Should Christians Stop Eating Sea Food?

crab legs

As the topic of homosexuality continues to be a hot topic for Christians in the United States, many are lashing out saying that it is hypocritical to follow some laws and not others from the Bible (and more pointedly, the Old Testament).  The Mosaic Law handed down from the mouth of God at Mount Sinai included dietary restrictions, methods for making clothes and even the amount of work one was allowed to preform on the Sabbath (the day kept as Holy for God, the weekly day of worship) alongside the sexual laws and condemnation of murder.  Many have, in this mindset, run to the Law to claim that if Christians want to call homosexuality a sin, then they need to stop eating sea food and bacon and wearing clothing comprised of mixed fabrics:

“You shall not wear a material mixed of wool and linen together.”

– Deut 22.11

“…and the pig, for though it divides the hoof, thus making a split hoof, it does not chew cud, it is unclean to you.”

– Lev 11.7

“But whatever is in the seas and in the rivers that does not have fins and scales among all the teeming life of the water, and among all the living creatures that are in the water, they are detestable things to you, and they shall be abhorrent to you; you may not eat of their flesh, and their carcasses you shall detest.”

– Lev 11.10-11

Now, we as Christians, must be humble when we hear accusations like this.  Do you know why the Church considers parts of the Mosaic Law binding, but not others?  Some accusers claim this logic to tear us down, but many within the Church will actually question and fall prey to this line of reasoning if we do not clearly examine the whole of Scripture and it’s expectations for us today.  We must be informed, and we must teach it clearly to keep ourselves from stumbling.

There are two major factors that we should embrace when approaching this conversation.  Firstly, we must always remember that God has called us to be holy as He is holy (Lev 11.44, 1 Peter 1.16).  This is the foundation on which the entire Bible is written, both Old Testament Law and New Testament Grace.  The Law and Grace both have their end and fulfillment in our righteousness (which we learn is only attained through Christ – 2 Cor 5.21).  Therefore, we must not and cannot ever justify one sin by another.  We also cannot forbid someone to point out a sin in our lives because they have a sin (either the same or different) in their own lives.

What I mean is this:  Many Christians walk around in the sin of pride.  And when the day is over, they pat themselves on the back to say, “I did not sin today”, and sit in their lazy boys judging homosexuals and murderers while they watch the evening news.  This person is guilty.

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”

– James 2.10

This passage of Scripture is often misunderstood.  If one is guilty of the sin of pride, he is not guilty of the sin of murder, before God, too.  But he is indeed guilty of breaking the law, and all who have broken the law are guilty before God and unworthy to enter the Kingdom of God eternally.  If you have broken the law in any point, you are guilty of breaking the law.  Speeding ticked or arson.  You are condemned.  God hates pride, and the proud will not enter into the kingdom of God.  God also hates murder, and the murderer will not enter into the kingdom of God (Prov 6.17, 1 Cor 6.10-11).

This person must learn humility and be able to hear someone speak truth into their lives.  He must be willing to repent.  And this person cannot justify himself by saying, “well at least I never [fill in the blank]”.  He might be better than some, but the standard is Jesus not Hitler.  If we are not as righteous as Jesus, we are not good enough.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, one who has made peace with a major sin cannot justify himself by pointing out a lesser sin of another.  The thief cannot say to the over weight man, “Do not point out my sin, you are a glutton!  You’re not perfect.”  We all need humility.  And we all need to remember that the point is to be holy, to fight for the standard that is Jesus, and to submit to the Word of God.  One sin does not make another permissible.

The second factor in this conversation is the full picture and teaching of the Scriptures.  Tim Keller points out clearly that the Old Testament has two types of laws:  those regarding ceremonial purification and sacrifices (to atone for sin) and those regarding morality as defined by the character and heart of God.  The Old Testament was written to the Jewish people who were waiting for a Savior.  They were Spiritually unclean and in order to approach a holy God they were required to eat certain things (and not eat other things), they were to wear certain things and they were to keep themselves separate from other nations.  God was unapproachable by unclean people and the whole of the ceremonial law was looking forward to the coming Messiah.

When Jesus came, He fulfilled that Law.

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

– Matt 5.17-19

This is why the curtain was torn in the temple when Jesus died.  God no longer resides in the physical temple in Jerusalem.  He is no longer separate from the people and only approachable once a year by the High Priest.  Jesus has taken our guilt and given us His righteousness so that every believer can approach God without fear.  We are now holy, by nature of being covered by the blood of Christ.  We were given a new heart (Ez 36.26).  The Spirit resides within us (1 Cor 3.16).  The method of approaching God has changed.  And God Himself removed these ceremonial laws, declaring all foods clean and commanding Jews to reach out to people of all nations:

“Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy…And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.”

– Acts 10.15, 28

Because we have been made holy by the fulfillment of the Law in Christ, we do not need to purify ourselves by our clothing and food.  God has declared it permissible.  And because of the work of Christ, we would be making a mockery of Him if we sought to make animal sacrifices to atone for our sins and to keep the ceremonial laws.  Why?  Because Jesus was the final and the perfect sacrifice, and to seek to add to it declares Him as insufficient.  That is why Jesus declared, from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19.30).

The moral laws of God, however, exhibit the heart of God and are fully upheld by the New Testament.  Jesus, in the sermon on the mount, not only declared murder a sin, He examined the heart of man and said that one who is angry with his brother is guilty of breaking the law (the moral law) of God (Matt 5.21-22).  Jesus upheld the law and said with unminced words that unless we are as holy and righteous as He was, we cannot enter the kingdom of God.

