Tag Archives: gay marriage

Christians Can Officially Stop Worrying About Gay Marriage

When the Supreme Court’s decision in the case referred to as Obergfell was published, confessing Christians were outraged. Conservative voters were outraged, too. There were even people who might otherwise have been classified as progressive or neutral or independent who also objected. American citizens objected for various reasons, most of which centered on the consequences they feared. A ruling that created a whole new definition of marriage upset many people.

One of the reasons people objected to the use of the word marriage for a union of two people of the same sex is that the human race has never before defined marriage that way. No matter how primitive a culture is, the union of two people of the same gender has never before been called a marriage. Archeological and anthropological studies reveal that every human culture to date has relied on a marriage bond between a man and a woman as a pillar of the society. It makes sense; only that union can produce children, and most cultures did not want to go the way of the Shakers. There has never been any evidence of any past culture where the union of two people of the same gender was called marriage. Redefining the word marriage completely redefines human culture.

Of course, everyone who objects to such a transformative redefinition of the culture expects that there will be consequences. Some have predicted that there would be revolution, actual mortal combat, perhaps as violent as the one in 1776. Others have suggested that the country would be divided again, with some states seceding from a union that allows such a dramatic redefinition of marriage and human culture.

Some have also predicted that a culture that allowed same-sex unions to be considered equivalent to the marriage of two people of opposite sexes would immediately legitimize pedophilia. In their eyes, the destruction of any moral pillar might be considered to delegitimize all the others. Some people proclaimed that God would punish a nation that legitimized the whole notion of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Some even predicted that that a culture which allowed a same-sex union to be called a marriage would ultimately outlaw all religious behavior. The advocates of same-sex marriage currently enjoy themselves by making fun of such predictions and scoffing at the very idea. They particularly enjoy belittling Christians who trust biblical teaching and try to live by it. The Bible does not equivocate on the subject of homosexuality; in the Bible, such behavior is a sin.

It is fairly easy to see that so far, there has been no revolutionary war,  and no states have seceded. Yet even if one crosses revolution and secession off the list of the consequences of Obergfell, there actually do appear to be consequences. If one allows the full scope of all various definitions of the word revolution, then it begins to appear that there is, indeed, a revolution and that a country utterly unlike the United States of America is being created by this revolution.
Start with the idea that pedophilia will be normalized and legitimized. While the support for such behavior is far from being widespread in the country, the Obergfell decision makes it easier for people to advocate any sexual perversion whatsoever. If one deviant sexual behavior is suddenly declared to be normal, on what basis is any other sexual behavior considered to be deviant? If one deviant behavior can be legitimized as a cure for loneliness, then what others can be excluded? Where is the standard by which sexual behavior is evaluated? Who gets to say what is normal and what is abnormal? On what basis do you tell anyone that sexual behavior of any kind between any two people, or even between people and animals, is abnormal? Deviant? Perverted? When the standards fall, then it becomes difficult to tell pedophiles that they are sick and need help.

As for the prediction that  God will mete out punishment, people who doubt God’s existence certainly would not recognize or acknowledge God’s punishment even if they saw it with their own eyes, yet these are the people who presume to tell us that God is not punishing homosexual behavior, same-sex couples who marry, or anything else, for that matter. Since God does not always make public announcements of his punishments or “sign” his work, it is pretty silly for these people to declare that God is not punishing anyone. How would they know? If they saw it, would they acknowledge it?

As for the prophecy that as a consequence of gay marriage, the nation would outlaw religious belief, the fact is that animosity toward people of faith, no matter what faith they hold, is at an all-time high for the USA. Obergfell may not be solely responsible for this state of affairs, but it is certainly part of the climate that energizes such an attitude. A chaplain for veterans is told that even he may not give a patient in a VA hospital a Bible. A school administrator is told that there will be no praying during commencement exercises at graduation. A football player is publicly maligned for kneeling in a prayer of thanks after he makes a fabulous play. Employees of a restaurant are told not to say, “Merry Christmas” even if customers say those words to them. Children in the school lunch room are reprimanded by teachers if they pray over their food. Recipients of federal grants are informed that they may not use grant money to fund “inherently religious activities,” such as “worship,” “religious education,” or “proselytizing.” Since all the terms presented in quotation marks are subject to a wide variety of definitions, depending on who creates the definitions, the scope of forbidden activity is quite uncertain and subject to a great deal of dispute. Suppression of and scorn for words and deeds consistent with a life lived in submission to God and his authority is becoming common. Obergfell is certainly part of the social climate that is leading many people to declare that people who live according to biblical teachings are extreme.

