So last Sunday, I spoke on the Supreme Court decision that, in so many words, says that it is ok for same sex couples to marry. Actually, it wasn’t so much that decision as it was a discourse on how Christians should react to such a decision from a Biblical perspective.
You can listen to the sermon (Listen here), but below is a brief synopsis of the lesson.
We are supposed to follow the laws of the land and honor the ruling powers. This is evident from passages like Romans 13:1-2 and 1 peter 2:17. So when a decision like the Supreme Court’s comes down, we might be tempted to ask “What do we do now?”
First, we should realize that “There is a God” and “we are not Him.” This is based on the fact that God created the world and so God gets to set the standards for right and wrong. -Gen 1:1.
Additionally, we need to realize the Bible is authoritative for us. According to 2 tim 3:16-17, the Scriptures are sufficient for us to be trained and instructed into every good work. The Authority of the Bible rests in the Authority of Jesus. Mt 28:18
When many people “speak for God”, they often use their own opinion but we should be using the Bible. We should speak as God speaks, after all, if he sets the rules, we shouldn’t try to change or modify them…just repeat them. 1 Peter 4:11.
Christians will rely on the Scriptures and not add to their faith, creed books, council edicts, or traditions of men. Man’s tradition tends to get elevated to the point were it can actually break God’s law- Mark 7:6-9
The idea of being subject to God’s words is not just for the Christian. Even Jesus, prior to His death and resurrection, only taught what God told Him to teach. The Holy Spirit was sent to the Apostles and He, too, only taught what He was told to teach. (John 8:28; 12:49;16:13)
The difficulty with the Supreme Court’s decision is that while we are to honor the laws of the land, this particular law says something contrary to what God has said. How then are we to act?
Fortunately, we learn from Daniel, among others, how we are to respond. In Daniel 6, we learn of a time when Daniel was tested by a law made which said that it was unlawful to pray to anyone except the king. Daniel, even after he knew that the command had been made, went home and prayed to God as he had always done.
His conviction was like Peter’s conviction: We must serve God rather than man. Acts 4:19
So what does this show us?
We now have the Supreme Court saying that it is moral and right for same sex couples to marry. We have God’s word saying that Homosexuals will not inherit the Kingdom of God. I cor 6:9-10
The answer to how Christians are to act is to simply proclaim the Word of God. Look at the verses mentioned:
1Co 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
There are a couple of very obvious points that need to be made. Yes, the Scripture does say that those who practice homosexuality will not inherit the Kingdom. However, before you cast the stone at them (if you were inclined to cast a stone), do not forget about the sexually immoral or the adulterers!
Many Christians will be upset of the sin of homosexuality (and it is a sin) but turn a blind eye to the heterosexual sins of unmarried persons. This is not consistent. If you grimace when a TV show shows Homosexual lifestyle you should grimace when you see unmarried couples engaging in an immoral lifestyle. Sin is Sin.
Of course, we could talk about the thieves, murderers, and we should talk about them too!
We need to show love to the individual who is a sinner, and that includes us all, whether homosexual or heterosexual.
Love then is shown when you tell a sinner what God’s word says. It clearly does condemn sexual immorality. Those that practice it will not inherit God’s kingdom.
Love is also shown when you season your words not with hate but salt. (Col 4:5-6) There is a time for fire and brimstone but it is not all the time.
Homosexuality is a sin. Adultery is a sin. Fornication is a sin. As a preacher of God’s word, I do not show love if I do not say what God’s word says. God’s desire, and therefore, my desire is that all will be saved. How will they be saved if they do not hear and how will they hear if no one tells them?
Finally, one should never assume that Homosexuals or any other sinner will not change. Verse 11 is such a contrast to the list of sins and consequence of them. It says very clearly that the Corinthian Christians once WERE involved in the very sins that will prevent one from getting into the Kingdom of God. WERE! Past tense! They ceased which ever activity or activities that they were doing and repented.
The Biblical response to the Supreme Court’s decision is to simply preach what God says: With no hate, no animosity, no defensiveness but only love. Most will not listen, some will even persecute but we will show God’s love if we call people, all people to repent and to trust in Him.
This post by Steve Higginbottham is well worth reading and sharing. James, indeed, would have taken the brethren to task for an uncontrolled Facebook comments had he written in this century. Happy Reading.
How much clearer could Peter be when he said:
For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2Pe 1:8-11)
There are seven things that we need to add to our faith in order to be fruitful and make it to Heaven.