“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

– Matt 5.20

We are not made righteous by the food we eat, we are made righteous by obeying the moral laws of God.  Paul and the apostles understood this teaching clearly, and that is why we have sections of the moral law quoted throughout the entire New Testament:

“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.  For this, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

– Rom 13.8-10

We are regularly taught to die to the deeds of the flesh – remembering that we formerly walked in those ways so as to remain humble – but to continually fight those temptations and desires:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

– Gal 5.19-21

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.  Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

– 1 Cor 6.9-11

And we ultimately remember that we are not earning our salvation by keeping these laws, but rather we were given the righteousness of Christ when He took our guilt and therefore we obey out of love and desire to honor the sacrifice that He made.  When we willfully choose to go on sinning against the moral law, we put Him right back on the cross.  But those who have been forgiven would never want to see Christ defamed because they understand the weight of the price He paid.

“…since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.”

– Heb 6.6

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?  Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?”

– Rom 6.1-3

So in short, we can summarize everything by this simple truth:

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

– 2 Cor 5.21

We have been made righteous at the heart level (and are being sanctified as we grow and mature), and therefore we should desire to obey the moral law of God which defines His character in order to glorify and make much of Him.  The ceremonial laws of the Old Covenant were fulfilled in Christ, and to seek to reinstate them is to negate the Gospel.  It is to say, “Jesus was not enough and I have to add to His work on the cross”.

So the next time someone accuses you of picking and choosing which laws you want to obey, first of all step back and humbly examine your heart to see if your accuser is right.  What are the sins that need to be fought in your heart and in your life?  Even if your accuser would seek to shame you and comes with the wrong motive, you are accountable to God, and if someone points out a weakness in your life – even with the wrong motives – take that as a teachable moment.  But we should also be informed of the Gospel and the full story of redemption taught throughout Scripture.  If someone condemns your crab legs or poly-blend jeans by virtue of the book of Leviticus, proclaim to them boldly that your food and clothes do not make you righteous before God, but the blood of Jesus alone does!  God has declared His ceremonial laws fulfilled and what He has made clean we must no longer call unclean!  Wear your jeans boldly while you preach the Gospel humbly.  And be prepared to give an answer, God is not mocked.

“…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.”

– 1 Peter 3.15-16

What does the Bible actually say about marriage?

marriage

Once we have agreed to allow God to be the authority that He is, and let Him write the moral laws which will ultimately govern us all, we must make every effort to know Him, to know His Word and let Him be God.  The creator of the universe, who will judge us all at the end of time, has given us a beautiful and extensive book by which we can know Him, His character, what He wants out of us, and how we are to live.  Do you not think we should make every effort to know it?  Or do you think He will allow us to plead ignorance at the judgment seat?

Marriage.  When God created the world He spent six days creating the land, the sea, the planets, the animals, the foliage, and lastly He created man and woman.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”  Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.  The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.  So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.  The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.  The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

– Gen 2.18-24

This is what theologians call the “created order”.  God created man, and then God paraded all of the animals and living creatures before him to show that there was no other creation like man.  Every living creature had a male and female to procreate, and there was no creature with whom Adam could communicate or reproduce.  Thus, God created a suitable helper, a partner, a compliment:  the woman.  And it is because of this created order that men and women must leave behind their parents when they are ready to marry.  This is a familial structure, the two were made to compliment one another, and the two work together to reproduce.  The two create a family, separate from their parents, the two are now one.  They are two halves that compliment one another to make a whole.

When the Pharisees tried to put Jesus on the spot about divorce, He referenced this created order and the heart of God in marriage:

And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

– Matt 19.2-6

The marital union through Scripture is defined and understood to be between a man and woman.  The Old Testament Law outlined consequences for anything other than sexual relations between a man and woman within the confines of marriage: homosexuality (Lev 18.22), sex with an animal (Lev 18.23), and sex outside of marriage (Lev 18.20).  Marriage was clearly defined from the beginning, and all possible diversions from the definition were clearly defined, judged and dealt with.  This is why Jesus did not have to answer these types of questions about sexuality.  Sometimes people will argue that Jesus did not talk about homosexuality directly, and thus attempt to make an argument from silence that it is acceptable.  But Jesus upheld all of the Law, and that is why the Pharisees (the keepers of the Law) attempted to trick Him up in His keeping and teaching of the Law, namely on divorce and keeping the Sabbath.  They had added traditions and nuances to the Law, and tested Jesus about them.  But Jesus did in fact reference the created order, as we already saw, and therefore to argue that He was silent on the topic is simply wrong.  He assumed that people understood the Law and heart of God, and He endorsed marriage to a stronger covenant than had previously been held.  Some people will also try to say that homosexuality is fine when the two are committed to one another in marriage, that the problem is promiscuity.  But this goes against the created order which God formed and Jesus upheld.

The rest of the New Testament teaches us to value and esteem marriage highly.  Defiling the marriage bed by having sex before marriage, having sex with the same gender, and having sex with a married person are all grievous sins that God will judge.

“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

– Heb 13.4

Paul teaches husbands and wives how to act within the marital bond in Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Corinthians 7 and 1 Peter 3.  He also teaches us that part of the downward spiral of culture when it has walked away from the authority of Scripture is to give in to unbliblcal sexual desires:

“For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”

– Rom 1.26-27

Homosexual tendencies are not a new phenomenon.  The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were marked by homosexuality well before God even gave the Old Testament Law!  This was thousands of years ago.  It is actually from where we get the term sodomy.  Romans and 1 Corinthians also speak of homosexuality as the norm, as well, which was two thousand years ago.  Thus we cannot argue that the Bible is simply out of date or old fashioned.  There is nothing new under the sun (Ecc 1.9, 1 Cor 10.13).

This is simply what the Bible says about marriage.  When we come to God for salvation, we must submit to Him as King, as God, as Lord over our lives.  That means that we purposefully and intentionally stop doing the things that God calls sin.  All of us will have many, many things that we must stop partaking in.  For some it will be gossip, for some it will be pride, for some it will be sleeping and living with a boyfriend/girlfriend, and for some it will be homosexuality.  We are not God and we do not get to make the rules.  But God is gracious and redeems us from all walks of life, and from all types of sin.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

– 1 Cor 6.9-11

If you do not believe in the God of the Bible, and if you do not submit to the Bible as your authority, then that is fine.  But the United States government did not create marriage, God did.  And the United States government does not have the ability to rewrite Scripture.  We, as Christians, however, should not try to force the United States government or people who do not submit to Jesus as Lord to act like Christians.  That is futile.  And there is a much bigger issue on the table, and that is their salvation.

