What Kind of World Do We Live In?

As reports of this Sunday’s Texas Church Shooting continued to unfold into the evening and on into this morning, I have been compelled to consider the tragic state of our nation and world. It is far too soon to react to any of the specifics or to make judgments as to eventual outcomes or implications, but I have little interest in this sort of socio-political exercise and generally feel unqualified to do so anyway. However, before this tragic event is added to the list of topics to be politicized and argued about all over news networks and social media, it stands as a striking symbol of all that is sad and tragic and evil. The senseless loss of life has led many to ask, “What kind of world do we live in?” Considering yesterday’s tragedy alongside the act of terror in New York City earlier this week and the mass shooting in Las Vegas last month, it certainly seems like a valid question: just what kind of world do we live in? This is a question for which everyone ought to know the answer; however, I feel it is particularly important that every Jesus follower understand and consider the answers to this question in light of biblical truth.

We live in a fallen world.

Though most of us enjoy a life surrounded by goodness and kindness only occasionally touched by darkness and tragedy, we must remember that our world is fallen because of sin. No excuse should be made for these evil men who are filled with such hatred, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that the ultimate responsibility lies with the sinful, wicked condition that befell us when Adam and Eve chose to rebel in the garden. The only answer for this sinful condition is Jesus, so in this fallen world we must live holy lives that point people to the righteousness of Jesus that can lift us from our fallen state. Do not return evil for evil, thus nullifying the message of hope that Jesus should bring to these situations. Even when evil is all around you and the wickedness of this fallen world is on full display, choose to do what is right in the sight of God.

We live in a blinded world.

Satan has spiritually blinded the hearts of those in this world so that we cannot see good and evil for what they truly are. While we should certainly hold accountable those who commit such atrocities and the perpetrators of these violent crimes should be actively opposed, our hatred should be reserved for the Evil One who has blinded the hearts of so many in our world. These evil men are small pieces in Satan’s attempt to thwart God’s plan of redemption for mankind, thus the true enemy is supernatural and we must fight against him with spiritual warfare. We must lift up our blinded world in prayer that they may receive the light they need to see the truth. Instead of being blinded by hatred and anger, show grace and mercy by praying for those who have been so terribly affected. Additionally, pray for those enemies who have sinned so terribly against their brother. This is how we can bring light into a spiritually dark and blinded world.

We live in a broken world.

Because of the affects of sin and spiritual blindness in our world, it is broken. It does not function as God intended. There is evil and hatred and sickness and death, all things He never intended for our world. Knowing this, we must look for opportunities to bring healing. We must resist behaviors that further break us apart as a human society. We must resist the urge to divide and accuse and generalize. We must resist the temptation to politicize these evil acts. We must instead focus on providing healing through our words, our prayers, our grace and mercy and our forgiveness.

We live in a hurting world.

It is simply the reality of the sinful state that this world is filled with pain and suffering. We feel it quite pointedly when events such as yesterday occur, but it is always true. People everywhere are hurting and we should be actively pointing them to the true Comforter. Our God is the God of all comfort. Jesus offers peace and comfort and even gave us His Holy Spirit to fill us and comfort us further. Through our actions of compassion and mercy we can draw a hurting world toward a God that can give them the comfort they so desperately need.

We live in a lost world.

While this should go without saying given the conditions we have already considered, the unfortunate reality is that many believers live their lives as if they have forgotten that this world is lost and without hope, separated from God because of their sin. I say we live as if we have forgotten it because most believers focus on social, political, and legal solutions rather than spiritual ones. When we see evil on display, we must remember that the solution is Jesus and embrace the opportunity to lovingly point people to Jesus.

We live in a loved world.

As dark a picture as we have painted, it would do us well to recall one of the most popular and well known verses from the Bible: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This world may be fallen, blinded, broken, hurting and lost; but it is also loved by its Creator God. And if a completely holy and righteous God can love this world enough to let His own Son die to save it, then we can and must love it too. I think we are moved to loving compassion for the victims of these terrible crimes, but we must also have love toward the murderous villains themselves. We cannot reserve our love for those that we like and agree with who happen to look like us and believe as we do. We must love those who look, live and believe differently than we do. We must love those who are sinful and unlovable; even those who hate us and wish us harm. In our responses to these senseless acts of violence, we must do everything out of love.