As we finish our look at these characteristics, we have spent many weeks writing about these qualities. This post will review them as we finish this line of study. Should you wish to read posts about these individual qualities, you can do a search on the characteristic you want in the search box to the right.
Lest we forget what they are, I will list them and a brief description:
Virtue (or moral excellence)
This is the characterisitc that you need to have which says “I will do what God wants me to do, regardless of the costs.” This quality is needed because we don’t yet know everything God will require of us or that Satan will tempt us with. When Joseph fled from Potipher’s wife, he showed great virtue and it did cost him.
It makes sense that the faith we start with is not the faith we will die with if we live any length of time. Learning more about what God wants and meditating on His word will give us that knowledge to live more holy lives.
A wonderful quality that more of us should practice. We should note that this is not “other” control. Once we have a little knowledge, it is easy to look at others and judge where they are. However, we need to focus first on our self, then we can see clearly to pull the mote from our brother’s eye.
Without this, we may quit. To be able to beat a temptation once may be easy but to endure the temptations of Satan, or to bear with those who are still learning, or to continue to grow even when we think we have attained all we need to do requires dedication to the race. When you retire from your work, you do not retire from God.
This quality says, what I do, I do with God in mind. In being pious, I show the attributes that God would show were He on Earth. It is something to be trained in, is not to be used superficially for gain but to be coupled with contentment so that I can gain even more…in the next life.
I owe it to my brothers to have a warm feeling for them, to desire to be around them more than the world. There is a companionship in the church that needs to be fostered to encourage others and allow yourself to be encouraged.
This is a duty bound love that does what is in the best interest of the person loved. Sometimes it is your neighbor, sometimes it is God, sometimes (occasionally) it is your self. You cannot love God unless you love your fellow man. This is the love that we are commanded to show to enemies because when we were enemies of God, He showed it to us!
This is not some check list that you can just mark off and say “I got that covered”, it is not that simple. You cannot simply do godliness for a day and think you have it. You cannot be steadfast for a week and mark it off. These are qualities that you ADD to your faith and CONTINUE IN and GROW IN.
Notice Peter didn’t say if you ‘have them’ but if you have them and they “abound.” That is, if you grow in them. And if you grow in them, you will not be “unfruitful”, you will not “stumble” and you will be “abundantly” supplied entrance into the Kingdom of Jesus.
Those that do not, are soooooooooo short sighted (blind) that they can’t see past this world. In other words, unlike the great men of faith, they do not look for a heavenly home, it is not real to them. They also have forgotten that they were cleansed from their sin. Imagine someone barely saved from death by a liver transplant. Grateful, they stop drinking which caused the problem in the first place. Then they forget that they were barely saved and go back to the bottle and ruin the new liver. Such are those who were saved and do not grow in these virtues.
Peter made a point of reminding his readers about these qualities. It wasn’t that they didn’t know these things but he wanted them always to be able to remember them, even after his death. Let’s work to add these qualities to our faith so that we may be fruitful for Jesus.
Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing. In the last few posts we have looked at the wrongdoing of ourselves but now we need to turn to the wrongdoing of others and our reaction to it. It may be a surprise that people would rejoice in the wrongdoing of others but there are times when that happens. Two specific examples come to mind from the Scriptures.
Being tolerant of another’s sins.
In First Corinthians chapter 5, there was a brother in the church living with his father’s wife. The church, knowing this, did not take any action to stop him. It seems that they were tolerating his immoral behavior and, if I read it correctly, happy to be so tolerant of behavior that Paul says “even the Gentiles” don’t put up with!
Of course, we should remember that the intolerance of another person’s sins is more pronounced when the person is supposed to be (claims to be) a Christian. We do not expect, nor do we insist on righteous behavior from those who want to live in the world.
This may seem to be hard to accept but the Gospel spells our the message and only those who are willing to receive it place themselves under the rules and commands of Jesus. I do not expect godly behavior from the world but we should expect it from those in the church.
Rejoicing when the righteous do wrong.
While we should not accept the sins of other Christians and be tolerant of them, neither should we rejoice when another follower of God stumbles into sin.
And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. (Gen 9:20-23 NKJV)
When Noah’s son, Ham, saw that his father had gotten drunk, he delighted in that. Many interpretations exist but they center in the fact that Ham was only to happy to rejoice in his father’s sin. “The mighty preacher of righteousness has stumbled and fallen!” Both First Corinthians and James deal with the ambition of those who would only be too happy to have a rival fall into some sin.
Do you rejoice in unrighteousness?
