Who Can Save America?

The United States of America is more divided than at any time I can remember.  We are divided by politics.  We are divided by income.  We are divided by religion.  We are divided by ethnicity.

The current campaigns for the Presidency exemplify this division.   Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has used the most divisive political rhetoric I’ve ever heard, and has drawn protests and threats from many different groups, from far-left liberals to far-right conservatives.  Other candidates are exploiting Trump’s rhetoric to further divide Americans.  It seems that all of the candidates are seeking to divide Americans into “us” versus “them,” although most do it far more subtly than Mr. Trump.  From Bernie Sanders, it’s the “have nots” versus the “haves.”  From Hillary Clinton, it’s women versus men and the white majority versus racial minorities.  From Donald Trump, it’s anyone who disagrees with him versus those who don’t.  And, from Ted Cruz, it’s anyone who supports the Democrats or Trump versus conservatism.  We have candidates who want to make us into a socialist state, who are being sued for fraud, and who are facing possible FBI indictment.  There have been protests, some with violence; threats against candidates’ families; and threats of more violence.

Trump-Protests

America is a mess.  The police have been accused of racially motivated killings.  Police officers have been assassinated.  Protests are becoming more frequent and more violent.  Terrorism and mass murders are becoming common.  The average household is becoming poorer, while the rich are becoming richer.  Abortion, homosexuality, divorce, pornography, and sex outside marriage are widely accepted, and pedophilia, polygamy, and bestiality are gaining acceptance.  Greed and power are considered to be virtues, and caring for others is considered less important than taking care of self.

Who can save America?

Depending on who is asked, the answer varies.  Many point to Trump, Sanders, Clinton, Cruz, or Kasich.  Others point to third-party candidates from the Libertarian, Green, or other parties.  Many point to ideologies, such as conservatism, liberalism, democratic socialism, or libertarianism.  Some point to the government; others point to the free enterprise system.  Others say that no one can save America, that the decline has become too great ever to overcome.

trump-clinton-sanders-cruz

In order to answer the question of who can save America, we need to look at what made America great in the past, and what changed to cause America to decline.

I contend that what made America great in the past was following Biblical principles, and what has caused its decline has been the rejection of those principles.

adultery_BibleThe United States was never a “Christian Nation,” whatever that means.  We were, however, a nation built on Biblical principles.  The Constitution and Bill of Rights were based on the Bible.  The vast majority of Americans were Christians, or, at least had a respect for Christianity and Biblical principles.  The principles found in the Ten Commandments and Sermon on the Mount were the foundation for American ethics and law.   We were never perfect; we allowed slavery, and we tried to exterminate indigenous peoples.  However, the opposition to both was led by Christians who decried the practices on Biblical grounds.  The concepts of individual responsibility and caring for others were both embraced.   And God blessed the United States because of our respect for Him and our commitment to Biblical principles of morality and law.

Americans no longer have this ideological foundation.  By and large, Americans have rejected Biblical principles.  We no longer accept individual responsibility for our actions, nor do we accept our responsibility to help the less fortunate.  God and the Bible are openly mocked; those who hold to Biblical morality are ridiculed and hated.  The laws are changing to permit and encourage sexual immorality, greed, and other ungodly practices, while penalizing those who follow Jesus Christ.  As in the days of the judges of Israel, everyone does what is “right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).

Even the Church has largely rejected Biblical principles.  We pick and choose those bits of the Bible we like, while ignoring the rest.  Most of mainstream Protestantism and Roman Catholicism did this many years ago, but now, even much of Evangelical Christianity is doing the same.  The goats are leading the sheep (Matthew 25:31-46); we have become the Laodicean church (Revelation 3:14-22).  And God has cursed us (Galatians 1:6-9).

churchconstruction

Because we once respected and largely obeyed God, He blessed us; and because we have now rejected what we once knew to be the truth, God has now removed His blessing.  America is in decline, because we have rejected that which made us great in the first place – God’s blessing for obedience and respect.

Who can save America?  Not Obama, nor Trump, nor Sanders, nor Clinton, nor Cruz or Kasich.  No political leader can save us.  Only Jesus Christ can save America; and He will not save us unless we repent and turn to Him once more.