Even this will not satisfy.

white house

On Friday, the supreme court justices voted 5-4 to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.  And the nation has been responding all weekend long.  I have barely checked the news and my facebook because it seems to be the only topic about which people are talking.  Happiness.  Celebration.  Anger.  Lamentation.  Lashing out.  Finger pointing.  Almost everyone is responding, and we all need to be able to articulate our positions well.  Most of my heroes have responded, and so much has already been written on the topic that I wondered if I should enter the fray, but there is one facet to this conversation that I fear is being overlooked:  Satisfaction.

Traditional catechisms verbalize well for us the purpose of man:

To know God and enjoy Him forever.

Jesus said it like this,

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

 – John 10.10

“I am the way, the truth and the life.  No man comes unto the Father except through me.”

 – John 14.6

Jesus boldly and unashamedly proclaimed to the world that He came some that we can have full, satisfying life, and that He is the only way to have that satisfying life.  People are searching for satisfaction and fulfillment, Jesus proclaims that we can only find it in Him, yet we search the world for pleasures:  entertainment, relationships, toys, meaning in life through helping others, sex, food, etc.  I live in a city which has a remarkably, and abnormally large single’s population, and many of those singles are frantically looking for a spouse.  Even within the church, there is a sense that life is incomplete without a spouse, and the married people within the church unfortunately have a tendency to encourage that worldview.  This is such a problem, in fact, that many people choose their church based on the number of singles who attend.  We would never consider joining a church that had few singles, because the dating pool would be so small!

So here were are in a [church] culture that has taught us we need to be married, being single is a curse, we do not know how to involve and relate to single people, and silently teaching people that they are incomplete without a spouse.  And at the same time we are seeing a multiplying number of openly homosexual people in our world and even in our churches.  So is it any surprise, then, that they would think a sexual and even marital relationship will complete and fulfill them?

The core of the problem is simple:  God did not create us for a spouse.  He created us for Himself.  If anyone enters into a marital relationship looking for satisfaction and fulfillment, they will be looking to receive from their spouse what only God can give.  They will be disappointed, they will think that they have failed, and they will spend the rest of their life wondering what happened, going to counseling and marriage conferences trying to make it better, or they will divorce and look for that “soul mate” who does not exist.  It is only when we find our satisfaction, meaning and fulfillment in Christ that we can have full marriages.

The homosexual community has pushed to have the right to legally marry and be viewed by employers, healthcare companies and the world as a married couple.  Having an unbiblical view of marriage, they cannot enter into a marital relationship having found peace and satisfaction in God first.  In short, they will be disappointed.  Some will stick it out to the end and some will move on to look for something else that will satisfy, and this is where the Church must be ready to respond.

First of all, we must remember that people need Jesus.  We have all sinned, and no matter the type or depth of our sin, if we do not come to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation, there is absolutely no benefit to fighting sinful tendencies.  In short, we should not waste our time trying to convince someone that the Bible teaches marriage between a man and a woman if someone does not believe in Jesus:  the conversation is moot.  Until we are able to agree that God is the authority and that Scripture is His truth, it does not matter what the Scripture says, quite frankly.  Because even if we do an exhaustive study on marriage and the will of God, if the second party is convinced that the Bible does in fact teach heterosexual marriage but does not know Jesus, we have done him no benefit.  He needs to know Jesus first.

Secondly, we must remember that we all have walked in sin, and when we came to Christ for salvation, we all had to lay down those sins of temptation.  Perhaps yours was not homosexuality, but Scripture says that those who covet (those who get jealous and want what other people have) will not be allowed into Heaven.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, noreffeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.  Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

 – 1 Cor 6.9-11

We all were looking for something to satisfy our lusts until we met Jesus.  Some might have the same inclination and you, and others will have different drives than you.  Jesus can redeem and forgive them all.  When people realize that their lifestyles are not fulfilling them, we must be ready to point them to Jesus:  the life.

Lastly, we must stand firm on the truth.  If we stand in silence, then we will in essence give affirmation.  After, and only after someone has come to Christ for salvation do we begin the work of accountability and dying to sin.  When people come to Jesus we have to make Him the Lord of our lives:  He is in charge.  He gets the final say.

“…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…”

 – Rom 10.9

You will only be saved by allowing Jesus to have the final say.  And we can know what God has to say from reading His Word, the Bible.  Therefore, once Jesus is made Lord, we being teaching people how to read the Bible, understand it and apply it.  God says that people who are jealous will not enter the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, we must fight jealousy.  God also says that people who practice homosexuality will not enter the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, we must fight homosexual urges.  God also says that drunkards, and people who have sex outside of marriage, and people who hate others will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Therefore we must not get drunk, we must not have sex outside of marriage and we must love one another.  Not to earn salvation, but to prove ourselves to have made Jesus the Lord of our lives.  If He is not Lord, then we are not saved.  And for Him to be Lord, we have to do what He says.  But we will all fail along the way, so we walk in grace to help people (and ourselves) recognize their tendencies and fight them.

Even this will not satisfy.  Only  Jesus can satisfy.  If you are looking for fulfillment in anything else, you will be disappointed.  And marriage is one of the biggest eye openers to this reality.  People disappoint.  All people.  Only God will bring joy and peace.  So let us boldly and unashamedly offer this gift to a hurting world.  Let’s not get caught up on the secondary issues, but let’s point people to Jesus first.  Then, after they have come to Him for salvation, let us diligently seek the word and help one another grow in maturity in Christ – putting away the sin and flesh and putting on Christ.

