Thinking Through Scripture

"but the word of the Lord remains forever"

Tag: persecution

If You Want To Be Taken Seriously About Homosexuality…

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Christians talk a lot about same sex marriage.  As such an important discussion in our culture and in the church; Christians should be engaged in it.  Especially today and for the next few weeks, there is going to be a lot of heated debate.  There is a lot of anger and heartbreak surfacing right now.  There are a lot of important things that Christians need to be saying, and will be saying. But there is a difference between saying true things, and being taken seriously while you do it.  Before writing all over Facebook about this issue, make sure you provide some incentive for others to take you seriously.

Get the log out of your own eye.  Now, I believe that Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” is one of the most over quoted and misused passages in Scripture.  But I think there is some pretty good application when it comes to the way many conservatives address homosexuality.

If you are not willing to follow the Lord’s teaching on divorce and remarriage, you don’t really have a leg to stand on when it comes to addressing homosexuality.  If you are having sex outside of marriage, even heterosexually, you better focus on your own purity before anyone else’s.  It makes me cringe when I read about the “sanctity of marriage” or the “Biblical definition of marriage” from someone who is, through divorce and remarriage, fornication, or adultery, rejecting the Biblical definition of marriage.  Hypocrisy kills your credibility and influence.

Don’t make this your only sermon.  This seems to be the primary hobby-horse of many.  If we cannot get through a sermon, blog, conversation, or tweet, without harping on this one sin, we eventually begin to lose some credibility.  Our motives look artificial.  It looks like you sincerely care about degrading one group of people rather than sincerely care about souls.

So ask yourself the question, who are you attempting to help by this?  Is it a soul, person, or community you care about?  Or is it some political ideology?  Or are you just angry and want to be heard?  That’s understandable, but not always helpful.  There are plenty of sins in the world to rebuke and plenty of groups to chastise.  There is also much encouragement to be given in a world as lost as ours.  The Bible covers a whole host of topics, not just modern political issues.

Have some compassion.  Please try not to demonize people with whom you disagree; especially not people that we are supposed to love and try to save.  I know of no conversation where this is helpful.  Think about what you are asking another human being to do.  You are asking them to deny their feelings.  You are asking them to deny a critical part of who they are.  You are asking them to deny any foreseeable future happiness in marriage or family.  You are asking for radical self-denial.  This is not wrong; Jesus demands radical self-denial.  He requires us to pick up our crosses and follow Him.  But let us never lose compassion or respect for those who sacrifice much for the cause of Christ.

I have had heart wrenching Bible studies with heterosexuals who have come to realize that because of their divorce, they have no right to be married again (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11).  I hate these discussions.  They hurt me and they hurt others.  But sometimes Jesus asks us to do extremely difficult things for the kingdom (Matthew 19:10-12).  So teach the truth, but teach with compassion and remember you are talking to a fellow human being, not the incarnation of evil.

Make a better stand.  This is not an argument that will be won with anecdotes, insults, or slurs.  To those who make their stand against homosexuals by withholding tips, refusing to hire, bullying, insulting, or persecuting; shame on you.  Not allowing them in church buildings, making rules that we will allow funerals for anyone except homosexuals, and general cruelty, will not only hurt us, but will give ammunition to everyone else.  Even if they are your enemies, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28).

Persecuting them does not help anyone or anything.  It makes them the victims, and us the aggressors.  It makes us look prejudiced and ignorant.  And it certainly doesn’t make us look like Jesus.  While He never approved of sin, you will be hard pressed to find Him advocate cruelty or mistreatment of the sinner.  Let persecution be our burden and no one else’s.

Be honest about your worldview.  If we are honest, our primary stand against homosexuality derives from Scripture.  Sure, we have some social studies and historical arguments that we put forward.  Plus there are some blindingly obvious inconsistencies in the arguments of those in favor of same-sex marriage.  But really, if the Bible was in favor of same-sex marriage, we probably wouldn’t stand so firm against it.