As we mourn those lost and injured at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, I call on my fellow Christian believers at this time to consider the words of Paul in Romans 12:9-18, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection…Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer…Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep…If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” What kind of world do we live in? One that needs us to live the truth of those verses every second of every day!

 

 

 

photo By Sasha Wolff CC BY 2.0

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Thoughts For My Fellow Christians on Election Day

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Today is an exciting and potentially historic day for our great nation. It is a day in which we once again have the privilege of exercising our right to vote and it is a day that many on both sides of the political aisle feel will have monumental impact on the direction of our nation. It is also a day that many believers have been anticipating with great fear and anxiety. While I have absolutely no idea what the outcome of this election will be today, I do know that God cares far more about how His people treat each other and represent Him than He does about a particular political party winning or losing. With that in mind, I have a few brief thoughts for my fellow believers that I hope will be considered on this election day.

You Are a Christian First

If you a follower of Christ, that identity supersedes all others. Before you are an American; before you are a democrat or republican, conservative or liberal; you are a Christian. You are a child of God and as such you are His representative. You a citizen of His kingdom with temporary citizenship here in this world. Your obligations are to him before they are to any political party or social cause. Many Christians are approaching this election with the claim that they are voting based on their faith and their beliefs, all the while acting in a manner that is absolutely contrary to Christian behavior. I urge you to consider not only the rightness of your stance (because you just might be right), but also the manner in which you are taking it. Christians cannot be mean-spirited, nasty, dishonest, fear mongers. It is sad to see so much hatred, ignorance and divisiveness among the body of Christ. Remember, today and every day, that if you bear the name of Christ than you must live in a way that honors him.

We Are All Americans

Somehow this particular election seems to have gotten even more divisive than usual. Those of us who are Christians must remember that while it has been a great privilege to live in a country that has largely supported our Christian values and lifestyle God has nowhere promised that it should be so. Being American is not about faith or specific political positions. In fact, the beauty of America is that we are a diverse people unified under the belief that we are all free to believe, like and live however we want. Those who stand across the political divide from you are just as American as you and likely love their nation just as much. Wherever we end up after this election, I can promise you that our nation will be much better off if we get over the “us and them” mentality that has dominated this election cycle and get back to being a unified nation of diverse beliefs and preferences.

God Is Still In Control

Regardless of who is our president or what political party is in power, God is still sovereign over this nation and His world. I want to urge my fellow believers to stop acting in fear as if God cannot handle it if certain people or parties are in power. God is in control, and the simple truth is that He might not want what you expect Him to want. There is no guarantee that he wants you to have religious liberty. There is no guarantee that He wants you to live in a nation that makes it easy to worship Him. There is no guarantee that he wants you safe or wealthy. We just don’t know. What we know is that He is in control and we must accept that His ways are not our ways. Trust Him. Rest in Him.

Prayer Is Our Weapon of Choice

With many Christians taking to social media to fight it out over their political views, I think we need to be reminded that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places(Ephesians 6:12).” The way we fight that battle is not through clever arguments or nasty rants on the internet, but by “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication (Ephesians 6:18).” I urge you today to be in constant, persistent, selfless prayer. Pray for your brothers and sisters who are voting and pray for your brothers and sisters around the world who never get to vote and are living in persecution for their faith. Pray for your current president as well as for the next one. Pray for your nation, communities and neighborhoods. Pray for your church family. Perhaps most importantly, pray also that God will give you a spirit that is in line with His; pray for a heart that sees this world and the people in it the way He does. Pray! Pray! Pray!

You Have Been Given Peace

Too many Christians are walking around these days worried and in a panic. They are troubled over the state of our nation and all worked up over who will be the next president. I can tell you this: if you as a believer do not have peace now, you will not have it when you get your preferred president either. That is because genuine peace cannot be dependent upon circumstances. Peace is an untroubled heart because of faith in Christ regardless of circumstances. Jesus said to His disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid (John 14:27).” Peace is a gift from God, but we have to choose to experience it by trusting Him, refusing to dwell on the circumstances, and by being grateful for the blessings He has given us.