I can’t change, even if I wanted to.

Yesterday I was driving home from the grocery and was scanning the radio when I hear the refrain of a song with these lyrics:

And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to

I did a little research and found out that it is a song entitled “Same Love” by Macklemore, advocating for homosexual marriage rights.  It is an extremely peculiar song, with the chorus repeating the mantra that change is impossible, people are genetically made up with sexual tendencies and desires that are immutable, but yet the rest of the song is advocating change:

We press play, don’t press pause
Progress, march on
With the veil over our eyes
We turn our back on the cause
‘Til the day that my uncles can be united by law
When kids are walking ’round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are
And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
No law is gonna change us
We have to change us
Whatever God you believe in
We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time that we raised up… sex

So, Macklemore would have us believe that homosexuality is a genetic disposition which is unalterable and thus everyone else has to change their feelings, beliefs and laws on the topic.  He argues in this verse that laws are the place to start, but he is ultimately trying to change the general public to accept and validate the homosexual lifestyle, and he says it is possible.

Ironically, in the very next phrase, he attempts to unify religions by discrediting them all, and establishing that he can speak authoritatively on the supreme being.  If we “all come from the same [god]” then no religion’s claim to absolute truth can be accurate, and thus all are fundamentally invalidated.  Unless, of course, he is saying that you can believe whatever you want, but only his belief system is the right one…

But that is another conversation for another day.  And though we could reflect on the statements made in this song for hours, I want to ask the simple question:  Can people change?  Macklemore would have us believe that we can change our attitudes and reactionary feelings, but not our core being or genetic makeup (which he believes is the foundation of homosexuality).

Our culture is based on the assumptions that change is both possible and impossible.  We are inundated with self help books, coping tools and counseling, ten easy steps to any goal and get thin fast options.  At the same time, we preach to ourselves that “people never change” and if someone has let us down one time, we write them off as untrustworthy and keep them at arm’s length forever.

I would argue that Macklemore is fundamentally right.  While we can change our actions, and while we can continually make our community, our lives or our personal situations more comfortable and appealing, we can never fundamentally change our DNA.  Our genetic disposition.  Our nature.

Our sinful nature.

And thus we have come to the core of the dilemma.  Is there a “gay gene”?  Are people born with an attraction to the same gender?  I do not know the answer to that question, and quite frankly it does not matter.  But I do know that until we have been saved by faith through grace for the forgiveness of our sins, all sexual desires – homosexual or heterosexual are sinful.  Every. Single. One.  Why?  Because it is not of faith, and everything that is not of faith is sin (Rom 14.23).  If we do not know and understand God’s beautiful plan for sex within the bond of marriage, to His glory, then our perception of sex is sinful.  If we do not make love to our spouse, thankful for the gift from God and unto His glory, then it is sin.

If we trust this claim of Scripture to be true, then we can also be assured that sobriety, giving to charity and feeding the hungry are also sinful – apart from faith.  These deeds are commands of Scripture, and will make society more comfortable if followed, but it will not merit one eternal salvation because apart from faith it is done for selfish and wrong motives.  If I feed the hungry out of pity, or if I feed to hungry so that people will notice how good of  a person I am, no glory is given to God.  And therefore it is not of God.

So yes, we can modify behavior, but we cannot change the core of our being.  Scripture says that apart from God we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2.1).  Dead people cannot make themselves come to life!  Scripture also says that we are naturally born enemies of God (Col 1.21, Rom 5.10).  And while we can observe some of His commandments as good, like feeding the poor, we are naturally (genetically) made up to live for ourselves and not for Him.

God has to breathe life into us.  We were dead bones walking around.  But God can change our makeup.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

 – 2 Cor 5.17

Notice here that the verb tenses are passive.  We are made new, we do not make ourselves new.  But God changes us from the core.  God promises to completely remake our genetic makeup, our inner being, our natural tendencies:

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”

 – Ez 36.26-27

He is the one who changes us.  Sometimes the change is immediate and dynamic.  Sometimes the change is slow and steady.  There is no “ten easy steps” guideline to becoming a new creature, because it is God working out His perfect will and desires in us.  We are the clay and He is the potter.

So what do we do?  This could all sound quite fatalistic, if we just stop trying.  We first recognize that we are all genetically flawed.  Every desire we have apart from God is evil.  All of our actions are sinful and deserving of damnation.  And we cry out to God to save us.  He then takes over.  We read His Word, and when we see commandments about sexual purity, about financial stewardship, about caring for the poor and dying to ourselves, and we ask the Holy Spirit who has taken residence in our lives to help us obey those commandments with the right heart and motives.

Will we ever have completely pure and holy motives?  I cannot answer that, but I do know my own wicked heart, which is deceitful above all else and I highly doubt that my motives are ever perfect (Jer 17.9).  But I do trust that God has given me a new heart and a new Spirit which enables me to know Him, love Him and obey Him.  And those things that are done in faith are glorifying to Him.

No, Macklemore, you cannot change, even if you wanted to – at the core level.  But God can change you.  He can change me.  He can change anyone, and lead us to salvation through repentance.  And we all have to change every natural desire that we have, because apart from faith it is all sin.  Heterosexual and homosexual.  Non profit and for profit.  Good and evil.  Apart from God, it is all the broad path to Hell.

For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

 – Mat 7.14

narrow path

Unconditional Love does not mean Unconditional Approval

approval

As we Americans continue full steam ahead down the path of tolerance and acceptance, denying the existence of absolute truth and empowering everyone to be god and authoritative in his own eyes, we are losing all sense of accountability.  While one can still go to jail for murder or grand larceny, the pool of excuses is broadening.  Mental illness, duress, self defense and situational considerations allow the guilty to walk freely.  We have philosophized ourselves into a corner where everyone has their freedom to choose every aspect of their lives, and no one has the right to judge, or even look funny at another because of his choices.

