Throughout our history as a nation we have experienced moments that represent the culmination of cultural shifts that have often been occurring for generations. The recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) regarding same sex marriage is one such moment.
Christians in particular can find themselves confused, angry, and deeply unsettled by these events. When these moments occur, they may leave us wondering, "Where do we go from here?"
What I share below are simply some of my thoughts to give our church guidance.
The SCOTUS decision on June 26th., created an enormous amount of buzz on social media sites, in coffee shops, and at the dinner tables of people around the country. I have often wondered what our world would look like if followers of Jesus talked to the Father about the issues in our lives as much as we talk to each other. Now is a good time for Christ followers to stop talking so much to each other and start talking to God.
Pray for your community. Believers are often guilty of focusing their prayers on the lives and needs of their fellow Christians. Paul says, "Pray for everyone...and give thanks for them." At First Missionary, we set aside the second Saturday of each month from 8-9 am to prayer walk our community. We pray blessing over each home and business we pass using this acronym: B - Body, the physical needs of our community; L - Labor, the economic prosperity of community; E - Emotions, the emotional health of those in our community; S - Social, the relational needs of individuals and families we see; and S - Spiritual, the spiritual awakening of our community.
"I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. (1 Timothy 2:1, NLT)
Pray for our leaders. The New Testament Church was established in a culture that was antagonistic to the gospel and to the personal values the Bible teaches. In this climate, Paul instructs Timothy, a young pastor, to make prayer for those in civil leadership a top priority in the life of the local church.
“Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:2, NLT)
Pray in the Spirit. The Bible teaches us that our fight is not against those we see around us. The battle in which we are engaged is an unseen battle where political positioning, human reasoning, and the strength of man are useless. The activity of this realm is that of prayer inspired, directed, and guided by the indwelling personal presence of God in the Holy Spirit.
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:12,18, NLT)
Deepen Your Devotion
When the broader culture goes in a direction contrary to God's purposes and plan, it is easy for believers to become preoccupied with the sins of those around them. Our first call in life is always, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind." (Matthew 22:37, NLT).
Give your focus to seeking God's wisdom on how to live in our changing culture. Pursue with all your might in the power of the Spirit a life that reflects the character of God. Devote yourself with greater energy than ever to love God and worship the Lord from the depths of who you are. Let NOTHING distract you from this calling.
“We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God,” (Titus 2:12, NLT)
Loving the idea of God, loving the teaching of scripture, loving the institution of the church is not the same as loving God. Churches all over America are filled with people who regularly confuse these things. Love for God expresses itself in transformed character through the work of the Holy Spirit. The greatest expression of our love for God is our capacity to love others.
Love others Sacrifically
Jesus taught four great loves to his followers: love of God, love of self, love of others (Matthew 22:37-38), and love for one's enemies (Luke 6:27). The Bible is very clear on what Jesus meant by loving: living and giving sacrificially to meet the needs of another person.
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us.” (1 John 3:16, NLT)
Jesus did not say to love and do good to only those who share your values, your spiritual commitments, and your perspectives on life and faith. In fact, the Bible teaches that the Father sends the blessing of rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). Consequently, the work of Christ-followers in this life is rather simple: love people. Bless people. Serve the needs of people. Reach out to people. Build relationships with people. Invite people into your journey of following Christ. Let God convict. Let God pass final judgment.
I would venture to say that a significant majority of those most offended by the SCOTUS ruling and the lifestyle of the LGBTQ community have never shared a meal, let alone had a friendship with someone in this community. Until believers are willing to take this simple act of human kindness, the message of a loving God who transforms lives, heals our deepest wounds, and transforms and fills our innermost desires will fall on deaf ears in our culture.
REmember Your True Citizenship
A danger we face in the U.S., is that believers can easily confuse the purposes of the Kingdom of God with the purposes of the state. The secular state has the responsibility to safeguard the rights of all people, even people who do not share the religious beliefs and personal values of followers of Jesus. This responsibility becomes especially complex in a pluralistic culture like the U.S. All human forms of government are intrinsically limited and broken. The systems of government under which we live are broken because those who govern are broken and those who are governed are broken.
“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. (Philippians 1:27, NLT). “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” (Philippians 3:20, NLT)
The state and the Church will NEVER be coterminous in this life. Only when Jesus returns to rule and reign will the purposes of the King be the purposes of the Kingdom. From time to time, we see glimpses of the righteousness of the Kingdom of God in the activities of the state, just like we see shadows of God's character in the lives of fallen and sinful people. Don't be surprised when the state reflects values contrary to the Kingdom of God. Such will always be the case until the King returns.
Follow God's Blueprint
God is the originator of the mystery of family. From its inception, the creation plan for humanity's purposes, propagation, and protection is based upon the lifelong relationship of a man and a woman. Just as an individual person is comprised of body, soul (mind/will/emotions), and spirit, a couple is as well. In each of these dimensions there is a created part/counterpart relationship that allows them to fully express the biblical idea of "one flesh."
“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”” (Genesis 1:27–28, NLT)
The challenge facing the church today is that in the eyes of our culture, those who are so seemingly deeply offended by same sex marriage often seem to have no issue with cohabitation, divorce, premarital sexual activity, and a host of other behaviors that have been proven by even the most secular social studies to be destructive to the integrity of the marriage relationship.
Followers of Christ should take confidence in the creation blueprint outlined in the opening pages of scripture. The church must redouble its efforts to embrace, support, strengthen, promote, and live out the truth that, unlike any other human relationship, a man and woman in the covenant of marriage have the unique capacity to reflect the image and likeness of God, to rule the creation of God, and to reproduce the pattern of God.
In the coming weeks, you will see First Missionary Church take specific steps in each of the above areas. Each week we will be gathering for prayer on Wednesday nights, 7 pm, to pray for our nation and awakening in the church.
We will be engaged in prayerful reflection and seasons of recommitment in our devotion to our Sovereign Lord.
We are going to be purposeful about reaching beyond our walls and personally engaging in relationship building with those for whom Christ gave his life.
We are going to be adopting policies that clearly communicate our understanding that we are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God. Our first and foremost purpose as a church is to further the purposes of God's Kingdom.
We will be continuing to strengthen our commitment to present, educate, strengthen, and support the biblical blueprint for family as expressed throughout the pages of the Bible.