Why Saying ‘Love Is Love’ Cheapens Real Love

Why Saying ‘Love Is Love’ Cheapens Real Love

If you’ve spent any time on social media lately, you’ve probably seen a phrase being used which simply says, ‘Love is Love’. The meaning behind the statement is that falling in love is not about the gender of the person, nor important if it’s monogamous or polyamorous. The sentiment is that you can be gay, bi or straight and pursue a monogamous or polyamorous relationship as long as you’re getting the love, affection and companionship that you need to be happy and fulfilled emotionally as well as satisfied sexually.

The understanding is that when someone makes the statement using the three words, ‘love is Love’, that should settle the matter. After all, how can you argue with someone else’s choice to love? For that matter, it might not even be a choice anyways if I have ‘fallen in love’ because that’s an uncontrolled physical and emotional response to chemistry between two people that just happens. Is it though?

There are a few issues that need to be addressed that come along with the blanket statement ‘Love is Love. For instance, where do we draw the line? Does it only include ‘love’ between two consenting adults, or could it include love between an adult and a child or a human and an animal?

To most of us, including those who promote the current idea of the phrase ‘love is love’, those suggestions would be unthinkable. However, only a few short years ago the majority would have been aghast at the idea of the love is love ideology as it is promoted today. Yet there are movements afoot to normalize both pedophilia and bestiality as we speak, who’s to say that one day they wouldn’t be ‘normalized’? It’s happened before in past cultures – Rome & Greece are just two examples of many.

Who set’s the boundary of this love is love ideology anyways? After all, ‘Love is love’ isn’t it? It comes down to the simple pursuit of happiness and that sense of being needed, wanted, and cared for – isn’t that what we all want? If the answer to those questions are in the affirmative then I’d say, ‘go for it!’.

But what if it is not an enlightened way to live but is instead a foolish lie? What if it leads to unhealthy places for one or both involved; emotionally, spiritually, and yes even physically?[1] If that’s the case then we need to be extremely careful in making a case for what we might think should be normal and accepted in our culture.

Before we go on, let’s look at this falling in love idea…

IS FALLING IN LOVE A REAL THING? 

I’ve heard the statement used, “Well you can’t help who you ‘fall in love’ with”. Falling in love is an expression describing someone’s emotional state when those puppy dog, googly eyed, happy feelings of what’s assumed to be love, start to grip the soul and make you feel like you just can’t breathe another moment without that person being in the same room with you. But I think we need to ask whether or not ‘falling in love’ is even a real thing.

The idea of “falling in love” relies on warm emotions and (more than likely) surging hormones. However, the idea that love is all about feelings is more of a western cultural, 20th century invention than anything else. The biblical view of love is that love can exist apart from feelings. Think about it, no hormones are needed to obey the command to “love your neighbour as yourself” – James 2:8. In other words, we choose to love; that is, we commit ourselves to act in the best interests of another person.

Of course, nice emotions often accompany love, and we naturally have warm feelings toward someone we’re attracted to. And of course, it’s good and proper to have positive feelings and surging hormones when in the company of your spouse. But if that’s all there is to “falling in love,” then we’re in trouble. What happens when the feelings fall away? What about when the hormones stop surging? Have we fallen “out” of love?

Love should never be seen as dependent on feelings or expediency or romantic attraction. The “falling in love” concept places undue emphasis on the emotional condition of those involved. The wording of the phrase almost makes it sound as if love were an accident: “I can’t help falling in love with you” makes a nice song lyric, but, in real life, we are responsible to control our emotions. Many marriages have been ended (and many foolishly begun) because someone “fell in love” with the wrong person.

Love isn’t a state that we stumble into; it’s a commitment that we grow into. It’s probably more accurate to say that those who “fall in love” actually “fall in lust” or “fall into infatuation” or “fall into co-dependency.”

So my answer to that question, ‘is falling in love a real thing?’ can only be no, but rather an invention of the western world’s infatuation with a ‘fun’ emotional sensation.

LOVE IS LOVE STILL… ISN’T IT?

Even still, someone may not have experienced the emotional sensation of falling in love but have instead grown into a love commitment with someone other than their spouse, with more than one partner at a time or with someone of the same gender. If that’s the case then can we not say that for them at least, love is love? If loving is a choice that means I can still love someone of the same gender, or more than one person… after all love is love – right?

Ephesians 5:31 is a quotation of Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.” Paul adds in verse 32: “This is a great mystery, and I take it to mean Christ and the church.”

The union of one man and one woman in marriage is a mystery because it presents a parable, a true story, a picture of Christ and the church. And hidden in this allegory of marriage is that God ordained a permanent union between his Son Jesus and the church. In other words, marriage Is not simply an ancient cultural definition that we haven’t ‘evolved’ away from yet, nor is it an accident that marriage between a man and woman provides the church with a language to explain Christ’s relation to the church.

God had purposefully designed human marriage to be an earthly reflection of his celestial plan. Do you see that picture? God willed it that Christ and the church become one body, and then willed it for marriage to reflect that pattern. That is why we see the blessing and encouragement of a husband and wife becoming one flesh as stated in Genesis 2:24.

Paul paints the picture for us even further about this being the image for the church when he says, “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 11:2

Now, understanding that – when people say that “love is Love” – we can’t help but see how it cheapens what true love is. It doesn’t allow for the full expression to be experienced as God intended, and we see it for what it is (or is not). It’s not an enlightened understanding of love at all but is in truth a bad copy at best.

Of all the ways we might think about love being expressed, biblical love gives us the best definition. In fact, it’s described as “the most excellent way” – 1 Corinthians 12:31. Paul says that “Love is patient, love is kind” – 1 Corinthians 13:4. I don’t think that it should be lost on us that we don’t find too many people, if any at all, “falling into” patience or kindness, do we?

“Falling in love” or saying that “love is Love” are nice phrases and make for great soundbites to use in the moment or in songs on a soundtrack. They appeal to the emotions and give us nice fuzzies, the goosebumps, the enjoyable feelings of having entered the ideal romance. Please understand that I think that those feelings are fine, in and of themselves, and it’s possible that those who are “falling in love” have actually found a perfect match.

But we need always remember that love is more than emotional involvement based on physical attraction. It’s more than finding a person or persons to ‘enjoy’ experiences with. Truth is that those who are falling in love are sometimes blinded to the reality of their situation and can easily mistake the intensity of their emotions for genuine love.

But there’s some good news…

REDEMPTION BRINGS RECOVERY

God created marriage between one man and one woman to be THE image of Jesus’ relationship to the church. But the problem has been that sin has so confused the image as to make it unrecognizable. If contemporary culture succeeds in redefining and reimaging the purpose of love relationships, the meaning of the image we are to reflect to the world of Christ & his bride, seen as love between a husband and wife will be obscured for many years to come.

That is why we, who are committed to God’s definition of marriage, must live out the true meaning of authentic, committed love relationships, with our spouses if we’re married, within the church in authentic ways, with our neighbours representing Jesus to them, and even more importantly with Jesus Christ himself, growing to know him intimately.

As we grow in these love relationships, we need to commit to living out our true love publicly and joyfully, so that the world sees it and begins to recognize the depth of love they are missing out on. We need to live it out in such a way that our love displays Christ in all his beauty. That’s the Gospel being put on display! And pray that those who see our love in action will be so attracted to Jesus that they soon become counted among the redeemed and recover the life they were created for – a love relationship with our Heavenly Father, through his son Jesus, accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit.

True story – It’s only as our lives are redeemed that true recovery back to reflecting the image of Jesus can be realized just as those ‘some’ were redeemed and recovered who Paul wrote to in the Corinthian church so long ago.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

[1]A telling statistic is that HPV infection is found in about 90% of people with anal cancer: https://www.medicaldaily.com/does-anal-sex-lead-anal-cancer-3-facts-and-myths-400561

Should Christians Care About Drag Shows?

I don’t think it’s just me, but it only seems like we (our collective culture)  blinked and then, what was once a part of the gay subculture, men dressing up as drag queens, have now become a common and celebrated feature of pop culture.

They’re featured prominently in Pride parades and other LGBTQ+ celebrations. Events promoted as “family friendly” are easily discovered in places like the public library for story time readings, elementary schools, family time brunches, beauty contests, and talent shows.  And of course, there are a number of current TV shows focused on drag, like RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1), We’re Here (HBO), Call Me Mother (OutTV), and Legendary (HBO Max).

