Several weeks ago there was quite a commotion in the religious community over comments made by singer Lauren Daigle on the issue of homosexuality. At the time she was considered a Christian singer, although recently she takes issue with such a label. When asked whether or not homosexuality was a sin, she replied, “I can’t say one way or the other. I’m not God.” The responses to Daigle were exactly what you would expect. One set of Christian bloggers and commentators blasted her for not taking the opportunity to speak Biblical truth to the masses. The other set praised her for not excluding the homosexual community. I, on the other hand, think the problem runs much deeper than that. I don’t think she shied away from speaking the truth, nor did I think she was intentionally trying to include the homosexual community. I think she most likely had no clue how to actually answer the question. And you can see that in the way she chose to answer the question. No, she’s not God (and hopefully no one was confused on that point), but we are not devoid of information on what God considers sin.
Now I know that’s very presumptuous to say she didn’t know how to answer the question – and of course, I could be completely wrong about that – but given what I’ve seen in how this issue is addressed inside the church, the odds are in my favor that I am right. How many people who have blasted her on this response would have known how to respond in a Biblical way – and articulate why? I’m willing to bet that the extent of her knowledge on the issue is that everyone in church has said it’s wrong but she has no idea why. And now she’s met a lot of really nice people who are part of the homosexual community, and now she really doesn’t know why it’s wrong. In fact, the reason why she said she wasn’t sure about how to respond was she had “too many people that I love” that “are homosexuals.”
Sadly, I think that’s how the majority of the youth in our churches are going out into the world. Do any of our youth (or even adults) really understand why some churches think homosexuality is a sin? Why some churches think it’s not a sin? And how to make sense of it? The issue becomes even more confusing when they encounter “gay Christians” who seem nicer and “more Christian” than heterosexual Christians. How can they still insist homosexuality is sinful when they are now their friends and so loving? The reason why there is this general confusion on this issue is that, despite the outcries from outside the church, this issue is not addressed sufficiently in the church.
1. The niceness of the person is not the measure of sin
The first thing we must remind ourselves and our youth is the niceness of the person is not the measure of sinfulness. We know the truth of this when we stop to consider the alternative, but it sometimes gets lost when we start inserting our emotions about people when we are judging people’s actions. Someone could just be the nicest, friendliest person you know but they have cheated on their spouse. I think we would agree that their “niceness” does not then negate the sin of adultery. Someone could be the most charitable and generous person you’ve seen, but if they abuse their children, you wouldn’t allow their charity to mean child abuse is no longer sinful. Those outside the church are making these same judgments too, though it’s not on the issue of homosexuality. If a pastor of a church were to be exposed as having embezzled money, you better believe the nice factor of the pastor would not be used to excuse his actions. Nor should it. Nice people do sinful things all the time (that’s because we are all sinners) so clearly that cannot be how we determine sin. It is so important that our youth understand this. They will meet many wonderful, nice homosexuals, but that does not mean God approves of homosexuality.
2. The Bible is not silent on this issue
The second thing to remember is that the Bible is not silent on this issue. So the larger concern is that most youth (and adults) are not even aware of what Scripture has to say on this. This was part of Miss Daigle’s problem. She thought she had to be God to make a statement on this issue instead of realizing that God has already made a statement (LOTS of statements) on this issue. But here’s where the church has to be even more diligent on how it addresses homosexuality, and any hotly debated social issue for that matter: it not only must expose how Scripture addresses homosexuality as sin, but how those who say it’s not a sin use Scripture to affirm homosexuality. That way people can know how to engage in a discussion with others and hopefully explain Scripture in context.
3. The Biblical stance on homosexuality should be convicting - even to heterosexuals
The third thing to remember is that speaking on the issue of homosexuality can be terribly convicting – no matter your sexual orientation. While there are many passages across both testaments that speak to the sinfulness of homosexuality, the overarching concept of how God intended all sexuality to be is given in the words of Jesus Christ. When asked about the issue of divorce in Mark 10, Jesus quotes from Genesis 1 and 2, saying, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he [Moses] wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Here Jesus establishes what God intended for us with respect to relationships and marriage. God made us as two distinct genders and established the institution of marriage as between one man and one woman. He even assumes a heterosexual relationship when He says a man shall leave his father and mother to be joined to his wife in marriage. God invented and gave us the pleasure of sexual union to be enjoyed within this perfect design of marriage. Satan has thus distorted that in numerous ways to pull us away from God’s perfect design; Satan cannot create new pleasures for us so he works to pervert those that God gave us.
This is how God designed us to work: one male, one female joined together in marriage to create the family. As the Creator of all things and the Author of life, He knows what is best for us – not because He wants to deny us things, but because He knows what is best. It’s exactly how every parent is with their children. From the child’s perspective, parents seem so unfair because they deny them from experiencing certain things. But from the parent’s perspective, those restrictions are there because they know what is best for the child; the parents want to direct the child’s path and decisions to be the least destructive and the most fulfilling for the child. Just like the parent denies those things that may appear fun to the child but actually bring harm, God does the same with us. Satan wants us to think all of these sexual unions and relationships are where the fun is, but God wants us to experience what is best for us. Just like the child thinks eating hot fudge sundaes every meal would be so much more fun than eating vegetables and grilled chicken -- but the parents know what is best in the end. Here’s why this is convicting for everyone. This construct of how God intended us to function in relationships excludes all sexual unions that are not within the marriage between one man and one woman. While obviously God’s design excludes homosexual activity, relationships, and unions, it also excludes a lot of heterosexual activity, relationships, and unions. Therefore God’s stance on this issue is very clear. Unlike what Daigle thinks, we don’t have to be “god” ourselves to understand what He desires for us.
4. We are all a sinful and rebellious people
The fourth and final thing to remember is that though this is God’s purpose and design for all humans, we are a rebellious people. We consistently shake our fists at God and say that we know better than He does. We insist on “following our hearts,” thinking the perversions Satan has set before us are better for us than God’s design. For those who have called on the name of Jesus for forgiveness of sins, our call is to live like it. We need to remember our true purpose is to walk in obedient submission to God’s will because God’s will is what is best. Even though that’s impossible to do while here on this sin-filled earth, we must continually strive toward that. This is what Jesus meant when He said to “pick up our cross” and follow Him. We have lost the context of this since a cross to us is just a symbol of Christianity. But when Jesus spoke those words, the cross was a symbol of public execution. We are to die to our own selfish desires and submit to God’s will. As we realize that God’s will is better for us anyway, that becomes easier to do. So for the Christian engaging in sexual activity – whether heterosexual or homosexual – outside of marriage between one man and one woman, they need God to draw them out of disobedience and back into obedience.
For those who have not asked forgiveness through Christ, they are walking in full disobedience and rebellion to God - whether homosexual or not. Therefore, unbelieving homosexuals don't need God to save them from their homosexuality, they need God to save them from their sins – all of them. The reform needed for them is not just to "stop being gay" but to understand that all of their sins - sins of bitterness, envy, lying, anger - are keeping them separated from the very One who created them. Our sins, even the tiniest of moral indiscretions, are so offensive to this perfectly Moral God that we cannot be in His presence. But out of His great love for us, He came down to this earth and laid down His life so that this relationship could be restored. It is because He loved us first that we love Him. And as Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commands." (John 14:15). We are to strive with the Holy Spirit to live holy lives because we follow a God who is holy and we are to honor Him with our lives. Only in His power we can overcome the sins that so easily entangle us.
A majority of the New Testament addresses false teachers within the church. Passages such as 1 Timothy 4:1-2, 2 Peter 2:1, and Romans 16:17-20 talk about false teachers, doctrines of demons, destructive heresies, and deceiving spirits. Hebrews 13:9 comes with the warning to “not be carried away with various and strange doctrines.” Jesus even warned against the false prophets in Matthew 7 saying, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”
will be led away into destruction. Think of the imagery of the ravenous wolves. This is why we are also called throughout scripture to be discerning. We are to always judge what is taught to us against what is in the Scriptures, just like the Bereans did (which implies we must first know what the scriptures say). We are even told to test the spirits to see what is truly from God because not all “spiritual” things are from God.