I have heard it said that God made man in His image, and now we are returning the favor.  We value tolerance, acceptance and self determination so highly that we attempt to force these attributes onto God.  We read books like “Redeeming Love” and we listen to our best friends who say, “I will support whatever decision you make” and think that we are eternally in the clear.  Because God serves us.  Right?  This is how we end up with situations like the coming out of Vicky Beeching and her self justification, “God loves me just the way I am”.

Is God’s love truly unconditional?  We need to consider carefully what we mean by the notion and what Scripture has to say about it.  When it comes to the offer of salvation, yes, that love is unconditional.  I cannot merit God’s salvation by doing something, and I cannot be so wicked that He would withhold it from me.  The act of justification is God paying the penalty for my sin, apart from anything good within me.  It is by faith, through grace, and not of works so that no man may boast (Eph 2.8-9).  But His saving grace does require obedience.

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

– Luke 6.46

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

– John 14.15

“He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him…If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.”

– John 14.21-24

The mark of the one who has been saved, the mark of the one who loves Jesus is the one who obeys Him.  If we do not obey Him, them we prove ourselves to not love Him, to not be saved.  God’s saving grace is unconditional to earn, but conditional to maintain.  He will not smile on or approve of the one who continues in sin after hearing of grace:

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.

– Heb 10.26-27

So how does that work?  We like to talk about the love, grace and mercy of God, but it is less fun to talk about His righteousness, wrath and judgment.  A.W. Tozer makes this very clear observation:

All of God’s acts are consistent with all of His attributes.  No attribute contradicts any other, but all harmonize and blend into each other in the infinite abyss of the Godhead.

– A.W. Tozer

God’s wrath, grace, judgment, mercy, love and anger are all perfectly working together to create the infinite, perfect sovereign over the universe.  His grace freely forgives all who ask, and His wrath fully punishes all who do not.  We are all guilty before Him, as He is the perfect, all knowing judge who can see not only our actions but our hearts, and He Himself wrote the book on sin.  If it were not for the Law of God, we would not know sin (Rom 3.20).

God does not accept our ongoing actions unconditionally.  He hates sin.  He will not tolerate it.

I listened to a beautiful testimony yesterday, I highly recommend it to you:

Christopher says, “God did not call me to be heterosexual because He is heterosexual.  He called me to be holy because He is holy”.  God does not come to us in the filth and mire, save us and then leave us there.  He comes to us in the filth and mire and rescues us.  He pull us out of the mud, He washes us clean, He set our feet on solid ground and gives us a new heart and a new mind and the ability to obey and love Him.  His grace and love cause us to be a new creation, set on His ways and intentions.  He expects love, obedience, faithfulness and holiness from us in return.  Yes, He forgives us when we mess up, but He empowers us to change and expects us to put to death the deeds of the flesh.

We are not earning your salvation by obeying.  We are proving ourselves to be saved by obeying.  Be holy, for He is holy.

Vicky Beeching: “I’m gay. God loves me just the way I am.”

Every generation of Christians has their hot topic, their moral dilemma, their moral or ethical line with which they flirt while their parents stand by in horror.  The topic of today seems to be that of homosexuality.  And we are confronted by it yet again by a popular Christian music artist named Vicky Beeching. She has written many songs that are popular to be sung in contemporary worship services all around the country including songs like “The Wonder of the Cross”.  This week she declared to the world that she is gay, and God loves her just the way that she is.

And people are responding.

One extreme is saying, “Boycott Beeching and all of her songs” while the other is saying, “Amen sister!  God does not judge us, in fact he created us uniquely, so live it out!”

What is lacking here, however, is a basic understanding of God’s nature and the essence of salvation. 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

 – John 3.16

Forgiveness and salvation are available to everyone.  Yes, Vicky, God does love you.  But He does not condone any unrepented sin, and He will not excuse it.  He will not condone or excuse my unrepented sin.  God’s love is not the question here, forgiveness is.  

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”

 – Heb 10.26-27

God is the ultimate being who wrote the book on morality.  Literally.  He defined right and wrong, He established the Law, declared punishments for breaking it and He alone upholds it.  It is His judgment and wrath for breaking His law from which we need salvation both momentarily and eternally.  But we, being in our physical bodies, often believe the lie of the enemy, “You surely will not die!” (Gen 3.3).  This was his first deception, and his best, and he continues to use it today.  God’s law is written on our hearts and our consciences bear witness to it (Rom1).  We know the first time that we lie, steal, cheat on a test, fornicate or lust that it is wrong.  We feel guilty.  But when we see no immediate consequence we harden our hearts to that nagging conviction and indulge in the pleasure of the fruit that is “good for food, a delight to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise” (Gen 3.6).  

God loves homosexuals.  He loves alcoholics.  He loves liars and cheaters and evil doers.  If He did not, none of us would be loved.  But He does not forgive everyone.  

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous,
Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.

 – Prov 17.15

If we continue in wickedness, He will not justify us.  To do so is an abomination.  And He reserves the right to define wickedness because He is God.  He has not hidden from us those things that He hates.  They are made clear in the Scripture because “God is not a God of confusion” (1 Cor 14.33), and He desires that we would repent and be saved (1 Peter 3.9).  But His wrath and holiness cannot be separated from His love.  And they are not at war with one another.  His love satiates His wrath, and to be found in His love we must confess that we deserve His wrath and repent.  