10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
The plans of His heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.
Psalm 33:10-12

 

 

 

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The Fence

Once, next to a trail in Yosemite National Park, there was a fence. On the fence was a sign instructing hikers not to cross the fence. On the other side of the fence was the beautiful Merced River. The river’s cool, refreshing waters beckoned visitors to jump in and relax on hot afternoons. However, when park rangers caught people crossing the fence to enjoy the water, they were promptly arrested and jailed.

Hikers began to object to the fence and the oppressive sign forbidding them from fully enjoying the river. They began writing to the park administrator, contacting their senators and house representatives, and protesting at the fence. They argued that the fence was oppressive and discriminatory, and denied citizens their rights. Pro-fence activists argued for the necessity of the fence, claiming the river was dangerous, but were labeled as hateful and likened to slave owners and Nazis. Anti-fence activists demanded that a local pro-fence baker decorate a cake with an anti-fence message and cater an anti-fence rally, and forced the baker out of business for refusing to do so. The media fully supported the fence removal – all except FOX News, which was ridiculed and ignored.

Finally, after several anti-fence activists were arrested for climbing over the fence and jumping into the water, they sued the National Park Service to remove the fence. Eventually, the case went before the Supreme Court, who ruled in a 5-4 vote that the fence was unconstitutional, and the fence was finally removed. Visitors to the park have since been able to fully enjoy the waters of the Merced River in peace, without restriction, ending the reign of the oppressive fence.


Vernal Falls - top

The fence at the top of Vernal Falls

This story isn’t real, but the fence and the river are.

There actually is a fence that separates a trail in Yosemite National Park from the Merced River. There are actual warning signs on the fence telling people not to cross.

On July 19, 2011, three hikers decided to cross the fence to swim in the river. All three died after being swept over the 317-foot high Vernal Falls, just a few yards downstream. They ignored the warnings, and it cost them their lives. You can read the story here.

Sometimes, fences and warning signs are there for our protection, even when we don’t see or understand the danger.

God’s moral law is much like a guardrail with warning signs.

Some people see God’s moral law like a fence designed to keep them from enjoying life. This seems to be especially true when it involves sexual activity. God’s laws forbidding homosexuality, adultery, and other sexual acts, are often seen as outdated and oppressive. The Genesis 2-3 definition of marriage as existing only between one man and one woman – affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6 – is assaulted as outmoded, discriminatory, and unjust. Followers of Christ who are vocal about their support of traditional marriage are labeled as homophobes. The Bible is ridiculed as 051112_1732_GayMarriage5.jpga collection of fairytales written by illiterate goat herders back in the Bronze Age. So, people climb right over the fence of God’s moral law to enjoy the waters of whatever sin they choose, ignoring the warning signs in the Bible and the pleas of Christians to repent.

However, in actuality, God’s moral law is more like a guardrail. There is a grave danger in ignoring God’s instructions and warnings. Often, we know the danger is there, but think we can get close without going over the edge. We think we can handle it. Other times, the danger isn’t obvious, and often, we cannot see it at all. We think God’s warning is unnecessary and obsolete. We think God is a mean, old ogre just trying to keep us from the good things in life. So, we ignore the warnings, only to be swept away by our sin and rebellion against Him.

Why does God call homosexuality an abomination?

Why does God say homosexuality is an abomination (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13)? Why does Paul call homosexuality “vile passion,” “unnatural,” and “shameful” (Romans 1:26-27)?

In all honesty, I don’t completely know why God warns us that homosexuality is wrong and dangerous. God doesn’t always explain Himself to us. A parent sometimes doesn’t explain to a young child why they shouldn’t do dangerous things, they simple tell them not to do it. A warning sign on a fence sometimes doesn’t go into any explanation; it simply says, “DANGER.” The fact that God put up a warning sign telling us that homosexuality is dangerous is enough for me to believe it. The omniscient God knows better than I do what dangers exist outside my frame of reference.

Although God could have left us completely in the dark regarding homosexuality, He didn’t. The best answer I have found in the Bible is in Ephesians 5:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

According to this passage, marriage was designed by God to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church. In a Christ-centered marriage, the husband is to love only his wife, unconditionally and completely, just as Christ loves the Church. The wife is to forsake all others, and commit herself completely to her husband, as followers of Christ are to commit themselves completely and solely to Christ. To alter the definition of marriage is to blaspheme the relationship between Christ and the Church. Homosexuality and gay marriage are essentially telling Jesus Christ that His love for us isn’t good enough, that we are looking outside of Him for purpose and completeness. This is idolatry and blasphemy, and that’s why God is so offended by it.