But Satan, as the father of lies and the great deceiver, is much shrewder than we give him credit for being. He knows that even the least knowledgeable person of the scriptures could detect certain heresies as blatantly false. So he is trickier than that; he works like the old saying “stealing the sausage one slice at a time.” It is the slow deception of the truth that leads us down the bigger path towards the false , thus, the title of this post: the subterfuge of Satan. Subterfuge is defined as “deception in order to achieve one’s goal.” In order to see how Satan is going to deceive us, we have to think about what his goal is. What is Satan’s end game? To lead as many people away from God and out of God’s presence as he possibly can. That is his single mission. How does he achieve that? Deception. Satan even parades as an angel of light for the express purpose of deceiving us. Before we see what takes us out of God's presence and away from God, we must see what makes us in God's presence and with God. According to John 14:6, the only way to God is through Jesus. John reiterates that point in 1 John 5:12: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” And Romans 10:9 tells us, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” So anything that is different from that truth will accomplish Satan’s goal. If he can get you to take one step away from that truth, then Satan wins. If he can pull you away from confessing Jesus is Lord, away from believing that God raised Him from the dead, and away from thinking that the only way to God is through Jesus, then Satan has deceived you with false doctrine unto your destruction. How does he deceive us into that?
How does Satan do that with us now? Well, we have a plethora of denominations that alter that core true doctrine of who Jesus is and what Jesus did. Some denominations say that Jesus wasn’t really God. If He wasn't God, then His sacrifice on the cross was insufficient. Many denominations say that you are saved by faith plus man’s traditions, man’s rituals, or man’s effort. They say if you do these steps or repeat these words then you can find forgiveness. They are just like the Judaizers adding to the work Jesus did on the cross as though it were insufficient, as though our effort has something to do with our salvation. But Ephesians 2:8-9 reminds us that it is only by grace through faith that we are saved, but it is not by our works, specifically so that we cannot boast in our salvation. It is only through the work Jesus did on the cross that we can boast, not in ourselves. Many denominations say that any path to God is valid. They don’t want to claim the exclusivity that Jesus claimed. When Jesus said that no one comes to the Father but through Him, Jesus was excluding all other religions as false and unacceptable to God. It doesn't matter how sincere or nice another religion is, it is equally abhorrent to God because it does not all on the name of Jesus for salvation. In each of these denominations, Satan has twisted scripture to lead people astray from true doctrine, which will lead to their destruction.
Some denominations even twist scripture to make it approve of sins in which they want to persist. They redefine the words clearly written in scripture so they can call “good evil and evil good.” They think since grace abounds we have no need for the law. But the law is useful, as Paul says in 1 Timothy 1, to show us our sin. He says the purpose of pointing out sin is to draw us to repentance. That is why in 1 Corinthians 5 Paul tells the church to call out one man’s sins so that “his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” The reason for identifying his actions as sin was so that the man’s spirit may be saved. What if Paul had never called that sin? The man would have persisted in that sin to the glory of his flesh but to the destruction of his soul. That is exactly what Satan wants. Satan twists scripture, so that we redefine sin, so that we may satisfy our flesh, but destroy our souls.
Yes, we are commanded to love one another. I am certainly not saying that we are not to do those things to help “the least of these.” But we are also commissioned to go and spread the Gospel because telling others about Jesus is showing love. So if you are going into the communities of the least of these to give them physical aid but never speak about Jesus, then you are missing the point of why Jesus sent us out. In Matthew 28:19 He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” Yes, showing love and meeting physical needs should be a part of that. But the whole point is to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey His words. Many churches reference Acts 1:8 for their model for mission. But that doesn’t tell us to pick a cool beach spot for our youth group to hand out bottled water. It tells us to be witnesses of Jesus to the world. Being a witness involves speaking. We are to tell people about Jesus first and foremost. Satan has won if he can convince us that we only have to be kind or show love and not speak the name of Jesus. Satan knows that we don’t have to teach false doctrine to prevent others from reaching God, we just have to neglect to tell them the true doctrine.
Imagine if in a war, our military was so focused on arguing over the color of their uniforms and which food was better to have in the field that they neglected to actually attack the enemy. Meanwhile, the enemy was busy plundering and slaughtering the local village and kidnapping our own military’s families. That sounds insane but that’s exactly what the church does when it becomes preoccupied with things indifferent instead of focusing on the lost and dying world around us. When we do that, not only do people die without salvation, but the enemy slips in and steals the minds and hearts of our children because we were too busy boycotting something to teach our children the fundamentals of their faith. We were too busy entertaining our children at church to educate them in the basic logic of Christianity. We were too busy making Christianity fun and palatable for the masses to give believers any depth of scriptural knowledge.
Satan is called the deceiver and the father of lies. His whole business is convincing you that the truth is not true. And he will resort to any means necessary to accomplish that goal. Be mindful of your adversary! He prowls around like a roaring lion seeking those whom he can devour. Don’t let that be you or your children. Be alert and watchful. Guard your mind, taking every thought captive. Demolish every argument he uses. Use the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God, to attack the enemy. Take up your armor and go to battle for the kingdom of God. Be deceived no longer.
Several weeks ago I participated again in the sidewalk ministry outside of a local abortion clinic. I have been out there a few times before, but this one was a drastically different experience. The abortionist was there. And the parking lot was full. It was the most depressing and heart-wrenching experience to know what was happening inside that building for so many lives. And it bothered me even further to see the interference from the abortionists to prevent us from reaching out to those women and those babies. I think that is one of the most disturbing realities about the abortion industry (and yes, it’s an industry because they are only concerned with making money off the slaughter of innocent lives in the womb). These abortionists and abortion activists parade around calling themselves “pro-choice” but that is the last thing those people are interested in. You should think about that next time you vote and the next time you discuss this issue. I so often hear people say, “Well, no one wants people to abort, but it should be available.” But that is NOT the reality. These clinics and abortionists want very much for these women to abort, so much so that they hire people whose only job is to prevent women from changing their minds. They have quotas to meet and Cadillacs to buy. They want more people to abort. So you as an individual may hope that women don’t abort, but the ones you are empowering to do so don’t think that way.
The very goal of these clinics is not to give women a choice, but to convince them to abort. Ironically, the definition of the word choice is the act of choosing among a variety of options. So a choice can only be made when someone is given all of the information about all of the options. But these women are not presented with that. In fact, the abortionists and “pro-choicers” devote their lives to preventing that. They don’t want the woman to have a choice – they want them to abort. It is bad enough that society even allows for abortion to be an option, but it is even worse when you are told that is the only option.
The truth is that abortion should never be the option because there are a plethora of options that don’t involve murder. That is precisely what the sidewalk ministry is all about – actually giving those women the choice of life, not just for their babies but for them as well. When a woman chooses to end the life that is growing inside of her, she will have to deal with that physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually for the rest of her life. That is why the statistics are staggering about suicide attempts, depression, and substance abuse for post-abortive women. Stopping abortion not only protects the next generation but this generation, and the pro-life sidewalk ministry is devoted to protecting all life. So the pro-life ministry focuses on ways to help these women so they do not make the destructive devastating choice of abortion by showing them other choices. If it is finances that are the issue, they will pay for whatever the need is. If it is medical care that is the issue, they will find that and pay for it too. If it is an abusive relationship, they have helped get women to safe shelters and out of those situations. If it is the burden of raising a child, they will find someone for adoption (and many of them on the sidewalk are ready and willing to adopt). But consider what those choices provide. Life. For both. Love. For both. What do the abortionists provide? Death. Destruction. Despair. Depression. Why is that the only choice they want to give to those women? And they dare to say they are for women’s rights?!?
