Pastor’s Perspective – July 2013
“In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”
~ John 3:3
Over the past few years marriage and human sexuality have become a forefront issue in the political realm. Changes have rapidly transformed the legal and the political perspective as progressive forces for change have gained momentum against traditionalists in areas of human sexuality, marriage and government.
Popular opinion has shifted wildly and radically, which has left many traditional Christians holding their breath and waiting for the other shoe to drop. I have heard many people express fear for the future as they witness the mores and values of the past anathematized. As more and more organizations put their finger to the wind and shift their opinion on what is sexually appropriate, those who disagree are forced to contemplate becoming a “profile in courage” over something that yesterday, was a cultural assumption.
Our opinion in the matters is less important than you might think it is. There were far more stories about Paula Deen’s use of a racist word than the Southern Baptists’ decision in regards to the Boy Scouts. The Church no longer carries the cultural heft to turn the tides on social issues. You can blame it on declining Church attendance or the creeping cultural relativity that has diminished the voice of a once powerful political bloc; either way the Church no longer has the ability to single -handedly swing the political landscape. The days of the Moral Majority are dead and gone.
More importantly, the Church (especially the American Protestant one) has never “felt right” when it attempts to impose its will on others. Perhaps this is because at our best, the American Protestant movement sought to establish a government that recognized personal freedom over religious rules. We recognized the distinction between private and public morality (which doesn’t mean what most people think it means) and we understood that legal and righteous were not the same things. It is not immoral to drive 75 mph, it is illegal to do so. It is not illegal to smoke marijuana in California, while it might well be immoral to do so. And now in many states it is legal to be married to a same sex partner. The question remains, does that make it moral?
The biggest problem with the changes that we are experiencing is that our society has crossed the line that WE believed was sacred. I say this with trembling lips, but the line that God has drawn separating the sinful from the righteous was trampled on a long time ago. It is now time for the Church to take the responsibility for our role in the line being crossed.
It is too easy to blame the pagan world for the failures of the Church and it has been done far too frequently. We are the ones who have been called to be the priests and the prophets of this nation. It is our job to be living vessels of the Spirit of God in Jesus Christ. It is our job to provide the world with a glimpse of heaven, a sure sign of the alternative vision of life that was given to us through the salvation and example of Jesus Christ. If the world has not seen these things then perhaps we have failed to be the Church that God intended us to be. For that reason we must seek repentance.
It was our unwillingness to share the depth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that led to this moment. We undersold the true cost of salvation and discipleship. We told people that God loved them no matter what they did, as if our fidelity to the Lord had no earthly meaning or heavenly value. We sold cheap grace and a Santa Claus God and we now wonder why people seek after libertine gods who ignore sin and offer us carnal pleasures. It is time to repent.
We must take the proverbial plank out of our eye so that we can remove the speck from our neighbors. We must take our sin seriously first, only then can we assist the world around us I believe that if we repent, then the Church can still play an important role in the nation, even in regards to sexual mores and cultural opinions. Our job, however, will not be to impose rules but to provide an alternative vision of life. It is our job to show the world what life in Christ is all about. This is what it means to share salvation in Jesus Christ. To call people to salvation must be more than a call to pray the sinner’s prayer. It must be a call to an alternative way of living and thinking.
Our lives should show a radical transformation when we receive Christ as our Lord and Savior. The lack of transformation betrays a lack of conversion and it has led to the popular opinion that it is not necessary for us to change; that everything is as it should be.
The world, however, is NOT as it should be. We are not as we were created to be. The most recent iteration of Satan’s lie to the world is simply, “I was born this way.” If all is as it should be then there is no reason to be transformed. There is no need to repent. There is no need to change. Our modern call to universal acceptance becomes little more than a cultural version of the divine rule of kings; the insidious and circular notion that all is as it should be based on the “ipso facto” evidence that it is.
The gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to a different understanding of the world. It is not as it should be. It is not God’s will that people live as they were born. Jesus called men and women to live transformed lives. He changed the lives of slaves, prostitutes, priests and sinners. He called all of them to be “born again.” To be born of water and the spirit. To be changed. In Christ Jesus we are called to transcend the nature of our birth. Biblical theology is based on the notion that we are born into sin, but God does not leave us there. We are born into corruption, but it is God’s desire that we embrace, not the flaws of our temporal birth, but the promise of eternal life and the joys of transformed lives through the salvation of Jesus Christ. God sent His Son into this world to live and die for us so that we might be healed. The world does not know this because we have failed to live it. The Church does not live it because we have been reluctant to teach it. This is why we must make our first order of business personal and corporate repentance.
We have spent the past decades pretending that sinful structures were the problem, that if we changed the government or voted for better leaders we could make things right. Sadly the problem has always been the failure of the Church to play our intended role as alternative outsiders. When we embraced our role as State officials, when we attempted to become power brokers and sought to have our leaders kiss our saintly rings, then we turned our back on the dangerous transformative power of God. We stopped provoking and began to live in the comforts of power. We began to believe that this was the best of all possible worlds, that there was no longer any need to be transformed. Our national laws became entangled with our moral stances, and the Church of Jesus Christ withered as a result.
Now we have officially lost our status as cultural controllers. We feel the loss in a visceral way. I believe, however, that the loss may be a gift from God. It is intended to wake us up to our own errors in vision and faithfulness. If we submit to God’s calling then it places us back in the role of righteous outsiders. We can once again become a transformative gathering of Spirit led saints who are called to be distinct from the world; a people who called to be in but not of the world.
One can make the argument that Jesus never intended us to be the majority. Perhaps the day of the moral majority is dead. It is my prayer that God will raise a righteous remnant from the ashes. Please join me in praying for a rebirth in the Christ for the sake of the nation.