For example, when Indiana tried to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, social activists declared that to allow a Christian the religious liberty to refuse business that conflicts with his Christian principles is to allow the Christian to discriminate while pretending to be a faithful Christian. People who are not Christians declare that a Christian baker is obligated by US law to bake a cake and prepare it to be served at a wedding of two people of the same gender, no matter what his religious convictions are.

People who are not Christians declare that no Christian principle that conflicts with the objectives of their social advocacy can be permitted, because to permit it is to permit discrimination; this is another example of a term whose definition is being changed in such a way as to limit the exercise of Christian faith. Those who interpret the “free exercise” clause as a notion that encourages discrimination believe that they must suppress religious liberty in order to allow progressive social goals to evolve. Social activists reject the most clear meaning of the First Amendment, which recognizes that Christians submit to God as a higher authority than the social goals of society.  Obergfell is just one example of a way in which the culture suppresses religious liberty, but the same court that issued Obergfell is unlikely to issue any future rulings that strike it down or lessen its impact. In the Obergfell decision, social activists have found a weapon to begin to degrade the entire concept of religious liberty, a right granted to human beings by God that encourages human beings to put God ahead of the state. Social activists consider the state to be the source of all rights, and they define rights as privileges granted by the state, not powers invested in human beings at the moment of creation–people who reject the idea that each person is created by God naturally reject God as the source of human rights.

Gay marriage by itself does not cause pedophilia, God’s punishment, or the end of religious liberty. However, the path of social advocacy, culture change and government rulings has been inexorably modified by Obergfell, and it is quite reasonable to assume that if the nation as a whole chooses to do things and promote behaviors that God forbids, he will allow or perhaps orchestrate consequences that people will not think are pleasant. The book of Revelation speaks metaphorically, but the metaphor tells us that when God begins to react to what people do, people will hate and fear his actions so much that they would prefer burial under a rockslide to living in the presence of Almighty God.

There are social and political activists who utterly scorn all the statements by Christians who say that our country is sinking deeper and deeper into sinful attitudes and behaviors. They are willing to scorn God, because they utterly scorn the Bible and everything it stands for. As a person who believes that the Bible is God’s Word to human beings, intended to be our guide for faith and life, I believe that while revolution and secession may not happen to our country as a direct consequence of Obergfell, it is completely obvious that pedophilia, God’s punishment, and the suppression of religious liberty is happening already. There is a cultural revolution in place, and many people whose principles collide violently with the momentum of the revolution may very well look for ways to “secede” in some way or other from an immoral, godless culture.

What is the impact of Gay Marriage? The mindset that allows and promotes gay marriage is destroying the culture. Children’s minds are being poisoned by aggressive force-feeding of secularism in schools. Already children 10-20 have been indoctrinated in school to believe that homosexuality is only one of many “normal” variations in sexual behavior. They believe that cohabitation instead of marriage is normal. They believe that marriage is unnecessary. They believe that the government, not the parents, should set the moral climate. These things did not begin with gay marriage, and the moral disintegration does not end with gay marriage.

Those who doubt that God will punish the nation for going along with gay marriage should remember that the Israelites exhibited the same disregard for God that advocates of gay marriage exhibit. As a consequence, the stone on which God’s finger had written his commandments was ground to dust, thrown in the water, and forced down the throats of the Israelites. That story is a metaphor. God’s punishment will fall on the nation that flouts the law of God. Christians who are obedient to God can stop worrying about the consequences of same-sex marriage, but those who advocate and promote it still have a lot to worry about.