Why do I think they are not allowing this choice to be given to women? Because I have witnessed firsthand how they silence the one voice of hope and help that is being offered to them. They have escorts (who are more accurately described as deathscorts) who are paid by the clinic to usher the women in from the parking lot. They hide these women under an umbrella to shield them from our signs. They blast a stereo at these women to shield them from our voices. Ironically, they sing children’s songs to drown out our pleas for the life of those children. They yell in our faces with video cameras if our toes touch their grass, crying out about trespassing, while they are gleefully escorting babies to their death. They are MURDERING children inside that building but are more concerned about trespassing. I have never seen such hatred toward life, or towards myself, as what I witnessed that day. I have never been flipped off so many times in my life, flipped off for trying to offer to pay for someone’s medical expenses – and even for just offering those people a free doughnut.
I have never seen firsthand the powerful hold that Satan has on those people’s hearts. One of them told me that she didn’t care about those babies because she doesn’t believe in God. But you know, even atheists know murder is wrong. Even atheists think killing innocent people is wrong. You don’t have to believe in God to see that. With believers, I do always go back to the Biblical passages about how God knits us together in the womb and how He knows us and called us from the womb. However, even if you don’t believe that, you can see what we know from science. We see when this little life has a heartbeat and has a nervous system – at 5-8 weeks after conception! We can see when this life forms toothbuds and fingernails. We can watch this little life suck its thumb in utero. We can see when this life moves and kicks. We can watch this life respond to external stimuli. We encourage mothers and fathers to talk to the baby and play soothing music to the baby because it can recognize their voices and be calmed by the sound. And yet, here are these people, dancing and laughing as they escort women into a building where they will be told this is their only option. And then they take money from these women to invade the sanctity of this womb and literally tear apart this little life, limb from limb.
On this particular day, I invited a dear friend to come along and join me on the sidewalk. I asked him if I could share his thoughts from this experience because he summarized it so well:
People, this is going on EVERYWHERE. And in many places the hatred and vitriol against the pro-life people is even worse than here. How have we continued to allow this to go on in our society? How are we still silent about confronting evil? How are we still debating whether this is wrong or not? This is not a battle against political parties or opposing opinions. This is not an intellectual debate. This is a spiritual battleground for the hearts of people. Where are you in this battle?
Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world's darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Since the very beginning of time itself, the battle has not been between good and evil but between humility and pride. When we read in Isaiah 14 about the fall of Lucifer (aka Satan, the deceiver, the father of lies, and the ruler of darkness) we know that it all started with his pride. He said in his heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.” It all started because he wanted to be more powerful and more exalted than God. It was pride. And that pride was therefore, his destruction. Lucifer was cast out and destroyed because, though he was full of wisdom and beauty, he was corrupted by his pride (Ezekiel 28).
Lucifer knew that the easiest way to draw people away from God was to tempt them in their pride. It was his method to attack the crowning jewel of God’s creation – mankind. He used the temptation of pride to draw Eve away from her direct fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden. He started with making her question God’s commands. “Did God really say?” Satan made Eve consider whether God’s commands allowed for wiggle room. Did He really say that was forbidden? Maybe you misunderstood Him. Or maybe He said that but really meant something else (do we ever do that with God’s commands?). And Satan, as the father of lies, led the discussion with a lie about what God had actually commanded. Satan asked if God had forbidden them to eat of every tree, knowing it was just one particular tree. Then the lies continued. He wanted Eve to doubt God’s goodness. It was out of God’s goodness to protect Eve that He commanded them to not eat of that tree – so that she would not die. But Satan said that wasn't true. He called God the liar in order to make Eve question God’s purpose in His command. Then Satan added to his lie this little enticement for her pride. Satan said that instead of dying by eating the fruit, she would be like God. He wanted Eve to desire herself over God. He tempted her in her pride. Would she be willing to humbly submit to God's command or would she want to elevate herself? It’s exactly the concept that led to Lucifer’s fall and destruction; he wanted to be like God. It was that pride to be like God that, as Proverbs 16:18 says, led her to destruction. It was that pride that led to the destruction of all mankind.
Pride. It’s at the root of everything we do. We label movements and marches as taking "pride" in something; take pride in who you are; take pride in whatever it is that you are doing, whether it's good or bad. But pride is really the starting point of every sin we commit. Sometimes it's obvious but sometimes we don't even recognize it as pride. It is so subtle yet it is there even in the "good" things we do. We let it seep into our hearts without even knowing it. We tell ourselves that we are not overly prideful people; we don’t mind helping others and serving others. But as C.S. Lewis said, "If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed." So think about the subtlety of pride in how we even read scripture. Consider how you read Romans 14. Paul is talking about not judging a “weaker” brother who is convicted about not eating certain things or the one who is convicted about honoring certain days over others. He starts by saying, “Receive one who is weak in the faith.” Do you ever consider yourself to be the one who is weak in faith? Of course not. We always think of someone else in that case. We tend to identify with the “strong” in faith, even if we’re not. We never associate ourselves as being the weaker brother but only as the stronger one. In our minds we always think of someone else to serve as the example of the “weaker” brother, never considering that maybe it is yourself who is weak. It’s the same concept in Ephesians 4:14-16. Paul says that we should grow in our faith, no longer being “children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” But we always think of ourselves as mature and others as children. Because of pride. Someone might in that very moment be swayed and tossed about by false doctrine because of their immature faith, yet they will stand there and read that scripture pointing to others as “weak” or “children” of the faith and not themselves. Because of pride.
Look closely at 1 Thessalonians 5:14. Paul gives some commands to the believers there in Thessalonica. He says to warn the unruly, comfort the fainthearted, and uphold the weak. I’m sure you thought of several people you know that would classify as each of those. But where did you put yourself? We never consider that we might be the unruly, we may be the ones in fear and doubt, or that we may be the one of weak faith. Nope, our pride tells us that those adjectives all belong to someone else. In doing that, we get to point fingers at other people; how they need to mature; how they need to grow in faith; how they need to stop being unruly, or fearful, or weak. We never consider that as a description of our own faith calling us to grow and mature. Because of pride.
Pride is not only what prevents us from growing in the faith by blinding us to the reality of our own faith condition, but it is what prevents us from finding faith in the first place. It is out of pride that we think we are good enough to merit our salvation. It is from pride that we falsely believe we could ever be “good enough” to earn God’s favor. We have to come to an understanding that we are hopelessly, horribly lost in our sin – every single one of us. But our pride tells us “you’re not that bad” or “you’re a pretty good person.” But God’s standard is not being “pretty good” or “not that bad.” His standard is perfection. His standard is to have no sin at all. I heard it put so perfectly by Pastor James Roberson from the Bridge Church in Brooklyn, NY. How can we possibly think we adhere to God’s standard when we don’t even adhere to our own? None of us even act the way we think we should act, much less how God thinks we should act. We can’t even follow the advice we give others or heed the admonitions from our own earthly parents. What makes us think we can possibly pass the standard of perfect holiness as required from a perfect, holy, and just God? We constantly talk about our “rights” and what we “deserve.” Consider what we really deserve from the almighty God creator who will one day judge all of earth. For every lie you’ve told, every seed of anger, every fleeting moment of jealousy in your heart we deserve judgment. We deserve nothing. Actually we deserve worse than nothing. We deserve to be cast out from the presence of God forever. But He gives us mercy, withdrawing a judgment that we deserve. And He gives us grace, rewarding us with a blessing that we didn’t earn.