As the world of drag becomes more mainstream a question has begun to be asked. Is this type of entertainment ok for the Christian to enjoy? Isn’t it just another form of acting? After all, the ancient Greek actors were only men who’d dress up to act the various roles of women in their plays. We have watched Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie and Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire without watching the world blow up – even had good laughs while watching those movies. Totally innocent fun – isn’t it? 

Well, I personally think that the ancient Greeks probably shouldn’t be held up as the moral standard, and Hollywood should not be the litmus test for right or wrong about anything. Instead, let’s explore a little about what message is being sent via this current entertainment craze – ‘drag shows’ and what if anything the bible says about it and why or if a Christian should care.

Let’s begin by exploring a term that has been gaining traction lately to describe the actual purpose of drag shows – ‘Queering’.

What is Queering?

The term Queer itself has become an identity label as well as a point of pride and celebration. Hence the Q in the LGBTQ+ acronym. Queer can be a collective label for anything within the LGBTQ+ spectrum – that is, any person or thing that falls outside heterosexual or stereotypical gender norms.

As academic scholars began using the word queer to define their radical social theories, the word gained additional power. These theories were aimed at elevating non-traditional sexuality and devaluing heterosexuality as the normalized good in society. One way of combating what these scholars labeled heteronormativity was by a specific disruptive process of queering. Through this use, queer had become a verb – an action.

Queering is intended to complicate and disrupt what is perceived to be the normative. As an action, it is the use of words, actions, or representatives to directly challenge heterosexuality, traditional gender roles, or the male/female binary. (binary is identifying as a man or a woman or even presenting yourself specifically and exclusively as a man or woman)

The Encyclopedia of Diversity and Social Justice (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015) defines queering in this way: Queering is one strategy for queer activists who want to unsettle or complicate normative practices, spaces, or discourses. Introducing queer bodies into normative spaces, for instance, changes the dynamics of that space by unsettling the taken-for-granted characteristics of that space. Drag queens might “take over” a “straight bar” in order to queer the space or complicate what that space means to the people inhabiting it.

In other words, disrupt foundational assumptions about sex and gender and, thereby, transform social norms by offering new possibilities. These possibilities do not have to be the new normal in themselves, but they work to move people’s sensibility toward accepting queerness as normal (and fun) by offering a counterpoint to it.

We can clearly see this unfolding during a Drag performance. That’s because the Drag performance itself is an act of queering in its attempt to complicate and unsettle binary depictions of sex and gender.

This is evidenced in the complicated use of pronouns which dismantles order and clarity as in the case of Ru Paul. Ru Paul has one set of pronouns (he/him) and a different set when dressed in drag (she/her). The drag persona is female while the real person underneath is male, as evidenced when RuPaul was signed to a modeling contract for MAC Cosmetics. Various billboards featured him in full drag, often with the text “I am the MAC girl”.

But the queering practice goes deeper. Consider the way Drag Queen Story Hours have become a feature of education in recent years. These are events where a drag performer reads storybooks to young children in a school, library, or bookstore setting. The Drag Queen Story Hour website proudly declares that through these events “kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where everyone can be their authentic selves!” The purpose is to stretch a child’s imagination to include drag queens as normal. This is precariously close to, if not already, the grooming of our children.

Here’s the thing, queering is intentionally designed to blur the lines of male, and female. Further, It’s meant to make people more accepting of the LGBTQ+ ideology at an emotional level.

And not only are (should) Christians completely be right to oppose it. Even some within the LGBTQ+ community speak out against the practice of queering. One drag queen, who goes by the name “Kitty Demure,” scolded parents for promoting Drag Queen Story Hour events.

“Would you want a stripper or a porn star to influence your child? It makes no sense at all. A drag queen performs in a nightclub for adults. There is a lot of filth that goes on. A lot of sexual stuff that goes on. And backstage there’s a lot of nudity, sex, and drugs. Okay? So I don’t think this is an avenue you would want your child to explore.” – Kitty Demure

Why Should Christians Care?

Many Christians insist that other Christians just need to quiet down, hold their peace, and love their neighbours and let each be who they want to be. In a conversation I recently had with a friend who was promoting that approach said to me, “After all, Jesus didn’t speak against homosexuality, drag, or other LGBTQ+ issues, so he’s at least neutral if not open to it. What Jesus doesn’t condemn; we shouldn’t condemn.”

On the surface this may sound plausible; however, the problem with this argument is that this is an argument from silence. The fact is that silence doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Should kidnapping be allowable too? After all Jesus never said that kidnapping was a sin, yet I’m sure that all of us would agree that stealing children is wrong.

It’s true that Jesus didn’t address drag directly, but he did speak clearly about sexuality in general, specifically addressing and defining marriage and gender roles in Matthew 19:4–6 & Mark 10:6–9 using both Genesis 1:26–27 & Genesis 2:24 to explain it.

 “At the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” – Matthew 19:4-6

Here Jesus defines and affirms gender roles as a man and a woman, a reflection of the fact that God made us male and female to care for creation together. If Jesus had believed in a broader definition of gender and a blurring of the lines between the two, then here was his opportunity to present it.

Yet he never spoke of, or presented a spectrum along the gender line, he spoke only of two clearly defined terms and roles – man and woman. Jesus was solidly affirming the male – female relationship as it had been established with the very first couple, Adam & Eve. This is a major reason we Christians should care.

Back to the Drag show situation – we Christians should also care because of an issue that has become more prevalent over the past number of years and of which drag shows most certainly help to normalize. Namely a condition termed ‘Gender Dysphoria’ (or gender identity disorder).

Gender Dysphoria is fast becoming an accepted standard in our world and is quickly being eliminated as a classified disorder at all. An individual may now identify as ‘male’, ‘female’ or ‘other’ on many, if not all, government forms today. In this new world order we now see that Transgenderism currently finds protection within the law of the land… at least north of the American/Canadian border.

In Canada, Bill C-16, was recently introduced that updates the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression. It also extends hate speech laws to include the two terms, making it a hate crime to target someone for being transgender.

Jordan Peterson, Canadian clinical psychologist, cultural critic, and professor of physiology at the University of Toronto, jumped all over it, “I will never use words I hate,” Peterson wrote, “like the trendy and artificially constructed words ‘zhe’ and ‘zher.’ These words are at the vanguard of a post-modern, radical leftist ideology that I detest, and which is, in my professional opinion, frighteningly similar to the Marxist doctrines that killed at least 100 million people in the 20th century.”

Granted, not all drag performances are brazenly sexualized, nor are all those who identify with a gender dysphoria sexual predators, however the truth rains that the very act of drag perverts the picture of God’s clearly defined created order and why again we as Christians should care.

“God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.” – Genesis 1:27

How Should Christians Respond?

Certainly, some applaud Jordan Peterson, even while others decry his position. Lines have been drawn, opinions shared, accusations made, and unkind words are being thrown left and right. For myself, no matter my personal opinion about the ‘gender’ issue, I am first and foremost a believer in treating people with a value and respect that I’d hope to receive for myself. We shouldn’t need a law to force us to respect other people.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that this blurring of the gender lines is sin and a problem. I do believe that it is certainly sin and needs to be called out for what it is. It is controlling the hearts and minds of people, damaging society along with the individuals who are caught in the lie that says their self-worth is found in their sexuality or sexual identity. It’s not! Self-worth can only be found in Jesus Christ. And one of the ways we discover our self-worth and true identities through Jesus is in the celebration of the sexes as God created them, male and female.

However, this never gives a Christian license to demean someone who might struggle with sexual identity or identifies other than their birth gender. In fact, as disciples of Jesus Christ, our churches should be the safest place to talk about, and struggle with gender dysphoria. Yet too often, our churches have been anything but safe – and that’s something that Christians, including me, need to repent about. The Bible challenges churches to reflect and represent Jesus by reaching out to transgender and gender dysphoric neighbours with loving grace-filled hope.

I’m not sure that the average church is living out that challenge though. Having said that I believe most churches would like to. So, the question begs to be asked; To live like that, what would we need to be more like? If we lived like that what would we look like?

