I have read many impassioned pleas by those who feel Christians are to blame for them not having the right to same sex marriage or abortion. They ask why we can’t just let it go and if they are wrong then let God show them. As one woman on Facebook put it:
You are going to be just fine should I choose to marry a woman…you really don’t need to be in control of who I choose to be with … no matter how you feel about homosexual unions… it is not really important for you to control it. If you really feel it is a “sin,” then let God teach me…that is His/Her/whatever you believe’s job, not yours. LET IT GO!!!
While I know she writes with great passion for her beliefs I must point out a few flaws in her logic. First, we live in a democracy which means we all have equal rights to voice our opinions and beliefs and support the candidates we want and vote according to our conscience. We believe in the First Amendment which is why there was such an outcry when the French satirical journalists were killed by Islamic extremists. So I have just as much right to oppose same sex marriage or abortion as she has to support it. What she wants is not really free speech. She wants a world in which no one will stand up for what they believe if it might impose on someone else’s choices. Yet is society acted as she wishes we would have very few laws and soon lawlessness would reign. Why have a speed limit if it imposes on someone’s joy in driving 120 mph? Our founding fathers believed that we each have a voice and it is by engaging those voices and debate that we often arrive at the best decision. We should not silence those whose beliefs might oppose other’s beliefs.
Second she fails to understand Christianity although that is not her sole focus. Her statement implies it is only God’s role to teach. Hebrews 5:12 says “by reason of time you ought to be teachers.” Teacher is a role and gift listed in Scripture. God teaches us by His Word (the Bible) and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit yet gifts some with a special talent for teaching. Parents are to teach their children in the ways of the Lord just as those with the gift of teaching are to instruct the church. This writer has failed to consider that God may be trying to teach her through the voices she so opposes.
This generation has mistakenly made tolerance the highest moral value. Live and let live some say. Yet at times opposition is a gift from heaven to keep us from harming ourselves or others. Proverbs 27:6 says “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; But the kisses of an enemy are profuse.” A true friend will not be afraid to tell it like it is even at the risk of offending you. Would you prefer your doctor not to inform you that you have cancer because that might upset you? Would it not be better to know the truth as there might still be time to treat the cancer and live? We value a friend who can correct us when we are wrong and change the course we are on. If we tolerated all our children’s selfishness and disobedience they would grow up to be selfish, entitled adults expecting the world to bow to their will. Parents are not always and at all times their children’s best friends.
The Bible tells us that absolute truth does exist and is defined by God. We may live in a pluralistic society with all sorts of beliefs but for the Christian there are absolutes and we must always uphold them. It is clear from my reading of the Bible that God created marriage to be between one man and one woman only. Not two men or two women. Sex between two men or two women is likewise condemned. I realize not all agree nor care what I believe but my highest allegiance is to God and as long as my government allows me free speech and to vote my conscience I will oppose same sex marriage. I don’t hate same sex couples but I cannot agree that what they want is marriage. Certainly not as God defined marriage and He is THE author of marriage. I would lovingly call them to consider God’s purpose for their lives and for marriage. I am though but one voice and ultimately the majority will likely prevail. I have no doubt in time that same sex marriage will be legal in all 50 states. That does not make it right. Nearly all of Germany supported Hitler yet that did not make him a good or moral man.
God calls us to be His witnesses for the truth. We have voices and must use them. Whether we carry the vote in the end or not we are to speak the truth in love. I’m sorry this woman cannot see that. She thinks us as mean spirited or controlling. Is a parent who forbids their child from playing with matches being controlling? Perhaps but that control may just save their child’s life. God gave them the role of parenting their children teaching them right from wrong. Likewise God has given His children the role of standing up for good and truth in this world. We cannot fail Him. We must speak the truth no matter how unpopular and if we are the only one. That is not control it is love.
Image: Statue of Pope Paul II falls and crushes a man to death just 2 days before John Paul II is declared a Saint. Where was his intercession on behalf of this man?