Yet we dare to stand in our pride and demand God accept us without any contrition of heart and, for some, without any acknowledgement of His existence at all. And again, the battle is between pride and humility. Will you humble yourself before God and acknowledge that you don’t deserve His mercy? Will you put aside your pride to see that you can’t merit salvation on your own good works to accept the undeserving gift of grace He has given? Jesus paints this very picture of the battle between pride and humility as He is facing the cross. And here in a different garden than Eve’s, we find a different outcome of this same struggle and temptation. In the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal, He is praying for there to be another way, but He humbly submits to the will of God to go forward to His death on the cross. Even knowing death could not hold Him, He was still praying for there to be another way. But He prayed in humility to yield Himself up for God – and for you. Throughout that night there were moments that if given over to pride Jesus could have made a very different end to the story. After Peter had cut off the ear of the solider coming for Jesus’ arrest, Jesus said to him, “Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” Out of pride for Himself, Jesus could have done that, but He humbly allowed the soldiers to arrest Him. At any moment during His trial while the soldiers struck Him and mocked Him, Jesus out of pride could have called down those angels and demonstrated His full power and deity. He could have prophesied not just who struck Him but everything about those who struck Him. But He humbly stood silent, submitting to the will of God. As He hung on the cross, the soldiers and Pharisees mocked Him and dared Him to save Himself. Out of pride He could have saved Himself from the cross and destroyed those who mocked Him. But in His humility, He gave up His spirit into the Father’s hand.
Pride vs. humility. Jesus, the only one who has a right to be proud because He is the perfect Son of God, humbly submitted Himself to God’s authority. Yet man, who has no right to make demands because he is covered over in sin, stands in pride shaking his fist at God as though he deserves something more. But man has the opportunity in humility to acknowledge his sin and seek forgiveness to gain mercy that he doesn’t deserve and receive grace which he did not earn. Pride vs. humility. Which choice will you make?
Last week I had the privilege of participating in the pro-life sidewalk ministry outside an abortion clinic. Back in October, I had the opportunity to speak at a 40 Days of Life campaign and since then I have wanted to come out and see what the pro-life sidewalk ministry does on a daily basis to minister to the people at the clinic and in that community. Before I talk about the ministry though, I want to turn your attention to the clinic. It is quite misleading in its sign on the building: Women’s Center. As you drive by you may get the impression that it provides medical care for women, maybe even helping women who can’t afford medical care. To the passersby, it seems like a good thing to have in a lower-income community. However, on its website it clearly outlines exactly what it does. It mentions first and foremost that it provides “reproductive alternatives,” offering abortion services on women pregnant up to 21-weeks. 21 weeks!!! Here’s what your baby looks like at 21-weeks’ gestation. It has already formed every organ necessary for life so this week in the womb is spent growing eyebrows.
It is clear that providing abortions is the clinic’s primary purpose. It only in passing mentions “other services” it may provide, like contraceptive counseling, STD testing, and OBGYN services (is that a conflict of interest?). Don’t be fooled into thinking this clinic is there to help impoverished women get healthcare. It is there to relieve women of the burdensome child they are carrying in the womb. Although this is not a Planned Parenthood facility, the same ideology permeates through any abortion clinic. It parades itself around as a “choice” for women with inconvenient pregnancies yet the founding principles from Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was eugenics, the belief and practice that aims to eliminate certain groups of people. Sanger sought to sterilize and end reproduction for the “less desirable” people. Her disdain for blacks, minority groups, and the diseased and disabled led to the corporation of abortion to profit from the killing of the weakest and most vulnerable. That is why these clinics are strategically situated in lower-income communities among minority groups.
The statistics today highlight this fact. African-American women are five times more likely to choose abortion over white women. Abortion remains the leading cause of death for the black community. Though African-Americans represent only 13% of the population they represent 30% of aborted children. In fact in New York City, a black baby in the womb is more likely to be aborted than to be born. Sanger once said, “We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.” If you want to find a truly racist organization that is still alive and thriving, look no further than Planned Parenthood. Sanger also stated about immigrants, “They are…human weeds, reckless breeders, spawning human beings who never should have been born. Organized charity itself is the symptom of a malignant social disease…Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks [of people] that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant.”[i]
In an interview in 1957 with journalist Mike Wallace, Sanger says that the greatest evil is a family that chooses to bring children into the world. She advocated for a system where every American family had to submit a request to the government to receive a “birth permit” before having children. She goes further by saying, “I think the greatest sin in the world is bringing children into the world – that have disease from their parents, that have no chance in the world to be a human being practically.” Did you catch that? She believes there are certain children that have “no chance to be a human being.” Yet there are people today who are fighting to keep these facilities open. They say those who are pro-life are the racists and bigots. But the pro-life people are the only ones wanting these children – children of any race or background or status or ability – to have the chance for life. How can that possibly be deemed racist? Dr. Alveda King commented herself on the racism of Planned Parenthood:
“The most obvious practitioner of racism in the United States today is Planned Parenthood, an organization founded by the eugenicist Margaret Sanger and recently documented as ready to accept money to eliminate black babies.”[ii]
Planned Parenthood may like to call themselves “pro-choice” but these clinics are not wanting the women to have a choice at all. Having a choice means you have data from all options. You are able to consider all the aspects, consequences, and benefits of option A. Then you are also able to consider all the aspects, consequences, and benefits of option B. At that point, you are then able to make a choice between A and B. But that is not what is going on at these clinics at all. These abortionists don’t want women to know all the aspects, consequences, or benefits of either option. They don’t tell these women that women who have abortions are 2.6 times more likely to commit suicide (teen girls are ten times more likely to commit suicide).[iii] Women are 81% more likely to have mental health issues after an abortion.[iv] They don’t tell these women that many post-abortive women are then unable to have children at a later time, or that they are more likely to suffer from depression or substance abuse.[v] They don’t tell these women where they can get prenatal help and services to give them the support they need through an unexpected pregnancy. So in reality, they aren’t really pro-choice at all, but pro-abortion. Because that is the only information given at these “clinics.”
My experience last week highlights this very issue. The pro-life ministry is not allowed to step foot on the abortuary’s property to speak directly with the women. The abortionists have their customers park in the back of the parking lot, as far away as they can possibly get from a voice from the sidewalk offering hope, help, and love. And they escort women into the building under a barrier of an umbrella so they don’t see messages of where to go and who to call for help and support. These abortionists want women to have only one choice, which then is not a choice at all. They want them to kill their baby so they can make money. One particular nurse at this clinic says that she chose to work at this abortuary because only there can she make enough money to buy her shiny new Mercedes parked out front – literally funding her greed with money from slaughtering innocent lives.
This lack of communication is what I found to be so frustrating! I wanted so desperately to walk up to each woman and tell them that there is hope. But that this decision leads only to death and despair – both for the child and for the mother – and for the father! I wanted to hug each woman and tell them that God loves them and their baby. I wanted to reassure them that this decision to have a baby that was unexpected or unplanned, and possibly even unwanted, will be difficult, but oftentimes doing the right thing IS difficult. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do the right thing. I wanted her to know that there is a plethora of support for her to have this baby if she would only reach out for help instead of reaching out to a hand that will literally rip apart her baby in the womb – a baby that will FEEL every tear and rip. For the clearly post-abortive mom that came out, I wanted to hold her hand and say that God could and would forgive her of this – and every sin – if she would just come to Him. Only He can give her hope and healing from this, healing that she is going to need as she carries this darkness inside her for the rest of her life.
But I couldn’t do that.
Because the abortionists don’t want that message to be heard.
The pro-choice supporters don’t want that choice to be made.
Instead of encouraging life, they want to question if the pro-life movement is going to support that baby once it is born. And the response to that is absolutely! There are thousands of ways that women and their children can get help. There are eons of government programs, church ministries, fostering and adoption programs. This pro-life group in particular have opened up their own pocket books to pay for prenatal medical care, to stock nurseries, and to adopt. But I also heard a great analogy to this issue. Do we ask the same question of firemen? When they rush into a burning building, do we ask if they are willing to support the person they rescue for the rest of their life? Would a fireman refuse to save the life of a child if the child might end up in the foster care system? Do we ask the same question of the ER doctors? Are they only going to operate if the child will have a stable home life? No we don’t. We wouldn’t dream of having first responders only assisting the lives they think matter to be saved. We would stand appalled at a first responder who said they just didn’t save that person because, well, they might not have the best quality of life. No, they don’t do that at all. They save all lives. Why is that? Because somewhere we know that all life has value. All life matters – no matter how old or how young.