We Must be a Caring People

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10

If a self-identified transgender individual walked into your church, would this person be greeted? How about invited for lunch? How about invited back next Sunday? Our response to those who identify as transgender must be absolute and sincere, “You are welcome here. You are loved.”

That’s because we believe that all people matter to God. As a result, we must seek to intentionally engage all people with an effort to move them toward God, while relating to them where they are at in every stage of life and spiritual journey. The mission of every Christian is to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ within their circle of influence. This needs to be characterized by genuine friendships; actively doing good deeds; sharing a personal witness; & dependence upon prayer and the Holy Spirit’s convicting /drawing work.

Sadly though, too often our churches give the impression that the Son of Man came to seek and save the squeaky clean, not the lost. To combat this requires us to be transparent about our own struggles and failings. The antidote to this impression is to embrace the compassion that Jesus extends to each of us – and in turn extend it to others. We need to live lives that habitually repent often, forgive freely, extend grace continuously, and love fully.

We Must be a Listening People

As the bringers of light to a dark world and as representatives of Jesus who declared himself as the way, the truth and the life, we must boldly stand for truth and declare the way. That must never change. However, I wonder if, in our fervor we too often believe we can just declare the truth to the world and think that our job is done. “Good job boys… that’ll tell em.”

We work hard to make sure we have our truth or theology and apologetics down pat and then act as though we can simply give the ‘right’ answer, or the so called ‘Sunday school response’ to all the cultural problems being faced, believing then that the ‘issue’ will be cleared up, much like a home remedy for a spiritual head cold. But the problem is that many aren’t looking for head answers because they’re crying out to us from the heart. God made us with both heads and hearts that come with real thoughts, real feelings, and real desires.

I wonder if we sometimes forget that it is real people living in our neighbourhoods, interacting in our work spaces, sitting in our gatherings, and having real struggles. What do they hear in our conversations? Do they hear people trying to understand them or do they hear the dismissiveness of someone who has never really stopped to consider how they feel?

Of anyone on this earth, we should be known for being the ones who seek to understand their heart. This takes work, because sometimes, instead of coming up with the ‘answers’ we should spend more time being silent while honestly listening. In order to sincerely affect someone, we need to first listen to their heart.

We Must be a People of Grace & Truth

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

Jesus was full of both grace and truth. He wasn’t 50% grace and 50% truth. He was 100% grace and 100% truth. He always had exactly the right balance in his response to people and situations.

Most of us gravitate to one side or the other. We’re primarily truth people or primarily grace people. But rarely does anyone exhibit a healthy, Christ-like balance of both virtues. I confess to being out of balance on the truth side. I frequently need an extra measure of mercy and grace.

Only Jesus demonstrated a perfect even-handedness in every situation. He was passionate for truth. He prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth – your word is truth” – John 17:17. Yet he was compassionate toward hurting people. He encouraged his followers, “Love one another as I have loved you” – John 15:12.

To truly understand grace is to understand that I am an unworthy recipient of God’s mercy, and that but for the grace of God I would be not only a sinner but a condemned sinner. In consequence, I must endeavor to reflect in my dealings with others something of the mercy God has shown me.

Grace is an essential part of God’s character and is closely related to his benevolence, love, and mercy. Grace can be variously defined as “God’s favour toward the unworthy” or “God’s benevolence on the undeserving.” In his grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us abundantly, in spite of the fact that we don’t deserve to be treated so well or dealt with so generously. As the recipients of God’s grace, Christians are to be gracious to others even while speaking the truth.

If our churches are marked by one thing, let it be both grace and truth – the grace that always welcomes, always goes the extra mile, always forgives, and is extended continuously, even while being anchored in the truth of God’s Word.

We were meant to be a place of grace and truth – a place where everyone, no matter background or struggles, finds homes open and family offered, a place where people are listened to and loved rather than stereotyped and lectured. But also a place where people can find the truth of God’s Word being taught and applied. If you’re a disciple of Jesus Christ, God is calling you to that ministry.

How Can Christians Impact A World Opposed To Jesus?

The world is celebrating ‘Pride month’ as I write this. Parades, putting on display a show of open rebellion to God’s design of sexuality are promoted as normative family celebrations.

I see several posts on FB that call out to embrace this vision. Posts declaring “Love is Love” showing pictures of same sex couples, or pronouncements stating how we must end any dialogue against same sex relationships, is common place and sadly many of those posts come from church folks.

I write this while sitting on an airline flight, and the magazine in the seat pocket in front of me highlights and presents Pride as achieved through the embracing of the LGBTQ community as though it is the most natural thing to do.

The key article in the magazine is titled  Pride & Joy and is speaking to the pride and joy that has come from the steps made to normalize the gay lifestyle in Canada. Over the past 20 years in Canada, ‘Pride day’ has shifted to become ‘Pride month’. The anticipation and expectation is that society is quickly moving to ‘Pride life’ all year long.

Not only that, the anticipation & expectation is that we will and or must all agree with that vision and if we don’t we are branded as homophobic, accused of hate speech, considered bigoted, old-fashioned or seen as narrow-minded zealots.

For those who hold to the biblical understanding of marriage being instituted by God as a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman for the purpose of companionship, encouragement, sexual intimacy, and procreation. And who believe that sexual intimacy can only be enjoyed and expressed in the marriage relationship, how are we supposed to respond to the neighbour who doesn’t hold to the word of God and this biblical vision?

Can we have an impact or are we too late?

We can get upset post angry or derogatory comments ‘back at em’ on our FB posts, we can try to argue people into the kingdom. We can attempt to be ‘louder’ than the world around us. I have seen and heard much of that approach. But here’s the thing. I don’t think that anyone is listening. And even if they are, they’re not caring about our opinions.

I’ve discovered that one of the reasons people aren’t listening is that we are trying to answer questions nobody is asking. And so instead of stopping to listen to our angsts, we are being shut out.

Think about it. Do you think the average non-believer cares if they’re being biblical? Or that they aren’t following your Christian world view? Why do we continue to expect none-Christians to act like Christians? Christians themselves have a hard-enough time trying to act like a Christian.

Paul said in Romans, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honour 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, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.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 1:18-32

According to Paul, people can’t help having a distorted image of themselves, including their sexuality because of mankind’s sinful propensity to choose ‘idols’ instead of God. Man continues to see distorted images instead of the perfect image of God through Jesus.

So How Can Christians Impact A World So Opposed To Jesus?

It seems that to many, the greatest sin one can commit is the sin of “offending.” We guard our words, our actions, our attitudes, in case others become offended and turn away.

However, I really believe that if Jesus was around today, he would be called intolerant and even a ‘hater’, not because he sought to be divisive but because he wouldn’t be one of those who’d follow the crowd or bend to what is popular.

Sure, Jesus was about love… he cared for those in need and he obviously cared for those on the fringes and those folks who didn’t fit the religious standards. But he was also about truth and about ‘going & sinning no more’.

The average person couldn’t figure him out, which is why later on he lost the majority of his followers. Jesus was divisive, not because he was a jerk, but rather because of what he stood for. As a result he was different then everyone else… and it ultimately cost him.

Fast forward to our world and it seems that most of us work extremely hard to make sure we’re not seen as divisive and different. (Or if we do, we do it more as a badge of honour in our ability to ‘shake up the cultural tree’ than to do it to be Christ like). Either way, if we find that our ‘discipleship’ is acceptable to the masses, and if it doesn’t cost us something, then I think we’re doing it wrong.

The call of discipleship is, fundamentally, a call to allegiance. And as such, Jesus refuses to be an afterthought, a diversion, or a hobby in the lives of those who claim to be his disciples. It is an all or nothing thing, which includes giving up everything to follow him and standing apart from the masses even if that means being unpopular when the masses go opposite God’s way. If we’re not willing to do that – then can we be called a disciple of his?

Listen to these statistics… First, the average family has the television on for over 7 ½ hours a day – that’s just nuts! But then according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, those aged between 8 and 18 years old spent an average of 53 hours per week using electronics.[i]

That’s mind blowing enough, but then add to that the admission that most of us don’t spend more than 10 minutes a day in God’s word let alone spend any time praying other than over a meal. Wow! That should bring us to our knees. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that the church in the West is weak.