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Don’t be a Kamikaze Kristian

Secular thinking drives the culture to something that reminds me of what was called “Kamikaze Kool-Aid” in my childhood. Whenever there was a party for children, it was common to offer two or three flavors of Kool-Aid, and each child could pick the color/flavor he liked best. Some children, however, preferred not to choose. They demanded some of every flavor/color, and the resulting drink looked a lot like the muddy water of the Mississippi River that bordered my home state, Missouri. We called that disgusting brown drink “Kamikaze Kool-Aid” in remembrance of the suicide planes our fathers had faced during World War II. It appears that contemporary secular culture activists want that same outcome in the culture–a muddy sameness, the end to any different viewpoints or practices. It reminds me of the movie The Wall, produced as a video exegesis of the Pink Floyd album by the same name. In that movie, cookie cutter children are conveyed in grey sameness to the end of a conveyor belt where they drop into a great void, all to the accompaniment of the song “We Don’t Need No Education.” I believe this is what secularists regard as their ultimate objective. When I think about it, it is amazing that this expose’ of the emptiness of secularism should have been produced by some of the culture’s leading proponents.

Kamikaze Kulture is a culture where are the external representations of an ethnicity may still remain evident, but each unique element loses its connections and identity in a social construct where the word equality is used to batter people into beings not much different from those grey, faceless children on the conveyor belt in The Wall. At a high level, the US government is attempting to force a cultural mix on neighborhoods, a blend as colorful as Kamikaze Koolaid , using the regulations labeled Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing to eliminate neighborhood covenants that protect the culture of the residents. On another promontory at that high level, the US government sponsors what is called “interfaith dialogue,” a fraudulent project designed to smudge the unique principles and practices of all religions into a Kamikaze Spirituality that makes no demands and gives no blessings but furthers a notion that the government is “accommodating” religion. This concept will ultimately erase the notion of religious liberty from the cultural memory. In the Kamikaze Kulture, religious liberty will not be necessary, because everybody knows that all ways lead to the same god who loves everybody and hands out Kool-Aid and cookies to all.

Running in powerful contradiction to the Kamikaze Kulture promoted by secular thinkers is the teaching of Christ, the second person of the triune God worshiped and served by Christians. Jesus, 100% God and 100% human, came to earth for the salvation of all humankind, but he is not one of the ways to God; he is the only way to God. In Christ’s teaching, people who live in relationship with him live in the context of eternal life while they are alive in time and space. Consequently their loyalty to Christ transcends their loyalty to any other being. They cannot give any “respect” to any other god, nor can they allow any human power to usurp their obedience to God. (They love and respect adherents of other gods, but they give no respect or honor to the other gods.) Christians love and serve their neighbors in complete obedience to the one true God revealed for our salvation in Jesus Christ, who now indwells every Christian in the powerful person of the Holy Spirit. This relationship does not permit mixed loyalties. It does not permit accommodation of lies or worship of any being except the one true God. The Bible is the revealed Word of God, given by God himself to his people as their guide for faith and life. A Christian obeys government and its laws, because God commands submission to and prayer for government, but when government attempts to usurp God’s place by making laws contradictory to God’s law, submission to God transcends the responsibility to submit to government.

There are people who self-identify as Christians who accept and promote that Kamikaze Kulture along with secular thinkers. These “Kamikaze Kristians” say that Christ is one of many good people who show us all how to live. They say that God is one of many ways to understand the same great god over the universe who loves everyone and wants people to be nice to each other. Kamikaze Kristians say that the Bible is a lovely but dusty old sacred book with some great poetry and exciting stories, but in their version of Kristianity, the Bible is no more special than the Baghavad Gita or The Sayings of Chairman Mao.

Christians who believe that Christian faith is exclusive, consuming, and pre-emptive are pitted not only against a government that wants religion to be neutered, but also against self-identified Christians who claim Christ’s name while working non-stop to dissolve him and his teachings into the spiritual goo of Kamikaze Kristianity. When someone like Kim Davis says that her faith teaches her not to participate in the sin of the government’s redefinition of marriage, the government that changed its definition of marriage and put her in this position can point to numerous Kamikaze Kristians who agree with the government that Kim Davis should “do her job” or else resign. These individuals claim the name “Christian,” but they don’t believe that the Bible is the final guide for faith and life, as Kim does. These Kamikaze Kristians say God would never be so unfair as to claim Jesus is the only way to him, and in that spirit, they allege that all religions lead to the same place. Kamikaze Kristians adopt the secular notion that humans have evolved past the words of ancient scribes who did not know nearly as much about human sexual relationships as we know today. Such a concept, of course, declares that they do not believe the Bible originated in the heart of God at all. The combination of secular thinking and Kamikaze Kristians results in very powerful forces arrayed against Christians who recognize in the Bible God’s revelation of himself and understand the Bible in the plain meaning of its words.

