There are rumblings that the state legislature will pass a gay marriage bill this session. As gay marriage is becoming firmly entrenched in our nation many Christians think our culture has hit rock bottom. They could not be further from the truth.
Defeated forces can fall back and fight another day. However the slaughter really begins when your forces abandon the battlefield: The opposing forces can rape and pillage in earnest with nothing to stop them. Over the last few decades those who support our values in the public square have grown weaker while our opponents stronger. Now with a defeat on gay marriage appearing imminent it looks like our side will collapse entirely.
As just a small example of what comes next, California passed SB 48, which requires public schools to include the study of the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans and prohibits any materials that reflect adversely upon them. As California is an enormous textbook market there is a strong incentive for publishers to make all textbooks California-compliant. These books will undoubtedly share how gay leaders have courageously fought for civil rights and “marriage equality.” I wonder how they will treat those who opposed these righteous souls by proclaiming that their sexual acts were a “sin?” It would not be too far-fetched to see pictures similar to those of the police clubbing Martin Luther King’s Freedom Riders only with people of our persuasion cast as the bad guys. Won’t the increasing demonization of Biblical Christianity adversely affect our evangelistic effectiveness? After being exposed to this type of material would not our own children tend to ask, “How can I follow a religion that is so demeaning to the normal actions of oppressed sexual minorities?”
You undoubtedly have not heard of SB 48 because it is just an incredibly small blip in the avalanche of values hostile to Christianity coming our way. Few would dispute that our culture has grown significantly more toxic in our lifetime—on our watch. Was this change somehow preordained or predestined so we could have done nothing to prevent it or have we been responding wrongly to it?
There are myriad religious beliefs such as Christians, Hindus, or Druids with many sub-flavors to major groupings. Most pray to some type of god, gods or deity. Most believe that the object of their prayers answers back and some even profess to experience miraculous intervention. While these beliefs cannot all be right virtually nobody, including us, senses that the God they pray to is telling them that their beliefs are in error. In light of the significant cultural shift we are witnessing and our failure to stop it, it is worthwhile to compare our beliefs to our source document to ensure we are following directions.
Christians should all agree that they believe the Bible. Rather than picking out a few verses to base a whole theology on–as we love to do–let us instead look at three broad themes of Scripture.
The first is: The role of the prophet. Two major sections of the Bible are the “Major Prophets” and the “Minor Prophets.” While these contain much other material, the general theme is that of prophets of God rebuking the sin of the people or their leaders while warning of God’s judgment. As this is a major Biblical theme it would seem that it should remain conspicuously present in our Christian service. Has it?
Rather than confronting the leaders of our culture and rebuking pandemic sin in general we, for the most part, are unwilling to even preach against sin within the confines of our own churches purportedly for fear of offending or alienating sinners. There has also been a tendency to replace “sins” with the morally neutral “mistakes.” Is that scriptural?
A prophet will stand against sin because if this poison cannot be contained it will incur God’s wrath as well as cause the downfall of the individual and society. A common way we discredit a prophet is to claim that he is not rebuking sin but is instead rebuking the poor, unfortunate people who have been poisoned by sin and we rush to comfort and console these “victims.” If we are not willing to follow the example set by the Major and Minor Prophets perhaps we should remove these sections from our Bible.
On another related Biblical theme, when a man of God interacts with people, do the keepers of the culture more often love or more often hate the intrusion of God’s law? Most would agree that when a person came proclaiming God’s law the more common reaction was hatred. Jesus came to the Jews and the established religious leaders had Him put to death. The disciples and early apostles did not fare much better.
With this background why does the church seem to convey the message that we can faithfully serve God and still have everyone like us? The only way we can have everyone like us is to abandon doing things that God calls us to do that people hate. We have silenced the prophets in our midst because we love the praises of men. The second theme is: If we are faithful ambassadors representing God’s law to a people who hate God’s law it is reasonable to expect them to hate us as well. Are we being trained to embrace and endure this?
Romans 12:18 directs that, if possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. By the time the Apostle Paul wrote Second Corinthians, he had been whipped with 39 lashes five times, beaten with rods three times and stoned once. He then went on to have other abuse including a premature appointment with an undertaker. Yes, if possible, be at peace but much of the time this peace is not possible because we are solders in a world at war—unless we go AWOL.
The last theme is from the Historical books. We read how God established the Jews as His chosen people but then punished and humbled them when they were stiff-necked and rebellious. We can repeatedly reread these books but it never occurs to us that God could be talking about us! The warning from these books is that if God will send His own chosen people into bondage for their sins, He will do the same to us if we disobey. We have inherited a nation with a rich Christian heritage but, instead of defending our heritage to the last man we have sat by idly as it has been stolen in front of our noses. Because we have banished the prophet from our midst that would tell us otherwise, we have somehow concluded that God must still be ecstatic about our level of faith and obedience. Remember, even the scribes and Pharisees professed to believe that God was pleased with them because they tithed mint, dill and cumin until Jesus came along and said, “No way!”