From my experience I got to see firsthand how sidewalk ministries are really conducted against how pro-choice and main stream media want you to think it’s conducted. Were we shouting? Yes, but only so we could be heard across a parking lot and over the street traffic. It was the same way that I would shout out to a friend about to step into oncoming traffic to warn them of the danger ahead, desperately hoping that they heard one last voice of warning before something tragic happens. Were we holding signs? Yes, but only so that the message of hope could be read since it most likely could not be heard. Were we shouting out judgment, hate, and vitriol? Absolutely not. We were telling them that God loves them - all of them, regardless of their color or status. We were telling them that there is a better option, that there are in fact many other choices besides this one. We were telling them that we can help. We are willing to pay for their prenatal care. We are willing to provide their needs for a nursery. We are willing to locate a family to adopt. But please come talk to us. And please, please, please allow your child a chance to live.
Many people question this approach, wondering how this could actually save lives. At this particular clinic alone there have been 19 confirmed babies saved here this year, and countless others who have turned around and changed their minds because of this sidewalk ministry. There is one couple who has been ministering on this sidewalk for many years now. They have more than 600 confirmed lives saved by their work there. How can you say that those lives don’t matter? How can you say that standing out there for a few hours isn’t worth it when you see this picture of Taylor Marie, a beautiful little girl, saved this year by a sidewalk ministry? How can you look at that picture and NOT want to help? The ministry on the sidewalk is the last voice of hope for the life of that child. They are the LAST defense for the defenseless as they are escorted off to their death. And before you think that it doesn’t happen that often, this particular clinic in a small city in the south committed 2,000 murders this past year alone.
2,000 lives lost in that small non-descript “women’s clinic.” 2,000 less students to be part of the graduating class of 2034. 2,000 less teachers, astronauts, doctors, ministers, salesmen, inventors, business owners, electricians, plumbers, maybe even the future President of the United States. We’ll never know.
But sadly, this ministry does not have enough volunteers to be on that sidewalk every minute the abortuary is open. That means there are several hours a week that a person could walk into that abortuary and not encounter a single person offering them a message of hope. They don’t see anyone fighting the last fight for the life of their child. How can that even be possible? Do you realize how many churches are on every corner in that city? If ONE person, just ONE person, from each church would step up and give one hour of their time to give love and support and hope to those women, what a difference that would make!! How can we not find ONE person per church willing to do that? How is it that it’s the same team of only a handful of people, people who refuse to ignore what is going on in their own backyard? A handful of people who will stay silent no more. A handful of people who want to save the life of every child, no matter their color, gender, status, or position. Where are you, Church? Where are you while these babies are slaughtered? Do you not hear their cry? Do you not think God is mourning the loss of these innocent lives?
So I want to leave you with a challenge. Where is the abortion clinic in your city? Are you aware of what is going on right in your own backyard? Be a part of this ministry in your city. If every believer would take just one hour a week to stand up for those women and those babies, what a difference it would make! So find the information for shelters and charities that provide care for women with an unplanned pregnancy, and share that information to women who are in a moment of desperation. More importantly, take the message of hope that is found in the love and forgiveness given through Jesus Christ. He is there to help them through a difficult pregnancy and through the tough decision of keeping or giving up for adoption a life. And only He can offer forgiveness for sins to give us the eternal hope that we all so desperately need.
This weekend I had an amazing opportunity to speak at a March for Life rally. It was a very powerful and moving event. And even though I have been pro-life ever since I understood the term “abortion,” this was my first time to actively participate in something like this. I’ve been outspoken about being pro-life, I’ve explained to others why we should be pro-life, and I’ve written blogs about the subject, but in all that time I had never taken an active role in this issue. So I wanted to share some about my experience because I think it is important to clarify how this movement is misrepresented by the media and even misrepresented by the church.
This particular rally was located right outside the local abortion clinic. So the first achievement by this group is simply to raise awareness about what that clinic actually does. After all, the sign on the facility just said “Women’s Clinic” so the average person would have no idea what goes on inside. People probably assume the classic lie that they are in business to do mammograms and “women’s health” when in reality they are performing abortions. And as I’ve said many times before, if the reality of abortion was spoken of in public (instead of just calling it “choice”), then the issue would take a very different turn at the voting booths and in our legislation. If they would say that a second term abortion is an in-utero dismemberment and extraction of a human that already has all of its body parts – a circulatory system, a nervous system to feel things, arms and legs, fingers and toes, and even tooth buds under its gums – then maybe people would think twice about calling it “choice.”
Then I got to hear some of these other women speak. And it made my heart ache to learn the reality of the industry of abortion. One woman back in the 80s had been lied to by an abortionist that what was inside her was just a mass of tissue. She is still heartbroken with the grief of knowing she was talked into aborting the only biological child she ever had. See, back then we didn’t have the technology to show us the real embryological development of a fetus. Back then, the abortion movement tried to convince women it wasn’t really a baby yet. Of course now, with all that we know and can literally see in the womb, they have to take a different approach. We know that at 8 weeks the baby has a nervous system and at 5 weeks that baby has a beating heart. That’s not just a mass of tissue; that is a life. And at that point, most women don’t even know they’re pregnant yet. One woman gave her story about being at her OB/GYN for prenatal care, yet the doctor directed her to have an abortion. So here you have a woman choosing the difficult road of carrying a baby that was unplanned and who wanted to give that baby life, yet her doctor was trying to talk her into an abortion – not for the sake of her health, but for the sake of her convenience. The true picture of the industry of abortion.
But sadly, so many people stand silent on this issue. Their silence is their consent. Not speaking out about the killing of 3,000 innocent unborn Americans every day is consent. That is equivalent to 115 kindergarten classrooms being slaughtered EVERY DAY. How can we as human beings ignore that? How can we just sweep it under the rug and re-classify it as a “women’s health issue”? This is a sanctity of life issue. How can we as a church stand idly by and do nothing? Think about the damage done by the church remaining silent in Nazi Germany. Think about how the church stood silent during slavery and the civil rights movement. One of the most difficult things to read in Dr. Martin Luther King’s letters was his plea to the church to stand up for racial equality. The church should have been first on the front line to fight for these causes. We know about Corrie Ten Boom and Harriet Tubman because they were the exceptions. If all the Christians during those times were standing on God’s principles in those fights, then there would be too many names to even list in the history books of those fighting against such atrocities. And now that we have the same slaughter of innocent people in our nation today, we see the people in the church cowardly hiding behind “choice.” They’ve hidden behind it by staying silent. They’ve hidden behind it by denigrating those who speak out against it. And they’ve hidden behind it at the voting booths by electing government officials who support this, in particular our current president who refused to vote against even partial-birth abortions. Those are abortions done in the third trimester where the baby is partially passed through the birth canal and then murdered, all for the “choice” of the mother.
So how should the church help? Well one way that most churches do help is by supporting pregnancy centers. And I wholeheartedly agree that the church should support those as well. In fact, I consistently have supported those by donating all of my baby items to the pregnancy help centers in my local town. So I see those as wonderful and necessary in the pro-life movement. After all, you can’t encourage someone to keep their baby but not provide them the help and tools necessary to do so. But the women going to pregnancy help centers are the women who have already chosen life for their baby. What about the women who have not made that decision?