Yesterday Pope Francis honored John XXIII and John Paul II declaring them saints. Sainthood is a uniquely Roman Catholic practice that is not well understood by non-Catholics and perhaps even some Catholics. I’ve read where some Catholic commentators liken a saint to a hero of the faith. Someone to look up to and celebrate.The Roman Catholic Church teaches that saints are to be venerated which means to revere or hold in deep respect. Nothing wrong with having heroes or great examples of faith. However, in Roman Catholic theology a saint is more than a hero.
The Catholic Church has redefined the Biblical term “saint” or added a new class of saints. Biblically anyone who is a believer in Jesus Christ is a saint. Saints are not a special class of believers set apart by especially noteworthy lives or supposed miracles attributed to them nor subject to any earthy inquiry and ceremony. All who are in Christ are saints. So the Roman Catholic use of the term saint and declaring certain people saints is not using the term in its Biblical sense.
More than that though their belief about what sainthood means is also non-Biblical. Among other requirements, candidates for sainthood must have two miracles attributed to them. One while living and another after death.The purpose of there being a miracle after death is to prove the candidate is in heaven, receiving our prayers, and interceding before God on behalf. Yet nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to pray to anyone other than God! There is not one example of Jesus, the Apostles, or any of Christ’s followers praying to anyone but God alone. 1 Timothy 2:5 says there is “one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” The Catholic Church tries to side step this verse by claiming it does not preclude “lesser mediators.” Therefore Christ is our “one mediator” when it comes to salvation but other mediators are possible in lesser matters. They cite the Apostle Paul exhorting men to make intercessory prayers. Yet Paul was writing to living men. There is nothing in Scripture to suggest there is any possibility of someone in this life communicating with someone in heaven other than God Himself. In fact, prayer, but it’s very definition is communication with God! To use the word prayer to cover communication with someone who has died and believed to be in heaven is a misuse of the word. Christ is the one who intercedes on our behalf before the Father and it is to Him alone we pray.
Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Romans 8:34 NIV)
If we have Christ interceding for us why would we need anyone else? Do we imagine a sovereign God is persuaded in His actions by the intercession of a “saint?” No! We pray not to persuade God but to be changed by our prayers into trusting God, His mercy, His goodness, and His will. Prayer changes us not God. God does not change His mind because of our prayers or anyone else’s. So why do we ask other people to pray for us? It gives us comfort, it reminds us that we are all one in Christ, it teaches us all to look to God, trust in Him, and accept His will. God though is sovereign. His will is not moved by our prayers nor swayed by the sheer volume of prayers. To suggest a “saint” or Mary “has God’s ear” and can intercede on our behalf is not only un-Biblical but robs Christ of His role as our sole mediator.
What about the miracles attributed to the intercession of these former Popes or other past saints? Certainly God has and can perform miracles but Biblical miracles are always done for the glory of God. In the Book of Acts we find in chapter 14 an account of Paul healing a lame man. After the healing the crowds became excited exclaiming “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” (Acts 14:11). What was Paul’s response?
“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you…” (Acts 14:15)
Paul was desperate to open their eyes that this man was healed by God and not be some “god” as they supposed he was. The focus of all the Biblical miracles was God never the servant through who attended over the miracle. The disciples of Paul did not venerate him because he healed people nor any of the other Apostles. They attributed the miracle to God and God alone. If someone would have tried to honor Paul because it was his intercession that brought about the miracle I can imagine Paul tearing his shirt and demanding that he was nothing and it was by the hand of God the man was healed and not due to Paul in any way. Yet the Roman Catholic Church goes to great lengths to attribute these miracles to the intercession of some saint and the focus quickly becomes the saint and not the Lord.Suddenly everyone is praying to that Saint. One woman was said to have been cured by holding a picture of the late Pope to the tumor on her neck and leaving it there overnight while praying to him. I have a very hard time with that. Biblical miracles never drew attention to the hands through which God worked but to God Himself. While Jesus once used spit and mud He never gave someone a piece of his clothing and told them to wrap their lame leg in it or sleep with it on their eyes. The whole focus is wrong in the case of the Catholic sainthood “miracles.”