Get Grounded 

So, what do we do? It is vital to make Christ the first priority of every aspect and every decision in our lives if we expect to grow in relationship with him and then as a result impact the world around us. The Psalmist tells us how to make that happen. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” – Psalm 1:3

If you have ever seen a satellite picture of the Nile River in Egypt you will appreciate the picture it shows. The land is rich and lush with life along the banks of the flowing river, but as you move away from the water, life becomes scarcer and scarcer, the green turns lighter and lighter until soon all that’s left is a yellow desert. The focus of the picture though is of the green where there is of a continual flowing of refreshing waters that give the tree life, producing the greenery.

The water of the river flows 24/7 and as a result the tree is able to suck up all it requires to live and not only to live but to flourish and produce fruit just like a blessed man (and woman) who is ‘grounded’ by thirst quenching water and nutrient enriched soil.

I’ll admit that if there is one thing that bothers me as a preacher, it’s when people leave a morning worship service after getting their 40 – 60 minute fix of ‘God’, telling me on their way out to the car (and lunch) that they’re excited about living for Jesus because of what they’ve heard and experienced.

That part doesn’t bother me and in fact that is awesome. What bothers me is when I discover later that many of those very same people will, by that same evening, continue to struggle with the very things that they were so sure were conquered after getting excited at church on Sunday morning. I honestly believe that they want to change but don’t or can’t. They want to get close to Jesus but aren’t – Why?

Here’s why… You can’t be watered 40-60 minutes each week and expect to be strengthened, there must be a continual watering. A tree will die without being watered. That is why we need to get involved in reading God’s word daily. Follow Jesus daily, get involved with your local church community, places where you can be helped and be held accountable. As the church, we are meant to be a community to build each other up in our faith, continually, not just once a week.

Don’t expect to grow and feel close to Jesus if you are isolating yourself from others who can speak into your life, or if you aren’t putting yourself in a position to learn from his teachings which we get from reading his word and praying and learning how to pray.

Discipleship isn’t a Sunday thing it’s a lifestyle. God wants full custody… not just weekend visits.

 

In Acts 2 we see that the early church met daily and as a result they became grounded in Jesus Christ, and when persecution came the church grew and didn’t fall apart. They were strong and healthy and produced fruit just like the blessed man we see in Psalm 1.

So, let’s be honest with ourselves. We can get all worked up about how this world is going to the dogs and get all bothered about how the church doesn’t seem to have any teeth to combat sin, or for that matter too much teeth, but then not be willing to do what it takes to make Jesus the first priority and seek out what it means to be grounded in him… If that is us, can we actually expect to have an impact?

[i]http://www.zdnet.com/article/study-american-kids-spend-7-5-hours-per-day-using-electronics/

6 Ways To Affair Proof Your Marriage

Infidelity is one of the most painful and devastating experiences that a married person can encounter! Around the world, it is universally accepted as grounds for divorce and is even a legally accepted justification for murder in some states and many societies. Secular movies, television and books often depict infidelity in a humorous fashion but people impacted by infidelity are invariably shaken to the very core of who they are!

The Bible warns those who are married against extra marital affairs and in fact it seems to be so important to God that he posts them in the ten commandments twice; in Exodus 20:14 & 17. “You shall not commit adultery.” (vs 14), and “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.” (vs 17).

We may read this and not think that it is of any consequence to us, and yet statistics indicate that in the coming years many of us will be involved in affairs ourselves; either as the one betrayed or the betrayer.

Studies vary regarding the percentages who cheat ranging everywhere from 10% to over 75% but no matter the percentage the truth is that anything over 0% is too high. The actual percentage probably falls somewhere around the 25% – 30% range, and the Christian community is not immune. Carol Botwin, author of Men Who Can’t Be Faithful says: “Although some earlier studies indicated that men who were religious were more likely to remain monogamous, other, more recent studies have shown that religious men are as apt to have affairs as those who never enter a church. That goes for some religious leaders too.”

Charles Mylander, evangelical pastor, and author of Running The Red Lights says: “Christians may fall into extramarital affairs even when they are not looking for them. Too often well-meaning believers make unwise moves and suddenly realize they are in love with someone other than their spouse. The revelation…’If only I had known what was happening…’ dawns too late.”

Reasons for infidelity range all over the map. We can have unrealistic expectations that our relationship will always be the way it was in the early days of marriage and so cease to work at it. Or there is the belief that ‘if my spouse really loves me, he or she will know what I want without my needing to ask.’ Maybe there is extraordinary work stress or possibly one partner is going through a midlife crisis. Then there has been the increased opportunities for men and women to be alone together, as in work related scenarios. Studies have empirically shown that when persons of the opposite sex are in constant contact, such regular exposure enhances interpersonal attraction and tempting situations naturally increase.

We also have seen an increase since social media has become commonplace with the reconnecting of old flames. Seeing an old friend or flame from years ago on Facebook followed by a pleasant interaction is not wrong in and of itself, however if, because you are old ‘friends’, you feel it’s ok to meet several times alone… (after all it’s only a coffee), that is a recipe for disaster and often leads to more. We also have seen a rise in sexual addiction, especially since there is so much available online. And these are only a few examples, there are many more ways that affairs can start.

So how can we affair proof our marriages? The following five action steps are not fool proof nor are they a cure all for affair proofing a marriage. However, if they are followed together as a couple, your marriage will definitely be made stronger and put in a healthier place so that you can work on any other deep seated issues you may have.

 1  Foster a deep ‘friendship’ love

This is vital to a healthy marriage . A lot of people marry on the basis of romantic feeling (eros – love), but the core of a good marriage is not romantic feeling, but deep friendship (philia – love). The only way you will know if this sort of friendship is a possibility is by spending time together.

Couples do this fairly well before they’re married, it’s called dating or just hanging out or being together. But after you’re married don’t stop. Continue to build on that friendship through-out your marriage relationship. Learn to have fun together and commit to ongoing date nights and the occasional weekend away. Allow your marital friendship to grow such as determining that your spouse should come before your extended family, friends, hobbies and career. Certainly, we all agree that a career is important because it helps to supply the family material needs. However, there are times when a career can become a sort of ‘mistress’ itself. A career is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

And commit to the understanding that your spouse should come before your kids. It is so easy to focus strongly on our kids and yet studies have shown that children feel safest in a family when the husband-wife relationship is the core of the household.

2  Communicate from your heart consistently

Learn to listen to your spouse. Lack of communication is the major problem cited by both men and women impacted by affairs. How can you discover what your spouse really feels and where they are emotionally if you don’t listen to their heart? And how can you expect to resolve conflicts without truly listening? Listening helps to avoid many of those issues to begin with.

The late Harriet Pilpel, who practised family law in New York said, “I have seen a number of women whose husbands, according to them, have simply ‘walked out on them without any warning.’ When I talked further with them it turns out there were serious problems in the marriage. But the (wife) did not confront these issues, no less ask (her) partner to confront them with (her).” Oh, and just in case you’re wondering guys… listening is not just for your wife, that goes for you too, possibly twice as much because most of us guys are naturally poor listeners to begin with.

Communication involves speaking the truth in love and stating clearly and fairly your understanding of the issues as well as how you are feeling about the situation. Never speak with the intention of ‘getting even’ or with the attitude, ‘Wait till I give you a piece of my mind.’ Instead the goal is to open lines of communication, share as clearly as possible, and understand both sides of an issue as best you can.

Speaking the truth in love is really the fairest way of communicating because internalising your feelings hurts you because you are unheard and therefore not honoured. But also remember that keeping your feelings inside hurts your spouse as well; if they don’t hear from you, they are unable to respond (remember, we are not mind readers!).

Don’t avoid the tough or painful issues because the facts are that tough stuff is a reality in everyone’s lives. That’s hard to do because the natural tendency is to avoid hard situations and the pain that comes when we hurt. But the problem with avoidance is that it can cause a lot of other problems, because the pain comes out anyway and only ends up attacking each other. So, it’s better to communicate openly and face the issue and the hurt head on and in unity. This will build your relationship rather than tear it down.

3  Pray with each other often

According to FamilyLife USA, less than 8% of couples surveyed pray together on a regular basis. A Southern Baptist Convention’s poll in 2001 discovered that of Christian couples who actively pray together, the divorce rate is less than one percent. This begs the question: How often do you pray with your spouse? I mean really pray. Don’t include saying grace at supper, that doesn’t count.