The precepts of interfaith dialogue similarly work to muddy any honest understanding of Islam and its threat to both Christians and the US government. Kamikaze Islam would be a religion of peace, love and getting along, not a religion of conversion at the point of a sword. Despite the determination of the Kamikaze Kulture to deny the real origins of the USA, historical documents make it clear that the people who founded the nation were people who believed the Bible and lived in relationship to Christ. There were certainly unbelievers in the mix, but the dominant cultural force was exerted by Christians, and their ideas about good government were rooted in their biblical understanding of what people need. They wrote a governing document, the Constitution, that showed respect for people’s right to choose what they believe while asserting government’s God-given authority to preserve peace and good order. Secular thinkers fail to notice that respect for a person’s right to choose and live by his own faith is a principle of biblical teaching, and they don’t see this right as the blessing of liberty; secular thinkers pretend to see Kim Davis abusing religious liberty, because in their view she is using religious liberty as the power to force her views on others. They do not see that protection of the “free exercise” of her faith protects her right to do what her faith compels her to do.

No governing document before the Constitution had ever expressed so powerfully the respect God shows for the right of the human beings he creates to choose what to believe and what principles to live by. The Constitution built a strong structure on the foundation of the rights documented in the Declaration of Independence. Neither the Declaration nor the Constitution tried to say that the writers of the documents were granting those rights; both of those documents relied on God as the source of those rights. The Constitution was always intended to establish a government as powerful as it needed to be for the areas in which it functioned while restraining that government to the smallest possible size to cover only the authority granted to it. That model set up an environment in which liberty, religious and otherwise was protected, the states could work together as necessary for promotion of internal and external commerce and the people could be protected from threats to the whole body of the states.

That model was designed by Christians inspired to limit people’s freedom only as much as absolutely necessary for the good of the states. They looked at the possibility that less freedom might mean more security. People whose ancestors had come to a wilderness along the Atlantic with no safety net whatsoever chose to come down on the side of more freedom, not less, believing that citizens would value the freedom and accept its risks gladly rather than live under tyranny. Contemporary secular thinkers apparently prefer tyranny, where nobody could be allowed to speak of or live by his religion, where nobody is allowed to choose his neighbors, where nobody is allowed to read all the research on any topic and decide for himself the way forward.

In the Constitutional model, religion was not regarded as the aberration of the ignorant, one aberration being no more desirable than another. The Constitution’s writers viewed religious faith as the source of a moral compass the culture needed. They encouraged people to inject moral and ethical questions into public discourse. They would be appalled at a debate among candidates for the powerful office of President of the United States that focused on questions such as, “Person A said this about you yesterday. What is your response?” They would have expected the questions in the debate to cover fiscal responsibility, commitment to federalism, and defense against international aggression. The Framers would have expected questions about the morality of the nation’s involvement in or withdrawal from the disintegration of the Middle East. They would have expected a candidate to be clear about his moral values and their source.

The Constitution’s model has now been abandoned in the interest of reducing every religion to a muddled flavor component of the Kamikaze blend of all religions as viewed by secular thinkers. Since even Kamikaze Kristians want people to keep their religion to themselves. the idea that anyone would reject the redefinition of marriage on moral grounds rooted in religious teaching is anathema. Kim Davis is not only on the wrong side of history in her moral views, but in their eyes, her words and deeds are an affront to all citizens, because in the view of secularists, nobody wants to hear anyone speak of religion in public, and certainly not in public office. If reporters in Lincoln’s day had operated by the same worldview as reporters today, we would not likely even know the words of many of Lincoln’s speeches, seasoned as they were with his faith convictions.

In today’s culture wars, someone who claims to be a Christian has a choice: be a Kamikaze Kristian and blend in, or be a faithful follower of Christ and stand out. It is actually the very same choice Joshua gave the people at Shechem at the end of his life. Israel had invaded a country where there were wide varieties of local gods and a few gods that were more broadly worshiped. Despite forty years of wandering in the wilderness where Moses and Aaron taught the people how to worship the God who provided blessing, security and provision for them every day, there were still Israelites who worshiped the Egyptian gods and even the ancient gods of the land Abraham had left behind. Israelites who trusted God to lead them to triumph over the political and religious power in Canaan faced battles not dissimilar to the culture wars in the US today.