I would even suggest it’s possible these were not true miracles. While only God knows it would not be unlike Satan to cure someone if it put the focus on a man and not on God. Now we have a billion Catholics world wide praying to “saints” and venerating them rather than focusing all their attention on the Lord.
Many have also suggested that the choice of these two Popes is to politically be inclusive by making saints of two different styles of Pope. While I cannot read the mind of Pope Francis the mere suggestion makes the whole thing more laughable. Should “saints” be chosen for political considerations?
Sadly sainthood, like so many other uniquely Catholic traditions, is not Biblical. The Catholic faithful don’t seem to mind though. They have bought into the authority of the church and its traditions and do not test by Scripture what they are taught. The Book of Acts highlights the Berean Christians:
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)
The examined the Scriptures to test what Paul was teaching them! Even the great Apostle Paul with all the miraculous things God did through him was checked up on by the very people he was teaching. This is mentioned to their credit. That meant opening, reading, and knowing their Scripture. It was not enough that Paul said it. Yet in my 24 years as a Catholic and in the lives of almost every Catholic I know no one questions the priest, the bishop, the cardinal, or the Pope. No one learns their Bible and checks for themselves. If pressed they run to Catholic Answers or some Catholic site to look up a response incapable of searching the Scriptures for themselves.
I hope these two past Popes are in heaven but if they are I guarantee they are not hearing our prayers. Do I question their salvation? Possibly as the Catholic Church does not preach the Gospel as they add works to faith thus preaching a false Gospel and Paul sternly said that if anyone preaches a false Gospel they shall be damned to hell. I will let God decide that though as He is judge.
Let us celebrate all who follow Jesus Christ. They are the saints. They don’t need a ceremony, the blessing of a living Pope, or any man made process. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus and not on men.
According to Dictionary.com, a preacher is “a person whose occupation or function it is to preach the gospel”. Sounds right. Now what is the gospel? The word “gospel” comes from two Greek words but in essence means “to bring the good news.” The same words were used to describe a messenger or runner sent from the front lines of battle to deliver news of victory to the King. So a preacher is someone who proclaims the good news. Now I come to the crux of the purpose of this article, what is the good news? What victory was won? What great thing happened?
Good news is good exactly because it is not bad. The military messenger’s message would not be good news if the army lost the battle. It is good news because there was an alternative and that was bad news. In the case of the gospel the bad news was not just a potential outcome it was a reality. Every human being is born under the outcome of the bad news. The bad news is that we are all born in sin separated from a Holy God. Theologians call it original sin. It is the sin of Adam and Eve and their disobedience applied to all mankind. When they fell (sinned) in the Garden we (all mankind) fell with them. It was a representative judgment where a group is judged by the actions of one or a few. As a result of that original sin we are born with a sin nature. By nature we are in rebellion against God, against His authority over us. We want to make our own rules, decide our future. We want to be our own man; our own woman. We want to judge for ourselves what is right and wrong. We don’t need God or at least we don’t need a God who is going to tell us how to live and stifle our fun. At least while life is good we can ignore God or at most look to Him as a cosmic vending machine who dispenses only the good things want. Leave religion for the fanatics, the foxholes, the dying, and anyone else not strong enough to stand on their own two feet and thus in need of an imaginary crutch to help them stand.
The Bible describes this state we are born into:
Romans 3:10-12, and 23
As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” … For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.(NLT)
So Paul’s letter to the Romans informs us that “no one is righteous” (i.e right with God). “No one is seeking God” (i.e. we are not searching for Him). We have all become useless. We have all turned away. No one does good. Not a single one. That is part I of the bad news. All means all as is in everyone! No one means not a single one. There are no exceptions. This is who we are in our natural state which we were born into.
