through our obedient love for Him!
God has placed American Christians in America. He understands democracy and the great freedoms it gives. He also understands the human heart. When people reject His commands and His offer of salvation, believers should not react in hate and anger. People who reject the tenets of Scripture are not rejecting Christians or our sensibilities (so we need to get over ourselves): they are rejecting God.
Of course, the demand by the proponents of same-sex marriage who say I must state their cause is just and right are just as unfortunately wrong. I am not called to approve actions because of social pressure; I am called to be obedient to the Lord. Just as in first century Rome when the Church was in its infancy, Christians were not persecuted because they believed in Jesus Christ or Yahweh-God. Christians were persecuted because they refused political correctness and would not call Caesar “Lord!” Our obedience to Christ will always make us incredibly unpopular.
For far too long Christians have allowed Satan to get them off task by focusing too much on what those who are outside of a relationship with Christ are doing. Should sin be identified? Yes it should. But the identification of “sin” should be motivated by the same love a mother has for the child who gets too close to a hot oven: the warning is clear, it’s strong and its concern is for the safety of the child. It’s because the mother loves her child.
If we speak out against the sin in this world, let us make sure it’s because we love people like Jesus does. Our responsibilities are the same as they have always been: to love others.
This isn’t convenient.
It’s love and obedience.