Our nation and the church are at a precipice but we have killed the prophetic ministry and so don’t know it. Perhaps the most pathetic interaction in the Bible is when little boy Samuel delivers a word from the Lord to Levi the Priest. Trembling, Samuel tells Eli of God’s impending judgment on his house. Rather than falling on his face in grief or repentance Eli blandly replies, “Let the Lord do what is good to Him.” (I Samuel 3:18) I’m hoping this message provokes more of a response.
While the Romans severely oppressed the Jews, it has often been noted that there was never any mention in the Bible of Christ expending any effort to change the Roman government. Rather, Christ saved his scathing remarks for the religious leaders of the day. The conclusion often reached is that if the Church is to follow the example of Christ, it should not waste resources on trying to change our culture or civil government but instead should only be keenly involved in ecclesiastical matters. Let’s discuss this for a minute.
In Christ’s day there were two overlapping political and social structures, that of the Roman authorities and that of the Jewish religious leaders. Individual Jews related to these two very differently. Since the Jews hated the Romans, the Romans had no power over the Jews. Certainly they could command outward obedience, but the Romans were powerless to change their hearts. Any evil practiced by the Romans could not spread to the Jews. On the other hand, the scribes and Pharisees were the Jew’s spiritual leaders who were perceived as friends; working for the Jews. Any sin engaged in by these spiritual leaders would be copied by the Jews and spread like a plague. There is a major difference between people who sin and those who teach others to sin. While the Romans had the ability to command their soldiers and cast the Jews into prison, the Scribes and Pharisees had the ability to pervert the Jews’ religion and, in so doing, cast them into Hell. It is fairly obvious which should be a greater concern.
I believe that if Christ were physically alive today he would be doing much the same as he did back in Galilee. He would be healing the sick, preaching good news, and fighting tooth and nail with the religious leaders of our day.
But who are our present day religious leaders? We have the mistaken impression that a religious leader is someone who has been to seminary and preaches from a pulpit; anyone who doesn’t fit this description is assumed not to be a religious leader. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A religious leader is someone who teaches people about whether their is a god, and if so, what his nature is. If there is a god, is he satisfied with our behavior, and if not, what should we do about it? What is the nature of man? What is morally right and wrong?
If you ask the average man in the street to name his spiritual leaders, he will probably tell you that he doesn’t have any and he doesn’t believe in that sort of stuff. But that’s not true, somewhere a spiritual leader has taught him that God does not exist, is irrelevant, or is reasonably satisfied with his behavior. Yes, there are strong spiritual leaders in our community but they are rarely identified as such. Who has a stronger influence on the spiritual values than the our public educational system, the Media and our political system? Who else is the strongest teacher that life is to be lived apart from God than our public educational system? Who teaches us that sexual promiscuity and perversion is a normal and acceptable facet of life than the media? And who codifies society’s hostility to God and Biblical values other than our political system?
When, for example, the Seattle City Council passes a gay rights law, are they not providing moral instruction to the city and teaching the city a perverted view of what is right and wrong? Satan’s objective in such laws is to convince people to believe that legal protection makes sinful behavior morally acceptable. By doing this He is better able to entice people into sin which will harden them to the Gospel and ultimately drag them off to Hell. We teach our kids the Bible with the hope that it will keep them from sin. As our culture teaches people to sin, this tends to keep them from the Bible and our God.
Although Christ would be denounced from the pulpit by many ordained false preachers of our day, their wrath would be minor since they have comparatively small sway in our community. It is the true ministers of our culture that Christ would have the greatest conflict with.
Christ’s different interaction with the Roman and Jewish leaders of his day gives a clue to how effective a culture or political system opposed to the Gospel will be at blocking its spread. When there is opposition or slander about Christianity, how does the group targeted for evangelism perceive those opposing Christianity? Do they perceive Christianity’s opponents as their enemy seeking to keep them from something good as the oppressive Roman government did? Or are those opposing us perceived as the potential converts’ friend seeking to protect them from a danger, as the Jewish religious leaders were generally perceived as working for the good of the Jews? If opposition to Christianity comes from a culture that a potential convert sees as a friend, that opposition will be very effective indeed.
Looking at our own culture, as people observe opposition to Christianity form the media, our educational system, etc., do they perceive those institutions as friends seeking to entertain, educate, or in some other way benefit them? Or does the public view these institutions as a vicious enemy which is intent on dragging them off to Hell? Draw your own conclusions about how effective opposition to Christianity is that is generated by our hostile culture.
What’s another hundred million of us?
We pass without notice,
Except for those grateful
The inconvenience is gone.
Our blood poured out freely
On the altar of Molech.
A living, human sacrifice
To the god of our age.
Look into my still-closed eyes
And tell of your love for me.
Are they words of a timid soldier
Withdrawing when the price is known?
My dear Christian friend,
“Want to redeem my soul?
First you must rescue
My body from the knife.”
Your actions choose my fate;
The dumpster or the cradle.
It doesn’t have to be this way,
But it will cost dearly to change.