In case you think Paul was not inspired and misrepresented Jesus then hear what Jesus had to say:
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Jesus describes a narrow gate through which we may find eternal life and “few who find it.” We’ll come back to this but that doesn’t exactly sound like the universalist approach that there are “many paths to God.” If that were the case then the gate would be wide yet Jesus said the wide gate “leads to destruction.” Christians are often accused of being narrow minded precisely because we don’t embrace universalism (in case you are not familiar with that term it is a belief that all religion is equal and all bring man in harmony with the divine.) Christians are labeled intolerant because we don’t believe all beliefs are equal. Instead we believe in absolute truth (i.e. that their are absolute truths that cannot be violated and that two “truths” cannot coexist. Buddhism cannot be the path to the same “god” Christianity is. They are not different but equal paths to the same end. They are different paths to different ends.
So where does this leave us?
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (NLT)
Wages are something you are owed for services rendered. You sign an employment contract and you perform your work as instructed then your employer owes you wages as agreed upon in the contract. If not there are laws to protect you and enable you to recover your wages. So you earn your wages. Romans 6:23 says the “wages of sin is death.” What kind of death? Physical death? No worse. Spiritual death. Yes we will die physically and that is part of the punishment of the fall of Adam and Eve but note in this verse death is being contrasted with “eternal life.” Eternal life is eternal life with God which goes far beyond the physical.
There is another critical contrast apparent in this verse. Not that our sin is due wages (i.e. we are owed death) whereas the contrast is the “free gift of God” – eternal life. Can you earn a gift? Dictionary.com defines a gift as:
“something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient or without its being earned”
People give gifts not out of obligation nor expecting repayment. They are unmerited, unearned. Don’t confuse gifts as used in the Bible with our human institution of gift giving. We might withhold a birthday gift from an unruly, or ingracious child saying they don’t deserve it. However that is a contradiction. It would not be a gift if it had to be deserved. Gifts are not earned or owed. A good word to introduce now is the word grace. In the Bible grace comes from a Greek word meaning “unmerited favor.” If God gives a free gift it is pure grace.
So in summary here is the picture. We are born in sin. The wages of sin is death. The road to eternal life is narrow and few find it. The only way out is the free gift of God of eternal life. There you have the bad news. We are sinners deserving hell. There is good news though too! God offers us a free gift of eternal life. How do we get that gift?
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”
How many ways are their to God? Jesus said He was the only way. Can Buddhism lead you to God? Can Hinduism? Can Joseph Smith? Can your own spiritual beliefs? Nope. Is that narrow minded? Sure. Is it narrow minded to say “2+2=4” and not 5 or 3? Is it narrow minded to say water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit? No those are absolute truths. Too many people today throw around the term “God/god.” “God” can be anything to anyone. So when I speak of God I mean the God of the Old and New Testament. I mean Jesus Christ. I mean him and him alone. I have run into spiritual teachers who say they believe in Jesus but they also believe in Buddha, Confucius, and a host of others. No Jesus said He is the only way. He is not a path he is the (one and only) path.