The most important communication tool in a healthy relationship is prayer together. Intimacy and openness grows between a couple who are vulnerable enough to honestly spend time in prayer. A couple who prays together – stays together.

4  Mutually fulfill sexual needs

Research finds that an unfulfilling sexual relationship places men in high risk of having an affair. In fact, the number one need of men is sexual fulfilment. Sex is a beautiful gift from God reserved for the couple to procreate along with the mutual pleasure of each other. And by the way, research also shows that the sexual need for men does not diminish with age, in some cases it increases… just saying.

5  Remember your first love

Reminisce often about how and when you and your partner met. What were some of the activities you did together? What was it about your spouse that caused you to fall in love? Get a baby sitter and have a regular date night… just the two of you. Take at least one weekend a year away from everyone and re-engage alone as a couple to explore your love for each other and what that means and how you can grow more in love each year.  “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” – Proverbs 5:18

6  Learn anti-temptation strategies

Identify personal areas of vulnerability and honestly examine yourself and your relationships to discover those areas which are your weakest link because after all, awareness is half the issue. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24

Along with learning anti-temptation strategies make an explicit commitment to fidelity by developing personalised statements that both partners make to each other outlining your love for each other along with your commitment only to each other and then reviewing these commitments often.

Be aware of the high cost of infidelity. Think about the loss of relationship with spouse. trust totally gone, children would be without a mom or dad, reputation is gone, damage to the church and the name of Christ, major financial loss, you can add many more…

But still, the best strategy to guard against temptation is to develop a biblical conscience. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4

The Bible is very clear regarding affairs…it is sin, but don’t be discouraged if you have ever been unfaithful to your spouse. There is hope for redemption with our father because after all we serve a loving God who offers forgiveness if we humbly come to him and seek repentance.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

When a Loved One “Comes Out”

 

Dear sister, perhaps you just received some surprising news.

It could be that your son just showed up at the front door and said, “I’m gay.” Perhaps your sister introduced you to her partner today. Or maybe the friend you’ve known for years tearfully revealed she’s struggling with same-sex attraction. It could be that someone you know is “transitioning,” going by another name and gradually changing their appearance to reflect the opposite gender.

If any one of the scenarios above resembles yours today, you may be feeling despair, ashamed, frustrated, wounded, confused, guilty, betrayed . . . or even angry with God. But in the midst of your emotions and uncertainty, God’s Word offers hope-filled answers for you today.

Seven Truths to Consider

1. Being “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow
to become angry” is always a wise reaction.

It is easy, when emotions are high, to either lash out in anger or (in the name of love) to start throwing out Scriptures toward your loved one. Though sharing truth is right at its proper time, consider it may not be the first thing God is asking you to do. In the heat of the moment, the Bible gives us another way to respond—the way of wisdom:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19–20).

The Lord, through James, tells us that a quick, emotional reaction will not change your loved one’s heart. Instead, your efforts to listen to them patiently may be what God uses to help them.

Their decision to tell you probably wasn’t made overnight. It’s more possible that they’ve been wrestling for a while . . . and have been experiencing some deep pain. They may even be expecting you to reject them. Letting them share honestly lets them know they are heard and loved—and will actually help you minister to them better. Their situation may not actually be what you assume, and the Scriptures you initially think they need may not be helpful for their struggle. Are you willing to wisely listen before you speak?

2. Regardless of their choices, your loved one is
made in God’s image and has value and worth.

Here’s some deep, beautiful doctrine: God has graciously placed the imago Dei (image of God) in every person (Gen. 1:27). From the Garden of Eden, each man and woman has been given the privilege of reflecting God and His glory in Creation. Yes, sin—including sexual sin—has caused that image to be displayed imperfectly. But every human being is endowed with the gift of dignity, value, and worth in the eyes of their Creator.

That’s true for the ones who seem most violent and inhuman and the young baby who cannot yet consciously choose to disobey God’s law. Our enemy wants you to forget this truth so you’ll reject and disrespect your loved one . . . because Satan hates God and all who bear God’s image.

Your son changing his name or your cousin coming to Christmas dinner with a same-sex partner doesn’t mean their value before God has diminished. His Creation ordinance still stands—and with it, our need to show all people respect as bearers of God’s image. Recognizing this does not mean approving of all your loved one’s choices, but it does mean approaching them with an attitude of respect.

3. Your and my sin (and need for the gospel)
is the same, no matter our temptations.

We will never fully value and demonstrate the beauty of the gospel until we recognize our own neediness before God. Paul writes about this in Romans. After explaining that God has given His people spiritual advantages, he writes this:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested . . . the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a giftthrough the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:21–24, emphasis added).

If you hold to the biblical teaching on sexuality and don’t struggle with the same temptations, it can be tempting to look at your friend or relative with disgust. But do you look at your own sin and feel as repulsed? God has offered you grace in Christ—His overwhelming gift of love and blessing—because you needed it and couldn’t earn it. Your sin, whether it’s gossip or overeating or anger, needs God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace as much as your neighbor’s—and that is true if they do practice homosexuality.

If you’re thinking, I do recognize my neediness . . . and it’s overwhelming!, here’s hope: Your neediness is exactly what qualifies you to help others. As you experience your weakness and God’s grace in it, you can then be a humble, effective vessel of God’s mercy toward your loved ones.

4. According to Scripture, embracing their
same-sex desires isn’t God’s best for them . . .

This is one of the hardest truths of Scripture: God is not honored by sexual relationships between people of the same gender. If you’re reading this post, you may already embrace this truth (or you’re wrestling with it). You know verses like Romans 1:26–27, where Paul describes these acts as “dishonorable” and “contrary to nature.” You’ve read the lists of sins elsewhere in the New Testament where the practice of homosexuality is listed as a mark of unrighteousness (1 Cor. 6:9) and “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:10).

Yes, homosexual acts are sinful. This statement is true, but it’s very tempting to just stop here. There’s more to the story—and it requires more than simply throwing out Bible verses without love as grenades. (Do you see the ellipsis on the header above? Let the next truth finish the thought.)

5. . . . but obedience to God’s commands
and design can be a very hard road.

Consider the implications for your loved one to follow Jesus in their sexuality:

  • They may have to give up someone they are deeply connected with.
  • They may have to give up their community and identity.
  • They may face deep loneliness.
  • They may have seasons of depression and feeling unloved.
  • They may face misunderstanding in the Church and outside.
  • They will probably battle desires that cannot be fulfilled obediently.
  • They may never have a family or children of their own.
  • They may not be able to enjoy the physical intimacy of sex.

Jesus said following Him would be difficult and full of self-denial (Matt. 16:24). You probably feel some of that “cross of discipleship” each day—praying for a prodigal, feeling rejected by friends who want to gossip, submitting to an unwise decision of someone in authority. Let your experiences give you compassion toward your loved one. If they’re struggling against their desires, look at that list and be willing to ask questions about their fears and pain. And if they are pursuing a same-sex relationship, consider that those may be some of the reasons. Can you enter into the difficulty with them? Is there a way, as their mom or sister or friend, that you can you help provide for some of those needs?

6. God desires and is able to restore what
is broken by sin’s curse—including our
sexuality, but it may not happen in this life.

After that last point, you may be feeling heavy-hearted. But there is hope. God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). With this truth in your pocket, you can look at your loved one and think, If Jesus is their Savior, He can change them.

That said, while praying and hoping, we have to avoid creating an idol called “completely free from temptation.” God’s plan for your loved one, even if He draws them to Himself, may not mean they’ll experience automatic transformation. They will still struggle with temptation (probably even same-sex attraction). God may have marriage in mind for them; He may not. They could be on a long road of both victories and failings. But the goal is the same for all who follow Christ, whether they experience homosexual feelings or not. God’s purpose for His children is always their sanctification and His glory—not attraction to the opposite gender.

The redemption of our bodies (and your loved one’s sexuality) will not be complete until the day Christ returns. But take heart: In that day, there will be no sin, no temptation, no sorrow, no loneliness, and no pain for all who belong to Him. So as you trust the Lord with your loved one’s situation, remember that He is able to turn it to good, and for His people, He will.

7. Showing Christ-like love means sacrificially seeking
your loved one’s welfare while pursuing God’s glory.

This is where it gets practical and personal. Your loved one (like all of us) needs community, a family . . . and hope. Where better to experience these things than around your dinner table, in your church, and in the everyday stuff of life? This is especially important if they’ve already experienced rejection from others. As you long for their restoration and walk with them, your friendship and love are the most beautiful gifts you can give . . . because it reflects the heart of Jesus.

