Can The Church Affirm Homosexuality?

No matter where we turn in the culture today, the issues of homosexuality and “gender identity” are being hotly debated. The “homosexual rights” ideology continues to seek legitimization and approval – not just tolerance – of homosexual behaviour, resulting in rapidly changing societal mores and values. This deeply impacts us in our day-to-day relationships with family and with fellow church members, neighbours and co-workers.

Even from within the church itself there is a theology that has been emerging for decades to legitimize homosexuality through a revisionist gay theology as a biblically based, better way forward.

To someone who holds to a high view of scripture, the answer seems obvious. Homosexuality is a sin – end of debate. That may have worked a generation ago, but today there is a concerted effort to fundamentally change your mind. What we are seeing, and have seen for quite some time now, is an attempt to usher in an uncritical acceptance and promotion of homosexuality into the wider culture, and much is being centered on churches and synagogues.

That’s because, homosexual activists and their allies know that the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic found in the Bible is the last bastion of defense holding back the widespread embrace of homosexuality throughout the western culture.

They know that if you and I can be convinced that homosexual behaviour is no longer sinful in God’s eyes, that it is in fact is a better way to live, then the battle to fully implement their political and social goals will be won and a new standard can be accepted as the culturally good standard.

But questions need to be asked. What if the historical Biblical standard along with the historical cultural standard are still the best ways? What if any other way of approaching sexuality, whether it be homosexuality, or intimate heterosexual relationships outside of a committed marriage relationship, is not the better way? What if the standard of sex within a committed marriage relationship between a husband and wife is not even a better way, but the best way?

Before I get into what I believe is the best way, allow me to address two other ways and what I see as obvious dilemmas they hold.

Addressing the Cultural Way

The modern understanding of finding self is a recent approach to identity. We are to look within at our desires – especially our sexual ones – and then determine (Freud) or create (Foucault) who we are, not allowing anyone else to validate or define us or make us feel guilty. We are then to demand that the world affirm our expression of ourselves. The result is that anyone who questions our self-view is by definition attacking us, doing violence, questioning our very existence, and ultimately denying us support. But should we believe and accept this understanding of identity?

In most of the non-western world, identity is communal. You don’t get to define yourself -identity is understood from within the community, and self-esteem comes more from duty to God, family, and others rather than from satisfying desires and self-interest.

But when the psychiatrist says: “You decide who you are – no one else can!” he or she is at that moment imposing a very individualistic, western way of understanding identity on the individual as if that is the only approach possible. It is “western” because it was grounded in the Enlightenment & Freud, & framed to be a new form of social liberation vs oppression, and based on Foucault’s account of language and power. And as noted, non-westernized cultures are far less individualistic and do not think this way.

The Obvious Dilemma of the Cultural Way

The obvious dilemma however is that you cannot discover a ‘real you’ by looking at your changing and contradictory inner feelings. You will always need a standard of values by which you can sift your inner drives & determine which ones characterize your ‘true’ & ‘false’ selves. Christians believe the Bible gives us that standard to determine our de-humanizing desires and our right, humanizing ones.

The other dilemma that needs to be addressed is that the modern identity is highly performative. In other words, you must realize your inner dreams and desires or constantly perform your suffering. This leads to fragility and a need for constant re-affirmation. No wonder any criticism at all is crushing or feels “controlling”. No wonder dialogue is hard, if not impossible to come by when differing views are presented. We live in a culture of rage. Don’t believe me? Post something on social media that speaks up against the cultural norms and prepare for the modern version of hate mail.

The reason that the Christian receives so much criticism when proposing the biblical sex ethic is that most people in the culture today assume the modern approach to self-identity as a given – it is assumed as self-evident to all when clearly it is not.

That’s why it’s important to keep reminding yourself that even though your identity may have been hijacked by a very individualistic, western way of understanding identity. It is not the only approach possible. The Christians’ deepest identity, is in Christ, who loves and accepts us counter-conditionally, despite all our flaws. That means then that Christian identity is received, not achieved. And that takes enormous pressure off of us to perform and earn our affirmations.

Addressing the ‘Revisionist’ Way

As a Christian who holds to a high view of scripture, I believe that sexuality is God’s idea, not culture’s idea. That means that we should learn from God what it is, a man and a woman created in beautifully complementary ways so that they form one flesh. And to try to do it another way is a distortion and a dysfunction of the way God made it.

