(A practical but longer post than normal)
“Hard is not bad, it is just hard.” A good friend was fond of saying that. I think about these words often. I have a quiz for you; what do these words have in common: Witchcraft, spiritists, lying, deceit, adultery, false witness, homosexuality, insincere worship, pride, prayers from those who ignore God, taking advantage of the poor and needy, and those who justify wickedness and condemn the righteous? And that isn’t even a complete list. According to the Scriptures, all are called “abominations” (E.g. in NKJV). In both the Hebrew and the Greek, it is a strong word, that conveys the sense of God finding something abominable, detestable, despicable, and such. Some translations use those terms.
Now, look carefully at that list. Again, there is more to the list than that. Do you see yourself? Like in the past? Maybe even a bit in the present? And do you see it in others? If so, what do… what should we do about that?
Let me ask you something else. If you were sick with cancer, or something else very serious, should your doctor tell you? What if your condition were terminal? What then? Put yourself in the doctor’s shoes for a moment: they would likely assume that the conversation will not go well. Why? It’s bad news. It will hurt, upset, and grieve you, maybe bring about despair and depression, and possibly even cause you to be suicidal or make you angry. So… what would happen if the doctor took all that into account and decided that to be nice and caring, the best course of action should be to say nothing, and just affirm you as a person? I am thinking we would call that medical malpractice. I can see the fur and lawsuits flying.
I am wondering, as a follower of Christ, as someone who truly believes God meant what He said… meant what He had written in His Word - the Bible, if maybe some… many… maybe even all of us are not in some way committing spiritual malpractice. How so?
Do you know someone who’s lifestyle, behavior, or attitudes fall in that list above? What have you done about it? Now if their life were threatened maybe we might say something… but what about their eternal life? If something is detestable with God, if God goes so far as to call something abominable, what might be the consequence for failing to recognize it, to confess it (as in agree with God that it is detestable), and then to repent of it? For the believer, nothing good. For someone without a saving relationship in the God of the Bible… we’re talking eternal damnation… Hell (like check out Revelation 20-21 to name but a few verses that speak on this subject). Maybe you say you care about the person, maybe even love them. So… what are you doing to help them? Can we honestly say that saying nothing is loving?Let me say that getting up in someone’s grill with your bible guns loaded, and with an attitude to boot isn’t helpful. I mean, I seriously doubt you would go up to a 300 lb. guy who happens to be struggling with alcohol and with righteous indignation tell him that he’s an alcoholic and will burn in Hell if he doesn’t straighten out. If you did, you might just get that conversation with the doctor. Ouch! But do you care enough… love enough to enter into someone’s life, and tell them truth… tell them about your Christ, and help them to see that what they are doing, what they have embraced, can have catastrophic consequences to them, and those around them?
These thoughts have been with me for a long time, but have really come to the forefront since our Supreme Court redefined marriage, and called me an “enemy of the human race” for disagreeing (read Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion from last June’s decision). I was reminded of it again over all the tragic series of events in our Executive Branch redefining Title IX last weekend as it pertains to transgender access to things like restrooms and locker rooms in schools and other institutions that receive Federal funds. I am heart-sick, fearful for our nation and community, and even a bit angry. And I have to remind myself again and again of context… We are certainly no worse off than the early Christians were under the Roman Empire… not by a long shot. But the question still begs… “What should I do?” Let me provide a few suggestions to pray and noodle over (and here is where I try to be practical)…
- First and foremost, recognize yourself as a fallen person in need of God’s boundless grace. We are no better or worse than anyone. Jesus said in John 8, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” Drop the rocks.
- Don’t react; instead prayerfully, carefully, respectfully, and thoughtfully respond to people; even those who appear to be the antithesis of what you believe in. Anger and vitriol will accomplish nothing.
- Realize that the world without Christ, without a saving relationship neither in the God of the Bible does not see the world as you do, nor does or even can act as you do (or are supposed to). They do not see “sin” or “truth” as you do. They do not have the Holy Spirit to guide them.
- Realize that “people” are not the problem, no matter what authority or office they hold. Our true enemy is not of this world, and he is ultimately behind all that is wicked and wrong. (C.f. Ephesians 6:12)
- Love others, even your enemies. Jesus had a lot to say about this. That means be compassionate and caring. (C.f. The “Golden Rule” - Matthew 7:12)
- Love does not mean we ignore, or affirm people’s sin. Encouraging or condoning people in sinful behavior is just as bad as the behavior itself. The old axiom “Hate the sin; love the sinner” applies.
- Try to move past prejudices and judgmentalism and befriend someone you know who lives out a sinful lifestyle. It isn’t always possible, but at least be kind and respectful. Remember Jesus saved His anger for the religious hypocrites, not the sinners. Note: Be sure to guard your own heart; we are to love them, not do as they do.
- Talk about Jesus! Share your faith! Share the Gospel. Hiding your faith is not helpful to someone headed for Hell. If you can establish a relationship, love them enough to point them to hope and salvation. Pray for opportunity. Which leads us to…
- PRAY!! God tells us, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) Healing and revival in our nation will begin with us/you. Don’t expect “them” to get it.
- Get out and serve your community. Let people see the good in Christ’s followers. Just hearing what we’re against, or opposed to, or boycotting isn’t as helpful as many of us would like to believe. Jesus healed and ministered to people who ultimately rejected Him. It didn’t stop Him. It shouldn’t stop us. If such a display of faith and love leads to but one changed life, it is worth it! (Galatians 6:9)
- Be careful what you say in public. Whether it is in the company of others, or on social media, choose your words prayerfully and carefully, as well as any information you “pass along”. If you are a Christian, you represent Christ. Don’t misrepresent Him. And don’t make Him have to correct you. That is never pleasant; I know that from personal experience.
- Don’t become fearful, and don’t worry. God is sovereign. Nothing that has happened is a surprise to Him. Man is choosing his own way; but God is still God, and He always will be. No one gets to vote God off the island… just saying. And speaking of voting…
- Vote. I realize we don’t have a plethora of great choices, but realize that local and state elections have more direct influence upon your daily life than the folks we elect to Washington. Politics won’t save you, but God has called us to be responsible citizens where He has placed us.
There is more we can do, but I’ll stop there… Noodle on… better, pray on that list. This is our time, a time like never before in our nation. Darkness is increasing, but that enables the light of Christ to be even more visible. And besides, God never promised the Christian a life of ease… a life free from trials and tribulations, or even societal uncertainty. In fact… here is what God said, Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)
So, is all of this going to be easy? No. In fact things might get worse, a lot worse, before they ever get better. But that is God’s call, not ours. Our call is to be faithful and obedient children of our Heavenly Father and Daddy. Hard isn’t bad; it’s just hard. And if it were easy, I’m thinking everybody would be a follower of Christ. But they aren’t. But I sure am blessed that you are! Aren’t you?
By the way… speaking of hard things… Would you pray for me, and for our church? On May 29th I am going to be teaching on a subject that I do not recall ever hearing in a worship service. It is a hard subject, and one which might offend some, open up old wounds, and prayerfully convict us all. But it is also a message of commitment and hope. My topic? Domestic Violence.
Until He Returns… Pastor Brian