Joshua called the tribes to meet at Schechem where the distribution of the land among the tribes was recorded. It is an interesting choice of location, because Schechem is the first location in Canaan where Abraham is recorded to have stopped and built an altar to the Lord. There, the Lord confirmed to Abraham that he had arrived at the land promised in Genesis 12:1, “the land that I will show you.”

Joshua gathered the tribes to this same place–Schechem. After documenting the final division of land among the tribes, Joshua stepped down from leadership in order to go to a place he would call home where he would conquer his assigned parcel and live in peace. Before he left, he made an important speech, and he said, “If it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

It is much easier to be a Kamikaze Kristian than to be a faithful follower of Jesus. The culture will always tell you what to do, what to say, and what to think if you choose the route of blending in. You can throw your colorful, unique flavor as a disciple of the living Christ into the muck of all the religions of the world and become anonymous in the mix if that is your choice. I don’t recommend it. When Jesus revealed himself to the apostle John, a vision John recorded in the book of Revelation, the dominant message of that whole vision was to Christians who might be tempted to quit making such a big deal of their beliefs. Jesus had a message for people tempted to blend into the sludge. Jesus spoke to Christians who might be tired of the insults every time they encouraged women to choose life rather than abortion. Jesus spoke to county officials who might be tempted to go along to get along since the federal government had declared an ungodly union to be a legal marriage. Jesus spoke to senators and representatives who would be bludgeoned for conducting hearings to reveal the truth about public officials who had lost their integrity. Jesus spoke to teachers who would be threatened with loss of their jobs if they allowed children to see a Bible on their desks. All these people and many more are tempted, pressured, battered daily to stop trying to “force their religion on other people” when they simply try to live their faith with integrity.

Jesus said, “The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations” (Revelation 2:26). “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life” (Revelation 3:5). “Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (Revelation 3:11). “The  one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne” (Revelation 3:21). Don’t let go of Jesus. Be the real thing. Trust Christ. Believe his revelation in the Bible. Live in faithful relationship with him and be strong when the Kamikaze Kulture pressures you to do otherwise. Hold out for the big prizes. Do not become a Kamikaze Kristian.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for release in the winter 2016

Born Sinful

 

One of the Christian teachings that secularists strongly reject is the teaching that human beings are born sinful. In fact, some secularists have advocated that Family Service agencies find parents guilty of child abuse if they tell their children that they were born sinners. Muslims might also reject this idea, because they teach that the child of a Muslim father is born Muslim.

Right now, there is energetic disputation between the LGBTQ community and Christians who consider homosexuality sinful, because the LGBTQ advocates declare that they were “born that way.” They believe that the fact they were born with gender confusion or with sexual orientation toward their own gender means that God made them that way. (That is, if they believe God is the Creator.) The conversation has in many instances been completely sidetracked from the real issue by the question of whether gender identity or sexual orientation is a congenital trait.

The fact is that this issue can be resolved easily for a Christian. It cannot be easily resolved for people who reject the existence of God and/or the authority of the Bible. Christians know that human beings are fallen, sinful creatures from birth. That means that a person who is attracted to the opposite sex is, nevertheless, a sinner. It also means that a person who is attracted to the same sex is, nevertheless, a sinner. Sexual orientation, a politically contrived term with a politically contrived definition, is irrelevant to the fact that someone is a sinner. Every human being is born sinful. The definition of sin is disobedience to God. A sinner is a person who practices disobedience to God. A sinful person has the trait of being disobedient to God. Every person ever born is born with that trait, regardless of whether that person also has the trait of homosexual orientation. These traits have nothing to do with DNA. They are about human nature, a spiritual quality expressed in the bodily life of a human being.

Some people do wish there were a heritable trait that could explain homosexuality, but no evidence of such a thing has been found. Whether one attributes the design of living things to God or to chance, the way sexuality functions in living things decrees that any organism which acts on a homosexual attraction will not produce progeny and therefore will not pass on any of its traits to any new generation. If a whole generation of organisms were homosexual, the organism would become extinct. Whether one believes that the origin of heterosexual attraction is God’s will or nature’s drive, the fact is that a homosexual organism is the origin of its own demise.

