The Lord Jesus Christ said these words: Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad…” “Blessed” means “You are being blessed” or “You will be blessed!” “Rejoice” means…”rejoice!” It literally means “Be glad! Celebrate!” “Really Lord Jesus? Please help me here…when people I know …even people with whom I have a relationship …family or friends…when those people attack me and mock me and say all kinds of false things about me and call me a thoughtless and cruel bigot…I should celebrate? Like when I had my first child and I bought a bracelet to commemorate that event…and when people say to me ‘Oh I like your bracelet’ and I say ‘Oh thank you! I bought this to celebrate the birth of my fist child!’ So…I should buy a ring or a necklace and when people say ‘Oh I like your necklace!’ I should say ‘Yes thank you! I bought this to commemorate the time several of my friends told me that I was hateful and wicked and very, very ignorant! They told me I was a stupid bigot! I was so blessed to hear that! I just rejoiced!” Ahh….does anyone really live that way? Maybe not. But Jesus said…we should.
Years ago, there was a television series called “Mission Impossible.” It was clever. The plot was always the same. Some sort of secret agent was told about an incredible mission to infiltrate a group of very bad guys…or pull off a kidnapping of some agent of evil. The job was always extremely daunting yet the Mission Impossible agent accepted it. The Head Agent always began the show with these words: “Here is your assignment …if you are willing to accept it!” He wanted it to be entirely clear that the assignment would be dangerous and very, very difficult. And he wanted it to be totally clear as to exactly what the assignment was.
I think the Word of God in the New Testament is saying to us as Christians: “Here is your assignment if you are willing to accept it…tell the world of Christ and speak up for God’s righteousness and expect to be persecuted and misunderstood and even hated. That is your assignment. Are you willing to accept that?”
Many of you who enjoy Facebook have been badly outnumbered by those go do not fear God. I have spoken with several people, especially some of our younger people, who have tried to defend the Biblical view of marriage as between one man and one woman. And for their trouble they have been mocked and treated with hatred. People they thought were their “friends” and even family have called them bigots and backwards and out of touch with the times. And I am not surprised. A few thoughts.
FIRST: GAY MARRIAGE WILL BECOME MORE AND MORE ACCEPTED IN OUR SOCIETY. But no matter what you hear, it is not Biblical. It never will be. The Bible makes it abundantly clear in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that homosexual activities are abominable to God. No matter how many people who say they are Christians say otherwise, they are simply wrong. That includes clergy. From the very beginning of the Word of God we see only marriage between man and woman as the pattern instituted by God. We read in Leviticus:
Leviticus 18:22 (NIV) 22 “’Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”
“Detestable” is the Hebrew word “Toy-eh-bah” and it means morally disgusting and abominable. If the Bible is the Word of God then it is impossible to say that God approves homosexual activities and behavior. Some people admit that homosexual activity is condemned in both the Old and New Testaments but insist that Jesus never condemned homosexual activities. We need to remind them that the Lord Jesus never condemned abortion or kidnapping or wife-swapping. But no one would suggest that he was fine with those behaviors.
In addition, the Christian needs to respond to another argument raised by those who hear us quote Leviticus. They make a fair point. Namely this: Leviticus also condemns many other behaviors such as wearing the wrong clothing or clipping the edges of a man’s beard [Lev. 19]. They will then suggest that we don’t concern ourselves with those laws or rules so why the obsession about homosexuality? Fair question. It’s helpful to remember that ancient Israel was a unique nation unto God with some behavioral rules that would not be trans-cultural. The sensible question seems to be “What moral rules can be understood as trans-culturally normative? And on what basis should those rules be assessed?” Perhaps just plain common sense must be applied?
Some who dismiss the Levitical regulations stumble over themselves by arguing for wholesale distain towards that third book of Moses. They would dismiss the Levitical rules against homosexuality but would they want to dismiss the other Levitical rules against sexuality within families or with animals? True, some of those ancient regulations spoke to fabric choices and haircuts, but would they dismiss this one?
Leviticus 18:7 (NIV) 7 “Do not dishonor your father by having sexual relations with your mother. She is your mother; do not have relations with her.”
Actually, much that is found in Leviticus Chapter 18 will be perfectly reasonable and acceptable to modern ethicists. So, they might say “Well, of course we agree that the prohibition against sexual relations with your mother were and are appropriate.” But why? On what basis are such advocates of dismissing the prohibition against homosexual activities free to not dismiss other prohibitions? Common sense? It must be admitted that at some point simple moral judgment is applied. My point is only that dismissing the Holiness regulations of Leviticus ends up being a subjective exercise suited to one’s current view of things…especially homosexual activities.
Beyond that, the point is that the sexual purity rules of Leviticus were carried over as a given into the New Testament era. But most modern people disregard the New Testament as well. It speaks of homosexual activities as sin and wickedness before God. Paul says by the Holy Spirit, for example, that because of man’s wickedness God actually gave man over to such evil actions. We read:
Romans 1:21-25 (NIV) 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.
Yes, there has always been homosexual activity in the world since sin entered in. But this portion of the Bible reminds us of something we should not forget. That when it becomes rampant God actually allows it to increase so that when judgment comes his case against man will be incontrovertible. Now this text says it was their idolatry that caused their darkness and brought on the degrading of their bodies. Christian: be certain of this. We are living in an age of idolatry! Modern people in their affluence and post-modern thinking have turned away from God and passionately replaced him with an idol. That idol is self!
Remember, post-modern thinking says that everything man did up until the middle of the last century was ok but now the time has come to set those things aside. It says that very little can be certain and that man is free to create his own set of values. Above all, tolerance must prevail. That there is no outside force…no God to whom we must give an account. We are to be our own judges and we do not want to be told we are wrong. In fact, there is no such thing as wrong…just different opinions.