The sad fact seems to be that we do not even recognize those times we rejoice in unrighteousness. Television and movies bring to our attention all sorts of scenes and scenarios that no Christian should be watching. It is not enough to say “but that is real life”, the fact is that T.V. and now even commercials are showing us images that do not even cause us to blush! We justify it in many ways, but I will suggest that if we enjoy and look forward to shows which have non married couples living together and root for the relationship of those who shouldn’t be dating, that we are, in fact, rejoicing in sin.
We need to take extra precaution to avoid some themes in our T.V. watching if we even choose to have a T.V.! Movies, even the seemingly innocent ones, bring in to our minds, via implication, language, and other means those things which can tempt Christians by piquing interest that otherwise would not be there.
Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness.
Question: Let us learn from others: What are other ways the we rejoice in unrighteousness?
Love does not rejoice in wrongdoings of others and should not rejoice in it’s own wrongdoings either. Yet, it seems that we do find some who do rejoice (take pleasure in) in the things that they did/do/will do which are wrong.
Peter tells us that the past life is to be forgotten and left behind:
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. (1Pe 4:1-3 ESV)
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (Jas 4:8-10 ESV)
And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. (Exo 32:6-7 ESV)
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– James 4:13ffMy son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; Proverbs 1:10-14Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance. (Mic 2:1-2)
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Mat 5:28)
What does it take for someone to rejoice in wrongdoing? To rejoice in the sins and unrighteousness of others, or yourself, is exactly what love does not do.
It should be obvious that we should not rejoice in our own wrongdoings and yet, that is not the way it always works. Rejoicing in one’s own wrongdoing can sometimes take a variety of forms.
“I am suffering for the cause of Christ.”
So many times people use their suffering as a proof of their devotion to Christ. While it is true the Christians will suffer and suffer for the cause of Christ, there are times when they are suffering out of their own fault. We should not go looking for suffering, nor should we bring it upon ourselves, nor suffer for doing what is wrong.
For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. (1Pe 2:20)
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (1Pe 4:14-16)
Playing the martyr for one’s own glory or being a thief or evildoer and yes, even meddling in the affairs of others is not love. When you suffer because of those things, do not think that it is because you belong to Christ. Do not justify suffering brought upon yourself as a suffering for Christ.
This is just the way I am!
While you might not think of this as a “rejoicing”, the person who makes this statement about things they do wrong, is saying in effect, that they are fine with how they are. “I like me the way I am and there is no need to change.” That is truly rejoicing or taking pleasure in wrong doing.
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. (Jas 3:14-16 ESV)
You hear this kind of rejoicing when it comes to things like “temper”. Someone flies off the handle and loses their temper and then says “But that is the way I am.” Whether someone is short tempered or unkind or weak against some type of temptation is NOT just the way they are. We need to recognize what we do and then work to change it. Someone once said “God saves me “just as I am” but wants me to grow so that it is “just as I was””
Love also does not rejoice in it’s wrongdoing regardless of whether it is Past, Present, or Future, which is for the next blog.
Question: We might know what past and future sins are, but what are the future sins we should not rejoice in?
When you contemplate Love, Agape Love, you are focusing on the pure Love that God is. While we sometimes read the characteristics from First Corinthians 13 and romanticize them, they are serious attributes. These are not traits that we simply expect others to develop but we are to strive to develop them ourselves. As a Christian, we add or eliminate the traits Paul mentions because we want to become more like God.
Rudeness has no place in the Christian life. A fine example of rudeness (that may be an oxymoron) happens in the political realm. If it is not bad enough that the politicians behave rudely, those who claim to be of faith behave rudely too. In this country, we have made political issues out of behavior. Because they are viewed to be political issues, political rules are applied. Rudeness is allowed. This religious group is ok with abortion, that one is not. This one tolerates a homosexual lifestyle, that one does not. And the way it is discussed does not show love.
Sadly, people forget that behavior is not a political issue but a heart and soul issue. It does not belong to governments to regulate but to God.
Even though Politics allow for rude behavior, being rude about it is not what love is about. Love will speak the truth but it does not need to bring out contempt filled, belittling or degrading words, slogans and actions in order to make its point. Another Bible version says that Love does not behave itself unseemly. That is to say, inappropriately to the situation.
As true as it is among those in Christ, it is vital that love is shown to non Christians. If God is Love, how can we show ourselves to be God’s children if we act like the world does (and yes, the world is rude)?There is a group, you may have heard of that protest funerals of the military and other assorted individuals. The protests are filled with hateful rhetoric. The rhetoric makes it difficult for a person to see beyond it.
