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December 06, 2008

Life and Marriage (Part 3)

Why They Matter

Finally, to end this mini-series on Life and Marriage are still issues that ought to matter for the Christian, we need to address what seems to become the most convincing reason to abandon them. This is, of course, the statement that is often thrown around that we should be people of love. This was the primary point of our aforementioned emailer:

Our greatest commandment is to, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself". As followers of Jesus Christ our greatest commandment is NOT to pick or choose the sins that we, as humans, see as the worst sins. In this case gay marriage and abortion have randomly been chosen. Jesus said that he does not see things the way the world does but rather that He looks at the heart. As humans we like to rate and justify. Well this sin is worse than that one and well, I might have done this but at least I didn't do that. The fact is, however, that sin is sin! If you lie, you are no worse than the woman who kills her unborn child. If you drive over the speed limit and disobey authority then you are no better than the homosexual. For ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I would like to know what authority gives Summit Organization the power to decide that two sins: gay marriage and abortion are the worst sins and need to be banned in the United States?
I also propose an invitation for someone to inform me of how, what you are doing is winning hearts for the kingdom of God? How many people are you really going to lead to Jesus Christ by standing up and saying (with a "holier than Thou" attitude) that what they're doing is sinful and that Jesus wants you to pass laws against them? NONE, that's how many. Think of how many people you might lead to Jesus Christ by spending more time just genuinely loving the people around you, gay or straight.

Now, no one is going to disagree that the Greatest Commandment is to love God and others. Jesus said it Himself. I even agree that Christians can often stink at this (see UnChristian by Gabe Lyons and Dave Kinnaman for disturbing documentation on this). Still, what needs to be determined is what is meant by love, and how does this command fit in with the rest of the Scriptures?

First, it is important to realize that the idea that all sins are equal — or none are worse than others — is a myth not found in the Scriptures at all. I hear this often from students who have heard it from others. When I ask them where it is found in the Bible they, of course, have no idea since it is not in there.

While all sins are sins, and therefore separate us from God, the Bible clearly sets some sins above others both in God's mind (i.e. there are seven that "God hates" according to Proverbs, including "shedding innocent blood"), and in consequences (i.e. the long-term consequences of David's sin with Bathsheba ended the united nation of Israel while the sins by Saul did not.) Of course, history demonstrates this as well — some sins end civilizations (family breakdown) or slaughter millions (communism and nazism). Currently, Europe's abandonment of God's design for marriage and family and embrace of sexual "freedom" is leading to their suicide (see Mark Steyn's America Alone or any of Bernard Lewis' work out of Princeton University).

Second, the list of things that must be dealt with by Christians and our culture goes far beyond abortion and gay marriage, of course. Further, I am unsure as to why this point needs to be made. It cannot be legitimately argued that the only two moral issues that Christian conservatives care about is abortion and gay marriage. One who attempts this argument is guilty of selective listening.

The Saturday after we received this email, the radio program we sponsor had a show on the failures of heterosexual marriage. At the Summit, we also address the flawed teachings of evolution, Marxism, socialism, liberalism, economic interventionism, postmodernism, moral relativism, Islam, New Age, and cults. Further, we address failings within the church like impurity, divorce, failure to evangelize, apathy, and the loss of the Christian mind in discipleship. We also clearly address the need to love the unbeliever, and especially address this issue as it relates to those struggling in the homosexual lifestyle. In fact, our main speaker on this issue came out of the homosexual lifestyle after 15 years. And, that is just the Summit! Consider International Justice Mission, Pacific Garden Mission, Exodus International, Money Matters, CARM, the Acton Institute, Prison Fellowship, or Teen Challenge.

Finally, it is asked how taking stances on these issues is winning hearts to God. The emailer has assumed, wrongly, two things. First, it is assumed that the only point of Christianity is to tell people that Jesus loves them. In fact, the Great Commission (Matt 28:18–20) says that we are to make disciples, those who in the exact words of Jesus: "obey everything that I have commanded." Paul's letters spends much, much more time on what it means to obey and follow Jesus ("in light of His mercies" — see Romans 12:1) than on anything else. The point is not just that Jesus loves us, but that a response to His love compels us (2 Cor 5) to follow His Lordship. This is, of course, the way the Gospel has been communicated throughout the history of the Church (from the Apostles, to the Church Fathers, to Augustine, to Luther, to Calvin, to Edwards, to Kuyper, to Moody, to Schaeffer, to Henry, etc, etc).

The Gospel, in fact, was proclaimed that way until our rather recent pop-American corruption of it. (We today would be quite uncomfortable with the way the sermons of Whitfield, Edwards, and Tenney in the First Great Awakening.) It is vital that we not let late 20th century entertainment-driven sentimentalism replace a true Biblical definition of love. Why is it that loving people means we cannot (and in the emailer's words should not) warn them from behavior and ideas that are not only self-destructive, but which also separates them from their Creator? If I see someone in a burning house, I warn them — in fact, the most loving thing I can do is to warn them and the most evil thing I can do is NOT to warn them. God's love for His people involved warning them (see the Prophets, Jesus, etc), too.

The main battle we face is so often over the definition of words in our thinking. The Biblical God knows not this mushy poor substitute for love (read Joshua, Judges, the Prophets, Jesus' words for the money changers and hypocrites, Paul's words for the sexually immoral and thieves, etc, etc). We stand for truth not because we want to be right. We stand for truth because it is truth — therefore it belongs to God, and we have been called to it. Further, there are consequences for ignoring it.

Second, it is wrongly assumed that Summit, and Christian conservatives in general, are not involved in anything other than this caricature of our ministry. In the last 15 years, Summit has sent over $400,00 to provide those in Sudan with medical supplies and Bibles. We have seen hundreds of students embrace Christ, including many who were running quickly away from their church upbringing. We work directly with Compassion International, who currently feeds 1 million children around the world. Members of our staff have done educational work, disaster relief, and refugee work around the world. Each and every summer we personally love and work directly with those struggling with homosexuality, divorce, abortion, pornography, family problems, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, and huge doubts about God and faith.

And again, that's just Summit. Historically and contemporarily, Christian conservatives have led the way in humanitarian effort. The real relief work accomplished after Katrina and the tsunami was by religious groups, while governments were fumbling. For documentation, see Arthur Brooks' book Who Really Cares: the Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism.

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