The difficulty is that Biblical arguments are not going to work well at changing American laws.  A politician who argues all his positions Sola Scriptura will not be taken seriously.  But remember, our primary concern is not modern American law.  God’s kingdom is infinitely more important than the temporal American kingdom.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in this country.  Well, that is wrong and unscriptural.  Just as wrong as any homosexual practice.  Whether it is legal or not, whether “married” or not, the Bible condemns the sin.  The world will do what the world will do.  American law is not our priority; the gospel of Jesus Christ is our priority.  Regardless of what laws our country passes, we can still practice Christianity and Biblical morality (even if under persecution).

Christianity did not originate as a world power, but as a persecuted religion.  Yet it managed to change the world.  The divine mandates of Christianity were not given to govern countries but to govern lives.  Rome did not follow Christian morality and neither does America.  But our responsibility does not change.  If every law is against you, do not fear as long as God is with you.  We change lives, countries, and the world by living and teaching Jesus.  It’s not hopeless, and we don’t need government approval of our message.  We need conviction, zeal, perspective, sincerity, patience, faith, hope, and love.

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What to Expect as a Christian

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Being a Christian is not all daisies and cupcakes.  It’s not always easy.  It’s not always friendly.  What should you expect as a Christian in this world?

Persecution from the World:

“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Persecution is a fundamental part of Christianity.  There are Christians in various parts of the world who are suffering intense persecution now, even to the point of losing possessions, freedom, and life.  This history of persecution can be traced back to the beginning of the church.  Early Christians were both persecuted by the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman Empire.  Many of the great Christians you read about in Scripture were executed for Christ.

While many modern Christians face very light persecution, and sadly many try to overplay or invent persecution stories, actual persecution really does exist here and now.  It is nearly impossible to have a discussion about any relevant moral issue once somebody finds out you are a Christian.  Your motives are attacked, you are insulted, and productive communication ceases.  Christians are often judged as being judgmental, called ignorant by the ignorant, and hated for being hateful. The hypocrisy of those who call us hypocritical is blindingly obvious.  Yet, this is one of the many ways we carry our cross while following Jesus.

Animosity from Family:

“For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.  He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me…” (Matthew 10:35-37).

Now, there are some, myself included, who have been greatly blessed as to have the majority of their physical family also be in their spiritual family.  What this means is that their family rejoices with them in their conversion to Christ. This is not always the case, however.

If you turn your life to Christ, be prepared for your family to resent you for it.  To see you as “holier than thou,” “pious,” or “judgmental.”  They might think you are throwing your life away.  They might see you as drifting farther from the family, joining a cult, or losing your mind.  This is often the initial reaction, sometimes it remains, sometimes it does not.  But this can be an extremely heavy cross to bear.

Frustration from Brethren:

“So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16).

One of the saddest truths about Christianity is that many of our biggest critics are other Christians.  Brethren divide over the most pointless and derivative minutiae one can possibly imagine. Hateful words are spoken about those who preach “grace” and about those who preach “obedience.”  Lines of fellowship are drawn over semantics, schools, political parties, evangelistic methods, and church budgets.  Commands for unity, patience, and tolerance are neglected in favor of “that time Paul rebuked someone by name,” while some brethren will condemn anyone who rebukes anyone for any reason.  And as a result, brethren drift farther and farther from each other, and the teachings of Jesus.  Even Christians will not always act like Christians.  This cross will break your heart when if you try to carry it.

It to be Completely Worth it:

“the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

There is no better life in this whole world than that of a faithful Christian.  If you really let the teachings of Christ radically change your life, you will become a better spouse, parent, friend, employee, and person.  It’s impossible not to.

The best people I have ever met are faithful, loving Christians.  They don’t get a lot of publicity. The headliner is when Christians fail, the pastor has an affair, or the church sign says something hateful.  But behind the terrible news stories, inflammatory rhetoric, and bitter vitriol are people.  Godly, real, imperfect, generous, loving, forgiving people.

I love my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I love our fellowship.  The relationships formed by the blood of Jesus far supersede any persecution from the world, criticisms from family, or immaturity from brothers in Christ. There is no comparison.

The spiritual bond of the church makes everything else worth it, but fellowship with the Lord Himself is my greatest joy.  In this relationship I have grace, forgiveness, and acceptance.  I have a mighty Friend who no enemy can overcome.  I am granted freedom from my past, unfathomable joy in the present, and access to God for eternity.  That is what you can expect as a Christian.

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”

2 Corinthians 4:17

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