If the Scriptures teach (and they do) that God considers the homosexual lifestyle to be a sin then how do you teach that message?
If you have ever had to deal with a person involved in heterosexual lifestyle that was sinful, how did you deal with that? Protesting with signs and slogans? It isn’t the best way and in fact, it is not a way to do it all.
Peter exhorted his Jewish audience to save themselves from a perverse generation after he had preached a coherent sermon that they accepted and believed. He urged them to act but did not treat them rudely.
The greatest example of Love is the death of Jesus on the cross. No where do you see rudeness in His life, or in His trial, or in His death. You see direct points, you see rebukes, and you read tough warnings, but rudeness…? No!
Let us be sure we take steps to eliminate rudeness from our life.
There is an old saying: To the one who is good with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
To be kind carries an idea that you may not have known. I am not a Greek scholar but a good lexicon or Strong’s concordance can at least give you an idea of word meanings and sometimes, they expand your understanding. This is the case with the word “kind”. Strong’s says that it means “to show oneself useful”, “to act benevolently”.
James asks a question that will illustrate this well.
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (Jas 2:15-16)
Although his context is to show that our faith must be an active one, one cannot forget the verses dealing with love that precede his question. So when his question is asked, you might restate his question to read “how kind is that?”
The short answer of course, is that there is no kindness or usefulness at all! They would be empty words and there would be no love. It is much like trying to use a hammer on a glass where a soft rag would be better.
God is a very kind God and even to those who do not treat Him with the respect He deserves.
For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Mat 5:45)
In the context here, Jesus teaches that we, as His disciples, need to be more like God. God does not withhold what is good and useful from His enemies. If He did, when would Christ have come? (See this post also). Therefore, we should not just be kind to those who treat us well but to those who mistreat us. Why? Because it is Love.
The book of Jonah shows the kindness of God. It shows that kindness in spite of Jonah not being in favor of it. Jonah, knowing that God would relent of the promised destruction, if the city of Nineveh repented, did not want to preach the message. God, in chapter four, shares the reason for His kindness and rebukes Jonah for not seeing 120,000 souls that didn’t even know their right hand from their left.
Where we might see an enemy, God sees a soul that needs to be saved. God wants all to be saved and that is why the Gospel goes forth. The Gospel is the ultimate kindness and we, as His disciples are the ones who need to preach that message….or do we want to be like Jonah?
Being Kind does not mean being someone who walked all over. Boundaries can be established and Love knows how to establish proper boundaries. However, Love goes a lot further than the world’s standards are capable of understanding and sometimes Love stops short of where the world thinks it should. We shouldn’t think that it is easy but it is necessary for us to consider carefully the following question:
What are some ways in which we can be too kind?
The first three verses of I Corinthians 13 are not often read at weddings. People want to get to the “good” stuff about what Love is and is not. However, these verses emphasize clearly that whatever else your ability, your knowledge, or your generosity, if you do not have the key ingredient of Love, there is no usefulness, gain, or benefit.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1Co 13:1-3)
It is worth reading that part of this passage over slowly a couple of times. IF I.. (fill in the blank) but do not have LOVE then whatever I can do, whatever I know, whatever I have given in charity I will not be benefited by it.
In a recent Olympic trial run a British athlete accomplished a personal best in a running event using the hurdles. However, after the trial race was run, the time was not recorded as a record because…the track did not contain the correct number of hurdles. The officials had missed counted and put one fewer than was necessary. All that effort and, yet, it was in vain. If I run the best time but do not have the correct number of hurdles, I gain nothing.
Paul said that, in his life, he constantly buffeted his body and disciplined himself, to be sure that after he had run the race, that he would not be disqualified. Only those who run lawfully win the prize. (I cor 9:27, 2 tim 2:5)
So it is with our lives. We can accomplish great and maginificent things for the Lord, we can do much to help other people, we might even solve world hunger and win Nobel peace prizes but, if we do not have Love…it does not profit us a single thing.
I hope you realize that Paul is not talking about profit in this life but profit in the life to come. We may fool men, we may even fool ourselves, but we will not fool God.
Read those characteristics that follow and substitute your name in there in place of Love. Steven is Kind, Steven is long suffering, etc. etc. Does it fit you? Is that really YOU? I don’t mean that you have to be perfect in this but in general, would someone say that your character is made up of these descriptions?
As we look at the characteristics that make up Agape love, let’s remember that we are not trying to gain one or two of them, we want them all. In pursuit of a higher calling we try to become more like God because, after all, God is love. And, if you have not God or Love, what else matters!