Monday, May 4, 2015

While We Have Opportunity

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. -- The First Amendment to the Constitution
When I was a kid I remember thinking: so long as these words were contained in the US Constitution my religious liberties would be protected. Well, that was then and this is now.
An Oregon bakery, Washington florist, Indiana RFRA law, and the Supreme Court. These are some of the relevant instances that have spurred this blog post today.
Sweet Cakes by Melissa, an Oregon bakery owned by professing Christians refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding, and may owe a fine of $135,000. There was a GoFundMe fundraising website established, and raised $109,000 before GoFundMe took the site down.
Arlene’s Flowers, a Washington florist owned by a professing Christian refused to provide flowers to a gay wedding. There was also a GoFundMe funding website established for her florist shop, and GoFundMe just took the site down last week.
The state of Indiana had a state version of the federal RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act), which caved under pressure from the media and our culture, and have since changed the law.
And just last week, the Supreme Court heard the oral arguments for why same-sex couples should have the right to marry.
With each of these examples, I find myself a bit overwhelmed. It’s simply incredible to me that this is the subject matter of our conversation today. I never would have imagined that (1) gay people would want to be married, or (2) Christians living out their faith would face governmental persecution in the US. But these are the times in which we live, and well, Christians can’t ignore this issue any longer.
When I am given an opportunity to respond to this issue, I generally begin by leveling the playing field. I make it plain that I believe all people, including myself (especially myself), are sinners. We are all guilty of breaking God’s Law and are deserving of death and eternal punishment in Hell. I also take the time to say up-front that I don’t have any negative feelings towards LGBT people, and I would reiterate again that I am equal to them. We’re all created in God’s image, and therefore, they are deserving of equal treatment, respect and love as fellow human beings.
I believe that government’s laws and ordinances should take a back seat to the gospel when we discuss these issues with people. Not because we shouldn’t discuss them - we should - but because they are of lesser importance when compared with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is why I strongly believe that we explain the reason for our beliefs first, then if appropriate, touch on the role of government.
You see, people are told what we believe through the media, social media, and by the culture at large. What they’re basically told is that we are a bunch of moronic bigots who hate gay people. I’m tired of hearing the accusation, “Stop trying to hide your bigotry behind the excuse of religion…” This kind of argument has a strong affect on people in our society today. Therefore, since the world is loudly announcing our bigotry and mean-spiritedness, why don’t we take the time to respond?
Peter said this in his letter: “15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” (1 Peter 3:15, NASB). I’ve started to recognize that the non-Christians in my life are always watching me. They wonder what I will say and do. They wonder what I think about things. Sometimes I hope to surprise them, while other times I hope to give them exactly what they expect. All the time I hope to present Biblical Christianity to them.
Were I to continue on with a discussion of LGBTism, having leveled the playing field, I then move straight onto God’s right to define how human beings are to live. This includes His right to define what sin is - which includes LGBTism, among many other sins. Having established a definition of sin, and many other topics about God and humanity, I then move into the good news of the gospel.
I point out that the gospel is good news, because God’s salvation not only justifies us in His sight, but he begins sanctifying us so that we forfeit our old sinful lifestyles. Paul listed a great many sins and then said of Christians: “Such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11, NASB). This means that God has the power to change our behavior and our desires so that we can live the way He wants us to live.
Taking this loving and patient approach, has allowed me many opportunities to have effective and clear conversations with people that I know - all by the grace of God. I think what it is, honestly, most people have never heard Christianity explained to them by Christians. It’s always told to them by liberal media, or social media … and we know what views they have of us. We should take the time and the opportunity to be bold witnesses for our Lord. I know this is what He wants from us.
Finally, I will conclude with a few additional thoughts. At this point in a conversation with someone, it is pretty clear on whether you would (or could) be involved in an LGBT ceremony. It is obvious that Christians can’t be. But now what is obvious to the one you’ve talked to, is that you don’t have any special animus towards them. In fact, it’s actually out of concern for God’s truth and because you cannot endorse sinful behavior.
Don't get me wrong here: I'm all about being involved in the legal process, and in caring about our current government. But our first priority must be the spread of the gospel and the strengthening of Christ's Church.
"9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." (Galatians 6:9-10, NASB).

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