God is a Big God Who Deserves to Be Honored

My biggest concern is not for the outcome of this election, but for God to be glorified by His church regardless of what happens in the election. My heart’s greatest desire in all of this is that the church would stand up for what is right, while also acting right; that we would represent our Lord in a way that will make Him happy and not ashamed. While many people will be discussing the election and its potential outcomes and problems and so on throughout the day today, it is my desire to simply remind you that you serve a big God who is in total control. Don’t worry; don’t be afraid. In the words of Paul, “May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way 2 Thessalonians 3:16).”

 

Photo By Harley Pebley (Flickr: Prayer for USA) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Disagreement Is Not Hatred

As father to 4 young children, it should come as no surprise that I often find occasion to discipline one of them. Not infrequently, one of them will respond by trying to turn the tables and accuse me of “being mean.” They will angrily scream things like “You don’t like me; you hate me. You’re so mean.” Now as a parent of small children, I don’t take these remarks personally. I merely take them as an indication that repentance hasn’t occurred and proceed to work toward that end.

These kinds of remarks, though, are also a reflection of the culture in which we are currently living. We are living in a culture in which no one can offer correction or criticism without being considered mean; a culture in which you cannot disagree without being intolerant and unloving.

We see this mentality play out in current events on a daily basis. Christians cannot teach that homosexuality is a sin without being called hateful. Law abiding citizens are unable to criticize violent protests and mob riots without being considered a racist. Concerned minorities cannot criticize the actions of law enforcement without getting called anti-police. Athletes cannot peacefully protest without being called un-American. Good people cannot disagree over politics and presidential candidates without calling each other names and questioning their spirituality or patriotism or both. It is time that we addressed this wrong perspective.

Contrary to current popular opinion, it is possible to love someone and disagree with them. There is indeed a proper place to lovingly correct someone. Now correction and disagreement can certainly be done in unloving or hateful ways, but the correction or disagreement itself is not unloving. In fact, sometimes the most loving thing we can do is point out to someone that they are wrong. In Proverbs 3:11-12, the Bible offers this advice: “My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD or loathe His reproof, for whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” These verses are speaking specifically of God’s correction, but I think they provide some insight into how we should view criticism. We should not reject it or resent it. We should accept it as an expression of love.

When done in the proper way, criticism or correction and disagreement can be a very loving thing. While we may not be able to change the world’s perspective on this, I hope that the church can learn to view correction and disagreement in a more biblical way. We must stop the name calling and accusations every time that someone disagrees with us and we truly need to learn to accept correction. We must endeavor to live out the truth of God’s Word while also accepting the differences in those around us. As important as it is that we demonstrate love in our actions, we must now also strive to manifest love in the way that we accept correction, criticism and disagreements.

 

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Off Target: Check Your Assumptions

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Target’s recent announcement of a new transgender restroom policy has left many conservatives in an uproar. As a result of almost non-stop public debate and media coverage of announcements similar to this one as well as state laws affirming or denying the rights of trangenders to use the bathroom of their choice, there has been a flurry of people taking to social media and other online outlets to express their opinion on the matter.

Beyond the fact that many of these people seem unreasonably angry, I have been troubled by some of the false assumptions that seem to be the foundation of so much of this outrage. I am not saying that people are not entitled to their opinion, but I am saying that much of the irrational anger seems to be a result of beliefs or assumptions that just are not true. Here are some of the false assumptions that I have seen quite frequently over the last week.

