Every day there seems to be a new major report on a heavy issue that concerns the Church one way or another. For instance, last week it was the fall of James McDonald, a pastor I’ve greatly respected through the years. Yesterday the Methodist Church voted to “Tighten the ban on same sex marriage and gay clergy”, bringing the issue front and center once again. Of course, I agree with that particular vote, but many in my community do not, so like it or not, it affects me as a follower of Christ. Then there’s the daily social media coverage of everything from a drag queen story hour to the prosperity “gospel”. With all of this going on, not to mention the issues within the local church that weigh on the heart every pastor, the thought crosses my mind, what’s next? What scandal, fallen pastor, persecuted Christian, or liberal anti-Christ social agenda will come up next and force my heart to sink once again? And what will we all do when it happens?
The way forward is actually clear to me, but that’s part of the problem. I think that clarity scares people today, even some professing Christians. They may not admit it, but it does. Think about the clarity of the Apostles and their mission in the 1st century, and the amount of opposition their clear vision brought them in the end.
“Go into all the world and make disciples” Matthew 28:18
“If you love me, keep my commandments” John 14:15
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28
“preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:2
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Matthew 10:16-20
With every opposition the early disciples faced, every sin they addressed, every interaction with local government that wanted their mouths stopped or even killed, they marched on with great clarity for the sake of the eternal life of those who would believe. When we, as Christians today, march on with clarity proclaiming the Gospel with both zeal and love, there’s always someone to say, “You’re going to offend someone!”, “You’re just intolerant and bigoted”, “You’re behind the times, Christian!” But didn’t the first followers of Christ hear the same things, and even worse, and yet they persevered?
My question is this: Have we forgotten who we serve? Have we forgotten that Christ is King of the world and that the spread of the Gospel was His idea and his mandate to us, first in person and now in His Word? I think many have, the result of which is a church and a people that fail to speak the truth when truth is what’s needed to confront the sins of the age. What do I mean by truth? I mean the truth that is in Jesus, the truth embodied in His eternal nature as God, and what he manifested to us in His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and his unalterable commission to His disciples. The fact that the question, “What is Truth?” is now just an argument between groups who call themselves Christians is sad to say the least. God’s truth, the truth that is in Jesus, is by nature unifying to Christians. It’s meant to be surrendered to, not arranged and rearranged to our liking.
As you already know, the major issues on the stage today are human sexuality, equality, parental rights, and immigration. With all of these, the Christian does not have to scramble about trying to figure out where he or she want to stand on the issues. We have the Word of God. We always have. But today it’s nearly disregarded, while opinions and a so-called “truth” relative to what suits the individual has taken precedent.
Again, the way forward is clear, not because I or anyone else sees better than the next guy, but because God’s Word gives the clarity, by His grace, where it’s needed. Notice that issues being debated are not things like the age of the earth, or the exact events surrounding the end of the world, or whether aliens in outer space exist. This is because at the end of the day these things remain foggy. God didn’t see it necessary to clarify any further than He did. These things don’t generally detract from the Gospel, the theology of God, or man made in God’s image, sin, salvation, repentance and so on. The fight is over issues that true Christians should never have to compromise on, things that the Scripture has made plain. Until we grasp that it’s ok to be clear in what we believe about God and orthodox Christian faith, and the words and actions that stem from those beliefs, even if we’re hated for it, the line between true believer and skeptic, and even atheist will become thinner and thinner. And that’s just what Satan wants!
We need to be a people that isn’t afraid to stand for truth, and to be clear when the Scripture is clear. We need to do it lovingly, persuasively (as Paul did), with passion and compassion for all people, for this is also clear in Scripture.
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:6
And remember that we, as Christians, ultimately serve Jesus, and not any man. Why does this matter? Because doing what suits our desires and likes and dislikes here on earth, and here only, is to disregard eternity and the life that comes only through trusting Christ who died for sinners.