And if you will not spend yourself
Showing your love for me,
Shielding and defending,
What will you spend it on?
On your boat, a better game of golf,
Or paying down the mortgage?
Living a rich, fulfilling life;
All the good things I’ll never know.
With a tithe of your affections,
And just a handful of people
This monster can be killed
And my newborn cries announce life!
Please look upon the carnage.
Don’t turn your head away.
Let its weight grieve your heart
Until you cry, “This must stop!”
Will you be roused from your slumber
And link arms with your neighbor,
To pay the price,
To fight the war,
To storm the gates of Hell?
To stay the hand of judgment
Of God’s wrath upon this nation,
For this heinous crime,
That grieves the Lord
And puts Hitler to shame?
Do you love the Lord your maker
Enough to make a difference?
Do you love His child as well?
Am I precious in your sight?
Do you love me?
A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest and then a Levite happened to be going down the same road, and when they saw the man, they each passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him, bandaged his wounds and put him on his own donkey. He took him to an inn, paid his expenses and told the innkeeper that he would reimburse him for any extra expense he may have.
The Samaritan continued on his way to Jerusalem and when he completed his business, being a merchant, he made his weekly trip to Jericho. On this trip he again found a man who had fallen into the hands of robbers–possibly the same thieves–who had likewise stripped him of clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. The Samaritan bandaged his wounds and took him on his donkey to the inn and paid his expenses. The Samaritan continued on to Jericho.
On his return trip from Jericho the Samaritan encountered yet another man robbed and beaten by thieves whom he likewise helped.
As the Samaritan made his weekly journeys he continuously encountered men who had been robbed and beaten by thieves. While some he was able to help he was too late for others. Kneeling over the remains of a victim one day the Samaritan was grieved in his spirit and vowed on all that he held dear that what he saw would stop.
He abandoned his business to stay in Jerusalem persuading the elders of the city to help. He made speeches and organized rallies and agitated until he had raised a posse to pursue the thieves. Due to his courage and perseverance the thieves were brought to justice and the road was made secure.
Buoyed up by his success in Jerusalem he traveled to Jericho, Capernaum and other cities showing them what could be accomplished. He organized a regional police force to make highways secure even for non-Romans. With safer roads the economy prospered and there was an outpouring of gratitude for the civic efforts of the Samaritan.
But not everyone praised the Samaritan. He still had his critics. Among the murmuring three accusations stood out. They were (1) He had abandoned his ministry. While he had had a successful and critical ministry of helping robbery victims he had walked away. In his absence the victims he would have helped experienced great suffering. Indeed, some had died without his help and their blood was on his hands. (2) He lacked a redemptive heart in his dealings with the thieves. In organizing a posse he did not even consider their spiritual needs but rather sought only to capture and punish them-hardly a Christian attitude. And (3) he abandoned his humility. In his previous ministry the Samaritan quietly served the needy. Now he apparently didn’t have time for the needy but primarily sought out the company of elders and kings-those with the resources to help his grand plans. The Samaritan was speechless.
How would you rate the Better Samaritan?
Christ’s ministries on earth could be placed into two categories. The first could be described as His “pastoral ministry.” This ministry would be characterized by His feeding the five thousand, healing the sick, and reconciling men to God. Clearly this essential Christian ministry is what we usually think of when we picture Christ’s work on earth.
But there is another side of His ministry that is substantially less popular. That is Christ’s ministry of confronting evil. This is characterized by His rebuke of Peter, “Get thee behind me Satan!”, His scathing denouncement of the religious leaders of the day, and His assault on the money changers in the Temple. It is often hard for us to reconcile our perception of a loving Jesus with His statements like, “You brood of vipers!” or “You are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”
The earthly rewards of Christ’s pastoral ministry were manifested on Palm Sunday when a grateful throng shouted, “Hosanna to the King!” Christ’s ministry of confronting evil bore different fruit and that fruit matured the following Friday as a bloodthirsty crowd demanded something other than His coronation.
As I observe Christians today, I note that they engage almost exclusively in pastoral ministry and neglect the ministry of confronting evil. As I consider the earthly rewards of these two ministries, I cannot help wondering why one ministry is stressed and the other shunned. Is the motivation a wish for peace and popularity rather than an earnest desire to follow Him wherever He leads? I don’t believe His invitation to take up our cross and follow Him was only to a ministry leading to riding a donkey on palm branches through a cheering crowd. Christians desperately need to take up the offense of the Gospel and accept the opposition it brings.
All Christians will be offensive. Either they will stand for righteousness and offend men or they will remain silent and offend God. Which will you choose?
To Be Loving . . .
Christians have been seduced by a deadly heresy: “If you are loving, people will love you. If people don’t love you, you must change your behavior because their love for you demonstrates your love for them.”
The truth is far less self-serving. “If you are loving the way Christ was loving you will be treated the way Christ was treated. If you are not being treated the way Christ was treated, particularly if you are totally unwilling to endure the hatred and opposition he endured, you lack the loving heart of Christ.”