  • False assumption # 1: Public restrooms are safe. One of the more common arguments I have heard is that now bathrooms aren’t safe for kids anymore. My initial reaction when I read this was disbelief. I thought, “Please tell me that these people don’t think that public restrooms just now became unsafe!” As a parent of four small children, I have never considered public restrooms safe. As far as the safety or accessibility of a restroom for my children, this policy has no bearing. I don’t care who is or isn’t allowed into the restroom, I am not assuming that my children are safe there. I have and will continue to accompany my children into the restroom and I would urge you to do the same.
  • False assumption # 2: A transgender person poses a greater threat than anyone else. There is no reason to believe that this is the case. Regardless of one’s moral opinion of their lifestyle, it is unjust to assume that a transgender person is any more likely to cause harm than any other person who enters a public restroom.
  • False assumption # 3: Predators will now have greater access to potential victims. This is one of the most ridiculous assumptions of all. It basically assumes that criminals, predators and just generally bad people are deterred by a sign or a policy. If someone is determined to do something wrong or violent, they are going to do so whether or not there are signs allowing them access.
  • False assumption # 4: Public restrooms are a right. I know that we have come to appreciate and expect that most major retailers provide public restrooms, but we can’t forget that public restrooms are a service provided by businesses for our convenience. Whether you like it or not, a business has the right to formulate their own policies. In response, of course, you aren’t obligated to use their restroom or shop at their store.
  • False assumption # 5: If I’m afraid, I can do or say whatever I want. Though most will not say they believe this, their actions betray them. I see men and women who claim to be Christians using their personal fear to justify hateful and irresponsible speech and actions. They may fear harm coming to their children or they may just fear change and those who are different than them. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether or not the fear is legitimate, though. Fear is not a justification for sinful behavior and it is certainly not a legitimate decision making criteria. After all, God has not given us the Spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control. (2Timothy 1:7). I know there are some legitimate reasons to have fear, but we must not allow that fear to control us.
  • False assumption # 6: Being angry about transgenders using their preferred restroom is equal to standing up for God. This assumption pops up every time there is a social or cultural shift, most recently in regard to issues regarding the LGBT community. Basically, Christians who believe that homosexuality and transgenderism are sins also believe that it is their Christian duty to angrily lash out at everyone in a public way. I have seen Christians and even those in ministry lashing out about these social and cultural changes with the honest belief that it is pleasing to God. Your angry social media rant might make you feel better, but it is not honoring God and it is not drawing men and women to Christ. Instead, these angry rants push people away and build additional barriers that must be overcome before they will come to Christ.

As a pastor, my primary concern in writing and sharing these thoughts is the edification of the body of Christ. I believe that the best hope for our culture is for the body of Christ to step up and behave like the body of Christ. If you are troubled by the state of our culture, I would urge you to put less energy into expressing your anger and instead put your energy into personally reaching out to those who need the Savior. Pray for them, serve them, love them and even be willing to sacrifice your personal convenience for an opportunity to minister to them.

 

 

Photo by Jay Reed (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Do You Love Me?

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To the surprise of no one who knows me in the least, I must confess that I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day. Perhaps it’s the over-commercialization or the phoniness of the day. Or, more likely, I just don’t like to be told that I must feel or express a specific sentiment on a specific day (not that I have authority issues). Whatever the reason, I just don’t care for the Valentine’s Holiday.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against love or marriage or happy relationships or many of the other things that Valentine’s Day is supposed to represent. I just don’t like the day. However, through some reflection over the past week, I have come to appreciate one foundational assumption behind Valentine’s Day: love professed should be love expressed. Despite the way I feel about the holiday, I believe that this is the primary sentiment behind it and I am in whole-hearted agreement. Eventually, if we truly love someone than we will demonstrate it in some observable way.

While everyone enjoys being told that they are loved and appreciated, eventually those verbal assurances fade into inefficacy if not supported by some kind of action. This is a major reason that so many children and spouses feel unloved despite the fact that their spouse or parent would adamantly profess their love. It is also why churches are filled with Christians who claim to “love the world” at the same time that the world feels hated or neglected by the church. It is also why the Bible always speaks of our obligation to love one another in terms of action rather than feeling.

The overwhelming assumption behind the command to love is that our love will be expressed in an observable fashion. That is why Jesus said in John 13:35 that “your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” As a genuine follower of Christ, a prominent part of our responsibility to God and testimony to the world is a life that manifests His love to those around us. As Jesus did, we must love and accept others, offer forgiveness, live selflessly, be kind, and treat others as more important than ourselves. After all, this kind of genuine, observable love for others is evidence that we actually love God. As 1 John 4:20 says, “He who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Take this verse to heart and learn this valuable lesson from Valentine’s Day: Love professed must be love expressed or it isn’t genuine love at all.

Jesus Loves Me (Despite Knowing Me)

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As kids, most of us sang the words “Jesus loves me this I know…” Perhaps we didn’t fully understand the depth of what we were singing, but we sang it. And we believed it.

The knowledge that God loves me is a tremendous comfort. It brings peace and joy and elicits faith. And though it is often relegated to children’s lessons and songs, it is one of the most profound and amazing truths about God. What makes it so incredible is the fact that He loves me despite the fact that He knows me perfectly.