However, there are some who would say that scripture doesn’t say what I believe it to say, and that I need to catch up to a better understanding of scripture. Are they right?

Gay strategists Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, in their landmark homosexual public relations manual published in 1989, boldly encouraged gays “to muddy the moral waters, that is, to undercut the rationalizations that ‘justify’ religious bigotry and to jam some of its psychic rewards.” They go on to specify that this entails “raising serious theological objections to conservative biblical teachings.”

Further, gays are called to “undermine the moral authourity of homo-hating churches…by portraying such institutions as antiquated backwaters, badly out of step with the times and with the latest findings of psychology.” (Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear & Hatred of Gays in the 90’s, Penguin Books USA, New York, 1989, p. 179).

This campaign of misinformation is often referred to as “revisionist gay theology,” and it’s presently playing out in denomination after denomination with increasing conflict. This didn’t just start in the twenty-first century. It actually began to take place within the church, in the mid-twentieth century, with a systematic questioning of clear scriptural teaching on homosexual behaviour – recalling the serpent’s question to Eve in Genesis 3, “Did God really say…?”

Specifically, the intended effect of revisionist gay theology is to disengage the church from the wider cultural debate about homosexuality by redefining it as God-ordained and morally permissible. And just like the serpent’s temptation to Eve in the Garden, leaders in the “gay-Christian” movement are tempting us with the question: “Did God really say that homosexuality is a sin?”

But wasn’t the word ‘homosexual’ only addd to the bible in 1946? 

A claim that I hear of more and more being presented, is that the Greek word used in 1 Corinthians 6:9, for homosexuality, “Arsenokoitai”, was not originally translated to mean “homosexual” until 1946 when it was added in the RSV translation of the time.

The claim is that the word ‘Arsenokoitai’ is not actually referring to monogamous, loving, committed homosexual relationships. Paul’s intent, they claim, wasn’t to deny the beauty of “loving, faithful” same-sex relationships but only denying those relationships involving abuse, coercion, temple prostitution or unfaithfulness.

The sentiment is that it’s the conservative individual’s prejudice against homosexuals that leads them to misread biblical texts about homosexuality. So, then scriptures used that supposedly condemn homosexual behaviour are simply mistranslated, or taken out of context to bolster a conservative, outdated claim that doesn’t apply to our present world and in fact is hurtful to current society as it fosters hatred, bigotry, and is essentially anti-freedom.

An argument being used is that the passage in Leviticus 18:22 that says in English, “Man shall not lie with man, for it is an abomination,” is not translated as homosexual, but rather translated in the pre-1986 German version to say, “Man shall not lie with ‘young boys’ as he does with a woman, for it is an abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 says the same thing in the pre-1986 German version, “Young boys.” And then in 1 Corinthians, instead of homosexuals, the pre-1986 German translation says, “Boy molesters will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Even Martin Luther’s original German translation from 1534 of the same passage uses the word knabenschander. Knaben is boy, schander is molester. This word “boy molesters” for the most part carried through the next several centuries of German Bible translations. Interestingly, Knabenschander is also found in 1 Timothy 1:10.

So then why is the same word (in Greek Arsenokoitai) translated as ‘boy molester’ in both the older English and German translations, changed to ‘homosexual’ in the English in 1946 and the German in 1986? Is it simply to reflect the church’s fear of the sexual revolution and to somehow regain control of the bedroom?

The Obvious Dilemma of The ‘Revisionist’ Way

Revisionist gay theology has an obvious dilemma in that it visibly violates God’s intentional design for gender and sexuality by saying that women don’t need men and men don’t need women. That comes out of a humanistic ideology that places human feelings and desires above biblical truth, leading people to believe lies.

So, instead of the conservative individuals prejudice against homosexuals that leads to misreading biblical texts about homosexuality, it’s more often those having a personal interest in the promotion of gay revisionist theology, that twist the plain teaching of Scripture to support and justify their behaviour.

That’s why we can’t base our arguments as heavily as some might wish on English or German translations, because that is exactly what they are – translations. So, to either bolster an argument or to refute one, it’s always best to go back to the language these versions were translated from if at all possible, and it is possible in this case. For the New Testament passages we of course must go to the Greek.

The Greek word Arsenokoitai is a compound word: arseno is the word for “a male,” and koitai is the word for “mat” or “bed.” Put the two halves together, and the word means “a male bed” – that is, a person who makes use of a “male-only bed” or a “bed for males.”

