SCOTUS and the Response of Evangelical Christians5
Know this first of all: Panic, pessimism, and apocalyptic rants are out of order for people who believe in the risen, ruling, and soon-returning Christ. So, what then should be our response? Continue reading . . .
Know this first of all: Panic, pessimism, and apocalyptic rants are out of order for people who believe in the risen, ruling, and soon-returning Christ. So, what then should be our response?
First, we must never forget that when Christianity was birthed in the first century believers in Jesus were in the minority far more so than we are today, and yet it is in that century that the greatest supernatural events occurred and the most effective and wide-spread evangelism took place. So don’t ever think that the SCOTUS decision or any other legislative act has the power to suppress or diminish the supernatural work of God’s Spirit in and through the Church.
Sadly, some churches have simply given up and given in to the trajectory of our culture. It’s over, they say. We must adapt or die. So they figure out a way to claim they are Christians while affirming same-sex activity and marriage. To do this one must eventually cauterize and crucify his own conscience. Other churches circle the wagons and scream in outrage at the wider sectors of society. Neither kind of church will ever have anything meaningful or helpful to say to a lost and dying world.
We, then, should be neither shrill nor silent. You can be right about sexual morality and marriage and be a complete jerk at the same time. There’s a very thin line between being biblically moral and being a jackass! This reminds me of a memorable line from Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Maudie Atkinson is speaking to young Scout and says: “A Bible in the hand of one man can be more dangerous than a whiskey bottle in the hand of another.” Think about it.
Second, we should instinctively respond with broken-heartedness and sincere weeping. The Apostle Paul described the self-centered and fleshly orientation of many in the first century and said: “I tell you even with tears, that many glory in their shame” (Phil. 3:18–19). Paul says there were “many” of them in his day (v. 18a). They aren’t few and far between. They were everywhere in the ancient world, and they are everywhere today. In that regard, sexual sin hasn’t changed much.
Their presence and influence moved Paul to “tears” (v. 18b). It’s hard to know what it is precisely that caused him to weep. It may have been the destructive influence these people exerted on the Philippian Christians and other believers whom Paul loved. Or it may be that Paul actually wept for these very individuals who lived in such immoral and destructive ways. Perhaps he wept for their salvation. Perhaps he was heartbroken and devastated with the thought of where their lives would ultimately lead them. So should we be.
Whatever is shameful, they glorify (v. 19c)! The very wicked and perverse behavior that ought to bring conviction and shame, they promote and praise and take pride in! It’s one thing to sin. We all do that. But it’s another thing when, rather than feeling conviction and pursuing repentance, a person elevates and promotes and flaunts their sin. To commit sin is one thing. To rejoice in it and feel pride in one’s sin is something altogether different.
The difference between the Christian and the world isn’t that one sins and the other doesn’t, although by God’s grace and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit Christians should most certainly sin less. The difference, I hope and pray, is that Christians weep over their sins. They don’t celebrate them or praise them in public. And they certainly don’t institutionalize them as the Supreme Court recently did. But we weep not only for ourselves and our own personal transgressions, but for those of others as well. As the psalmist declared: “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law” (Psalm 119:136).
Third, we must learn how to genuinely and authentically and truthfully love those who hate and despise us. That’s not just a pious platitude. It must become literal, daily reality.
You and I have yet to experience to any significant degree what Jesus promised to all who follow him. He said it in no uncertain terms that if the world hated him, and it did, it will also hate us (John 15:18-25; 2 Tim. 3:12). If the world loves us it isn’t because we are beautiful or bright but because we have started to conform to its ways and look more and more like it does.
So what do we do? We do not revile when reviled, but entrust ourselves to God (1 Peter 2:21-25). We bless those who persecute us (Rom. 12:14). And we pray for and truly love our enemies (Matt. 5:44).
It is of utmost importance that the people who support the SCOTUS decision and especially people who are active participants in the LGBT movement see and hear and feel Christ in us. They must see, hear, and feel the truth of God’s Word in and through us but in a way that also recognizes they are human beings created in God’s image and thus deserving of the utmost respect and dignity that any and all human beings should be shown.
It sounds so simple, but the Bible is clear about our response. We are to love the Lord our God and have no other alleged “gods” before him (Exod. 20:2-3). He must be supreme in our affections. And we are love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39). The problem is that we often feel a tension between the two. To love God means that we speak his revealed truth as clearly as we can, and on occasion this makes other people feel as if they aren’t being loved. When the truth of God conflicts with what “self” believes and wants, some are tempted to water down or rephrase or diminish the force of God’s truth.
The Bible says that love is not the same as unconditional affirmation. Love is not making a choice or believing something on the grounds that it makes someone feel good about themselves. Love is not speaking or acting in a way that people are never challenged about the truth or falsity of what they believe. We mistakenly think that if someone is ever made to feel uncomfortable, we have not loved them. We mistakenly think that if someone’s personal preferences and opinions are not endorsed and encouraged without qualification, we have not loved them. We mistakenly think that if our statement of truth causes people to experience sadness and sorrow, we have not loved them. Consider Jesus and his interaction with the rich young ruler of Mark 10.
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (Mark 10:18-22).
I simply want to draw your attention to a remarkable statement in v. 21. There it is said that Jesus “loved him.” These are not mere feelings of pity. The heart of our Lord is moved with deep affection and he wants this man to see the truth! That Jesus is said to have loved him indicates the ruler was not a hypocrite, or even arrogant in his response. Naïve and uninformed, yes, but not pompous and self-righteous.
Consider our view of “love” today: if you love someone be certain that you don’t offend them; don’t be insensitive by challenging their false beliefs; avoid painful topics; don’t say or do anything that might be upsetting. Above all else, be tolerant!
Jesus, on the other hand, precisely because he loves this young man and cares deeply about his eternal destiny, uses the Law as a surgical knife and cuts deeply and painfully into his soul to expose his most fundamental and debilitating problem: covetousness and greed!
Our Lord’s comments left this man “disheartened” and “sorrowful”. Yet, would anyone doubt that Jesus had this man’s highest and best and eternal interests most in mind? Would anyone doubt that Jesus genuinely loved him? My point is this: when you have made someone sad it doesn’t mean you haven’t loved them. They may feel you haven’t. But having the courage to tell someone that their lifestyle puts their soul in danger of eternal condemnation is not a failure to love. It may well be the most loving thing you can do. The problem is that often, instead of “speaking the truth in love,” Christians angrily and self-righteously and in a profoundly unloving and unkind manner make known the truth. If you are ever in a position to communicate with a person in an active homosexual relationship, and you feel led to direct them to what Scripture says about the eternal consequences of their lifestyle, may your words and the tone of your voice be bathed in tears. Not artificial tears or feigned concern, but Christ-like, heart-felt, loving tears.