In his book, Knowing God, Packer says “There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me…and quench His determination to bless me.” Packer continues to say that despite the fact that “…He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow men do not see and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see myself…He wants me as His friend…and has given His son to die for me in order to realize this purpose.”

Isn’t that amazing and wonderful? So often we approach relationships with the fear that if they only knew me they wouldn’t love me. However, we can rest in the knowledge that God loves us fully and completely despite knowing us fully and completely. I am both known and loved. I need not fear rejection by God because of who I am or what I’ve done. He knows me, faults and all. And loves me anyway.

When I consider this great gift of love, I feel compelled to worship Him. I cannot help but love Him in return. I also recognize that this is the truest and best way to love. As He has loved me despite knowing the worst of me, so I too should love others when I have seen or heard or felt their worst.

This is true love. This is the love that God has for us and it leaves me humbled and overwhelmed. I pray that you will join me in rejoicing over the fact that Jesus loves me even though He knows me.

Characteristics of a Healthy Church

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Frequently at my house I am accosted by a sobbing child demanding a band-aid. To my children, a band-aid is pretty much a cure-all for any physical pain they experience. They usually end up with their band-aid, but during that process it is my job to assess the reality of their overall health. Is it a minor cut that a hug, kiss and band-aid will take care of? Or, are we headed to the emergency room (again)? Usually, I can make that assessment very quickly because I know what a healthy child looks like. The more I understand health, the more quickly and accurately I can evaluate the health of my children.

The same principle is true of the church. While most of us are faithful and careful in evaluating our own health and the health of our children, I’m afraid that we’ve adopted a “just wing it” mentality when it comes to the health of our churches. I recently posted some Thoughts on the Healthy Church because I believe the biggest reason for this is that we do not understand what a healthy church looks like in a very practical way. To help remedy that, I’ve compiled some characteristics of a healthy church.

  • Authority of God’s Word – a healthy church holds to God’s Word as its ultimate authority. The issue here is really two-fold. First, God’s Word absolutely must be the final authority for faith and practice. Secondly is that this fact of Biblical authority must be clearly communicated and demonstrated in the church. Saying that the Bible is authoritative is not enough – it must be demonstrated in the actions of the church.
  • Love – as the Bible says in 1 Peter 4:8, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” No church will do anything perfectly, but I think it is critical that a church demonstrates Christ’s love. This includes showing love to those outside the church and not just to those inside the church. We certainly don’t want to be a part of a church that is fighting among itself, but we also don’t want to associate ourselves with a local church that is known as hateful and antagonistic toward outsiders (whether that be unbelievers or Christians who are different than us). Healthy churches live the love of Jesus.
  • Great commission driven – A healthy church takes seriously the call to reach the nations. Some obvious indicators in this regard would be the missions budget, personal involvement of congregation in missions through trips or various means and evangelistic emphasis. However, some other key factors would be attitudes toward change, innovation in worship, awareness and accommodation of target audience, involvement in the community and interaction with culture.  Healthy churches are not driven by their preferences, desires or traditions, but by a desire to reach the community and the world with the message of the gospel.
  • Biblical decision making – This can be easy to miss, but it is critical. Here’s why – one cannot know every detail about a church before joining. It also isn’t possible to know everything they might do in the future. However, you can discover the process for making decisions and that will reveal a great deal. Churches should use the Bible for practical guidance in making decisions and beyond that should have a clearly spelled out vision or purpose to which they hold themselves accountable.

Remember that no church is perfect, but a healthy church will exhibit these characteristic as a normative part of their identity. As believers we must first recognize these characteristic principles and then we must prioritize and practice them. Let’s look past the band-aids and make an honest assessment of first our own hearts and then our churches.

Living the Love of Christ (Even When Gay Marriage is Legal)

In light of the SCOTUS ruling Friday legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states, I found myself having to explain something to my young children that I hadn’t planned on explaining yet. It’s probably not what you think. It had nothing to do with marriage or homosexuality. What I had to explain was my own frustrated comment that “some Christians are idiots.” Of course, you know it is true and I know it is true, but I had planned on letting my children continue for a while in their innocent assumption that all who claim to be Christians actually love Jesus and love other people.

Instead, mostly because of my own frustration, I had to explain that there are Christians who are being mean to other people simply because they didn’t get what they wanted. There are Christians who are saying ridiculous things simply because things didn’t go their way. As I explained this, we were able to talk about how important it is to behave properly no matter what happens.