Of course, these folks are actually among the most intolerant because if you disagree with them they will condemn you. And the one thing that is absolutely intolerable is Biblical Christian morality. Ironically, some will even condemn you and say faithful gay relationships are themselves Biblical!
I recently I heard one of these folks say this: “You are a Christian saying you oppose gay marriage. But other Christians are fine with gay marriage. Therefore, you are hiding behind what you insist the Bible says but really you are just a terrible bigot!” But the Bible does say it is abominable and anyone who says it does not is simply wrong. Gay marriage will become more and more acceptable and it is a symptom of an increasingly darkened society. Any nation that is not ashamed to put a million and a half unborn children to death every year will certainly not be too troubled by gay marriage. Their thinking is darkened.
SECOND: HOW SHOULD WE REACT TO BEING PERSECUTED FOR DEFENDING BIBLICAL MARRIAGE?
We should not be surprised. This is why the Lord Jesus Christ said:
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
We are the people who have Christ in us and we are, in this life, in an ongoing state of mourning. We are mourning for a lost world that has turned away from God and we are hungering for a world that loves God and lives accordingly. In other words, we are exactly where we should be as Bible-believing Christians. We simply do not fit among the nations that hate God. We will eventually be comforted but for now we should expect to be attacked and mocked. The Apostle Paul warned us about this reality:
2 Timothy 3:12 (NIV) 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…
We should also keep in mind that such attacks are almost always what are called “ad hominem” attacks. Here is what we mean by that if you are not familiar with this concept. “Ad hominem” literally means ”to the man” or “against the man.” In other words, if I cannot discredit your point of view or your argument I simply discredit you personally. I have spoken out respectfully for the Biblical teaching about homosexuality and been called a Bible thumper. So, then I have spoken out against homosexual behavior from a medical viewpoint. I have pointed out that the morbidity rates among active homosexuals, especially men, are terrible. Increased cases of cancer and suicide…shorted life pans. These ideas cannot be contradicted but then I’ve been called “homophobic.” These are “ad hominem” attacks not against my arguments but against me.
Those of you who have been shocked by what some people have said to you or about you….join the club. Darkened people who do not know God actually think they are being kind and generous and thus you must be cruel and hateful. So, they call you a bigot. A word that has come to mean a hateful person who simply hates people who don’t agree with his or her point of view. The irony is that there are millions of people who really are bigots against evangelical Christians. They are quite certain that we are ignorant and hateful without cause. Do not be surprised. We should react by not being surprised and we should remind ourselves that following Christ will cost us something. But we are blessed. Jesus said:
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
THIRD: SHOULD WE SIMPLY STOP SPEAKING OUT AND LET THE WORLD JUST RUMBLE TOWARDS JUDGMENT WITHOUT WARNING THEM?
We should speak out for several reasons. We have to raise kids in this society and we have a right to oppose evil that will seep into their lives. But when we speak out, we should keep in mind that God does not really need us to defend his honor. He will take care of that. We speak out for love of God for sure. But he is not biting his nails over this and he is sovereign. We should pray the court does the God-fearing thing and we should pray that America enters into spiritual revival. But we should also know that when we speak out, we are playing the part of a prophet. Someone who is speaking for God.
We should speak the truth in love and never lapse into cruelty or hatefulness. But we should be prepared in the same way the prophets of old were prepared. What do I mean by that? Consider what God said to the Prophet Jeremiah when he sent them to warn the people of Judah in about 650 BC. Notice what was said by God to him:
Jeremiah 7:27-28 (NIV) 27 “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer. 28 Therefore say to them, ‘This is the nation that has not obeyed the LORD its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips.
We must grasp those words: “They will not listen to you! Truth has vanished from their lips!” Now, we do not know if God will yet have mercy on America and bring it under conviction for killing the unborn and for gay marriage. Perhaps America will listen. But here is the point: when you speak up for righteousness, don’t do so for the results that you’d like to see. Do so as a prophet speaking for God. He wants his people to speak out in love so that the message is given. But it’s like sharing the Gospel. We share it but we know that we cannot talk anyone into believing; that is the work of the Holy Spirit.
One other point. If wrestling with the world and its darkness wears you down, take a break. You don’t have to fight every battle on Facebook or in the press. A good formula is to remember that God wants his own to have the fruit of the Spirit. Sometimes in our zeal we can become totally joyless and angry and then we can become hateful. Don’t let your zeal cost you this:
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
If you are losing that fruit you are arguing too much. The Evil One loves to draw God’s people into a state of spiritual fruitlessness.
One other thing. Remember that people who are unsaved and without the Holy Spirit cannot share your views about what God requires. Again, Paul wrote:
1 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV) 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
This may lead you to conclude that some of your “Christian” friends are not Christians at all.
FOURTH AND FINALLY: WHY IS GOD ALLOWING SUCH WICKEDNESS?
In my view, judgment on America has begun. I have long wondered when God would punish a nation so blessed that has become idolatrous and greedy and totally taken with pleasure and excitement. Godlessness is among us. Thus, we have wholesale violence in our media and non-stop sensuality everywhere we look. Interesting that those who own guns are currently buying up all of the bullets. Even unspiritual people sense that disintegration is on the way. God allows these things as Paul explains:
Romans 2:5 (NIV) 5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
Much of what we are seeing is the work of God “storing up wrath for the day of judgment.” Christian, you do not have to win the argument. You need only to follow Christ and remember Paul’s other great explanation:
2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (NIV) 14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?
This is our assignment: to be the fragrance of life to those who are being saved and the stink of death to those who perishing. Are we willing to accept it? Are we willing to rejoice…and accept it?