What does all this mean to me as a follower of Jesus?

Vernal Falls from another angle

Vernal Falls from another angle

One of the arguments I keep hearing is that as a heterosexual married Christian, the gay marriage issue doesn’t affect me at all, so I should just keep out of it. Yes, it’s true that the legalization of gay marriage won’t change my marriage in the slightest. True, but irrelevant. Someone jumping over a guardrail to play in a river just upstream from a 317-foot high waterfall doesn’t affect the hiker who stays on the correct side of the fence, but that doesn’t mean the hiker shouldn’t do everything in his power to convince the person in the river to get out.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I know the Bible is true. The Bible clearly warns that homosexuality is sin, and that marriage is between one man and one woman. It also warns that disregarding God’s law leads to eternal separation from God in a place of eternal suffering called Hell. Love demands that I warn people what God has said. Love demands that I cannot support the legalization and acceptance of something that God finds completely offensive.

I’m sorry most people can’t see it, but gay marriage has nothing to do with Godly love. It has everything to do with defying God. God said no, and people have said yes. Defying God is like jumping over a guardrail into a raging river above a plunging waterfall. It means certain catastrophe. Love demands that I try to convince people to flee from the danger, into the arms of the loving God who gave His only Son to save us from our stupidity and sin.

I guess that’s what it all comes down to. People will either take God at His word, or they won’t. It’s been that way since the serpent deceived Eve. However, Love demands that followers of Christ warn others about the reality of sin.

Comments are welcome, as long as they are civil.

Thoughts on the Supreme Court ruling on Gay Marriage

Gay Marriage BarsThis past Friday, the United States Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of legalizing gay marriage nationwide. Time will tell, but I believe that this ruling, along with Roe v. Wade, and a few others, will lead to the eventual downfall of the United States. Judgement Day is coming, and I believe God’s judgement has already begun.

How should Bible-believing Christians respond?

First, Christians must reject hatred of homosexuals and their supporters. We must hate sin, but show the love of Christ to sinners. It’s easy to forget that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We need to understand that not all who claim to be Christian are actually born-again followers of Jesus Christ, and that many saved Christians are spiritually immature, and are easily deceived by Satan’s lies. We need to remember that we, too, still sin, and we, too, need to seek forgiveness daily from our Lord and Savior for the sins we still commit. We need to “remove the plank” from our own eyes before we try to “remove the speck” from someone else’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5). The Bible 070812_0138_pushingpeop1clearly teaches homosexual activity as sin, describing it as an abomination. Followers of Christ must not compromise this truth. However, we must also not compromise Christ’s love. Christ-followers need to speak the truth, in love. We can use the issue as a means to open discussion to share the Gospel with the lost.

I’ve been a bit dismayed by the number of self-professing Christians who have come out on social media as supporting gay marriage. Dismayed, but generally not surprised, although some of the individuals have been a bit surprising. There are many people who profess Christianity, but who don’t actually know Jesus, and the issue of gay marriage seems to be rooting a lot of them out. This is not to say that someone who supports gay marriage is necessarily unsaved, but it certainly has brought a lot of the pretenders out into the open, and shown the spiritual immaturity and confusion of many who profess to follow Christ.

What is Marriage?

Perhaps Christ-followers need to understand how marriage is actually defined. There are two kinds:

  1. Biblical Marriage: Christian marriage was created by God, and is described in Genesis 1 and 2, and affirmed elsewhere in the Bible. Biblical marriage is between one man and one women – both being believers – and lasts a lifetime. Each leaves father and mother, and cleaves to the other. The purpose of a Biblical covenant marriage is to imitate redemptive covenant between Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:22-33). This definition has been ordained by God since the beginning of creation, and will never change.
  2. State Marriage: This form of marriage is a contractual status given by secular governing bodies for legal purposes. The definition of what constitutes state marriage will change as the culture changes, and legal challenges force it to change.