To be honest with you, this is where my greatest concern lies at this moment in time. I know that there are godly men and women who feel it is their burden to be active in the political arena, but that’s not me. My burden is with the church and the fact that regardless of what is happening in society, culture, government or anywhere else, we the church have the responsibility to live the love of Christ. With this in mind, allow me to share some scattered thoughts that I believe need to be understood by the Christian community as a whole.

  • Not all who claim to be Christian actually have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As a result, much is done in the name of Christ that is not Christian at all.
  • Being a Christian is not about what you are against. Opposing gay marriage or homosexuality or any other sin does not make someone a Christian. I believe that the Bible teaches that any sexual conduct outside of the confines of marriage between a man and a woman is sin. However, I also believe that many who oppose gay marriage, homosexuality and the LGBT agenda are simply bigots and not Christian at all. Being a Christian is about following Christ. This means having faith in Him and treating others as He would treat them.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, we do not have to “take a stand” against every political or social decision that allows or legalizes sin. Biblically, we should take a stand when we are personally being asked or forced to sin. Paul and Silas would not quit preaching the gospel, but they did go to jail quietly and without resisting because that is the government’s right. They did not, however, try to change the laws to make it legal for them to preach the gospel. We should not be attempting to legislate righteousness onto an unbelieving culture, because even if we are successful, we create hypocrites and not Christians. This would be entirely selfish because it says that we value our personal comfort more than their souls.
  • The Christian’s greatest desire in regard to the unsaved world should be to see them saved. We were not called to change the conduct of the unbelieving world to make it more comfortable for us. We have been called to share Christ regardless of the circumstances. The primary sin that Jesus and Paul dealt with in regard to the unbelieving world they lived in was unbelief. Once someone believes in Christ, than we can begin to help them address all manner of sins in their life.
  • There are no biblical exceptions given for godly conduct. A true Christian is kind and loving and respectful at all times, not just when they are agreed with. The Bible doesn’t say “be kind unless they are mean” or “show love unless they are a homosexual.” I am tired of so-called Christians using Biblical truth as an excuse to be mean, nasty, jerks.  As a Christian, you should show love, mercy and grace toward all, even and especially toward those who believe and act differently than you.

Though these scattered thoughts don’t even come close to exhausting the issue, I trust that they reflect my heart’s desire to see genuine Christians live the light of God’s love in a world dark with sin. As these principles relate to yesterday’s SCOTUS decision specifically, let me say two final things. First, our attitude and actions toward the unbelieving LGBT community should reveal a greater desire to see them come to Christ than to change their lifestyle. Second, our attitude and actions toward Christians who struggle with homosexuality should be to lovingly, graciously and continually point them to the victory over all sin that is available only through Christ. In all things, I pray that we overflow with God’s love toward all mankind.

Taking a Stand

Let’s face it. The world we live in is not an easy one to navigate from a moral perspective. A casual assessment of our culture and society in America, or world events in general, could produce a host of topics that create controversy and confusion as to how God’s people ought to view or react to them. Some examples might include topics like evolution, gender roles, homosexuality, gay marriage, terrorism, immigration, America’s international military presence, etc. More than likely, that list included topics you’ve made up your mind about, ones that you are thinking about and probably some you didn’t even know you needed to make up your mind about. Though I as well have opinions, my point here is that there are an abundance of sides to be taken and we as Christians will inevitably find ourselves doing so at one point or another. I recently posted some thoughts for Christians to consider as we make decisions on when we should take a stand and how to choose those issues, so now I want to offer some advice on how to take a stand once you’ve decided you should.