Our Saviour ate with both the religious and the prostitutes and swindlers of His day. Remember that Jesus didn’t make a distinction in welcoming people into His life based on their behavior, temptations, or lifestyle, as we’re often prone to do. All sorts of people were welcome at His table, because that’s where He taught and displayed the gospel. When the Pharisees questioned Him on the company He kept, He was bold and unashamed:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:12–13).

Consider this: If our meals are more of a meeting of self-righteous religiosity than a welcoming feast to a motley crew, are we really reflecting the heart of Jesus? When a loved one says, “I’m gay” or “I’m struggling,” should we not do the same as Christ did—showing hospitality to those who need a family, making room at the table for the outcast, and demonstrating mercy toward sinners?

Perhaps this last truth is difficult for you—it may raise questions in your mind about the implications. Yes, it looks messy. But grace rarely comes in when things are washed-up and clean. You may end up sitting by your loved one’s side in the hospital after a suicide attempt and making room for them in your home (as Rosaria Butterfield once did).

Let’s be honest: Your church friends may judge and look askance at you when your daughter, in a short haircut and men’s clothing, walks through the door. As you show love and share your table with your loved one, you may face the same rejection as Christ did from the Pharisees. But remember, our Lord says, “I came for the ones (including us!) who need my friendship and salvation.” By sacrificing your comfort in this way, you can be God’s means of showing Christ’s grace in the world.

Also know that loving and welcoming does not negate any of the other truths above. We must seek God’s best for our loved ones, which always means honoring Him first. We are never to sacrifice truth, but we also are not to sacrifice love. First John 3:18 says it best: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

As you work through your own emotions and choose to show Christ’s love, rest in the comforting truths above. And consider . . . our sovereign God is working behind your friend or relative’s confession. They’re sitting next to you for a reason; perhaps you are in their life “for such a time as this” (Est. 4:14).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hayley Mullins

Hayley Mullins

Hayley Mullins is a musician by training, a writer by calling, and a child of God by grace. Her passion is helping people find abundant life in Christ through life-on-life discipleship and the written word. She serves with the Revive Our Hearts team in editorial services. When she’s not writing, you can find Hayley chasing adventures in libraries, on hiking trails, and through deep conversations.

Why Same-Sex Acts Got the Death Penalty in OT, but Not Today

Posted by Tim Keller  September 18, 2015

I find it frustrating when I read or hear columnists, pundits or journalists dismiss Christians as inconsistent because “they pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey.”

What I hear most often is, “Christians ignore lots of Old Testament texts – about not eating raw meat or pork or shellfish, not executing people for breaking the Sabbath, not wearing garments woven with two kinds of material and so on. Then they condemn homosexuality. Aren’t they just picking and choosing what they want to believe from the Bible?”

It is not that I expect everyone to have the capability of understanding that the whole Bible is about Jesus and God’s plan to redeem his people, but I vainly hope that one day someone will access their common sense (or at least talk to an informed theological advisor) before leveling the charge of inconsistency.

First of all, let’s be clear that it’s not only the Old Testament that has proscriptions about homosexuality.

The New Testament has plenty to say about it as well. Even Jesus says, in his discussion of divorce in Matthew 19:3-12, that the original design of God was for one man and one woman to be united as one flesh, and failing that (v. 12), persons should abstain from marriage and from sex.

However, let’s get back to considering the larger issue of inconsistency regarding things mentioned in the OT that are no longer practiced by the New Testament people of God. Most Christians don’t know what to say when confronted about this.

Here’s a short course on the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament:

The Old Testament devotes a good amount of space to describing the various sacrifices that were to be offered in the tabernacle (and later temple) to atone for sin so that worshippers could approach a holy God.

As part of that sacrificial system, there was also a complex set of rules for ceremonial purity and cleanness. You could only approach God in worship if you ate certain foods and not others, wore certain forms of dress, refrained from touching a variety of objects, and so on. This vividly conveyed, over and over, that human beings are spiritually unclean and can’t go into God’s presence without purification.

But even in the Old Testament, many writers hinted that the sacrifices and the temple worship regulations pointed forward to something beyond them (cf. 1 Samuel 15:21-22; Psalm 50:12-15; 51:17; Hosea 6:6). When Christ appeared, he declared all foods ‘clean’ (Mark 7:19) and he ignored the Old Testament clean laws in other ways, touching lepers and dead bodies.

But the reason is made clear.

When he died on the cross, the veil in the temple was ripped through, showing that the need for the entire sacrificial system with all its clean laws had been done away with. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for sin, and now Jesus makes us “clean.”

The entire book of Hebrews explains that the Old Testament ceremonial laws were not so much abolished as fulfilled by Christ. Whenever we pray ‘in Jesus’ name,’ we ‘have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus’ (Hebrews 10:19).

It would, therefore, be deeply inconsistent with the teaching of the Bible as a whole if we were to continue to follow the ceremonial laws.

The New Testament gives us further guidance about how to read the Old Testament.

Paul makes it clear in places like Romans 13:8ff that the apostles understood the Old Testament moral law to still be binding on us. In short, the coming of Christ changed how we worship but not how we live.

The moral law is an outline of God’s own character—his integrity, love and faithfulness. And so all the Old Testament says about loving our neighbor, caring for the poor, generosity with our possessions, social relationships and commitment to our family is still in force. The New Testament continues to forbid killing or committing adultery, and all the sex ethics of the Old Testament are restated throughout the New Testament (Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20; 1 Timothy 1:8-11).

If the New Testament has reaffirmed a commandment, then it is still in force for us today.

Further, the New Testament explains another change between the Testaments.

Sins continue to be sins—but the penalties change. In the Old Testament, things like adultery or incest were punishable with civil sanctions like execution. This is because at that time God’s people existed in the form of a nation-state and so all sins had civil penalties.

But in the New Testament, the people of God are an assembly of churches all over the world, living under many different governments.

The church is not a civil government, and so sins are dealt with by exhortation and, at worst, exclusion from membership. This is how a case of incest in the Corinthian church is dealt with by Paul (1 Corinthians 5:1ff and 2 Corinthians 2:7-11).

Why this change?

Under Christ, the gospel is not confined to a single nation—it has been released to go into all cultures and peoples.

Once you grant the main premise of the Bible—about the surpassing significance of Christ and his salvation—then all the various parts of the Bible make sense.

Because of Christ, the ceremonial law is repealed.

Because of Christ, the church is no longer a nation-state imposing civil penalties.

It all falls into place. However, if you reject the idea of Christ as Son of God and Savior, then, of course, the Bible is at best a mish-mash containing some inspiration and wisdom, but most of it would have to be rejected as foolish or erroneous.

So where does this leave us? There are only two possibilities.

If Christ is God, then this way of reading the Bible makes sense and is perfectly consistent with its premise. The other possibility is that you reject Christianity’s basic thesis—you don’t believe Jesus was the resurrected Son of God—and then the Bible is no sure guide for you about much of anything.

But the one thing you can’t really say in fairness is that Christians are being inconsistent with their beliefs to accept the moral statements in the Old Testament while not practicing other ones.

One way to respond to the charge of inconsistency may be to ask a counter-question: “Are you asking me to deny the very heart of my Christian beliefs?” If you are asked, “Why do you say that?” you could respond, “If I believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God, I can’t follow all the ‘clean laws’ of diet and practice, and I can’t offer animal sacrifices. All that would be to deny the power of Christ’s death on the cross. And so those who really believe in Christ must follow some Old Testament texts and not others.”

Hey Enlightened Culture! Who Gets To Decide What Is Evil Or Good?

On Sunday June 25, 2017 the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie, marched in the Toronto Pride Parade. It was the second year in a row that he’s marched as Prime Minister – showing the world his acceptance of, and determination to make the LBGTQ life choice (yes, I said choice on purpose) accepted as an integral part of the Canadian cultural identity and showcasing this resolve as a top priority for him personally.