The word meaning “bed” carries a sexual connotation in this context – the Greek koitai is the source of our English word coitus (“sexual intercourse”). The conclusion is that the word arsenokoitai is referring to homosexuals – men who are in bed with other men, engaging in same-gender sexual activity. The fact that the English word ‘homosexual’ wasn’t specifically used until 1946 only indicates the English translations were keeping up with the changing language, not battling the changing morality.

This argument is further bolstered in that the notion that some homosexual relationships are accepted, is not even hinted at in the passages that are translated from Arsenokoitai. The men’s commitment level or the presence of “love” is not even addressed. Further, the idea that the condemned same-sex activity is linked to economic exploitation or abuse is also a forced reading with no textual basis.

When we read that homosexuality in Leviticus, Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy is mentioned in the wider context of sexual, immoral, and prohibited behaviours, all of which elaborate on the commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,” we can’t help but understand it as a clear prohibition of sex outside of a male-female marriage.

In an attempt to make homosexual behaviour compatible with Christianity, you can’t just redefine the ‘Greek’ word. The lie of the enemy, “did God really say” … can’t work here.

A Better Way

 In Genesis 1 we see God’s plan in everything. We continually see pairs of different but complementary things made to work together. For example, heaven and earth, sea and land, God and humanity, light and dark. It is part of the brilliance, wonder and the glorious dance of God’s creation that diverse, unlike things are made to unite and create dynamic wholes which generate more and more life and beauty through their relationships. As N.T. Wright points out, the creation and uniting of male and female at the end of Genesis 2 is the climax of all this.

That means that male and female have unique, non-interchangeable glories – they each see and do things that the other cannot. Sex was created by God to be a way to mingle these strengths and glories within a life-long covenant of marriage. Marriage is the most intense (though not the only) place where this reunion of male and female takes place in human life. Male and female reshape, learn from, and work together.

That’s why, in one of the great ironies of our western modern culture, when we celebrate diversity in so many other cultural sectors, we have truncated the better way, actual the best way in the ultimate unity-in-diversity – inter-gendered sexual union within the covenant of marriage.

But without understanding this vision, the sexual prohibitions in scripture just don’t make sense. But it’s because of this vision that helps one understand that homosexuality does not come close to meeting the need for this rich diversity of perspective and gendered humanity in sexual relationships. Same-sex relationships not only cannot provide this for each spouse, they can’t provide children with a deep connection to each half of humanity through a parent of each gender.

How Do We Respond To The Changing Culture?

It’s one thing to know what I believe, but it’s an entirely different thing to live out what I believe. When it comes to a response to the changing culture, specifically homosexuality, our response must be biblical and it must be saturated in love.

Someone might object, “But we are loving. We hate the sin but love the sinner.” I have news for you: the world isn’t feeling the love. According to recent research, when the vast majority of Christians and non-Christians want to describe the church, they call it “anti-homosexual.” We might understand what we mean by the “hate the sin but love the sinner” comment, but the phrase is highly despised in the LBGTQ community.

The problem isn’t our stance on homosexuality. We oppose this lifestyle because the Bible opposes it. We are right to be concerned when society drives at breakneck speed into a dense fog, with no apparent regard for what the future may hold. Our message may be right, but we are not as loving as we think we are. Why? Because we don’t express an essential element of love, we don’t “serve one another humbly in love” – Galatians 5:13 We need to do better at being known for humble love.

For one, we must humble ourselves for wrongly assuming that those who support a gay lifestyle do so out of disdain for morality. There are other reasons (maybe even good reasons) why people support gay rights, such as concern for the mental health of those struggling with same sex attraction, some of those struggles ending in suicide.

Many people support gay rights because they value authenticity. They reason that those who see themselves as gay should have the right to act consistent with their self-understanding. Some support gay rights as an act of resistance against what they see as untoward government intrusion. If we’re humble, we’ll be aware that those on the other side of this issue may have motives we can affirm.

We must humble ourselves, second, for how we’ve reacted. Some of us have lived by a double standard, condemning others’ sins but neglecting our own. We’ve not been good listeners, considering ourselves righteous for refusing to engage with those who differ from us. We’ve called our response “righteous indignation,” when it may have been only “fear of the other.” And when some of our own have honestly shared their same sex attraction, we have tended to treat them like enemies, not family. If we’re humble, we’ll admit we’ve responded poorly.

True love is not only humble, it serves others. If we were going overseas to work as a missionary, we would be very conscious that we were there to serve, not to be served. We would bend over backward to avoid offense. Among those already offended, we would bend even further.