The first kind of marriage is a covenant between Believers, approved by God. The second is a secular legal status.

weddingThe difference between these two kinds of marriage illustrates how, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are no longer part of this world. We are no longer to define ourselves and our beliefs according to the opinions of men, but according to the Word of God.

Those who have never placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ cannot understand the things of God. They cannot comprehend their own sin. They do not have the Holy Spirit in their lives to guide them. We cannot expect them to act in a godly manner, because the truth is not in them (John 8:31-32). We should not be shocked or surprised that gay marriage is apparently now the law of the land; it’s completely consistent for lost people to embrace all sorts of sin.

A Question Regarding Bible-Believing Pastors

Is it time for Bible-believing pastors to give up their state approved licenses to marry?

I’m not really sure what the answer is to this question.

One of the biggest legal challenges for pastors and churches that will probably come out of the Supreme Court decision will be the legal status of churches that refuse to perform homosexual marriages. One possible solution would be for pastors to voluntarily give up their licensure to perform legally recognized weddings.

Do we really need the secular state to recognize a practice in the church that it can never understand?

Biblical marriage is from God, not from the state. Back in the day, churches performed weddings and recognized marriages long before governments issued legal documents and recognized status. This wouldn’t stop Christians from registering with the government later to get legal status and tax benefits. Biblical marriage is like baptism or ordination. A baptism does not need to be recognized or registered with the secular government, nor does ordination. Most ordained pastors do register in order to gain certain legal benefits, but it’s not required. Why should Christians be required to register marriages? And, why should pastors be required to be licensed by the government to perform a Biblical practice?

I wholeheartedly agree that it is sin for people to live together and have sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage. But, which definition of marriage applies? For the follower of Jesus Christ, it’s only God’s definition that matters, not the secular definition.

Something to think about. Comments are welcome, as long as they are kept civil.

 

Thanks to Steve Ham for the Facebook post that inspired this post!

You Shall Not Commit Adultery

The Ten Commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness
  10. You shall not covet

The Seventh Commandment simply says: “You shall not commit Adultery” (Exodus 20:14 NKJV).

What is “adultery?”

Strictly speaking, adultery is a sexual relationship between a married person and someone other than his or her spouse.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expands the definition: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” According to Jesus, any man (married, or not) who looks at a woman (married, or not) and thinks about having sex with her, is just as guilty of adultery as the married man who actually does have sex with a woman other than his wife. Although not specifically stated here, the opposite is presumed true as well: A woman who lusts after a man is guilty of adultery as well.

Using Jesus’ definition, almost every person past the age of puberty is guilty of adultery. It is the very rare individual who has never lusted after someone to whom they are not married.

 adultery_Bible

What about other sexual sins?

In addition to adultery, both the Old and New Testaments describe many examples of sexual sins, including (but not limited to):

Additionally, there are a number of New Testament passages warning against the sin of πορνείᾳ, which is translated in various English versions as fornication, unchastity, or sexual immorality. According to Strong’s Concordance, πορνείᾳ – pronounced (por-ni’-ah) – is “a selling off (surrendering) of sexual purity; promiscuity of any (every) type.” πορνείᾳ is the root word for the English word “pornography.” Essentially, πορνείᾳ includes all sexual acts outside of Biblical marriage.

How does the Bible define Marriage?

The basic definition of marriage is found in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Jesus reiterated this basic definition in Mark 10:6-8:

But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.

Both Genesis 2:24 and Jesus define marriage as being between one man and one woman. wedding

What about polygamy? The Old Testament certainly records many instances of polygamous marriages, including Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon. However, in each of these cases, polygamous marriages caused serious consequences. Although there are a handful of Old Testament verses that can be interpreted to endorse or even require polygamous marriage, these same verses have also been interpreted to refer to successive marriages, rather than concurrent ones. Regardless of the interpretation of these verses, marrying multiple wives is not in harmony with God’s design for marriage from the beginning.

The same can be said for divorce. There are several Old Testament passages describing procedures for divorce. However, in the same passage from Mark 10, Jesus states that the law allows for divorce because of the hardness of the human heart (verse 5), and that ““Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (verses 11-12). Again, divorce is clearly not part of God’s design for marriage.