However, the DNA argument is actually irrelevant to the conversation. The energy of the discussion is rooted in the fact that people who claim to be homosexual do not want homosexuality defined as sin. They want homosexuality to be viewed as one of many different sexual orientations, and they want all sexual orientations to be considered normal.

The Bible stands firmly in the path of such a view.

The Bible simply and clearly says that homosexuality is sin. It also says that all people are born sinful. It does not say that every person is born attracted to the same sin. The Bible names many sins, but the root of each of them is the same: rebellion against God. Sinners believe that God has no right to tell them what to do. Sinful people born with a sexual attraction to people of the same sex are no more sinful than people who are born with a propensity to steal anything not nailed down. Both people reject God’s right to tell them that the things they like are sinful. The Bible calls stealing a sin. Adultery and lying are both named sins in the bible. The human race, however, has a history of explaining away these sins and all the others. Homosexuality is no different.

What is the answer, then, for someone born attracted to the same sex? That sin is one of many that shape sinful human nature, and God has an answer for it: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned” (John 3:16-18 ESV).” Despite God’s declaration that homosexuality is sin, he loves people so much that he does not want homosexuals to be destroyed. He wants them to live.

The value of this offer is not restricted to life after death, either. As many sinners saved by grace will attest, it is a great blessing to confess to God that they are sinners and then receive his gracious forgiveness and healing. It is good to let go of sin and live for Jesus. In this life! Here! Now! The sins of a lifetime go away forever when any sinner confesses his sinful nature and receives Christ into his heart. Life in the here and now is better immediately and better thereafter.

Many secular thinkers mistakenly believe that people who tell others about Jesus are trying to bribe them to believe with the promise of heaven. Nothing could be further from the truth. Heaven is a wonderful reward for someone who loves and serves Jesus, but it would be endless torment for someone who rejects Jesus. In fact, it has occurred to me that the worst possible thing that could happen to an unrepentant sinner would be for that person to be condemned to live in the heavenly throne room for eternity.

People who advocate for the LGBTQ lifestyle are, according to the Bible, advocating for a life lived in rebellion against God. They want to be justified, because, they say, they are born that way. Recently a young man, openly gay and openly Christian, explained why that argument does not hold water. He said, “As someone who is attracted to the same sex, I assure you, it is not a choice. Rejecting God’s call to repentance and instead embracing sinful desires is a choice.” He is saying that being “born that way” does not excuse the behavior that arises from the sinful desire. How does he dare to make this statement? He was born with the sinful desire, but he has confessed that desire and given it to God. He lives with the battle against homosexual attraction the same way alcoholics live with the battle against alcohol and liars live with the battle to speak truth. He lives with the same battle every human being faces: the battle to accept the sovereignty of God in his life.

This is the real battle. No human being naturally wants anyone or anything to be sovereign over him. Every human being wants to be free to do anything that occurs to him. The fact that humans want freedom is not the root problem, however. The root problem is that people naturally choose to do destructive things. Everything God calls sin is destructive to human beings. God gives humans freedom, and, when they misuse it by choosing death instead of life, he lets them have death. It breaks his heart, but he allows it, because freedom is his gift to them. Only when they use their freedom wisely, choosing to stop listening to self and its self-serving choices, only when they choose to deny self and choose Christ, can he bless them with real life. Everyone is born sinful, but nobody need suffer the destruction of sinful choices. God wants us to use our freedom to choose life. The apostle Paul points out where that choice leads when he writes, “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV). We are all born sinful, but God has beautiful plans for us anyway. All we need to do is to choose to follow Christ, not self.

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Christ calls Christians to Behave Consistent with Christian Teaching

FlowersMoreThanDecoration_2

Last week, this blog featured the story of Dr. Vesni Roi who chose not to accept a patient whose legal caregivers were two lesbian women. In that case, the doctor referred the patient to a different pediatrician who was not troubled by the fact that treating the newborn baby involve working professionally with a lesbian couple as if this trio of people were a family. In Michigan, the doctor’s right to accept or reject patients because of her Christian principles was not challenged, because Michigan has no law that gives legal standing to such a complaint. The story has, however, inspired a great deal of public controversy about the lack of a law to prevent her choice.

