Friday, November 4, 2016

To Tell the Truth

We live in a culture with such a sensitive social climate.  If your beliefs contradict those of the social norm, you must exercise extreme caution in expressing them.  Speaking unpopular beliefs may get you tried and convicted in the court of public opinion.  Specifically, Christians get this a lot.  Accused of bigotry for many of their beliefs, in recent years, it is the belief that homosexuality is sin, and that God intended marriage to be solely between a man and a woman. 

It is tempting to compromise in social situations.  Not just in saving face, either, but because of compassion and sympathy.  A history of prejudice and misunderstanding from the Christian community towards the LGBTQ community polarizes the two.  Some well-meaning Christians want to make up for the past, for the wrongs of the Christian community as a whole.  They want to bridge the gap.
And so, for several reasons, it is tempting for Christians to adopt a less divisive, more “feel good” stance than a firm belief that divides.  Because make no mistake about it, as sensitively as Christians can lay it out there, this belief is divisive.  It is either true or it is not; both sides of the argument cannot be true because they contradict one another.  

Maybe we question whether or not what we believe is true; we question whether or not homosexuality is really a sin.  But when we take into account the multitude of scripture that implies and even outright declares homosexuality as a sin-- Romans 1:24-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:9-11—we have a lot of difficulty making a case for it being holy or acceptable to God.  There also exists God’s first commandment to people, His original desire for multiplication of men and women. (Genesis 1:28) And, of course, the way male and female bodies come together sexually to fulfill that purpose. (Genesis 2:24) Honestly, there are just no other ways to interpret those; much more difficult is finding a different interpretation for them.  So, if this historical, traditional, and biblical understanding about the nature of man and woman and sexuality and sexual sin has ever been true, then it has always been true. And it will always be true.  If it’s hard to swallow, if it’s uncomfortable, or if we don’t like it, it doesn’t become any less true. The beauty of scripture is that it is infallible, everlasting, and unchanging.

The gospel of Jesus Christ stings sometimes.  Not just for gay people struggling to reconcile homosexuality with their Christian faith.  In general, some sin just doesn’t feel like slavery, and when the Bible calls it sin, we resist.  We remain clinging to it, protesting and justifying it.  Deep within us is a longing for our sin more than Him.  Even at the start of our faith, from the moment we receive Christ, He promises a difficult and fundamental change for us: He replaces our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, (Ezekiel 36:26) and we become a new creation from the inside out. (2 Corinthians 5:17)  This is a wondrous thing, but it is not without the pain of transformation.  Heart surgery leaves us sore. And although on the inside the old has “gone away,” we spend the rest of our lives trying to live that out on the outside!!!  This new creation Jesus created internally, this “death to self” He requires of us to live out as a result, He never said it would be easy.  He said just the opposite. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Truth about sin can be so painful.

The gospel of Jesus also inspires more joy, peace, wisdom, love, and life than anything else that this world could ever give.  The clichés are true and I have seen them happen in reality—the slave sloughs off his sin chains, the lost become found, the blind see.  Jesus makes manifest in people’s hearts and lives so that they become brand new people….transformed from the inside out.  Born again, they embody a new life with a new purpose.  This has happened to me.  But it didn’t happen without the sting. It didn’t happen without some folks willing to share the hard and uncomfortable truths about my sin.  I didn’t get a new heart without the removal of my old heart, and I never would have pursued my life change without people willing to tell me the truth. Truth can set us free.

If we don’t proclaim the bittersweet and sometimes difficult truths of the gospel, we do people a GREAT disservice.  For unbelievers and believers alike, if we exchange the realities of sin for what we want them to be, or what we wish they were, we haven’t really shared the gospel.  We give people a shallow counterfeit version of the gospel….no challenges, no refining truth, no working out your salvation with joy and trembling as you learn to let go of your sin and trust that Jesus is King.  Just believe what you want rather than the unchanging truth of scripture.  Believe what is more convenient with what you are doing, and let your faith morph and mesh with the culture of the times.  And then, tragically, we have missed the opportunity to share the beauty of the real gospel that saves….
It boils down to this: we cannot be afraid to lovingly and sensitively stand for truth with this issue of homosexuality and gay marriage.  There is a time and a place and sensitivity must be of utmost importance with sharing truth--I can’t emphasis that enough!! The love and redemption of Christ is what we model, and that certainly isn’t rooted in debating argumentatively and antagonistically on Facebook.  But also, it isn’t rooted in omitting information you think is really important or telling people what you wish were true, what you think they want to hear.   That wouldn’t be love at all.  And it wouldn’t be compassionate.  At the very least, it would be suppressing the truth and watching them continue in sin, and at the most, it would be supporting and affirming the sin.

Because we love people, we stand for the freedom that Christ proclaims and promises to give us when we surrender sin and embody His truths. We don’t proclaim truth because we have a point to prove.  We don’t proclaim truth because we have to be right.  Again, we must sensitively choose a time and a place for having a one on one conversation with someone, face to face, after prayer and careful consideration. But we don’t negate to tell the truth.  We proclaim truth because we believe in the freedom behind it!!  We proclaim truth because we believe it.  Because we do want to love people well, with REAL love, real love that may contradict public opinion and may cause persecution or scorn or distaste.  We are willing to do that because we are willing to suffer and sacrifice for the cross; and we genuinely want people to know about the sweet, beautiful freedom of Jesus Christ. 

In loving our neighbor as ourselves, the Word of God tells us that we speak the truth in love.  We will not succumb to the approval of man, the approval of our friends, the approval of the culture. Love confronts. (Matthew 18:15) Love gently rebukes. (Luke 17:3)  Love protects.  (1 Corinthians 13:7) Love gently restores.  (Galatians 6:1) Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with truth. (1 Corinthians 13: 6) And love does not compromise truth, because it is the freedom that seeps into our bones and changes us from the inside out.  Love speaks honestly, (Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9) because love understands that the truth makes us free. (John 8:32)

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