Homosexual marriage is never mentioned in Scripture. However, since the Bible speaks clearly about the sin of homosexuality, and since Jesus defined marriage in terms on one man and one woman, gay marriage is clearly not part of the Biblical design for marriage.

A Christian Response

The Biblical definition for marriage is one man and one woman for life. Divorce, polygamy, and gay marriage are sin, and not part of God’s design. However, all of these are practiced in our culture, even among professing Christians. How should Christians respond?

First, we must not compromise the truth of God’s Word. We need to acknowledge that all sexual relations outside of monogamous, heterosexual marriage are sin.  As Christians, we must never compromise the truth of God’s Word. speaking-truth-love

Second, we also need to remember that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). By Jesus’ definition, almost every adult is guilty of sexual sin. Christians have no right to judge the sin of others if they do not recognize and repent of their own sin. Just because I haven’t actually had a sexual relationship outside of marriage, I’ve certainly thought about it, so according to Jesus, I’m also guilty. I’ve certainly also committed many other kinds of sin. Christians have no business looking down on the sins of others, just because they haven’t committed those particular sins. We have more than enough sins of our own, without adding hypocrisy to the list.

Christians who are caught in the snare of sexual sin need grace and truth to be able to repent of those sins and be restored to fellowship with Jesus Christ. If married, both the one adulterer and their spouse need compassion and Godly counsel in order to heal the relationship. If in an unbiblical relationship, they need to separate, in accordance to God’s Word, and need to repent of sin.

In the case of non-believers, what they need is the grace of Jesus Christ, not hate from Christians. Christians can, and must, truly hate the sin, but love the sinner. All non-Christians, regardless of whatever sin they may be involved in, need to understand they are sinners, but that Jesus Christ offers salvation and the forgiveness of sin for those who repent and turn to Him.

The following quote has been attributed to both Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson and Pastor Rick Warren (I think Warren is the actual source):

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

Christians must stand firm on the truth of God’s Word in regards to sexual sin, but at the same time, must demonstrate Christ-like grace and compassion toward sinners. Our goal must be to allow God to work through us to lead sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Mercy and Compassion Toward Gays

inigo-montoyaIn reading comments and blogs by so-called “liberal” Christians on LGBT issues, I have noticed a common thread: Many of the arguments are based on the belief that in order to show homosexuals mercy and compassion, Christians cannot condemn homosexual behavior, but must accept their behavior as normal. They argue, gays cannot help being gay, so the merciful, compassionate thing to do is to accept them for who they are.

To paraphrase Inigo Montoya in the classic movie The Princess Bride: “You keep using those words. I do not think they mean what you think they mean.”

What is Mercy?

According to Merriam-Webster.com, mercy is:

1
a
:  compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also
:  lenient or compassionate treatment <begged for mercy>
b
:  imprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder

2
a
:  a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion
b
:  a fortunate circumstance <it was a mercy they found her before she froze>

3
:  compassionate treatment of those in distress <works of mercy among the poor>

Let’s consider the primary definition first. Mercy is “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender…” Mercy is shown to someone who is guilty. Mercy cannot be shown toward someone who is innocent.

If you appeared in court on a charge of shoplifting, and were found to be innocent, it would make no sense for the judge to say, “I have found you innocent; but I am going to show you mercy, and let you go.” It would only make sense for the judge to show mercy if you had been found guilty.

To argue that Christians must accept homosexuality as normal (not a sin) in order to show mercy, is like arguing that a judge must declare shoplifting to not be a crime in order to show mercy to a shoplifter. Such an argument demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of mercy.

What is compassion?

All three definitions of the word mercy include the word compassion or compassionate. What does compassion mean? Again, according to Merriam-Webster.com, compassion is:

: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

In the case of homosexuality, what the source of this distress? From the perspective of those who try to justify homosexuality, the distress is caused by society’s refusal to accept gays for who they are. If society would simply accept homosexuality as a lifestyle choice and embrace gay marriage, the distress would be alleviated.

