Wading through a Mess

This past Sunday morning we kicked off a brand-new series called, Answers to Tough Questions. For the next few weeks leading up to Easter, we are going to tackle some of the biggest cultural debates going on around us and into which Christians are expected to be able to speak with grace and poise. With the Scriptures as our guide, we are going to talk about what it looks like to respond to each of these issues as followers of Jesus. Yesterday we started with a bang: The LGBT+ debate. Isn’t God anti-LGBT+? Let’s talk about it.

Wading through a Mess

We live today in a polarized culture. We hear that so often that it’s almost cliché to say, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The old adage about polite conversation is that you can talk about anything but religion and politics. Of the two topics, religion covered the most ground and was the most controversial. Politics had a much smaller sphere of influence. Yes, people could get pretty worked up about certain issues, but on the whole, it was the safer of the two. Today…that reality has reversed itself.  Religion covers an ever-shrinking amount of territory as it continues to lose the ground it once held in our culture. Politics, on the other hand, seems to intrude into every aspect of our lives. And this isn’t a left-right issue. The truth is that in the hearts of many, if not their minds as well, politics is increasingly taking the place religion once held as the source to which we turn to find answers for the most pressing questions we face. And indeed, when God is not ultimate, something else has to be. The trend for most human cultures over the centuries is that we give the State that place when we don’t give it to God. This is a tension that has been with the church since its earliest days.

Read the rest…

Morning Musings: Daniel 1:8

*This will be a longer Morning Musing, but I wanted to draw your attention to the case being argued tomorrow before the Supreme Court.

“But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.  Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.”  (ESV – Read the chapter)

Daniel’s situation was a difficult one.  He had been taken from his home, away from everything familiar, and dropped into the deep end of a cultural situation alien to his own at every point.  What’s more, he was expected to adapt to it fully.  His masters had in mind for him to become a leader in his new nation, but they intended to make him one of them first.  Oh, and he was a teenager.

In many ways, as our culture continues to change and shift away from anything recognizably Christian, we are facing a situation not so different from Daniel’s.  On multiple occasions recently, governmental appointees to a variety of different positions who had made public statements orally or digitally that exposed them as orthodox Christians were grilled by the congressional committees tasked with interviewing them about the moral commitments that came along with their faith commitments.  In each of these situations, at least one member of the committee suggested that they weren’t fit for their appointed positions because of their beliefs.  This is a blatant violation of the Constitution’s prohibition on establishing religious tests for serving in public office, but in the new cultural day, cultural fidelity is more important than constitutional fidelity.

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission.  The outcome of this case will have a profound impact on the legal and cultural understanding of the extent of the freedoms granted by the First Amendment and what it actually means to have sincerely held religious beliefs, including whether or not it is legal to express those publicly and how.

There is a growing list of victims of those who have resisted the LGBT revolution because of their religious beliefs.  Standing for the exclusivity of the Gospel can get you in trouble in many places.  In the academy, particularly in the various departments of science, holding to a belief about the origins and development of life other than the Neodarwin orthodoxy can result in a host of repercussions ranging from reassignments to refusal of tenure to loss of employment and blacklisting for future opportunities.

If we don’t speak the language, eat the food, drink the wine, and worship their gods, the pressures on us to do so will mount quickly and our refusals won’t be met with patience and tolerance.  They will be met with anger and hostility.  Even those folks who like us will be hesitant to help us because of their fear of the repercussions they will face for doing so.  In the last presidential election season, a couple of homosexual hotel owners in New York were publicly scorned and shamed by the larger gay community because they sat down to have a meal with then-candidate Ted Cruz.  They weren’t interested in changing their position at all, just in having a conversation to understand each other better.

The questions and challenges before us, then, are similar to those which sat before Daniel.  Perhaps the primary question we need to answer is this: Where will we draw the line?  How far will we go along with the cultural tide before we stand our ground?  On which points will we compromise our comfort because it doesn’t conflict with our faith, and on which points will we stand firm because our faith doesn’t allow us to go along?

Daniel drew a line at eating the food.  Ironically, this was a point on which he could have compromised on religious grounds, but the food he ate was something which gave him an identity as a follower of the One True God.  Thus, he drew a line.  It was a small thing, perhaps, but a significant one.  It marked him out in a way that wasn’t going to be in anybody’s face, but which everyone would notice as different from everybody else.  So, he drew a line.  Then, he sought to hold the line and trusted that God was going to help him.

But, how he held the line mattered.  It matters for us too.  Daniel was never aggressive or arrogant in his line drawing.  He was not rude or demanding.  He had a sterling character and was incredibly humble.  This is the pattern we must follow.  If we are going to draw and hold a line of distinction, our character must be absolutely above reproach.  We need to be in a position of accountability.  We must be humble and gracious to those who are going to oppose us.  And, we must be prepared to pay the price for holding our line, all the while trusting that our heavenly Father is going to help us hold it.

The culture around us is changing.  There’s no denying that.  It is changing in ways that are not to our comfort and advantage.  It will increasingly become more and more hostile toward us as the days roll on.  We will have to decide whether we will roll with the tide or draw a line and stand our ground.  Daniel is our model if we will follow him.  He is also our confidence that when we are wiling to stand firm in our faith, we will do it with help from our God.  He will never leave us nor forsake us.  We must be ready to do the same.

Digging in Deeper: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”  (ESV – Read the chapter)

– ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:9-10

Two things here.  First, the list of sinful behaviors pursued unrepentantly which will keep us from access to the kingdom of God is long and varied.  There are many, many ways to separate ourselves off from God, some of them large and obvious, some of them small and easy to hide.  In some ways it is better to be caught up in a big, obvious sin, because then everybody knows you are doing wrong and you can be called to account more easily.  Sometimes the smaller, more culturally acceptable and easy-to-overlook sins can be deadly traps because we don’t believe we are doing anything worthy of repentance or needing of forgiveness all the while we are on a road headed directly out of a relationship with God.  That’s the easy part.  

Second, this is one of the few passages in the Scriptures that specifically mentions the sinfulness of homosexual sexual interactions.  Read the rest…