The church must become a community that provides a loving environment for these who struggle with their sexuality and gender. After all, if “God’s kindness is intended to lead [us] to repentance.” – Romans 2:4, perhaps he wants to accomplish the same result from our kindness with others.

Please don’t mis-hear me. Telling the whole truth is needed now more than ever. But by only sharing part of the Bible’s message, we’ve made matters worse. We must not shy away from speaking of God’s disapproval of gay sex, even if this makes some unhappy. While at the same time, and with equal conviction, speak of the freedom to live above our natural state, to discover a better way. And back up our words with our example, lives of humble service that express the love of Jesus, because that is the world’s best hope and that is the best way.

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 boundaries 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 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

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/

Can A Follower Of Jesus Be Homophobic?

A common accusation thrown at the (conservative) Christian community is that we are homophobic. Is that true? Are Christians really homophobic?

Often, we Christians are tagged homophobic because we identify homosexual behaviour as sin. But the fact is that the term homophobic is in reality a term often used by homosexual supporters to deflect genuine criticisms. Without question, there are people who have sadly developed an irrational hate of homosexuals and who are prepared to use violent actions to inflict suffering upon someone who identifies as gay.

“We Christians have sinned
in at least two major ways
when it comes to reaching the
LGBTQ community”


However, the problem is that much too often the homophobic label is placed on anyone & everyone who opposes homosexuality as a legitimate option for humanity. As a result, any Christian who is convicted in their heart that homosexuality is an unnatural sin is associated with violent lunatics who hate for hatred’s sake.

Having said that, there is still a homophobic stigma that we wear. And I believe we have that stigma in part because we Christians have sinned in at least two major ways when it comes to reaching those in the LGBTQ community.

On the one hand, some have laid aside God’s clear teaching that homosexuality is a sin in a misguided attempt to show God’s love. But love stripped of truth is not love – its deceit.

   “Truth stripped of
compassion is not love
     – its hypocrisy”


The other way we have sinned as a Christian community has been a neglected compassion or even a condescending attitude toward the LGBTQ community while feeling ‘righteous’ in our conviction as we hide behind ‘truth’. But truth stripped of compassion is not love – its hypocrisy.

Does this mean that we can’t or shouldn’t answer the arguments presented by the LGBTQ community to save us from the homophobic label? Should we just smile, nod politely and ‘live and let live’ to keep the peace? I believe that we must absolutely answer away! How else will the truth be made known? But remember that we must speak the truth in love. 

Discussion Points

There are many arguments and discussion points that are brought up in the media. For sake of time and space I’ll only share a couple of the bible’s responses below. After all, the purpose of this post isn’t to answer all the questions but to foster conversation and discovery. My hope is that this will only be a starting point for all of us to dig deeper, ask more questions and discover what other things God may have to say about this subject.

I was in a conversation recently with a friend who said, “Jesus didn’t speak about homosexuality, 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 homosexuality directly, but he did speak clearly about sexuality in general, specifically addressing and defining marriage 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 marriage as between 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 marriage, then here was his opportunity to present it. Yet he didn’t. Rather he was solidly affirming the male – female relationship as it had been established with the very first couple, Adam & Eve.

Another argument I have often been presented with is about the fact that we no longer follow the OT laws such as eating certain types of food, or having tattoos, or wearing clothes with mixed material. The argument is that if that’s the case then why should we accept what the OT says about same-sex relationships?

When we take a serious look at the context of those passages being disputed, we discover that some of those laws dealt with the issue of uncleanness tied to the temple and worship. The important piece to understand is that these restrictions mentioned aren’t moral laws, rather they are purity laws or restrictions that distinguished Israel from the surrounding polytheistic nations who were morally loose and sacrificed certain types of animals (and in some cases, children) as part of their worship.

Add to that, we don’t see the continuation of these purity laws into the NT era and in fact see that God declared the OT rules of clean versus unclean as null and void when the Gentiles came into the fold (Acts 10:9–29).

However, it is different when it comes to sins such as drunkenness, greed, homosexuality, gluttony, idolatry, etc., because with these sins we find that every single OT and NT text that mentions them mentions them negatively. This shows a continuity of thought and practice which spans OT to NT in belief and practice.