I must respectfully disagree with this assessment. True, many homosexuals have been bullied, attacked, and rejected, often by self-righteous Christians. This is where the third definition of mercy applies: compassionate treatment of those in distress. Bullying gays is clearly wrong, and shows a complete lack of true mercy and compassion by those who perpetrate such actions. However, there is a much deeper source of distress for homosexuals. It’s called sin. All sin separates people from God, whether it’s homosexuality, adultery, pride, arrogance, hatred, lack of compassion and mercy, or gluttony. All sin needs to be alleviated. The only true alleviation for sin comes from Jesus Christ, who died in our place to take our guilt upon Himself. True compassion for the homosexual, or anyone else, for that matter, means confronting them with their sin and showing them Jesus Christ. The distress of sin can only be alleviated through repentance and receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is where the second definition of mercy applies: a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion.

To argue that compassion requires accepting homosexuality is to misunderstand both the meaning of compassion and the seriousness of sin.

How should Christians show mercy and compassion to homosexuals?

There are several points that should be kept in mind as a follower of Jesus Christ in order to show compassion and mercy to homosexuals:

  1. James 5.11Homosexual acts need to be recognized as sin. The Bible clearly teaches that homosexual acts are sin (Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10; Jude 1:7; and others). Don’t listen to those professing “Christians” trying to convince you that the Church has been misinterpreting Scripture for 2,000 years and that the Bible really doesn’t actually condemn homosexual behavior. Yes, it does. Read it yourself, and trust God’s Word, not people’s opinions about God’s Word.
  2. All have sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23). Embracing homosexuality is no different than embracing any other sin. All sin separates us from God. You and I are just as much sinners as any homosexual, and we all need the Savior.
  3. Combat anti-gay hatred. Christians should be deeply troubled about people being bullied for being gay and do all we can to combat it. In fact, Christians should be leading the way by showing Christ’s love to homosexuals.
  4. Be willing to admit that we don’t fully understand homosexuality. All sin is highly addictive; acknowledge that those who struggle with homosexuality may not have any control over who they’re attracted to. Isn’t that the point? We cannot control sin. Some people are compulsive liars; others have chemical or eating addictions. Others are addicted to other types of illicit sex, or power, or wealth. Some of us are addicted to pride. Everyone has areas of sin in their life, and none of us can stop it. There are undoubtedly deep psychological issues involved with many homosexuals, and there is much we still don’t know.
  5. Share the love of Jesus Christ. Get to know homosexuals the same as you would anyone. Build relationships. Make friends! Invite them into your homes and churches, go into their homes, share meals, have deep discussions, go to ballgames, whatever. Accept these people – not their actions – as you would anyone, and love them unconditionally, as Christ loves you.
  6. Share the Gospel. The only solution for homosexuality, or any other sin, is the grace of Jesus Christ. The most merciful and compassionate thing we can do for a gay person, or any other person, is to explain how to obtain God’s mercy and compassion through the blood of Christ.

When followers of Jesus unwaveringly hold to the truth of Christ, while extending the love of Christ to the lost, including gays, hearts can be softened and changed. While Christians must be adamant about extending mercy, compassion, and a humble attitude toward the gay community, it’s also imperative that we be just as adamant about standing firmly in the truth. Homosexuality, like any sin, destroys our relationship with our loving Creator. Mercy and compassion do not mean denying the truth. The most merciful and compassionate thing we can do is to share the truth about sin and the truth of the Gospel, while loving the sinner, as Christ first loved us.

Lessons from the Phil Robertson / A&E Controversy – Part 2

phil robertson

Phil Robertson

A few days ago, I posted a blog about some lessons I’d taken away from the controversy surrounding Phil Robertson’s suspension from Duck Dynasty by A&E. As events have continued to unfold, I have read numerous comments and articles by people from all perspectives about Phil’s comments, A&E’s response, the outpouring of support, and the outrage of people opposed to Phil. While I’m happy, happy, happy that A&E has decided to reinstate Phil, I do not think this is the end of the issue. There are much bigger issues at stake than whether a rich redneck Christian gets to stay on TV. Some additional thoughts:

Christians should pay as much attention to other sins as they do to homosexuality

One of my more liberal Facebook friends linked to this article by Rachel Held Evans. Although I don’t know anything about Evans, and I don’t agree with everything she says, she makes a number of valid points. Conservative Christians tend to focus on the “big” sins like homosexuality and abortion, but say little about “little” sins such as gluttony, greed, gossip, or divorce. Evans wrote:

While there are certainly important hermeneutical and cultural issues at play, I can’t help but wonder if something more nefarious is also at work.  I can’t help but wonder if biblical condemnation is often a numbers game.

