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?