“The good news for a gay man or woman
is the same good news for a straight man or woman.
Homosexuality isn’t the chief sin; unbelief is”


Back to the original thought. Can a follower of Jesus be homophobic? Fact is a Christian following the teachings of Jesus Christ can’t be homophobic, even while having one fear regarding homosexuals. The Christian should have the fear that anyone practising a homosexual lifestyle (along with anyone living in disobedience to God) will suffer eternally if they decide to reject the only means of salvation – the Lord Jesus Christ.

The good news for a gay man or woman is the same good news for a straight man or woman. Homosexuality isn’t the chief sin; unbelief is, and thankfully Jesus has an answer for that.

“… 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

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.

5 Reasons Opening Up Bathrooms & Change Rooms For Transgender Individuals Is Not Only Unwise But Is Also A Dangerous Precedent

Former US President Barak Obama had instructed public schools in May of 2016 to let transgender students use the bathrooms matching their chosen gender identity, even threatening to withhold funding for schools that did not comply. This was hailed by many from within the LGBTQ community, among others, as a landmark victory for civil rights.

But then US President Donald Trump’s administration recently revoked the Obama guidelines, igniting outcries from those claiming this as a violation of human rights, sparking protests and a media frenzy which doesn’t seem to be losing steam as I write this post.

Before we move on I wish to lay my cards on the table. I in no way wish to belittle anyone’s struggle as an individual. I am not out to declare that I am better than anyone else. I am a sinner in need of transformation just the same as every single other human being on this planet. The fact is that we have free will to live anyway we want, we just need to realize that there are always consequences for the choices we make, individually but also at a societal level. What I am talking about here is a societal level issue and when other’s choices create consequences for everyone else at the societal level, then we must not remain silent.

I may not agree with Trump on all his policies, ideologies and decisions; however, I must applaud him for reversing the Obama decision and I have 5 reasons why I believe he did the right thing.

Reason 1: Gender matters to God

God created two (and only two) genders. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27. The current speculation about gender fluidity is foreign to the Bible.

The closest the Bible does come to mentioning transgenderism is in its criticisms of homosexuality (Romans 1:18-32) and transvestitism (Deuteronomy 22:5). Add to that to the fact that the Greek word translated “homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9 literally means “effeminate men.” So, while the Bible nowhere plainly mentions transgenderism, it does clearly speak to instances of gender “confusion,” and explicitly identifies them as sin.

God had it right in the beginning, so opening the door to the elimination of ‘gender’ from biological sex is only creating confusion to what a male and female actually is. If a ‘girl’ can actually have the biological hardware of a boy, or a ‘boy’ has the biological hardware of a girl, what exactly are girls and boys?

People who identify as “feeling like the opposite sex” or “somewhere in between” do not comprise a third sex. They remain biological men or biological women.” (American College of Pediatricians, January 2017 – http://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/gender-ideology-harms-children)

In the end, if gender matters to God, then it should certainly matter to me. If God calls something a sin, then no matter my feelings about it I must accept it as a sin. However, that doesn’t give me licence to be a hater or a bigot.

(For more on transgerdism and gender confusion follow the link: https://thesavagetheologian.com/2017/04/24/transgenderism-identity-crisis-or-identity-lie/)

Reason 2: The push for choice is simply a ‘red herring’

The argument has been put forward that those identifying as transgender need the freedom to choose the public facility they identify with regardless of the parts they carry (or not carry) with them. This idea of their personal rights is really a ‘red herring’ as it is really about imposing a minority’s needs over a majority’s. What is really happening here is eliminating a choice from the majority. And it is even more of an issue given the fact that gender discordance isn’t simply a minority, the truth is that it’s rare.

“The norm for human design is to be conceived either male or female. Human sexuality is binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species. This principle is self-evident. The exceedingly rare disorders of sex development (DSDs), including but not limited to testicular feminization and congenital adrenal hyperplasia, are all medically identifiable deviations from the sexual binary norm, and are rightly recognized as disorders of human design. Individuals with DSDs (also referred to as “intersex”) do not constitute a third sex. (American College of Pediatricians, January 2017 – http://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/gender-ideology-harms-children)

Here’s the problem with Obama’s decision. Individual rights cannot be used to undermine the common good in any reasonable society. Please understand, I am not against the basic rights of anyone but what I am concerned about is the demands of special rights coming from any minority group at the expense of the majorities rights. Providing a separate washroom is one thing, personally I think that’s a workable solution, however to subjugate the majority for the benefit of the few just doesn’t make sense.