Though it affects more of us than we tend to realize, statistically, homosexuality affects far fewer of us than gluttony, materialism, or divorce. And as Jesus pointed out so often in his ministry, we like to focus on the biblical violations (real or perceived) of the minority rather than our own.

In short, we like to gang up.  We like to fashion weapons out of the verses that affect us the least and then “clobber” the minority with them. Or better yet, conjure up some saccharine language about speaking the truth in love before breaking out our spec-removing tweezers to help get our minds off of these uncomfortable logs in our own eyes.

Here’s the point: Don’t judge others just because they sin differently from you. We all sin, we all fall short of the glory of God. The sin of homosexuality is no more offensive to God than the sins of gossip, gluttony, or pride. All sin offends God. All sin condemns us to death. And all sinners need to receive forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ. Rather than focusing on a person’s homosexuality, perhaps we should focus on sharing the good news that all sin can be forgiven through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Perhaps we need to work a bit harder at removing the log from our own eyes before trying to remove the speck of homosexuality from someone else’s eye.

How we speak the truth is important.

One of the biggest criticisms of Phil Robertson’s interview with GQ is how he said what he said. Phil used some rather crass language to describe homosexual acts. He is quoted (out of context) as saying blacks were happy during the pre-civil rights era. The liberal media, gay rights advocates, and race-baiters jumped all over him. Never mind that Robertson was factually correct. The problem was the way he said what he said.

I’m sure that most of the blacks Phil picked cotton next to were basically happy people. This doesn’t mean Robertson supported Jim Crow laws, or that blacks were happier before the civil rights era than they are now. It just means that, from Phil’s perspective as a poor white man working next to poor blacks, they were basically happy people, in spite of their circumstances. (Yes, believe it or not, people can actually be happy, despite bad circumstances.) Since Phil’s comments were printed out of context in a side bar, we don’t know what question he was responding to. Neither do we know if his comments were edited, making them appear worse than they really were. However, if Phil had chosen his words more precisely, the controversy over them would not exist.

Phil is also correct that the Bible clearly defines homosexuality as sin. Any time a Christian points out sin, someone will be offended. However, by using vulgar language to describe homosexual acts, and by not choosing his words more carefully, he unnecessarily gave people looking for an excuse to be offended exactly what they were looking for.

Telling someone they are wrong does not mean we hate them.

There’s a meme floating through cyberspace with a quote attributed to Phil Robertson (although it’s actually by Rick Warren):

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

Rick Warren QuoteFrom a Biblical perspective, all sin leads to death and Hell, whether it’s the sin of homosexuality, or some other sin. It’s not loving to know someone is headed for an eternity in Hell, and not tell them why they are headed there and how to spend eternity in Heaven instead. Sin is self-destructive. If we were talking about other self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse, nearly everyone would recognize that the loving thing to do would be to confront the individual about the behavior, and help them find a way to beat the addiction. Substance abuse destroys the temporary body, but sin destroys the eternal soul. The loving thing to do is to do whatever we can to help people realize their sin, to repent, and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

The flip side, however, is that some so-called Christians do hate homosexuals. There are those who misuse and distort the Bible to attack those they hate. Groups like Westboro Baptist Church ignore most of the Bible and distort the meaning of other passages in order to justify their self-righteous bigotry and hatred. Lumping all Christians together with Westboro Baptist “Christians” is a logical fallacy. Fred Phelps no more speaks for all Christians than Jeremiah Wright speaks for all blacks or Dan Savage speaks for all homosexuals.

Christians are called to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15). Yes, the truth is offensive to those who do not want to hear it. But, if Christians truly love their neighbor as the love themselves, we will speak the truth in love, meekness, and fear, whether people get offended, or not.

Am I more interested in speaking the truth, or in extending grace?

Something I struggle with is pride. Sometimes, I’m more interested in winning a debate than in being used by the Holy Spirit to win souls for Jesus Christ. Sometimes, I pridefully think my logical arguments and insight will bring people to Jesus, rather than the Holy Spirit drawing people to Himself. I am a skeptic by nature, and am often more interested in arguing the facts than in extending God’s grace.