And this is what I’ve found to be the most amazing thing about this pro-life ministry – the REAL pro-life ministry, not the one you hear about in the media. They want to meet these women where they are in their final moments of desperation – on the doorstep of an abortuary – and give them hope. They want to show those women there IS a choice for life for their unborn baby. Ironically, the “pro-choice” abortionists really don’t want the women to have a true choice. They want them to “end the pregnancy” or “get rid of the problem.” That’s not a real choice. A real choice involves telling someone ALL the options they have, like pregnancy help centers, donors who will help with their medical care, maternity homes, or adoption. That is the help and love offered by this pro-life sidewalk ministry. Those people are so generous and so loving to the mother AND the baby that they are willing to pay for their pre-natal care. They are willing to provide all the items for the nursey. They are willing to be there through the entire pregnancy and delivery. They are willing to adopt.
Those people out on the sidewalk are doing a very difficult task. They are the last voice of true counsel to save those women from a regrettable mistake. They are the last line of defense to plead for the life of that baby. And they are doing it in the face of a government who hates them, in the face of atheists who hate them, and in the face of so-called women’s rights groups who hate them. Don’t let it be in the face of a church who hates them too. You may not be called to this particular ministry, but at least give your love and support to those who are called and willing to do that battle.
Silence is consent. Do not let your silence be to the consent of abortion.
In my opinion, one of the most compelling arguments for the existence of God comes from the Moral Law. It’s the idea that mankind has this overwhelming sense of moral, decent behavior that permeates every time, era, and civilization. Many people struggle with this concept, however, since there are so many societies and peoples that live as though they have absolutely no moral compass whatsoever. So how can we say that morality is inherent in the human race to prove that a God exists if people live immorally? Well, it’s because even those societies that appear morally depraved still uphold certain traits as desirable and condemn others as undesirable. For example, even though Hitler believed it was his duty to exterminate entire groups and ethnicities of people, he still demanded loyalty and honesty from within his troops and would punish treason and espionage. Somewhere he understood what traits people “ought to” exhibit. His soldiers ought to be loyal. Even those who are cruel and evil know when they are being treated unfairly. People sitting in prison for committing crimes against others would protest if the prison guards began to abuse them. So all of mankind, from young to old, uneducated to educated, poor and rich all recognize that there is this standard of behavior that people “ought to” follow. We all have in mind some kind of rule or law of behavior for playing fair. We can see it even as we make excuses for our own behavior. When we try to justify our actions, it is a subtle admission that our actions were indecent. We just feel that on this instance maybe we have some excuse for behaving indecently. As C.S. Lewis described it, “If we do not believe in decent behavior, then why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not behaving decently?”
All of this begs the question, from where did this moral law come? I go into this at length in the third chapter of my book, Teaching Others to Defend Christianity, but here I want to take this discussion in a new direction. Obviously as a theist (spoiler alert), it comes down to the existence of God. God imparted this sense of morality onto mankind because mankind was “made in God’s image.” However, for all atheists (or non-theists) the most common assertion is that this moral law came as a result of evolution. After all, what else does the atheist have to explain anything, other than evolution? Their argument will say to look at the moral component of the animals. And here’s where it gets tricky to parse through what the animal is truly doing and what we, as a morally driven mankind, impart to what the animal is doing. We all like to say that our dog is sad when we leave, a cat is happy when its sitting in your lap, and the mama bear loves her cubs. People take this to mean that animals emote and are morally guided just like humans. It leads them to think that maybe humans got their moral ideals simply from being part of the animal kingdom. Maybe we don’t need to be made in God’s image to love – the robin loves her babies and cares for them just like we do. But we have to look a little more honestly at animal behavior to understand the difference between mankind’s moral law and animal instincts.
And what better place to consider these truths than to watch the National Geographic channel? It sounds funny, I know, but several scenes on there helped me consider this on a new level. The first scene was three male leopards chasing down a female leopard in heat, each of them successfully mating with her behind a bush as the female struggled to get away. For the animal instinct, this is simply what male leopards do to continue their line of leopards. But for the human moral law, this was gang rape. So let’s stop and consider. Would we say this female leopard was raped? Or do we judge the leopard behavior differently from human behavior? The second example was five male lions ripping apart another male lion as a way of “de-throning” that male lion as the king of the pride. You could tell the filmmakers even had a hard time watching the scene unfold. Were those lions committing a murderous coup to overthrow the government? Or was this animal extinct to be the alpha male?
Sadly, both of the scenarios do play out in humankind. So it’s not to say that humans having a Moral Law are immune from this behavior but it’s our assessment of the behavior that differs. We would outright condemn the leopards’ behavior as taking advantage of a helpless female. It would be morally reprehensible. We would in most cases also condemn the lions’ behavior, unless we didn’t like the king/government being overthrown and then we would provide some justification or excuse for it. And by doing that, we admit that it’s not right to do that behavior – we’re just giving some reason why in this particular case it should be considered allowable. Otherwise, we might even refer to that kind of violent change in power as “uncivilized.” And that is incredibly revealing about how we really view animal instinct behaviors. Thus, even though we like to inject emotions and morality onto our pets, we can’t remove that morality from mankind and simply accept all animal instincts as decent to act upon as humans. In other words, we judge animal and human behavior differently. We are expected to refrain from our animal instincts so that we behave how we ought to behave.
The only plausible explanation is that there is a Moral Law Giver, something outside of this nature and mankind to give us this sense of fair play. Biblically, we would say that we have this morality instilled in us because we are made in His image. Because God is moral, He has given us the same moral ideal when He made us in His image. Granted, our sin as corrupted that perfect morality but the concept of it persists. But morality isn’t the only thing we gained by being made in His image. God is also good, intelligent, rational, spiritual, and ultimately, God is love. And here is where I want to really focus. God is love. We are made in His image, therefore we have a unique awareness, ability, and longing for love. The desire for love and acceptance cuts across all backgrounds and peoples, all ages, for all of time. Why? Why do we long to be loved and to give love? Is that something that exists in the animal kingdom too or is this truly unique for humans?
The non-theists will be quick to point out the mama bear. She loves her cubs just like humans love their children. And the baby bear cubs love their mama just like the human children love their parents. Is that the same kind of love though? Is the instinct to protect the innocent life you gave birth to the same thing as a God-given sense of love? I don’t know. But I do know this. We long for love in much more ways than just the child-parent relationship. Animals mate. Animals procreate. But humans? Humans marry. Why is that? Why do we not just continue the species the way the male lion does, with as many lionesses as you can to produce the strongest heirs? Or like the leopards with any female that is in heat? Yes, there are some examples of animals that mate for life but do they stand in front of witnesses and recite a vow of holy matrimony? What is it that has compelled humans to not just mate or even mate for life, but to promise to “love and cherish” for the rest of their lives? This is found nowhere else in nature. So are we really going to think that man just invented the idea of marriage? Man did not decide one day that he would pursue a lifelong love relationship with a spouse, whether they can procreate or not. The only way man has the desire for this kind of love is because he was created by and in the image of Love itself. God ordained marriage for mankind when He created Eve as the proper helper for Adam. In Genesis 2:24 it says, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”
In case you’re thinking that’s the “Old” Testament or maybe that Genesis was not literal, let’s take a look at Matthew 19:1-9. The Pharisees approach Jesus to question Him about the issue of divorce. To explain God’s stance on divorce, Jesus reaffirms God’s stance on marriage. And where does Jesus turn? To Genesis. He says, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” He is quoting from Genesis as a literal account of what happened in the beginning. Notice what all Jesus reiterates. First, “He who made them”. God made. They did not evolve or develop on their own from something else. God made. Second, He made them male and female. Two distinct genders. Not whatever the creation decided they identified with, but God made them separately male and separately female. Third, God joined them, one male and one female, together to become like one flesh. God made. Separate genders. Joined in marriage.