If that is Justin’s personal belief that is one thing, one I don’t happen to agree with, however along with his personal belief comes a worldview that says that if you don’t accept a person’s behaviour you mustn’t be tolerant and thus not love that person. The conclusion most often made with that view is that true tolerance and thus loving others mean that we can then never determine what is evil or what is good – for them or anyone else… “If it feels good to you than who am I to say that it is wrong?”

Interestingly enough, based on their own worldview, most who hold to this belief determine that I am wrong because I choose to disagree with them. By that admission they are automatically intolerant of my personal worldview and thus I can only surmise that they must not love me… obviously a self-defeating philosophy of thought which of course they can’t or won’t recognize.

There are many who contend that no one can say what is evil, moral or good because we are all simply non-created animals, evolved from some primordial soup and thus not accountable to anyone… are they right?

Among those who would believe along those lines is Richard Dawkins who wrote in his 2006 book ‘The God Delusion’, that God and belief in God are misconceptions. Belief in God, says Dawkins, subverts science and knowledge, breeds ignorance, foments bigotry, and abuses children. All this happens for the simple reason that God is a delusion.

However I would contend that God is not the delusion; atheism is. Instead of a god-delusion the apostle Paul tells us that the human race in general is lost in sin and self-delusion.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” – 2 Timothy 4:3

The denial of God is the true delusion  that extends to the atheist’s view of humanity as “good,” all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. A sober assessment of human beings recognizes that we lie, cheat, steal, lust, complain, envy, hate, and forget and that we are careless, ruthless, disrespectful, resentful, and loveless.

We are all these things naturally from birth. This is what God means when He says, “There is no one who does good” – Psalm 14:3. We are so obviously sinful that it is silly to claim that human beings are “good.”

Nobody teaches kids to lie; and yet they do it quite naturally almost like they’re presupposed to it. Nobody teaches teenage boys to lust; they do it naturally and almost without being conscious of it at times. Nobody teaches us to resent our boss or spread malicious gossip about someone we don’t like in the next cubicle; we do these things naturally. Nobody teaches the wife to overly criticize or the husband to neglect his wife; both do these things naturally.

Yet in the sixth chapter of The God Delusion, entitled “The Roots of Morality: Why Are We Good?” Dawkins states (despite the fact that apparently there  is no God who can define what is “good”) just why human beings are good, which he does based on nothing more than his own opinion.

Later in the ninth chapter of The God Delusion called “Childhood, Abuse and the Escape from Religion” Dawkins replies to a question about clergy sexual abuse: “Horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Christian in the first place” (page 317).

What?!?

In fairness to Dawkins he later claimed that it was an off the cuff comment to a question he had been asked at a conference in Ireland. However my push back is that we are responsible for those ‘off the cuff’ comments we all make from time to time because those comments are indicative of what we truly believe.

Dawkins was essentially saying that human beings are “good” and that even (minor) sexual abuse they (priests or others) perpetrate is better than a religion that tells them they are not “good”. All of that comes out of his belief system where he can’t or won’t accept the idea of God, and the subsequent accountability to God for our actions. How he explains the heart of “good” people sexually abusing children completely escapes me I must say.

At the end of the day it isn’t you or me who get to answer the question of who is evil or who is good, rather it is God and only God who get’s to decide.

We humans do evil because our hearts are evil. “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” – Matthew 12:35.

A few years ago (2010) Christian Apologist Gregory Koukl was asked a very important question:

“While giving a talk at a local Barnes & Noble, someone asked why it was necessary for him to believe in Jesus.  He was Jewish, believed in God, and was living a moral life. Those were the important things, it seemed – how you lived, not what you believed. To him our message depicted a narrow-minded God pitching people into Hell because of an arcane detail of Christian theology. 

How should I answer? Remember that the first responsibility of an ambassador is knowledge – an accurately informed message.  What is our message? One way to say it is, “If you don’t believe in Jesus, you’ll go to Hell.  If you do believe, you’ll go to Heaven.” That’s certainly true, as far as it goes.  The problem is it’s not clear.  Since it doesn’t give an accurate sense of why Jesus is necessary, it makes God sound petty. So how do we fix this? Here’s how I responded to my Jewish questioner.

I asked him two simple questions. “Do you think people who commit moral crimes ought to be punished?” 
He thought for a moment.  “Well, since I’m a prosecuting attorney…yes.” 
“So do I,” I agreed.
“Second question: Have you ever committed any moral crimes?” 
There was a slight pause.  This was getting personal. “Yes, I guess I have,” he admitted. “So have I, ” I confessed, agreeing with him again.
“So now we have this difficult situation, don’t we? We both believe those who commit moral crimes ought to be punished, and we both believe we’ve committed moral crimes. Do you know what I call that? I call that bad news.”

In less than 60 seconds I had accomplished a remarkable thing with this approach. I didn’t have to convince him he was a sinner. He was telling me. I didn’t have to convince him he deserved to be punished. He was telling me. I was tapping into a deep intuition every person shares: knowledge of his own guilt. And I didn’t do it arrogantly or in an obnoxious, condescending way. I freely admitted I was in the same trouble he was. Now that we agreed on the problem it was time to give the solution.

“This is where Jesus comes in,” I explained. “We both know we’re guilty.  That’s the problem. So God offers a solution: a pardon, free of charge. But it’s on His terms, not ours. Jesus is God’s answer because He personally paid the penalty for us. He took the rap in our place. No one else has done that. Now we have a choice to make. We either take the pardon and go free, or refuse it and pay for our own crimes.” 
https://www.str.org/blog/cross-examining-attorney-0#.WVKohWjyvIU

So back to the original question i posed at the start of this post. Many, like Richard Dawkins contend that at the end of the day no one can say what is evil, moral or good because we are all simply non-created animals, evolved from some primordial soup and thus not accountable to anyone… are they right?

No they are not. So then who gets to decide what is evil and what is good? The answer is… Jesus Christ. And the truth and hope for the world is that we can be made new creations in Christ, otherwise mankind will continue to do evil because it is their natural inclination. “As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God’.” – Romans 3:10-11

What Should Be The Christian’s Response To Anti Christian Sentiment?

I recall a number of years ago, the University of Saskatchewan’s student newspaper ‘The Sheaf’ published sexually derogatory cartoons depicting Jesus Christ. There were apologies and resignations over it but controversy continued to surround the situation for months. At the very least it was tasteless, at the worst it was a personal attack on Christians. I saw it as a growing appetite of society to showcase a defiant ‘fist pump’ in God’s face.

Truth is that the fist pumping isn’t stopping anytime soon. We have recently witnessed boycotts and even legal actions taken against Christian bakers who refused to bake a wedding cake for same sex couples, anti Christian graffiti on church walls, employees being fired for pro-life stands, subtle and not so subtle undertones of intolerance in the media, or outright abuse of power in the government.

In the June 21st, 2014 edition of the National Post, journalist Rex Murphy wrote an article that spoke to a very troubling issue with regard to the suppression of personal choice based on conscience, religious or otherwise. Rex said, “Elected Liberal MPs are under Justin Trudeau’s direct order that, in any legislation that touches on the abortion issue, they must — mindless of their faith, their previous professions on the subject, or their conscience – vote the “pro-choice” dogma. Pro-abortion is the party line. And it is the only line allowed.” – full article can be found by clicking on the following link: http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/rex-murphy-in-justin-trudeaus-world-christians-need-not-apply

The responses to all the aforementioned anti-Christian sentiments have been overwhelmingly angst driven. Many comments were angry (rightly so), but what was notable was the almost militant responses. Much of the reaction was a result of fear, quickly turning to hate, with some individuals on the very edge of making death threats against Trudeau. We’ve seen this fear / hate in other situations as well. Similar threats have been thrown the way of same sex couples, and in the situation of ‘The Sheaf’ in Saskatoon, calls for the editor of the University paper to be publicly humiliated were abundant. I wasn’t surprised about people exercising their freedom of expression in areas of disagreement… we should always allow for healthy dialogue, especially in places of disagreement. What did surprise me however, was that many of the most hateful and fearful comments came from within the Christian camp.

My question is how are we Christians supposed to respond to the growing anti-Christian sentiment? Are we to ‘fist pump in your face’ back for every ‘fist pump in your face’ received? Please don’t misread me. I absolutely believe that we must respond, but what does that look like? Death threats? Civil uprisings? That last one may be answered differently depending on what side of the Canadian / U.S. border you live on of course. But does the bible have something to say that would – should direct us, independent of our country’s history’s?