Now some of you may have been reading earlier in this article and raised an understandable question. Why should I be born in sin because of what Adam and Eve did? That doesn’t seem fair. Shouldn’t I stand or fall on my own? Hmmmm…ok do you really think you could live a lifetime and never sin? Have you ever even made it through a day or a week? You’ve never lusted in an improper way? You’ve never had hateful thoughts toward someone? You’ve never lied? Never cheated? We live in a world today full of temptation. We have Internet porn, unlimited access to entertainment of all kinds not all of which are good, streets full of sights and sounds meant to entice us to sin. Now think about Adam and Eve. They lived in a beautiful garden. No tv, no radio, no billboards, X rated movies. Just the two of them and God. Plus they were born without original sin. So they had a nature that could truly chose between right and wrong. Yet what happened when temptation came in the form of a snake but in the person of Satan? They caved in minutes. Do you really think you could have done better? Really? Ok so maybe you do. Maybe you think you could have lived a lifetime without every once sinning. If so you would have then been very lonely in heaven as I don’t think anyone else would be joining you! Was it really unfair of God though to judge us through Adam and Eve? Consider the flip side of that coin. In 1 Corinthians 15:45 Paul refers to Adam as the “first man” and Jesus as the ‘last man.” Remember the story of David and Goliath? The Philistines had this giant of a man that no one could defeat in battle. There mere sight of him put fear in men’s hearts. Goliath taunted the Israelites offering to fight their best man winner take all. It was really psychological warfare as the Philistines knew nobody in Israel would dare take on Goliath with the nation’s fate riding on the outcome. What they were proposing though was representative form of war. We each pick our best warrior and let them decide if for the rest of us. We should be able to relate to that. Many of us live in democratic countries where we elect our representatives. We don’t get to vote on bills they do. On a much larger scale our military represents the whole country. During WWII the US had approximately 16 million men and women serving in the military in some capacity. That represented about 11% of the total population. In subsequent wars the percentages have been much smaller. Still 11% represented 140 million.Had they failed out country might have eventually fallen. Let’s go back to the free gift of God or grace. God could have left us in our sins, sent us all to hell, and we would have had no right to complain. Instead He freely gave of His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus was our David. He took on that giant of sin and through His death on the cross and His shed blood he won the victory. He sacrificed Himself for us. Except His death was not the end as death had no hold on him. 3 days later her rose from the dead. All we have to do is accept his death and victory on our behalf and put our faith and trust in Him and Him alone. That sounds like good news to me! If you don’t like the good news and think you can do better on your own then I hope you can lead a sinless life. I’m sure it’s already too late for that though. Plus we are born in sin so you are born condemned and incapable of leading a sinless life.Jesus is the way. The only way.
Would the Good News be good news if you did not know the bad news? Imagine the king when the runner appears and announced we won the battle and the King says “what battle?” “All my troops are resting and none are at battle so I don’t know what you are talking about.” Until we realize we have a sin problem that has eternal consequences we are tempted to think we are fine. We think we are a “good person” and therefore surely God will let us into heaven. We don’t, nor could, understand the absolute holiness of God. He cannot allow sin in His presence. Not any amount. No one can be good enough.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
You can’t earn your salvation. As we saw earlier it is a gift not something you earned and God owes you. It is “not as a result of works.” This is a stumbling block to the pride of man. We want to believe we are good. We want to believe we contributed to our salvation. It is a blow to our ego to admit we can do nothing to save ourselves. God has to do it all. Yes when we truly understand the “bad news” we are so grateful that God made a way. He could have left us in our sins but chose to send His Son to die for us. We can be washed by His blood and have our sins erased. We marvel that God would save us.
I took pains to explain this because in my next post I want to address the trend today to ignore the bad news and even aspects of the Good News. Many pastors/preachers today are motivational speakers rather than preachers of the Bible. They are more Christian Tony Robbins. Yes there is tremendous motivation in the Bible but Christianity is not about being healthy, wealthy, or being positive all the time. God wants something greater for you. He wants to give you spiritual health, spiritual wealth, and an eternal perspective that allows even the negative things to be seen as part of God’s great plan.
The second attribute of love Paul gives us is that love is kind. He began with love is patient and now moves on to kindness. Kindness could be described as an example of love in action. What is wonderful about kindness is that it originates from within us. You can command someone to be kind but if it is not natural for them to be kind the command will have little impact on them and their attempts at kindness will be forced. Yet through the working of the Holy Spirit we can learn to be kind.
I should backup though and first define love. In the Greek language of the Bible there were three words all translated as “love” in the English. Two should be familiar to us. The first is phileo from which we get the word Philadelphia. It speaks of a brotherly love. It is a love two friends or siblings might have toward each other. The second is eros from which we get our word erotic and refers to the physical love a husband and wife would have for each other. The less known word is the Greek agape which is the kind of love God has and is also known as unconditional love. Only God naturally possesses agape love. As believers, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we can possess agape love but it comes from God.
Throughout his discourse on love in 1 Corinthians 13 Paul exclusively uses the word agape. So he is telling us what God’s love is like and what it should be like in the life of a believer – a follower of Jesus Christ. So agape love is patient and it is kind.
