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Changing Clothes

Published on 04/25/15

by Siera Weber, written for MtTFC 2015

Some may wonder why the Church today is not as successful as she has been in the past. Before, Christianity used to thrive, drawing in thousands of souls;[1] now it is but a dusty relic of ages past. What has caused such a dramatic change? The reason can be summarized in one word: fashion.

For too long the Church has garbed herself in the dreary drapery of hell-fire and brimstone, sin and wrath to come. It is little wonder respective suitors have fled the Church, considering that “Thou shalt not” is stamped upon her brow and “Thus saith the Lord” is continually upon her lips. Cloaked in solemnity and grimness, she wanders through the world rather as a widow than as a bride. It is high time that the Church as a whole casts off her ancient robes and adorns herself in apparel trending in today's current age.

Success in this area is not as distant as it may at first appear. Already multiple churches are employing strategies to shine and polish the Church's Word-weary visage.[2] Yet complete and total success has not been reached by the entire Church. Stubborn local bodies of bigoted born-again believers still cling tenaciously to the dusty volume they claim contains “absolute Truth”. Such beliefs belie their ignorance, for any educated person in today's age knows that “Truth,” even absolute Truth, ebbs and flows with the fickle tides of current opinion.

It is amusing, is it not, that the Church claims to know the only way to Heaven[3] and the only source of Truth?[4] Her arrogance is appalling! Is not pride one of the sins that the God of the Bible claims to abhor?[5] Only when the Church humbles herself and respects the beliefs of other religions can she remove one of her first pieces of offensive clothing, which some call the Belt of Truth.[6]

There is much more to her ghastly garments! Once converted, Christians everywhere are expected to become a new person[7] and don what has been called the “breastplate of righteousness.”[8] Clearly the Apostle Paul and the Holy Spirit[9] were unaware that personal identity and self-esteem would become such delicate issues in the Church Age.[10] By claiming that Christians need to be “born again”[11] and put aside their old ways of life,[12] the Bible seems to be saying that we are not good enough on our own! But wait, the Holy Book has not yet ceased its attacks on human self-esteem. It further states, “there is none righteous, no, not one.”[13] Imagine the hurt such news causes people today, especially when all they need is to feel loved and accepted! The Biblical church goes so far as to claim that the human heart itself is deceitful![14] Now, perhaps people are not perfect, but certainly we are not all bad. Besides, anyone would seem terribly wicked when compared to the Bible's standards. Once converted, Christians are expected to live up to an immense standard of holiness.[15] Is it any wonder that the Church as a whole looks so weary all the time? White garments[16] are difficult to keep clean.

New horrors appear as one scrutinizes the revolting raiment of the Biblical church! Her feet must wear shoes prepared to spread the gospel.[17] This is not just any gospel, mind you, but a gospel that is deemed “foolishness” to the world.[18] To claim that the Church is the bride[19] of a Savior who died and then arose three days later is in and of itself foolishness.[20] Also foolish are the beliefs that this Savior died for the so-called sins of mankind,[21] that we, as “fallen” humans, cannot save ourselves,[22] and that this Savior is the only way to heaven.[23] It is little wonder that the Church, so ignorant of political correctness, is hated when she spreads her gospel message so bluntly.[24] Most certainly her poor feet ache by now.

Accessorizing the Church's garish garb are none other than a shield of faith and a complementary helmet of salvation.[25] The Biblical Church claims that, without the faith shield, pleasing God becomes impossible.[26] Obviously she does not understand that we as humans have much to offer God. What need have we for faith? Furthermore, she must have forgotten the disgrace of obtaining the helmet of salvation. God would have nothing from her, not her works or righteousness, but gave her the helmet as a gift of grace.[27] It is the modern age, an age of technology and achievements and progress! And yet the Church promotes the belief that God would have nothing from us. He believes us incapable of saving ourselves, and seeks only to give to us. He would have us view ourselves as nothing, reduced to criminals deserving of death.[28] Such a message has never been in fashion.