Regarding the government, it’s always good to remember that the civil government is a means ordained by God for ruling and maintaining order in communities (1 Peter 2:13-17). As Christians, we must acknowledge that God gives the local government the “power of the sword,” the lawful use of the force to administer just laws (Romans 13:1-7). We are also called to pray for those who God has placed in the positions of authority over us (1 Timothy 2:1-4). But if that government forbids what God requires or requires what God forbids, then of course Christians cannot submit, and some form of civil disobedience becomes necessary (Acts 4:18-31; 5:17-29). But this civil disobedience must still be done with respect and according to the heart of God’s Word, not the way of our old selves – the carnal, revenge seeking, hateful hearts we once had.

What we are seeing are events in our world that we, as Christians need to learn and understand will increasingly become an expectation rather than an exception. I think it really speaks to what it means to follow Christ. And what is that? Simply it is that the work of Christ is based on being insulted.

Already in the Psalms and in Isaiah the path of mockery was promised: “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads” – Psalm 22:7 “He was despised and rejected by men as one from whom men hide their faces and we esteemed him not” – Isaiah 53:3

If Christ hadn’t been insulted, there would be no salvation. This was, after all, his saving work: to be insulted and die to rescue sinners from the wrath of God. This helps us establish a benchmark for ourselves of what the Christians’ response needs to be (even if it includes civil actions or individual ‘retributions’).

That being the case then, just how should his followers respond? In answer to those who say we need to protest or seek revenge I would like to point us back to the words of Jesus himself, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” – John 18:36

So… what is our response?

On the one hand we are grieved and angered. But on the other hand if we identify with Christ, embrace his suffering, rejoice in our afflictions, and say with the apostle Paul that vengeance belongs to the Lord, then we will seek to love our enemies and win them with the gospel. If Christ did his work by being insulted, we must do ours likewise. Pray for those who persecute us. Love those who say all manner of evil against us. Live so that others may know the real Jesus, the Jesus who sees with the eyes of compassion.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Matthew 5:43-45

So before we all plan that next fist pumping march on Ottawa, Washington or London to call for the head of someone we perceive is trampling on our Christian rights, maybe we should make sure we got the love ‘your enemies and pray for those who persecute us’ figured out first.

Is Marriage Just An Old Fashioned Idea that Has Run It’s Course?

Our culture is losing the understanding of what marriage was designed to be. We live in a world that says we should get what we want any way we can get it. In fact, marriage today is often mocked as an archaic institution that has lost its relevance.

It is important to realize that marriage is not a man-made concept, rather its a God made institution, and as such is relevant today for all people. God created Adam in his own image, giving him everything he needed to be content. And yet, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” – Genesis 2:18. So God created Eve and brought her to Adam. The first marriage occurred when God created a woman to complement the needs of the man so that, when joined in covenant, they become one flesh. The idea of “one flesh” implies an unbreakable seal meant to last a lifetime.

The truth is that this covenant relationship brings with it certain privileges that are unique to the marital relationship itself. Even coming from out of the secular academia it doesn’t take long to discover what they are discovering about marriage. Research suggests that the conventional wisdom that married people live longer and are healthier than singles may be true. In fact studies have shown that married people, especially us guys, are less likely to die early and are less likely to die from a heart attack. Yes, us guys are pretty wimpy without our wives.

Other studies have even shown that there’s much less risk-taking and substance abuse when couples marry – even less than if they just move in together. [1] It’s because marriage brings two people into an intimate relationship who add moral, spiritual, social and emotional support and companionship together into what could otherwise be a lonely and unhappy life. Being unhappy and alone could lead to depression and a neglecting of one’s health. Of course this doesn’t mean single or divorced people automatically are depressed or neglect their health, and in fact can be very happy and balanced in their lives. But it is interesting what these studies are beginning to show and so shouldn’t be dismissed readily.

The benefits[2] continue in a marriage. Marriage can bring faithfulness, companionship, communication, spiritual unity, and a freedom of sexual intimacy, “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.” – 1 Corinthians 7:1-2. God designed sex to be enjoyed within the boundaries of marriage.

As Christians I think its important to revisit the privileges and benefits of marriage. I began this blog by saying that our culture is losing the understanding of what marriage was designed to be. The sad truth is that the loss of understanding isn’t only happening in the secular culture, it is beginning to be lost in the Christian culture too.

For example, 20-30 years ago it would have been uncommon to hear of unmarried Christian couples living together before marriage or even travelling alone together on vacations. But today it isn’t only common but is at a place where those who speak against it are viewed as old fashioned prudes. But are there any biblical reasons why we need to rethink these ‘freedoms’?

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Should Christians Live Together Before Marriage

I have had a conversation or two over the years regarding the question of (Christian) couples living together (or not) before marriage. I’m not speaking here about living together as room mates – rather I’m talking about living together as a ‘couple’.

The argument has been made that marriage as we know it today is simply an outdated public declaration of a commitment already made before God to love the other member in the relationship so why the need to ‘publicise’ it through a ceremony? A challenge often made is to show where in the bible it says that living outside of marriage is actually living in sin. To be clear, the Bible makes no statement to definitively answer that challenge. Perhaps the reason is that the arrangement of unmarried people living as husband and wife was relatively rare within the Israelite culture of the first century.

Even still, while the Bible seems silent on this issue, we can still glean the principle that any sexuality outside the marriage of one man & one woman is quite clearly sin by looking at the totality of God’s word. Several passages from God’s word declare God’s prohibition of sexual immorality (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13,18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7).

Since the only form of lawful sexuality is the marriage of one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5), then it goes without saying that anything outside of marriage, whether it is premarital sex, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, or anything else, is unlawful, in other words, sin. And living together even as a ‘committed couple’ before marriage definitely falls into the category of fornication – sexual sin.

Hebrews gives us  the honourable state of marriage: “Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” – Hebrews 13:4

This verse draws a clear distinction between that which is pure and honourable – marriage – and that which is sexually immoral, which would be anything outside of marriage. Since living together outside of marriage falls into this category, it is definitely sin.

Should Christians Travel Together Before Marriage

In the New Testament we read a very telling passage, “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” – Romans 13:23. So what is Paul saying here? If you think this is speaking only about a doughnut, then you’re not reading it in its context. The principle here is that if there is any doubt whatsoever whether an activity is right – in our case travelling together as a married couple though unmarried, or even as a couple who may be attracted to each other thus putting themselves in a position of temptation – it should be avoided.

My dad used to say ‘if in doubt – don’t’. Unfortunately it seems that more and more Christians aren’t considering the doubts or for that matter haven’t even thought about the fact that there should be some doubts. Instead they are finding it easier to buy into the non-Christian philosophy of individual freedom trumping moral obligations and so haven’t considered the ‘don’ts’ and instead just go ahead and do the ‘do’s’. However, just suppose for a moment that there might be a doubt or two… if that is true even a little, should that not morally obligate us to at least consider what those doubts are?

For Christians, an unmarried couple who engage in ‘pre-marital’ vacations is a scenario that must be weighed carefully. If it includes travel to a location where they will be alone as couple, then some heart searching questions must be honestly asked: What message is being sent to others? What temptations are being presented? What said or unsaid messages are being passed between the couple themselves? What expectations may be understood or misunderstood between the couple? Are there certain privileges being shared in any way that should be reserved for marriage, even if they are none sexual in nature?

Am I just being an old fashioned prude? I don’t think so because of what Ephesians tells us, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” – Ephesians 5:3 (NIV).

Ultimately, anything that even “hints” of sexual immorality is inappropriate for someone who claims to be one of God’s holy people. The question then becomes what may be that ‘hint’ in your life or mine? If there is even a hint then we should heed the instruction of Paul, “And flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” – 2 Timothy 2:22

The goal of a christian marriage is to help the other grow more and more into the image of Christ – the greatest benefit of all. The question needs to be asked then, whether you’re pre-married or have been married for 75 years… Are my actions and decisions getting in the way or are they aiding in making that happen in their life?

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[1] Christopher Fagundes, PhD, psychologist and researcher at The Ohio State University (http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/guide/relationships-marriage-and-health)

[2] (for more complete information regarding the benefits of marriage check out my friend Dr. Dave Currie’s web site @ http://www.doingfamilyright.com/)