For this, I ask for forgiveness.

Grace without truth leads to false religion. Truth without Grace turns people off or turns them into legalists. Jesus, however, came in grace and truth (John 1:14). I’m beginning to realize, despite being a thick-headed sinner, that I need to focus more on extending God’s grace to sinners than in convincing people they’re wrong.

Final thoughts

Here’s another meme I found on Facebook – source unknown:

May each of us who calls ourselves followers of Jesus Christ share the truth with non-believers, in love, meekness, and fear.

Lessons from the Phil Robertson / A&E Controversy

philUnless you’ve been living under a rock the last few days, you’ve probably heard about the “indefinite suspension” of Phil Robertson from A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” television show over comments he made about homosexuals in an interview with GQ Magazine. Duck Dynasty supporters flooded social media sites with calls to boycott A&E. Cracker Barrel Restaurants began removing Duck Dynasty merchandise from its shelves, then reversed their decision following backlash from Duck Dynasty supporters. The saga continues as I write this.

Regardless of what Christians think about Duck Dynasty or Phil Robertson’s suspension, there are several things we can learn from the incident.

Christians should expect opposition when they stand up for Biblical Christianity.

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”

John 15:18-21

It really should come as no surprise that when a highly visible Christian publicly stands up for his or her faith in Jesus Christ, and takes a stand on Biblical values, that they will face intense opposition. Those who hate God also hate anyone who publicly proclaims the Gospel. They will watch for Christians to slip up, then pounce at the opportunity to attack. Phil Robertson is a godly man who takes God’s Word seriously, and is unashamed to bluntly speak his mind about his beliefs. Although his comments in the GQ article were rather crudely stated, they were based on his belief in the Bible. The truth is offensive to those who oppose it. Christians have been persecuted for their faith since Biblical times, and are increasingly persecuted today. This is precisely what Jesus told us would happen.

Christians should speak the truth despite opposition

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:10-12

When Christians proclaim God’s Word despite opposition, they are blessed by God. This does not necessarily mean they will be rewarded with material blessings in this life, however. As Christians, we understand that many – if not most – of God’s blessings will ultimately be received in Heaven. As Peter wrote:

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

1 Peter 3:14-16

Phil Robertson is a self-proclaimed redneck. He lacks the background and knowledge to make eloquent theological statements or carefully devised arguments. However, he does not let this prevent him from proclaiming the Gospel. His redneck language is sometimes a bit crass, but Phil is sold out for Jesus, and shares the Gospel to the best of his ability at every opportunity. And, he knows his Bible, quoting or paraphrasing to answer those who ask about his faith. This is exactly what all Christians are called to do.

Those who speak of “tolerance” are often the most intolerant of all.

It strikes me as sadly ironic that those who demand tolerance of their views are often the least tolerant of opposing views. According to the Oxford Dictionary, to tolerate means to “allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.” Much of the LGBT community actively demands tolerance for their views and acceptance of their lifestyle, yet vehemently opposes anyone who disagrees with them. Christians are expected to tolerate homosexuality; yet, our belief – based on the clear teaching of the Bible – that homosexuality is sin cannot be tolerated. Disagreement is labeled “hateful,” and Christians are hated because they are alleged to be “haters.” The hypocrisy of those who preach “tolerance” is appalling, although Christians shouldn’t be surprised. Those who oppose God cannot have a logically consistent worldview, because their foundational beliefs do no correspond with reality.

Taking a stand for righteousness can make a difference in this world

crackerbarrelOne interesting side story revolves around Cracker Barrel restaurants. Shortly after A&E announced that Phil Robertson had been kicked off of Duck Dynasty, Cracker Barrel began removing Duck Dynasty merchandise from their stores. The backlash from Christians supporting Duck Dynasty was immediate and overwhelming. As a result, Cracker Barrel reversed their position, apologized, and restocked Duck Dynasty products, citing the letters, emails, and comments on social media as the reason. When Christians unite, we can make a difference. However, we also need to keep in mind that the battle is God’s, not ours, and that we need to focus on leading people to Christ, not on temporary issues like a television show. Christians need to have the same passion for sharing Jesus and defending the Gospel as we did for defending Phil Robertson. It is only by changing individuals’ hearts that we can turn the culture back to God.