Marriage was not a concept invented by man. It was an institution ordained by God to satisfy man’s inherent desire for love. Therein lies the problem with the LGBTQ community’s demand for same-sex marriage. Typically the argument against gay or lesbian marriage comes from the fact that God created male and female for marriage. He gave to Adam his wife, not a husband. He said that a man will be joined to a woman, not a woman to a woman and not a man to a man. However, if this was just one particular way to define marriage out of many options, then who is to say that gay and lesbian marriage can’t happen? So the argument must be taken one step further to the very definition of marriage itself. Who was it that invented marriage? God did. Man did not devise this institution. Therefore God is the only one who gets to define what marriage is, not mankind. The LGBTQ community is not expanding our idea of marriage, they are redefining the word itself. God defined it as man will be joined to his wife, and they shall become one. Notice again in Matthew 19:6 what Jesus says: “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” God is the one who joined man and woman in marriage. God is the one who defined what marriage was. In the specific sense, it means that a particular man being joined to his particular wife by God should not be separated by man. But in the general sense, it means that God has designed marriage for one man and one woman, let not man redefine and destroy that.
There’s an old adage that says, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." It means if you want to have a different outcome than before, then you must change what you are doing. I feel like we as a society are stuck in an insanity do-loop. We keep expecting a different result but we just keep doing the same old thing. When our nation experiences some tragedy, we all pull out the same old phrase “God heal our land” or “pray for peace.” But what does all that really mean? Are we really willing to do anything differently so that those things will actually happen? Are people really going to start praying? And to whom are they offering their prayers? We can’t expect God to come heal our land when we refuse to even acknowledge that He exists. When we start crying out to God in these situations, it’s typically because we just want the “good” stuff from Him, the blessings. But are we willing to accept the “bad” stuff too? You know, like that whole judgment of sin thing. Or repentance.
We parade around as though we are our own gods, refusing to bow our knees to the Almighty Creator God, yet appeal to Him only in times of tragedy and grief. God does not command us to love Him only when something bad happens. He doesn’t ask for our prayers only when in sorrow. He commands us to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. We are to love God at all times. And how do we do that? By knowing God and by keeping His commands. We deny knowing there is a Creator and refuse to submit to his Lordship, yet we demand His mercy be upon us.
And then we hear phrases about how love should triumph over hate. If we only loved more, then all these problems would go away. If only criminals would love more. If only the police would love more. If only terrorists would love more. If only we loved the terrorists more. But we have to be careful about that phrase as well. Just going around loving is actually not helpful at all. The criminal and the terrorist love their crimes and terror. So just saying this generic “love” doesn’t accomplish anything. In fact, there are certain things that we ought to hate. The criminal ought to hate crime. The terrorist must hate the harm they bring to other people. We must hate injustice. We must hate evil. We must hate sin. Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good.” That seems like a straightforward thing to do. We can’t only love - because we must hate evil. We can’t only hate - because we must love good. The difficult thing now is what is the “good” that we are loving and what is the “evil” that we are hating? Do we have them confused? Isaiah 5:20 gives a strong warning concerning this. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” We must first understand to hate evil and love good. But we must verify that we have correctly identified what is good and what is evil!
How do you think we are doing on this? Are we calling sin good and acceptable, taking darkness and declaring it as light? And what about the things that are good and those who stand for it? Are we also calling them evil, asserting the light they shed on sin is them being in the dark? Our nation has taken things defined as sin and held them up as good and profitable. And at the same time, those who point out those issues as sin have been labeled as evil, as bigots, and whatever kind of “phobia” fits the situation. What is it that causes us to do this? The very next verse from Isaiah tells us how this happens. It says, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight!” It means that when we as humans think we are wise enough to determine right and wrong is when we better watch out. When we use our own judgments for light and dark is when we will get them wrong. That is when we will begin to call evil good and good evil. And that is when we think “love” will fix everything. But we are loving the wrong things! We are embracing sin and rejecting purity. We have to use the Word of God to distinguish what is right and wrong, good and evil, or else we will fail every time. Now, I am not saying that all tragedies are because God is judging us as a sinful nation. What I am saying is it is ludicrous for us to demand His mercy and His love when we won’t acknowledge His existence and we won’t accept His lordship.
So in our typical response to evil, people just cry out for more love. I think we renamed a whole decade on this idea. But when we reject the concept of God, then we reject any concept of what love truly is. 1 John 4:7 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God.” So if you remove God from the equation, then how does one define love? Love would be defined by people, and it then becomes whatever you want it to be. It means that man gets to decide who to love, when to love, and how to love. On the surface it sounds like we should champion that idea. But man’s definition of love is exceedingly selfish and fickle. It means each person decides their own definition of love. But man loves selfishly, looking out for our own interests, instead of truly loving others. Of course we may like to think we do a good job on our own of loving others. But do we really? We may do a decent job of loving those people who love us. But what about loving our enemies? Loving the people you like is easy. It’s loving the people you don’t like that gets hard. Or even just as a simple as loving the people you do like when they’re not doing likeable things. Man-created love will love only when it benefits him, only when it’s easy, only when that love is returned in some way, or maybe only those who are just like him. God-centered love will love your enemies, will love when it’s difficult, will love when no one else chooses to love and who no one else chooses to love regardless of how different they may be.
To fully understand this, we can turn to one of the more popular passages from the Bible, particularly during wedding season. It’s called the “Love Chapter” after all. 1 Corinthians 13. Paul gives us an understanding of what true, Godly love is all about. Granted, since we typically only read this during marriage ceremonies we tend to only think of a spousal relationship with it. But it is applicable to all relationships. Love is patient (it doesn’t get fed up with other people, but suffers alongside), kind (gentle, a grace that mellows our sharp edges), rejoices in truth (celebrates when sound theological truth is rightly understood and applied), bears all things (protects and shelters), believes all things (assumes the best in others), hopes all things (optimism for the eternal hope in heaven), endures all things (remains under pressure instead of looking for an escape). Love is not jealous (envious of others’ gifts), not proud (does not brag), not rude (unbecoming), not selfish (meeting our own desires instead of someone else’s), not provoked (not tempted to anger, goaded into evil to strike back), not keeping records of other’s wrongs (love lets it go), does not rejoice in sin (how could love rejoice in that which killed Christ?). Love never fails. Honestly stop and consider, how well do you do those things with your family (or your children!)? With your friends? With your co-workers? With those whom you disagree? With those you don’t like?
Without this kind of love, everything we do is like a clanging cymbal – no music, just noise. We like to think we do well at this but when we honestly consider it, we rarely love our chosen friends and special family like this much less those people we don’t like to associate with. To be able to have this kind of love, it requires a submission of ourselves to the One who IS Love. So when the world demands “more love” but refuses to submit to the authority of love, they are just a clanging cymbal. No melody. No beauty. Just noise. Just selfishly loving those they like, those that give them something in return. And that kind of love will never change the world. To change the world, we must have Godly love. Yet the world will always hate that kind of love. Jesus said in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Now, is that to say that God-centered love is played out perfectly among God-fearing believers? Of course not. Because we are still selfish humans. But it’s the Christian God who demonstrated what a perfectly, unselfish love looks like. God commanded us to love one another the way He loved us. And how did He love us? John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” And it is that sacrificial, undeserved love that Jesus showed for us on the Cross.
The other day I listened to a sermon by Brad Allison from the Altadena Valley Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, AL. He was discussing a well-known chapter in the book of Jeremiah in its proper context. Jeremiah 29 was a letter that God gave to Jeremiah for the Israelites after they were first taken captive by the Babylonians in 597 BC. The King of the Babylonians, King Nebuchadnezzar, conquered Jerusalem and took back with him the best and the brightest of the Israelites (of which Daniel was included). And King Nebuchadnezzar took those political and religious leaders as captives with the express purpose of indoctrinating them into the Babylonian culture, religion, and education.
Jeremiah was called to write this letter to the Israelites to give them comfort and to deliver the truth that this would be an extended time of captivity. In fact, it would last for 70 years. Jeremiah uses this letter to give them instruction for how they are to live as exiles. His advice is directly applicable to believers today. In 1 Peter 1:1 Christians are referred to as “exiles” living in a foreign land that is not our home. And we will most likely be here for a while so we need to understand how to live as exiles.