Reason 3: It opens the door for sexual predators

The University of Toronto recently instituted unisex bathrooms, locker rooms and showers. Was it a screaming success? I’m thinking that screaming may have been a part of it, but a success? I think not…

“The administration at the University of Toronto was recently enlightened on why two separate washrooms are generally established for men and women sharing co-ed residencies. The University is temporarily changing its policy on gender-neutral bathrooms after two separate incidents of “voyeurism” were reported on campus September 15 and 19. Male students within the University’s Whitney Hall student residence were caught holding their cellphones over female students’ shower stalls and filming them as they showered. Melinda Scott, dean of students at the University of Toronto, told The Daily Wire that campus police had been contacted immediately and worked with residence staff to “support impacted students and ensure the safety of the Residences.”
(http://www.dailywire.com/news/330/university-toronto-dumps-transgender-bathrooms-pardes-seleh? utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=121115-news&utm_campaign=benshapiro-share#.VwXOiCqc7wg.twitter)

I think it needs to be called for what it is – a crime, not water it down by calling it ‘voyeurism’. As much as we might like to think the best of people, we have laws for a reason. Some people are just creeps at minimum – sexual predators at worst. The truth is that there is nothing bigoted, hateful or homophobic about preserving the simple, fundamental privacy of women and children (in particular) by providing them with gender specific public facilities.

Reason #4: It opens the door for gender ‘impersonation’

The issue of gender impersonation is now a reality. One of the problems that seems to have been overlooked is the likelihood that we have the potential of “normal” males of bad character simply claiming to be “transgender” with the hopes of gaining an advantage over unsuspecting women.

“A man claimed a right to use a women’s locker room at a public swimming pool after his partial undressing there caused alarm. According to Seattle Parks and Recreation, women alerted staff at Evans Pool staff when a man wearing swim trunks entered the women’s locker room and took off his shirt. When staff told him to leave, the man reportedly said “the law has changed and I have a right to be here.” Employees told Seattle’s King 5 News the man didn’t attempt to identify as female but cited a new Washington state rule allowing individuals to choose their bathroom based on their gender identity. (http://dailysignal.com/2016/02/23/man-allowed-to-use-womens-locker-room-at-swimming-pool-without-citing-gender-identity/)

The unfortunate experience of a young female being exposed to biological males (regardless of whether that male ‘feels’ he is a female) is a high possibility. We must understand in all of this, whether you are being PC about it or not is that the facts are that a young mind being exposed to such images can have damaging and long term effects on a child in the same way as if being exposed to pornographic images or even sexual abuse. And while it is true that young females are unlikely to be molested by gender confused males, what is to stop a male sexual predator masquerading as a ‘female’? This foolishness isn’t just bad practice, it’s dangerous.

Reason #5: As Christians we have a duty to protect our children

Read through the gospels and you’ll quickly see that Jesus had a special place in his heart for children. As parents we have been given the responsibility to protect these children Jesus loves so much. Certainly, public places such as schools, public swimming pools and other gathering places should be safe for all children, both for the rare gender-confused student as well as their friends and classmates, but our society’s move to be inclusive to all cannot be championed at the expense of the protection for our children. It’s a matter of protection for majority over PC minority.

The move to ‘open the doors’ of public washrooms is a humanistic attack against the categories of male and female that God created, and as Christians we have a duty to affirm the biological reality of the gender binary for the sake of our children and future generations, even if the culture becomes increasingly opposed to it.

What should be the Christian response?

Our response as Christians should be nothing less than deeply felt compassion while becoming a people who prayerfully begin to reasonably understand transgender and sexual-orientation issues and what the Bible says about them. It’s only then that we are in a position to speak truth in love. Speaking “In love” means speaking with great respect, empathy, and appropriate humility. And it means to love with action (such as hospitality), not just words as John speaks about, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18

And I think that love means being slow to speak, especially on social media. If you do choose to speak, work hard to speak with an unusually respectful, gracious voice. Maybe unknown to you, someone you know is struggling with their gender identity and your words could possibly impact them one way or another, so always speak as you would to a friend.

The ultimate answer, of course, is the Gospel, which has the power to change hearts and minds far beyond what our ability to change laws in the culture might be. Be encouraged and remember that even as Christianity emerged in the first Century, the Roman world was far more depraved than we could even imagine today, and yet the Gospel of Christ transformed that culture. As we go out to live in the world know with confidence that the gospel can and will transform lives today.

“I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:18b (italics mine)

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.