Even more offensive than her apparel is the brand the Biblical Church wears, by which all men may know she belongs to God. This brand is love: love for each other,[29] love for enemies,[30] and, most importantly, love for God.[31] This is not a permissive love, nor a love of emotion. It is a love of grueling sacrifice and denial of self.[32] It is completely foreign in today's culture, which is perhaps the reason that so few embrace it. Often members of the Biblical Church herself neglect this love, for it is a love of action rather than of words. It is a love that demonstrates itself in absolute obedience[33] and even death.[34] How could such a love ever be popular?

After the Biblical Church's outfit has been altered, efforts can be made to reconstruct her message. The Bible itself shows us that the Savior of the Church was disdained by the world.[35] Therefore, if He is to be the crux of the gospel, His image must be changed. Already some churches are finding solutions to the problem of Christ's lack of marketability. They present him as a Savior who rescues people from all of their perceived emotional needs. Self-esteem, personal fulfillment, happiness—you name it, Christ provides it![36] Little mention, if any, is made of God's righteous wrath and judgment. God's holiness is neither politically correct nor fit for mainstream audiences. By cleverly presenting the gospel as the Jesus-Plus-Everything-You-Think-You-Need package, open-minded churches are ushering thousands of people into their pews and recording fresh names on ever-growing rosters.[37] If only more churches were willing to so alter their image. Then, perhaps, they would see their numbers grow.

An issue with this revitalized gospel and rejuvenated image is that the Christian life after salvation still contains hardship and struggle.[38] It would seem that the Bible demands perfect obedience and sacrificial love from the Church,[39] traits of which no humans are predisposed.[40] God expects irrational devotion from His people. Therefore, discipleship too must be downplayed in churches seeking to draw in the world. This is not so difficult a task, however, once the main Gospel message—the driving force behind the “new life”—is done away with or merely altered.

It stands to reason that humans are naturally closer to their friends than to their enemies. The Biblical Church believes that the world is an enemy of God[41] and, consequently, an enemy of the Church.[42] Therefore the Church has a decision to make: win favor or win souls. If the Church's desire is to win the favor of the world and more people in her pews, then she must merely progress further upon the new path she has laid for herself. However, if her desire is to truly win souls, then she must surrender her claims to authority and submit again to her God and His plan for winning souls. Both souls and their harvest come at steep prices, however. Salvation of souls has never been in fashion.

[1]Acts 2:41.

[2]Gary Gilley, The Market-Driven Church-Part 2, http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/21-church-trends/511-the-market-driven-church-part-2 (July 2000).

[3]John 14:6.

[4]John 17:17.

[5]Proverbs 6:17.

[6]Ephesians 6:14.

[7]2 Corinthians 5:17.

[8]Ephesians 6:14.

[9]2 Timothy 3:16.

[10]Gary Gilley, The Market-Driven Church-Part 3, http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/21-church-trends/512-the-market-driven-church-part-3 (August 2000).

[11]John 3:7.

[12]Ephesians 4:17-24.

[13]Romans 3:10.

[14]Jeremiah 17:9.

[15]1 Peter 1:16.

[16]Revelation 19:8.

[17]Ephesians 6:15.

[18]1 Corinthians 1:18.

[19]Revelation 19:7-9.

[20]1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

[21]1 Corinthians 15:3, Romans 5:8.

[22]Acts 4:12.

[23]John 14:6.

[24]John 15:19; Mark 13:13; 1 Peter 4:14.

[25]Ephesians 6:16.

[26]Hebrews 11:6.

[27]Ephesians 2:8-10.

[28]Hebrews 1-2; Romans 6:23.

[29]John 13:35.

[30]Matthew 5:39-44.

[31]Matthew 22:37.

[32]1 Corinthians 13.

[33]John 14:15.

[34]John 14:13.

[35]Isaiah 53:1-6; Matthew 27:22.

