Religious Freedom vs. Gay Rights

The issue at the core of the controversy created by the religious freedom laws in Arkansas and Indiana is not simply about cakes for gay people. I have lived for extended periods of time in both Arkansas and Indiana and gay people have no trouble purchasing cake or otherwise getting served in places of business in either state.

No, the issue at the core of this whole thing is rooted in the fact that the “gay community” has been trying to force everyone to affirm their lifestyle. Furthermore, they have been trying to utilize the force of the state to do it — with a measure of success…

Arkansas and Indiana simply considered legislation to protect people who have a religious objection to the concept of gay marriage. You know, to keep them from becoming the targets of the kind of intimidation enumerated above.

But the issue has been deftly managed. It’s not portrayed as a protection for religious people. It’s portrayed as an attack on gays. There are Christian business owners in both states who have no problem providing goods and services to gays. It’s really not even an issue. The key difference here is the inclusion of a wedding into the mix. That changes everything.

weddingringsWeddings are inherently theological — to Christians anyway. They are a picture of the ultimate wedding between Jesus Christ and his bride (the church). Scripture speaks in depth on the roles of husbands and wives. It also speaks on the sinful nature of homosexuality. When you are asked to attend or participate in a wedding you are being asked to AFFIRM what is taking place. Your mere presence is tacit approval of the whole thing. So is your participating in peripheral ways… say, baking the cake or taking the pictures.

This is the whole reason weddings have that part about “If anyone knows why these two should not be joined in HOLY matrimony, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.” This is a problem for Christians because we are instructed in Scripture not to approve of sin (Isaiah 5:20, Romans 1:32).

Personally, I hate that the whole thing has blown up the way it has. But, there is only one reason it has… the gay community forced it. Had they not been so bent on forcing anyone and everyone to affirm their lifestyle (regardless of religious convictions) legislators in Arkansas and Indiana probably would not have felt the need to protect those with religious convictions.

This has never been about cake — sorry, that just doesn’t fly. There are way too many talented bakers in both states who would enthusiastically bake a cake for a gay wedding. This has been about intimidating people who do not support gay marriage into silence. It has been about destroying those who would not be silenced.

I saw a protest recently where signs were held up that said, “Jesus loves Gays!” and “What would Jesus do? He would bake a gay wedding cake!”

Jesus definitely loves homosexuals, no doubt about it. But he did so much more than bake a cake for them. He died to pay for their sins — even the sin of homosexuality.

Both sides could get along just fine if they would not try to use government force against the other. I don’t recommend using government force against homosexuals. I don’t think it’s irrational to expect to be treated in kind.

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The Message Goes On

Life is a Vapor

Robin Williams, the much-beloved comedian and actor, died yesterday. In reflecting on his life, one television news show played a clip from the movie “Dead Poets Society” that seemed most appropriate for the occasion. In it Williams’ character, Mr. Keating, a teacher at a prep school, shared these lines of a poem with his students…

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,

Old time is still a-flying:

And this same flower that smiles to-day

To-morrow will be dying.

The biblical counterpart to that would be James 4:14…

Yet you do now know what your life will be like tomorrow.

You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

imagesBoth passages reflect on the brevity of life. But they express very different views with regard to what we should do in light of the shortness of our lives. The first one calls us to make the best of the time we have. In “Dead Poets Society” the phrase was Carpe diem, “Seize the Day.” The message was to enjoy life while you can because it will soon be gone.

 

The Bible directs us to have an eternal perspective…

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” — Colossians 3:2

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” — Philippians 3:20

The Bible makes it clear that we are eternal beings. As John Piper puts it, “You and God are both in the universe to stay — either as friends on his terms, or enemies on yours — which it will be is proven in this life.”

Our admonition, then, is to live for eternity…

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” — Matthew 6:19-21

We are supposed to enjoy the things here on earth, too. But, our enjoyment of them is designed to turn our attention to the one who gave them to us. The blessings in this life are meant to be returned to God in praise.

I’ve never been what you would call a “fan” of Robin Williams, but I certainly recognize the quality of his body of work over the years. He was an extraordinary talent, and his passing has caused me to reflect…

Old time is still a-flying:

Am I saving treasures for eternity,

Or in things that will be dying?

The Sin of Nationalism on Display

My last two posts have dealt essentially with the sin of nationalism. I find it ironic and providential that I just ran across the latest column of political commentator, Ann Coulter, where she masterfully — and unintentionally — illustrated my point.

Ms Coulter wrote a piece entitled, “Ebola Doc’s Condition Downgraded to ‘Idiotic,’” in which she soundly criticizes Dr. Kent Brantly for going to Liberia to treat Ebola patients in the name of Christ. A couple of her arguments include…

  • The $2 million spent on his care by the missions organizations that sent him overwhelmed any good he did while in Liberia.
  • His time would have been better spent trying to “open the eyes” of the influential in America because that would have done “more good than marinating himself in medieval diseases of the Third World.”

The underlying premise behind Coulter’s column is that American Christians should take care of America first. In fact, Coulter goes on to explain that Dr. Brantly’s primary motivations for going on a mission trip to Liberia were…

  • To avoid the criticism of being a Christian witness in the U.S. — “…American Christians go on ‘mission trips’ to disease-ridden cesspools [because] They’re tired of fighting the culture war in the U.S., tired of being called homophobes, racists, sexists and bigots. So they slink off to Third World Countries, away from American culture to do good works.”
  • To gain the prestige associated with being a foreign missionary — “Right there in Texas, near where Dr. Brantly left his wife and children to fly to Liberia and get Ebola, is one of the poorest countries in the nation, Zavala County, where he wouldn’t have risked making his wife a widow and his children fatherless. But, serving the needy in some deadbeat town in Texas wouldn’t have been ‘heroic.’ We wouldn’t hear all the superlatives about Dr. Brantly’s ‘unusual drive to help the less fortunate’ or his membership in the ‘Gold Humanitarian Honor Society.’ Leaving his family behind in Texas to help the poor 6,000 miles away — that’s the ticket.”