The word “kind” is the Greek word chresteuomai, which means to be adaptable or compliant to the needs of others. This kind of love does not demand that others conform to how we want to love but rather goes outside itself to love others how they need to be loved.
It is a willingness to serve and to change in order to meet the needs of others. By nature we are selfish. We want easy love. Easy love is when you love in a way that is easy and convenient for you. Kindness is when you do something for someone for no other purpose then to love and serve them. Kindness comes from a soft and tender heart. It is able to put the needs of the other above our own needs. It also speaks to the way we treat others. Acts of kindness touch other people’s heart. It makes them feel special. They recognize that you are showing a compassionate, self-sacrificing love.
Gary Chapman wrote a best selling book called The Five Love Languages in which he posits that we each speak one or more of the following types of love languages:
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Physical touch
- Acts of service
According to Chapman we don’t just speak one language but we may speak one or two stronger than the rest. These love languages address how we feel loved and how we express love. The point of his research is to help a couple understand themselves and each other. Once you understand how your loved one experiences love you then endeavor to love them in that way. That may not be natural for you. They may desire words of affirmation and you don’t naturally think to affirm them through your words. Or they make value physical touch but you are not a hugger or expressive physically. This is an example of where love is kind. Because you possess an agape love that is kind you change in order to meet their needs. Your love motivates you to love them in the way that is meaningful for them. The easy love would be to love them as you like to be loved. If you love gifts then giving them gifts would be easy for you. Sometimes we make the false assumption that everyone is like us.
We’ve all have heard of the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. While completely good and true we need to put an asterisk on the end. In doing unto others as we would have them do unto us we need to add a footnote that what we really want is for them to love us in a way that is meaningful to us. So doing the same for them means loving them as they need to be loved. It involves kindness. I don’t think any of us would apply the Golden Rule to say that since you’d love everyone to give you hunting related gifts for Christmas that “doing unto them” means giving everyone on your list hunting related gifts. Some may have no use for such gifts. In that application “doing unto them” would mean giving them gifts that were as meaningful to them as hunting gifts are to you.
agape love involves going outside ourselves and doing kind things for others. Simple acts of kindness, even to a total stranger, can convey love in a most powerful way. Christ set the example. It is a Divine act of kindness to save lost sinners. It is agape kindness that says to “Do good to those who persecute you.” Jesus showed kindness on the cross when He prayed to the Father to forgive those crucifying him as they “no not what they do.”
There are many ways to express kindness. It is not the act but the spirit in which is is carried out and our willingness to change to meet other’s needs. To be known as a kind person is a great testimony to agape love working within you.
I truly believe what the Apostle Paul wrote that it is “better to give than receive.” Giving is self-sacrificing especially when we do not receive in kind. It is giving out of pure love for the good of the other expecting nothing in return. It is a desire to bless another with nothing in it for you. agape love is not a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” arrangement. It does not expect an equal amount of love in return. agape love loves purely as an act of kindness toward another.
I try to practice kindness with everyone I meet. I think it is one of the most powerful testimonies I can give to the love of God within me. It’s not forced though. I don’t practice kindness because I think I should. It just flows out of me because the agape love of God is at work within me.
So if you want to practice the Golden Rule love with great kindness. Some think kindness a weakness. No it takes more strength to be kind, to change for the sake of another, than to not practice kindness. If we possess the love of God then our love will be kind.
I’ve always believed 1 Corinthians 13 to be one of the greatest passages in all of Scripture. If we could just learn to love with the kind of love Paul here describes our marriages would never fail, family strife would not exist, and the world would be an amazing place. The problem is we don’t love like this.
I want to take on one descriptor of love at a time and comment on it. Some of what I say will be commentary-like but I plan to through in personal experience as well. I am by no means perfect at love and fail to live up to these words all the time but by the providence of God my life has taught me to love more like this passage. God’s grace has enabled me to turn the trials into my life into growth and truly He is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28).
This is going to take time but I hope it is of some use.