Over the past several months I am more aware that Christians facine an incredibly challenging season. The political and ethical controversies in our society, such as same-sex union, abortion, the inerrancy/authority of Scripture, and women's role in Church do not only reveal the deep divisions which exist between the Church and the world, but these same controversies reveal divisions within the Church itself. And it's messy.
Revisionists ask us to doubt the way we have interpreted scripture for the past 2,000 years, while others want us to believe that Jesus wants us to stone homosexuals (I'm not kidding). Words such as "marriage" are redefined. Other words such as "evangelical" are being abused (or abandoned because the word no longer means what it once did). As a result, many Christians are entirely confused. They are confused on what stance to take on these ethical issues and confused on who is in the right and who is in the wrong. Whatever the case, one thing is for sure… being a biblical Christian in a world of "cultural Christian" counterfeits is difficult. It seems now would be a good time to embrace Jesus' words if we haven't yet:
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19 ESV)
Here is what I'd like to do. For those who are confused about which stance to take, before we point our fingers at everyone else, let's take a moment and point our fingers back at our own selves and ask, "What about me? Who (or what) has supreme authority in my life when it comes to the stances and decisions I make?" In light of this mess we are in let me present three questions every Christian should ask themselves.
IS OUR AUTHORITY THE WORLD?
When Jesus said the world will hate you, he meant it. Likewise, Christians are called to not love the world. John put it this way…
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)
Likewise, James says…
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
Now some may point to John 3:16 and say, but didn't "God so love the world?" Yes, he did, and so should we. To clarify, we are called to love fellow sinners, but at the same time, we should not love the world in its worldliness. It is entirely possible to love a sinner as Christ does and yet genuinely hate sinfulness. We are called not be conformed to the patterns of this world (Romans 12:2).
Therefore we should ask ourselves where our convictions come from. When we consider an ethical stance on an issue, do we give into the world's patterns or do we stand on the truth of God found within Scripture? When we interpret Scripture, do we interpret it honestly, or do we already have our minds set on what we want Scripture to say? If you are trying to reform or revise Scripture or Christianity to fit into worldly standards, that is the same thing as saying, "The world is my authority, not the Word of God."
IS OUR AUTHORITY FEAR AND HATE?
Some readers may assume that I am calling out liberals when it comes to worldly authority. You're probably right, but many passages in Scripture, such as 2 Timothy 3, point out a slew of sins that characterize conservative Republicans just as much, if not more in some ways. Words that Paul uses such as "lovers of self, lovers of money… arrogant… ungrateful… heartless… brutal… having the appearance of godliness but denying its power…" (vs. 2-5), portray the sins of conservatives quite well – they just appear different than sins from the other side. For example, I would consider abortion a heartless practice and primarily a result of us being lovers of selves more than others (the baby), but I think turning our eyes away from suffering refugees is also heartless and a result of us loving ourselves more than others. Both of those are a result of fear, and in many cases, rebellious hatred.
I have been told that because I don't agree with same-sex marriage I must be filled with arrogance and hate, and I am simply fearful of all gays. As much as I know that is not the case (to be sure, I struggle with sinful arrogance and hatred like everyone else, but my motivation for my stance on marriage is my love for Christ and what I believe he taught), I am tragically aware that this labeling has some truth among many conservatives. I cringe when I see confessing Christians post homophobic comments on social media which are hateful. What fuels this thinking is not a love for Christ and his ways, but homophobia. When we exalt our own morals and "godliness" and condemn others because of a particular sin, we become hypocritical legalists (Matthew 7:3). I am convinced that millions of more people are going to hell for hypocrisy than because of homosexual practices.
Some of us pick out and isolate a few select passages to condemn, while we leave out other passages which call us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:45), bless those who curse us (Luke 6:28), consider others greater than ourselves (Philippians 2:3), and to lovingly (not arrogantly) share the truth (Ephesians 4:15). To ignore such passages is just as much of an abuse of Scripture as it is to ignore what God taught on the sanctity of marriage.
Perhaps we should ask if we are motivated by hate. Are we driven by fear? Are we simply trying to protect the false appearance of our self-righteousness? Or are we motivated by genuine, Gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, selflessly-bold, love?
IS OUR AUTHORITY CHRIST ALONE?
Both of the previous questions boil down to this – does Christ alone have authority in our lives? Are we embracing sins because we have established ourselves as having supreme authority over all? Or do we reject the sins of the world (including our own natural desires), because Christ has authority over us?
Do we hide behind our gated communities and church doors in order to separate ourselves from the world because we think we are better than them? Or are we willing to humbly lay down our rights and even our lives? Are we willing to go fearlessly into the world to love our enemies, because Christ has the authority over who we are, what we say, and what we do?
What defines our stance on ethics and politics? Is it us? Is it the culture of the day? Or is it Christ and his Word alone? I believe these questions will slowly reveal in our hearts who we truly worship. When we grasp what Paul meant in Philippians 1:21, when he said, "to live, is Christ and to die is gain," there will be no more room for fear or worldly desires in us – only passionate abandonment of ourselves for the sake of Jesus.