Thid-TatteredFlagAfter this, Coulter goes for the jugular… “Today’s Christians… are strangely timid for people who have been given eternal life. They need to buck up, serve their own country, and remind themselves every day of Christ’s words: ‘If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.’”

All of this is of paramount importance, you understand, because, according to Coulter, “America is the most consequential nation on Earth, and in desperate need of God at the moment. If America fails, it will be a thousand years of darkness for the entire planet.”

Whew!

Allow me to retort…

  1. The $2 million spent on Dr. Brantly’s care did not overwhelm any good he might have done. Everything belongs to God and He supplies us as needed when we are about His business, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:19
  2. God does not need to “open up the eyes” of the influential in America in order to accomplish His goals. He is in complete control, even of the influential… “The King’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.” — Proverbs 21:1
  3. Christians are motivated to action by things much stronger than avoiding criticism and gaining notoriety… “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” — Romans 8:14
  4. Suggesting Dr. Brantly willingly went into a “disease-ridden cesspools” because he was too afraid to face being called names in the U.S. is just (I will censor myself here and use the word “silly”). The man literally risked his very life to treat Ebola patients. Coulter calls that “timid.”
  5. Coulter’s suggestion is for Christians to stop showing that kind of timidity, “buck up,” and “serve their own country” — this is the meat of the issue. Christians who follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit to the far reaches of this earth ARE serving their own country. I may have a U.S. Passport, but the United States is not my country. I belong to God’s Kingdom. Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, them My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” You see, those of us who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, have our citizenship in heaven.

I do agree with Ms Coulter on one point: America IS in desperate need of God. But never make the mistake of thinking God is in desperate need of America. His kingdom is quite secure.

Bumper Sticker Wars

The bumper sticker wars are an entertaining diversion in the life of a commuter. People make all kinds of social, political and theological statements on the bumpers of their cars — to which others will directly respond with cleverly worded bumper stickers of their own. Take for example the commonly seen bumper sticker, “God Bless America.”

5953This is a bumper sticker that is perceived to convey the attitude of politically conservative, evangelical Christian drivers. It’s been around for years. More recently, one can see what appears to be the direct response of the politically liberal and theologically pluralistic crowd… “God Bless All Nations.”

I get a chuckle out of both of these because it seems to me both of these groups are defending points of view that miss the biblical mark — and both are doing it on behalf of God.

Take the “God Bless America” crowd. What do they want? They want God to “bless” America. Okay, what does that look like? What does “bless” even mean? If you look into it you will discover this often means God grants to America a prominent position in the world, complete with military strength, economic prosperity, and political freedom. But I ask you: What does this reveal about the affections of the one asking for God’s blessing on America? Is their primary affection for God or for country?

61SxYT3kUtL._SL1500_Then there is the “God Bless All Nations” bunch. They claim to have taken the more enlightened and morally superior high ground. I will grant that they appear to have a better handle on the idea that God is at work around the world and that America is not, in fact, God’s new chosen people. But, if you look closely at the sticker they display, you will see emblems and icons from a whole host of world religions. It is a symbolic affirmation of the old concept that all religions lead to God, they just take a different path. This betrays a fundamental and fatal misunderstanding of the God of the Universe.

These bumper stickers remind me of Genesis chapter 22. In this chapter God has commanded Abraham to kill his son Isaac. Just as Abraham is about to do it, God commands him to stop. Then Abraham sees a ram caught in a thicket and sacrifices it to the Lord. Then God tells Abraham…

“…I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed…”

The apostle Paul insists (in Galatians 3:16) that this offspring is to be understood as a particular descendant — namely Jesus Christ — and through HIM all nations are to be blessed. Please notice, this blessing is not a promise of wealth, or military power, or political freedom — it is a promise that Jesus will save His people from their sins. It is a promise of heaven.

And, yes, all nations are already blessed, because God has promised to save people from every nation and tribe and tongue. But the Bible is clear, He will only do this through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, period.

Read Revelation chapter 5. It is a beautiful picture of Christ’s redeemed at the end of the age…

“And they sang a new song, saying, Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Notice these people are singing to the Lamb who was slain — Jesus Christ — the same one through whom God promised to bless all nations in Genesis chapter 22.

Dear Christians, the Bible is clear, HE is the one that has provided salvation (not a plurality of world religions) and HE is the one who gets the glory (not America). We need to insert ourselves right into the middle of the bumper sticker wars and declare to both sides that God HAS blessed all nations only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and only for the glory of God.

Thideology News of the Day

• Praise God! The Sudanese woman who was in prison under a sentence of death because she became a Christian has been released. However, as this article points out, her life may still be in real danger. Continue to pray for this sister.

• There are students in Brazil right now sharing the Gospel with people from around the world who have come to that country to witness the World Cup of soccer. Pray that many of them will be saved and go back to their home countries bearing witness to something infinitely more important.

• The folks at The Mission Ball, an organization dedicated to using the world-wide popularity of soccer to spread the Gospel, recently announced the development of The Mission Ball in Hausa. This language, which is spoken in Africa, represents the 31st language in which the Gospel has been translated onto The Mission Ball.

What is it all about?

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