Having the disposition of homosexuality in and of itself is not sinful.  Lusting, or acting out on those temptations is.  Having the desire to party, get drunk, mess around with your boyfriend (or girlfriend), cheat on a test, speed down the highway, or steal is not sinful.  To let your mind remain on those things, to lust for them and to commit them is sinful.  And to try to redefine morality so that our lusts are excusable is sinful.  Sure, you might be “made” to desire a sin, but that does not make it permitable.  We all have dispositions and inclinations to particular sins.  As of right now, our culture still considers sex with a child a sin.  God outlined it in the Scripture clearly that sex is a gift reserved for a man and a woman in the consensual and loving bond of marriage.  Anything else is sin.  But there is a movement that is attempting to define a person’s desire to have sex with children as a preference and genetic makeup, just like homosexuality has already been defined.  Most of humanity would look on the topic with horror, but in the world of psychology, the transition is being made and some day it may be acceptable.

My point is simply this:  it makes no difference what your lusts, desires or dispositions are.  We are all born in sin, we all have a sinful nature, and the desires of our flesh are wicked.  To come to salvation, we have to agree with God about his definition of sin, we have to understand that the penalty for those sins is death and damnation, we have to confess our sins and we have to repent or change our ways.  Yes, we will still stumble and fall – we will sin.  But we must hate it, we must put it to death, we must confess it, we must seek to put it away because it is filthy and it dishonors God. 

So, should we boycott Beeching?  Should we quit singing her songs?

By no means!  Is a song necessarily void of its value because the author has fallen morally or ethically?  Paul allowed people to preach the Gospel who preached it from selfish and wicked motives (Phil 1).  Why?  Because it makes no difference the preacher or the author, only that the Truth is proclaimed.  Chances are high that most of our forefathers, who are quoted often and regularly, have different convictions or beliefs than you and I.  Many of my favorites (Martin Luther, John Calvin, etc) believed in infant baptism.  C. S. Lewis had some very quirky thoughts.  Solomon himself, after writing books of the Bible, possibly died apart from faith.  But His words are still inspired and included in the Bible!  Do you love the old hymn, “It is well with my soul”?  Horatio Spafford died as part of a Messianic cult.  Does the truth within the hymn lose it’s truth by nature of Spafford’s apostasy?  No, it certainly does not.  

If, however, when you sing the words coined by Beeching, you stumble, then refrain for the sake of your own conscience.  But Truth is Truth, regardless of the heart or dispositions of the preacher.  

God does love you, whatever your sinful disposition.  But do not make peace with your sin.  Seek God’s heart on it, confess it, and trust Him to give you the strength to live a holy and righteous life.  

The Father of the Lost Son.

There is one story that almost anyone who has spent any time in a church can retell:  the prodigal son.  The story is of a young man who decides that he wants his inheritance before his father dies and thus shames his family and dishonors his father.  He takes his half of the money and goes to another city where he squanders it all on “loose living”.  When he was bankrupt a famine hit the land and he hired himself out to feed the pigs (unclean animals to the Jews, a great disgrace) and was so hungry that he desired to eat the pigs’ food.  Finally he decided to return home and ask to become a servant for his father because he knew that his father cared for his servants!  As he returned, the father saw him and ran out and greeted him in the street and threw a big party.  The older brother scoffed and was angry because he had never been thrown a party, but the father loved both sons and entreated the older son to rejoice that the wayward son had come home (Luke 15).

The two sons are often the subjects of sermons and teachings.  The younger son represents many who fall in love with the world but after realizing that it does not satisfy return to the Church.  The older son represents those legalists who are unwilling to offer grace and rejoice when the sinner repents.  But what about the Father?  He represents God and His love for both dispositions.

The last few days I have seen many articles being written about dealing with an adult child who comes out as homosexual.  John MacArthur speaks directly to Church Discipline and confronting the sin.  A blogger named Benjamin L. Corey refutes MacArthur states that MacArthur does not understand grace because (he assumes) that he would be more lenient to other sins and instead we should accept the child and the sin.  Russel Moore takes the position that everyone is inclined to sin and the inclination alone is not enough of an issue to break fellowship, but that we should disciple him if he is a believer and love and teach him the Gospel if he is not a believer.  Sexuality does not define our relationship with our children, he says.

Unfortunately, none of these teachings are painting a wholistic picture.  None of them look at the complexity of the issue.  Moore is absolutely right.  Our sexuality does not define who we are.  MacArthur is also right, if a believer chooses a lifestyle of sin, he is to be disciplined by the church!  And Corey also is right that grace should govern our interactions with our struggling brothers and sisters.  I wrote yesterday on the simple question, “When do we kick them out?“.

Coming out as homosexual is not enough insight into the situation to know how to respond.  When a person comes out as having homosexual desires we must first ask the question:  Does this person confess to be a Christian?  If the answer is yes, then we must secondly ask the question:  Is this person choosing to give in to his temptations or is he fighting the sin?  Having the temptation alone is not sinful.  Just as having the temptation to lust after the opposite gender is not sinful.  Or the temptation to stealing, lying, gluttony, selfishness, pride or any other sin of the flesh you can name.  This is the person about which Moore speaks.  This person you encourage in discipleship, you welcome into your home and fellowship, you love and hold accountable.

If the person confesses to be a believer but is choosing to deny the Scriptural teachings of sexuality, this is the person to which MacArthur is speaking.  You kick them out of the fellowship with the hope of their repentance!  You watch the road, have the calf fattened and ready for the party when he comes home and you welcome him warmly when he repents.  But you wait for him to repent.

If the person does not confess to be a believer, he does not want to be in the church anyway, and this is the person to which we pay no attention his specific sin.  We love and preach the Gospel regardless of sin and disposition to any who do not yet know Jesus and His offer of salvation, like Corey says.  Even if we were able to modify the behavior of any sinner in any sin, if he does not know salvation by faith through grace, he will become a white washed tomb full of dead bones destined for an eternity in Hell (Matt 23.27).

The father of the prodigal son gave his son the freedom to go.  He did not pursue him in his debauchery and he was not down in the pigsty with him.  He was watching the street, He had the calf fattened and ready to slaughter, He forgave him and welcomed him home as soon as he repented, but He did not approve or partake in the sin.