  • Be humble. This is necessary even if there is no doubt you are right (a clear biblical statement), but especially important on those “gray” issues that are not specifically addressed in Scripture. You can humbly form strong opinions about a variety of social or political issues, but please understand that there are good people who disagree with you and humbly allow for the differences.
  • Be loving. My encouragement would be that if you choose to take a stand on a political or social issue, please do it with love. The need to take a stand for a biblical principle does not give license for being mean. In fact, the more serious and potentially controversial your stand is, the more attention you should give to demonstrating love while taking that stand. Paul urged believers in 1 Corinthians 16:14 to “do everything in love.” I think this manifests itself in two important ways. First, we must demonstrate love toward those who we feel we must oppose or “take a stand” against. Second, please show love to your fellow Christian who does not choose to stand on the same issue. Christianity has embarrassed itself on numerous occasions through the fighting of its constituents.
  • Be respectful. Much of the offense attributed to Christians is because they take their stand in disrespectful ways, particularly through speech. There is no reason to name-call, use vulgar or disrespectful terms or be mean-spirited with your words. Kindly explain your reasons and then leave it alone if possible. Debate is generally an ineffective means of changing someone’s mind. Even worse is the horribly impersonal form of debate found in the medium of social media. Whatever the context in which you find yourself discussing your position, be nice and respectful.
  • Be evangelistically minded. Use the stand you take to point others to Jesus. Never forget that the most important issue is that of one’s eternal state. If you must take a stand on an issue, make you sure that to the best of your ability you do it in a way that does not leave them less open to the gospel. You may actually be able to take your stand and present Christ at the same time.

My concern as I observe the church today is not that we are taking a stand for what is right, but that we are attacking those we should be loving and disappointing the God we are claiming to stand for. We must take to heart Paul’s statement in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Paul’s reference to the name of Jesus means “as His representative.” My desire is that when we take our stand it is not an act of fear, selfishness or spite, but rather an act of loving ambassadorship for the One who gave Himself for us.

While We Were Sinners

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the Christian response to homosexuality and gay marriage in particular. Much of the discussion centers on the issue of Christian business people demonstrating their protest (or “taking a stand”) by refusing services to gay people. As you suspect by now, I have some thoughts I want to share in the hopes they might be helpful.

  • You should do what is right (as determined by God, not you) whether it is legal or not. In the Old Testament book of Daniel, Daniel continued his pattern of prayer even when it was outlawed and his 3 friends refused to worship an idol even though it was required by law. They also willingly faced the consequences of their stand (the lion’s den and the fiery furnace respectively) and trusted God for the outcome (deliverance on both accounts).
  • You have the “right” to take a stand on any issue you want. This goes beyond simply doing what is right. As an individual with the capacity for choice, you can take a stand on anything. Just don’t confuse standing up for your issue with doing what is right. Remember, too, that you are also choosing to face the consequences of making that stand. Additionally, your spiritual liberty frees you to forego your rights for the benefits of others.
  • There is a difference between taking a stand for what is right and protesting what you believe to be wrong. As I understand it, I am biblically mandated to do the former but not necessarily always supposed to do the latter. In context of our current discussion, I would certainly say you should “take a stand” if someone tried to force you to marry a person of your same gender. I’m not so certain that we are required, or that it is best, to protest someone else’s sin (especially if they are an unbeliever) by refusing services (cake, catering, photography, etc.) to that person.
  • Not everyone who takes a stand against gay marriage is a bigot, but neither is everyone who opposes it a biblically minded follower of Christ. The fact of the matter is, there are bigots and those who are prejudiced on both sides of major issues. It is unwise to defend or condemn everyone who holds a given position, because the same conclusions can be drawn for a variety of reasons.
  • Christians should love all righteousness and hate all sin. One of the biggest problems I see recently is that many of the Christians who are suddenly so concerned with taking a stand are inconsistent. I cannot judge the heart, but this inconsistency makes it look as if Christians are simply masking bigotry with Bible verses in the same way many early Americans supported slavery from Scripture (a position which, for the record, is stupid).
  • Unbelief is the primary sin I should target for change in unbelievers. As a believer, there are certain sins (sexual ones are certainly included) that the Bible indicates are more detrimental to me and to my walk with the Lord. However, in dealing with the sinful world, the only sin I should be concerned with is their rejection of Christ. Until then, convincing them to stop a specific sin doesn’t save them. Once they believe, then maybe the Holy Spirit could use me to help them deal with other sins.
  • Remember that “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).” God did not reserve His love until we deserved it or until we agreed with Him or even until we quit sinning. I think we should follow this example as much as possible.

I realize that my thoughts have the potential to create controversy, but that is not my desire. It is also not at all my desire to dictate to others what they should or should not take a stand on or to appear as if I have all the answers. I do not and I personally still wrestle with how to handle some of these unique cultural issues. My only motivation in sharing the above thoughts is to perhaps aid in the process of making the difficult decisions about where to draw the line when it is not obvious.