May 13, 2011

What Are We Doing With It?

I’m sitting on my deck enjoying perfect spring weather and savoring doctor-prescribed downtime as I recuperate from knee surgery. I’m working on my tan, and enjoying the sounds of birds and the breeze rustling the leaves. Thoughts of conflict and controversy are far from my peaceful mind.

That is, they were . . . until I read an article announcing THE decision. And now I find myself stepping out of my safe shelter into the storm that rages around me, not wanting to but feeling I must.

On Tuesday The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to allow the ordination of openly gay and lesbian ministers. They actually removed phrasing in the constitution that required those ordained to live “either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman” or in “chastity in singleness.” So now living together outside marriage is also acceptable. My church is Presbyterian so this issue hits close to home.

Some of the dearest to my heart are gay. This isn’t about loving or hating homosexuals. This is about God’s truth. Truth revealed since the beginning of time. Truth that is unchanging from generation to generation.

Today it’s about gay clergy. Yesterday it was about divorce, pre-marital sex or abortion. Tomorrow it will be something else.

Our society is increasingly tolerant of just about every lifestyle and personal choice—“If it works for you, who am I to disagree.” It’s difficult--and incredibly unpopular--to draw a line in the sand between acceptable/unacceptable, moral/immoral and right/wrong because every issue is gray, debatable and filled with nuance.

But, truth is not relative. We don’t get to make it up, change it or alter it based on our experiences, culture and opinions. Not today. Not two thousand years ago. And not in 10,000 years.

Look at the red letters in the Bible. Jesus didn’t deal in nuance. His teachings were tough then and they’re tough now. He didn’t come to the world to win a popularity contest, He came to win souls for the kingdom of heaven. But He didn’t mince words, sugarcoat his message, worry about building self-esteem or fear being labeled as “intolerant.” He spoke the straight, unvarnished truth.

And it's unsettling and hard to hear. "For the word of God...penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) Many who heard Jesus got angry and defensive and rejected the truth. But some allowed the truth to penetrate their hearts. 

Like the apostle Paul. In one dramatic encounter Jesus transformed his heart from zealous murderer to on-fire Christian. As a result Paul devoted his life to spreading the Good News. However his faithful adherence to the gospel message brought lots of misery and pain. He was ridiculed, slandered, beaten, flogged, stoned, arrested and more. Even after he was stoned, dragged outside Lystra and left for dead, Paul got up and went back into the city. Did he allow popular opinion to softpedal the truth God wrote on his heart? Never.
“. . . but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.” (1 The 2:4-6)

Today many churches and Christians are unwilling to take the same stand as Paul did. In an effort to stay relevant, popular, attractive, profitable or whatever, churches have taken the teeth out of the gospel message. They've tamed the Lion of Judah and turned Him into a pussycat. 

The body of Christ is supposed to stand out in the world. We are supposed to look differently, act differently and believe differently. But instead of the church transforming the world, the world is transforming the church. In A Call to Anguish, David Wilkerson said, "And I look at the whole religious scene today and all I see are the inventions and ministries of man and flesh. It’s mostly powerless. It has no impact on the world. And I see more of the world coming into the church and impacting the church, rather than the church impacting the world."  

A recent study by the Barna Group showed that Christians in the United States are virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the population. We give as much, volunteer as much and even get divorced as everyone else. We don’t stand out, we blend in. How can this be?

Jesus gave us a gospel message that is radical, revolutionary and life-changing. For heaven’s sake, what are we doing with it?



Wow. How will this effect your church?

Good post . . . thanks, Kelli.


Cheryl Barker said...

This makes me so sad, Kelli, to hear that the Presbyterian Church is going the way of the world on this issue. I'm sure it will leave many Presbyterians wondering if they can stay aligned with the denomination now...

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

As a divorced woman, I've often wrestled with my past sin to receive the freedom that is mine in Jesus Christ. I am the first to admit that my divorce was wrong. But then grace came along and rescued me from the pit. So what does one do with me now? How does it all work, this being used in ministry despite my past sin?

The homosexual issue is a big one as I, too, have friends who have chosen that lifestyle. I believe it to be a lifestyle incompatible with Scripture as it is a choice for an active, sexual relationship outside the bounds of marriage. I know that there are some situations where biological issues are at work, but I also know that there can be victory over those issues, even as there is victory for any single man or woman living a celibate lifestyle.

I'm glad the UM church hasn't crossed the line yet, but it's moving ever closer. Not sure what we'll do if it does.

Thanks for your boldness.


Denise said...

Just read something this week by J.I. Packer that goes along with this post. We can't interpret Scripture based on traditions or trends of the church. We can't interpret Scripture based on what individual Christians say. Scripture alone is our authority.

According to the Bible, practicing homosexuality is wrong, just as murder,adultery,lying, and gossiping are wrong. Thanks for telling it like it is, Kelli!

Sue J. said...

Our church is in the same boat as yours. We have fought with our presbytery and the larger councils above. We are blessed to have had some very strong, stalwart Christians representing our church, standing with others for the Word and not for the doctrine of man.

I think I need to start by encouraging this man in his work, because one can get to be like Paul--beaten, imprisoned, downtrodden. He needs to know that his work is hugely valuable in preserving the kingdom and God's Word.

Praying for you in your next steps--after this well-written call-to-action. I sense God laying stones at your feet and you walking in them...He's leading you somewhere, Kelli. Keep walking!

Peggy said...

Thursday morning we had our GG and are reading C.S.Lewis, "The Screwtape Letters" the lesson started with letter 16. Well, the first subject we discussed was this exact subject.
In 1Timothy 4:3-4 we read;
3 "For time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what theri itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you keep your head in all situations, endure hardships, do the work of the evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry."
Enough said.....
Blessings and Love....Peggy

Sassy Granny ... said...

Oh how I thank God for the increasingly rare shepherds that are adhering to God's inerrant truth, especially when they are gifted in such a way as to deliver their messages with firm, bold, loving (and sometimes, even humorous) conviction.

We know there will be a poverty of truth in the days ahead of Jesus return. I can only wonder ...

Funny how anything and everything is perfectly acceptable EXCEPT being a Bible believing Christ follower. You can say every vile & 4 letter word with little trouble, but don't say Jesus.


Terri Tiffany said...

But, truth is not relative. We don’t get to make it up, change it or alter it based on our experiences, culture and opinions. Not today. Not two thousand years ago. <<< this is your best point! People don't want to hear that this is what truth really is!