Corey makes a profound point.  The church is lax towards common sin.  The problem is not then that a stand would be taken against specific sins like homosexuality, the problem is that we excuse and gloss over others.  God will not overlook any sin.  Jesus Himself said that we will give an account for every careless word that we speak at the final judgment (Matt 12.36).

Every.

Careless.

Word.

What have you muttered under your breath?  Who have you spoken ill of?  What profanities have slipped out when you hit your thumb with a hammer or were being goofy with friends?

“Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”

 – Gen 18.25

God’s standard is perfection.  He broke fellowship with Adam and Eve and condemned all of humanity for eating a piece of fruit.  Did you ever eat a cookie that your mom forbade?

The church needs to respond.  We need to understand grace and accountability.  I have struggles.  You have struggles.  We all have temptations and tendencies that we must daily put to death.  My pride, if excused and accepted will keep me out of Heaven just as much as someone’s homosexual practices.  But the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to fight pride and homosexual lusts.

The church also needs to understand discipline.  If one will not repent of pride or homosexuality, he has no place in the fellowship.  Why?  Because God does not tolerate sin.  No matter how socially taboo or socially acceptable it is.

The problem is not that we hate sin too much.  The problem is that we hate sin too little and we hate sin disproportionately and that we do not exemplify loving accountability and refuge for those who are seeking to know God and grow in maturity and put to death the deeds of their flesh (Rom 8.13).

What is your god?  Is it the God of the Bible?  If so, are you seeking to obey Him in every aspect of your life?  And that by putting to death pride, selfishness, anger, lust…  That alone is the mark of a Christian.  No Christian is without sin.  No Christian is above temptation.  And we gather to worship and a God who forgives and enables us to obey.

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

– John 13.35

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

 – John 14.15

the-parable-of-the-lost-sons

When do we kick them out?

There is so much tension and turmoil in American society and the Church today regarding homosexuality.  Has all of history and the fullness of the Biblical writing and teaching been wrong on the topic of marriage and sexual relationships?  In the name of love pastors are embracing same-sex marriage as a God-honored unification, churches are hiring practicing homosexuals as pastors and the Biblical texts are being labeled as misunderstood at best and culturally irrelevant at worst.  And those who adhere to traditional Biblical teaching and understanding are being labeled as bigots and hateful.

Handling this issue in a God-honoring way has become a focal point for many.  And the point is well made that if you have not had to deal with the topic in your own family or church, you should be prepared because you will have to deal with it sooner or later.

But I suggest that we need to take a look at the root problem:  sin.  All sins are not created equally.  Yes, any sin will merit an eternity of damnation – as eating a piece of forbidden fruit broke forever the relationship with man and God (Gen 3).  But the sin of gluttony is not dividing the church as homosexuality is.  The sin of pride will not get you fired from your job like embezzlement will.  Selfishness will not send you to prison like murder will.  But in reality, we cannot allow unchecked sin in any of its forms.

Temptation in and of itself is not a sin.  If a person has homosexual desires but does not act on them, he is not guilty of fornication.  If a person struggles with lust but takes captive his thoughts and does not have inappropriate relations with the opposite gender, he is not guilty of adultery or fornication.  If a person loves food but controls himself and does not overeat, he is not guilty of the sin of gluttony.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.  Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

– James 1.13-15

Secondly we need to consider the issue of labeling and association.  When does it become appropriate to label a person by their sin?  If a person does not want to admit something and tells what society might deem a “white lie”, does this make him a liar?  Or does the habit of regularly lying make one a liar?  If a person gets in a fight and his punch leads to the other man’s death, is he a murderer?  Or does the intentional volition and repeated act of killing make one a murderer?  If you sit down and eat an entire box of cookies one time, are you a glutton?  Or do you have to overeat every day?

When we are the children of God, He has redeemed us and paid the penalty for our sins.  We are redeemed and we are saints.  We are Christians who fight temptation and sin.  And when we are convicted of sin, we cannot be marked or identified by it.  We cannot give in, make peace with it, and be a liar, a murderer, a thief, a glutton or a homosexual.  We can be believers who struggle with the temptation to lie, murder, steal, overeat or lust towards the same sex.  We can even fall to our temptations to lie, murder, steal, overeat or fornicate with the same sex.  But we may not make peace with our sin.  The call of Christianity is to die to ourselves, die to our sinful desires and make war with sin.  This war is so important that Jesus says,

“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”

– Matt 5.29-30

If we fight sin and if we refuse to label ourselves or others by the particular sin by which they are tempted, then we will never get to the third and final phase which is acceptance and enculturation.  There are subcultures that accept and praise most every fetish and sin.  Whatever your particular temptation, you can find a “support group” that will endorse your sinful behavior.  And when we choose to label and define ourselves by our tendencies, we fall into the subculture and lose all perspective.  One can struggle with homosexuality, and even give in to temptation without being active in the GLBT community.

So when do we break fellowship with someone?  Is it at the very onset of the temptation?  If so, then there would be no person in the Church, because we are all tempted by our own lusts.  Is it when a person commits the sin by which they are tempted?  If your child comes to you and confesses that he struggles with lying, you encourage him to speak the truth.  Always.  Boldly.  When you catch him in a lie, you confront him about it.  And this is where the decision is made.  This is where communion is determined:

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.  But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

– Matt 18.15-17

Jesus gives us three opportunities to repent and remain in good standing with the Church and Christian community.  If you confront your child in a lie and he will not repent, then you bring someone else with you to confront the sin.  If he still will not repent then you take it to the church.  If, before the church, he chooses to continue lying and will not abandon the sin, then he is to be kicked out.  Fellowship is broken.  Paul says,

But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

– 1 Cor 5.11

He is speaking directly to one who would claim to be a Christian but is unwilling to repent from sin.  In the surrounding verses he says that the sin of those who do not claim to be Christians is up to God to judge.  We are only responsible to remove the wicked man from our midst – and that is one who says he follows Jesus but embraces sin.