Jeremiah tell us two things about our attitudes. We are to show contentment. Jeremiah tells them to engage in their day-to-day activities that are long term activities: planting gardens, forming families, building houses. Accept where you are and learn to be content in this situation. Don’t spend all your time tucked away in a corner complaining about things. And second we are to show love for our enemies. The Israelites are told to seek good for the Babylonians. I know we may complain about our society and government leaders but consider why type of people the Babylonians were and what kind of “gods” they worshiped. Babylon is even used throughout the Bible as the metaphor for everything that is wrong with the world, starting with the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 and ending with the destruction of Babylon in Revelation 18. It is representative of sin and enemies of God, yet the Israelites were to pray for the Babylonians, seek peace for the Babylonians, rejoice in Babylon’s successes, and grieve Babylon’s losses. God wanted the Israelites to be so committed to the welfare of this pagan nation that the Israelites should rejoice in their success and grieve in their failure. Love your enemies and pray for them. Pray for God’s good gifts to be given to these enemies of yours. And the best gift is for them to know God. In 1 Timothy 2 Paul tells us to pray for those in authority over us – which were the Romans, not Christian leaders. Paul says that from that many people would be saved.
Jeremiah also us two things about our behavior. We are not to assimilate with the foreign land where God has placed us as exiles. They were not to embrace the values or religion of the Babylonians. One of Satan’s methods in attacking the church is the assimilation from within the church to pollute it with worldliness. If he can make the church look no different than the world, then the church has really ceased to exist. Jeremiah tells them to pray to the Lord their God, not the gods of Babylonians. King Nebuchadnezzar’s goal was to assimilate the captives so that they would worship his gods. But Jeremiah called them to stay true to their faith, to be distinct as God’s people. And Daniel and his friends maintain their faith in Jehovah while in captivity in the face of persecution (Daniel 3 & 6) and while the rest of the Israelites did not.
Even though we are not to assimilate, we are also not to separate. Jeremiah says they are to build houses, plant gardens, eat their produce, and form families. They are called to settle into this place as permanent residents, not as temporary visitors. We are called to do the same. We are not to huddle up among ourselves and neglect the community that God has placed us in. We ought not to think of ourselves as people rescuing folks from a sinking ship. We are instead to go about seeking the good of our community, of its institutions, not just the Christian institutions but the civic community institutions as well. As we do that, we are to bring the message of hope found in the Gospel of Jesus. I even heard this put another way, “Are you too Christian for non-Christians?” Have we so insulated ourselves from the rest of the world that we neglect forming relationships with unbelievers? Are we interacting enough with unbelievers that we can put our faith in action or are we too sheltered to have our faith exercised? Are we in a place where we can encourage someone in darkness without the light of Christ or do we only pray for others that we know can pray for us? Have we isolated ourselves so much that we can't really witness to anyone because we never come in contact with anyone who needs to be witnessed to? Are we forming relationships so we can speak God’s truth into their lives? Or are we over-protecting and separating ourselves out of fear, sitting in a holy huddle hoping none of the dirty sin world gets near us? God never commands us to be afraid; He commands us to be alert. In fact, He tells us well over 100 times in the Bible to “not fear.” If we pull ourselves out of our community, then where will the lost ever hear the name of Jesus? To show Jesus' love to those who might be unlovable according to the world, we must meet the world. We are not called to seclude ourselves to save our own on the sinking ship. We are called to be the flavor, the salt. And as you know, salt does no good if left in the shaker.
Today is the day set aside to remember the remarkable accomplishments of a life cut all too short, that of Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s the day we celebrate the peaceful movement started by Dr. King in an effort to use love to overcome senseless and unfounded hate. It is regrettable that we don’t have his voice actively ringing in our society’s ears today. What do you imagine he would say about the current condition of many cities? He wanted people to love each other for who they were on the inside, that part that each individual is responsible for and has full control over. And yet now we still have people on all sides of current issues focusing on the external part of a person, the part that they are not responsible for. In his famous speech, Dr. King longed for a time, not where no one was ever judged at all, but that the judgment be made on things that matter – on a person’s character, not on the trivial things that make no bearing on who a person is.
His words were a shining beacon of that time especially in how he broadcast them through the lens of love and not hate. He wanted there to be forgiveness on all sides. He wanted there to be equality of people, an idea that was first established in the Declaration of Independence. Only under that auspice was there even a hope for equality among all individuals because it stated: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Ah, and here’s the connection. “Created” equal. What worldview would even allow for the hope of equality among people, men and women, educated and uneducated, black and white? Only under Christianity are those principles given.
Now, that may seem flawed given so many atheists, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists may say that racial or gender discrimination is wrong. But they have no basis to form such an opinion if they are to be intellectually honest with their beliefs. They may decide for themselves that all people are created equal, but it is at direct odds with their worldview. For the Buddhist, Buddha originally refused to even allow women into the order of discipleship. Once he finally conceded to permit women, he created more rules for them to follow. Jews would often begin their prayers saying, “Thank you Lord that I am not a Gentile, slave, or woman.” Muslims treat women as property, denying them basic civil rights. They want to destroy anyone that has a different religious belief than them in accordance with the ninth chapter of the Quran to make them “objects of the sword.”
The real irony of belief though is found in the atheist. Because the atheist believes in only naturalism, then he must rely on evolution to achieve human life. In that respect, human life has no value anyway – not any more than a rock or a tree or a frog. The problem really comes down to whether evolution could have resulted in a moral value system that would even tell us that racial hatred is wrong. But evolution can’t do that. Mankind could not have ever received a sense of morality if it were left up to nature and evolution alone. Evolution would mandate that anything that progresses the species would be “good.” It means if rape or infanticide or racial discrimination progressed evolution, we could not declare it as wrong. There would be no evolutionary advantage to protect the disabled and elderly in our societies since they would be simply less fit to survive. Consider the reality of the mindset of the Nazi efforts to exterminate certain ethnicities. They were trying to cleanse the “lesser” species to promote the “fitter” species for survival. This was humankind enacting Darwinian evolution. If morality were simply a result of evolution, then those efforts would have to be applauded not condemned. It simply was aiding the survival of the fittest. Yet we unmistakably denounce those actions as evil. The same would have to be said for racial discrimination. Evolution would have to say that discriminating against a particular race for the benefit of the “human species” would be ok. Nothing from evolution could ever tell mankind that was wrong, yet we know that to be wrong.
Charles Darwin even said: “If men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering.” Yet even the atheist should find issue with a society that condoned that behavior.
The reason why we know racial discrimination and hatred to be wrong, that our equality is “self-evident,” is because our morals come from a higher authority. It is because our morality was given to us by something outside of nature and mankind. It came from an ultimate moral authority, a Moral Law Giver, a God. And we see that it is within Christianity that the equality of the individual finally comes into focus, especially at a time when women were less than human and slavery was rampant – among all races. But Jesus showed mankind a different way. He showed love to the Jew and the Samaritan; He showed love to the tax collector and the fisherman; He showed love to the woman in sin and the man with leprosy. He looked over the crowds of men, women, and children and it broke His heart for them. Mark 6:34 “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” He saw not the different classifications of people, but He saw people dead in their sins.
Paul says in Galatians 3:21-29: “Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
The unification of people into loving one another without regard for skin color or ethnicity is that we are all united as sinners and enemies of God. And only through our faith in Christ are we then united again as sons of God through that faith. Only with Christianity is there neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, black nor white. Only under faith in Jesus and only from the moral law given to us by God can we truly be colorblind.
Jesus didn’t teach this way through a violent riotous protest. Jesus didn’t teach this way by enacting Roman legislature. Jesus taught it by teaching love and forgiveness. Only when people are able to love and forgive one another can we truly move beyond discrimination of any kind to see people for the content of their character and not for the color of their skin.