This week’s post features a story with a very different ending, although the fundamental issue for Christians is identical. Barronelle Stutzman operates a florist shop in the state of Washington. When a long-time customer asked her to provide flowers for his same-sex wedding, Barronelle refused. She told him that her relationship with Christ prevented her from any participation in a same-sex wedding. She referred him to other florists, and more than one florist offered to do the wedding at no charge. After the partner of Barronelle’s customer engaged in a Facebook rant, the attorney general of the state of Washington took Barronelle to court, alleging she had broken a state law against discrimination. Her defense was her commitment to live according to the teachings of her religion. A few weeks ago, a judge ruled that Barronelle had a right to hold personal principles based in her faith, but she has no right to act on them. Read here and here for more details

This ruling directly contradicts the Christian principle of living the faith. The Bible teaches in very clear language that Christians are not really Christians when they only mouth the words of the faith. In the book of James, the author speaks at great length about the importance of living the faith. He says, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22 ESV). More importantly, Jesus himself says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21 ESV). Jesus said that mental assent is not sufficient. Action in accord with faith is expected. The apostle Paul was more graphic. He explains the importance of the actions of a Christian by comparing actions to the components of a building.

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. –1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ESV

Paul teaches that the deeds of a Christian must build up the church, the way construction materials contribute to a physical building, and God will judge those deeds. Trash will be burned up in the fire of God’s judgment and only deeds that survive that fire will be valued in God’s eyes. It is clear that the words and deeds of Christians count for something. It is not enough to claim to be a Christian. Even knowing all the books of the Bible is not enough. Memorizing part or even the entire Bible is irrelevant if it makes no impact on a person’s words and deeds.

The ultimate test is what happens at the final judgment, the end of time. What will survive the cataclysm that burns up the old heaven and the old earth? The book of Revelation speaks of the tests Christians face daily to deny the faith and do things inconsistent with Christ’s teaching. In the letter to the church at Ephesus, Jesus says, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (Revelation 2:4-5 ESV bolding mine). To the church at Thyatira, Jesus writes, “I know your works,” (Revelation 2:19 ESV) after which he proceeds to describe the evil deeds, and then he says that his rewards are for “the one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end” (Revelation2:26 ESV bolding mine). Repeatedly Jesus says, “I know your works,” and then he holds the people who make up the churches accountable for living up to his teachings.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution protects the right of every citizen to do the things required in order to be faithful to whatever religion he or she chooses. Numerous court decisions have expanded the meaning of that amendment to make it clear that “free exercise” of religion does not extend to a right to harm other persons or property. Barronelle Stutzman harmed nobody. She did no harm to anyone’s property. She simply stated her conviction about marriage and declined to be a party to behavior that conflicts with her relationship with Christ.

Christ calls Christians to speak and act consistent with their professed faith. Dr. Roi and Barronelle Stutzman have done that. Pray for these two Christians to be vindicated for living their faith. Pray for Christians around the country to have the same courage and grace these women have shown in the face of cultural and legal threats to people of faith. What would you do in these situations?

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

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The Not-So-Universal Human Rights

In the USA, people who are committed to living according to the teachings of their faith are protected from persecution and discrimination by the First Amendment to the Constitution. They are also protected by the fact that the US signed the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There is a large body of legal precedent that supports the rights of citizens to put their obligations to God ahead of a variety of demands by government.

Interestingly, despite having a state church, the UK also has a body of legal precedent that protects religious liberty. When someone in the UK refers to the British “constitution,” it actually references a number of documents on which court decisions are based.

In November, 2012, Humanist Life reported on four cases in the UK in which Christians claimed that their religious liberty was being infringed. It is of value for US Christians to know about these cases because of the language issues. Christians say that the people in these cases simply wanted to exercise their right to religious liberty; secular thinkers say that the people in these cases actually want religious privilege. The problems brought out in these cases are quite similar to problems that have arisen in recent years in the US. The article ridicules the protest of US Catholic Bishops against the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act, and vilifies parents who circumcise babies in obedience to their faith. This article shows how easy it is to use language to change the terms of a conversation.

Christians in the US quickly find common ground with the Christians in the UK as reported in this article. Continue reading The Not-So-Universal Human Rights