So the charge is simple.  It is to find our identity in Christ and fight your temptations.  If you struggle with homosexuality, do not label yourself as a homosexual.  Your sexual temptation and orientation does not define who you are.  Your forgiveness and redemption in Christ does define who you are.  You are a Christian, a child of God, who struggles with lust for the same sex.  If you struggle with lying – even small, white lies – do not label yourself a liar.  God has redeemed you and will give you the strength to die to your sin.  If you love food, do not label yourself a foodie or a glutton!  You are a Christian whom God is enabling to care for your body and eat responsibly.

But we also must be purposeful to not label our brothers and sisters.  If you know a person’s temptation, help him fight it.  Do not enslave him to it by labeling him and expecting him to fall.  And when a person does make peace with their sin, whatever it may be, that is when we remove him from our midst.  Because he now has a god and an identity more valuable to him than Jesus.  And we cannot and should not associate with any so-called Christian if he has another god.

temptation (1)

World Vision: What’s the Big Deal?

As the events of this week have unfolded publicly resulting in a tsunami of debate, conversation and doubt, it is becoming clear that the foundational issue is not being portrayed clearly.  What is the big deal about World Vision’s decision?

On Monday, World Vision announced that they would no longer hire or fire based on someone’s sexuality, but they would leave that to the authority of the individual’s local church to deem appropriate or not.  This was cloaked in the idea of unity amongst believers.

Why is this a big deal?  Shouldn’t homosexual people be allowed to work?  Surely they can feed the poor and help those who are less fortunate?  Perhaps allowing people of all backgrounds to work for a Christian non-profit will help them learn the Bible and maybe this is the way God is drawing them to Himself?  To repentance?

All of those arguments are valid.  But they completely miss the point.

World Vision is a Christian organization.  Leadership states that its purpose is to fight all forms of injustice and reach the world for Christ.  Because of its Christian identity, they hold an employee code of conduct.  To be hired, one must affirm faith in Jesus Christ, be an active member of a local church, sign off on belief in the Apostle’s Creed and agree to a lifestyle that fights sin.  It also affirms belief in the Bible as the inerrant (without error) and inspired Word of God, and our authority for life.

What does that mean, what exactly is the lifestyle conduct code?  Most of us, Christian or not, could list the ten commandments.  Most of us know that the Bible has clearly outlined things that are sinful.  Adultery.  If you are married and you have an affair, this is Biblically considered a sin (Ex 20.17).  World Vision will fire an employee and refuse to hire a candidate if it is known that he is having an affair.  Drunkenness.  The Bible is clear that getting drunk is a sin (Eph 5.18).  Jesus drank wine, so alcohol is not prohibited but to be drunk is indeed a sin.  Sex outside of marriage is also Biblically called a sin (1 Cor 6.18).  These are all grounds for dismissal from the organization.

So in World Vision’s employee code of conduct, any normal, fire-able sin like stealing, embezzlement and lying are ground for dismissal.  Above those normally ethically damnable sins are drunkenness, adultery and sex outside of marriage.  While a non-Christian company would not fire you for those personal decisions, World Vision would.  Included in this list before Monday was unrepentant homosexuality.  The Bible defines homosexuality as a sin:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”

– 1 Cor 6.9-10

God is extremely concerned about sin.  The only reason Jesus died and rose again is to pay the punishment for our sin.  We need a Savior because we deserve to go to Hell for any sin that we have committed.  Practicing homosexuality is not going to send someone to Hell more than lying, stealing or murder.  But not repenting from it will indeed send you to Hell just like lying, stealing and murder.

World Vision is what is known as a para-church organization.  They are not governed by a specific denomination or statement of faith.  In fact, they are composed of fifty denominations:  everything from Orthodox to Episcopalian.  And there are represented within those denominations what are known as “secondary doctrines” and even tertiary doctrines.  These are those doctrines that churches believe and hold strongly that do not affect the core of Christianity that is salvation.  Included in these doctrines is the debate over birth control, mode of baptism, and women in leadership.  On topics like these, World Vision does not take a stand but allows each individual church to interpret Scripture how they understand it.

So now we finally get to the point.  On Monday, the board at World Vision attempted to take homosexuality out of the sin and nonnegotiable category and place it into the non-essential category of secondary doctrines.  They removed it from the list of sins that Paul says will keep us from Heaven, and said you can decide for yourself.  We will not hold you accountable.  They will still fire employees for having one too many drinks, but not for marrying someone of the same gender.

IF World Vision had made the decision to remove their Christian identity and overall code of conduct and function strictly as an NGO that helped in disaster relief and community development, this would be a non conversation.  Of course all people can work together and unite towards that end.  The problem is that they, for two days, stood under the statement that they were changing Scripture, or choosing to not submit to it as the authority for Christians, namely employees.

Praise God, though, that they listened to the counsel of believers and repented of their decision.  They could have rectified the situation in two ways.  They could have abandoned their Christian identity and then been free to employ people of all world views and could have used the work place as an opportunity to engage people who are not believers, or they could return to the authority of Scripture and maintain their Christian identity.  They chose the latter.

Homosexuality is not the unpardonable sin.  It is actually reported that there are many homosexuals who already work for World Vision.  But they are submitting to the word of God and are fighting their own personal sin, as are the rest of us.  We are all fighting the temptation of our own sin of disposition.  Some lying.  Some stealing.  Some pride.  Some fornication.  All Christians are in the battle for our souls against our flesh, clinging to the power of Christ to free us from sin and its reign.  World Vision has simply returned to the God-honoring position that we do not have to be perfect, but we do have to agree with God about what He calls sin.  We have to fight our sin, and live a life that outwardly honors Him.  And if we choose to give in to our sin, we are disqualified from employment in their company.

Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

– 1 Cor 6.11

Praise God we have been washed clean and empowered to live lives that honor Him!

WV