[36]Gary Gilley, The Market-Driven Church-Part 4, http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/21-church-trends/513-the-market-driven-church-part-4 (September 2000).

[37]Gary Gilley, The Market-Driven Church-Part 2, http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/21-church-trends/511-the-market-driven-church-part-2.

[38]John 15:19; 1 Peter 3:17; Hebrews 11:36-38; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 John 3:13.

[39]John 14:15; 1 Corinthians 13.

[40]Proverbs 21:10; John 3:19; Ephesians 2:3.

[41]Romans 5:10.

[42]John 15:18-19.

The Confessional

Published on 04/24/15

The Confessional

by Siera Weber, written for MtTFC 2015

Kings' Cafe was a cute little restaurant tucked away in the sleepier section of the town of Dimmesdale. Each day rows of cars squeezed together within the confines of the tiny parking lot, and more cars parked against the curb. Good food was not the reason for the thriving business. The real item sold at the cafe was privacy. Not only was the restaurant sheltered from all of the busyness of downtown Dimmesdale, but it also contained privacy within the building itself. Whatever was said in Kings' Cafe stayed in Kings' Cafe. No one feared inquisitive patrons. Almost everyone who came to the cafe wished to keep their business to themselves. Every Saturday, at least half-a-dozen men of the cloth would be calmly sitting with a member of their flock who was pouring out secrets for their pastor's (or bishop's) ear alone. It was often said that Kings' Cafe had more business than a Catholic confessional.

On March 10th, Dotty was manning the counter. First, Bishop Stevens walked in, followed shortly by Pastors Wilkes and Thomson from the Church of Christ. (Their church members often had two-pastor problems). Pastor Simson of the Lutheran church arrived punctually at 8:15 and ordered two black coffees, which meant he was meeting with Mr. Harvey the deacon for the third time that week. The new bishop from the Episcopal church came in and took a booth in the far left corner. Lastly, the hip young preacher from the non-denominational church—located in the old movie theater on Main Street—breezed inside and selected a booth close to the doors.

About fifteen minutes passed before others began arriving. Customers who had scheduled appointments with the clergymen shuffled to their booths as soon as they were inside the doors, while customers with no cares or concerns took seats by the counter. Dotty bustled amongst them all, taking and delivering orders, and then perched behind the cash register, waiting. At least one Saturday regular had not yet arrived.

About 10:15, when the first wave of customers began dispersing, Pastor Rick from Golgotha Baptist Church finally strolled into the cafe. “Mornin', Dotty!” he grinned.

“Well, it's about time Rick! Can I get you anything?”

“A coffee, please.”

“Sure thing.” As Dotty ambled away, Pastor Rick leaned against the counter and toyed with the napkin dispenser, lost in his thoughts. By the time Dotty returned, his cheery countenance had clouded over. “Uh oh. I know that look. Who's the victim today?”

Pastor Rick just sighed and shook his head. Dotty handed him his coffee. “Thanks, Dot,” he murmured before shuffling to his usual table. As soon as Pastor Rick began pouring his second spoonful of sugar into his coffee, the bell above the cafe doors jangled and a tall man strode into the cafe. He sauntered up to the counter and said, “Sixteen ounces of your blackest coffee, please.”

Dotty paused and stared at the man's face. Finally, her expression lit up and she exclaimed, “Well, well, Rafe Higgins, what are you doing back in Dimmesdale?”

“Just a short visit. Family and all that stuff. How have you been, Dot? Never left?”

“Nope. I like it here well enough. Hey, lemme get you that coffee and then we can catch up.”

“Maybe later. I'm actually here to visit a friend today.” Rafe turned and glanced around the cafe. Once his gaze rested on Pastor Rick, he smiled and waved.

“On confession day?” Dotty asked with a sly smile. “Now what have you been up to in the big city?”

“Aw, come on, Dot, you know me. We're just catching up.”

“Mmm hmm,” she winked. “Go on and sit down. I'll bring the cup to you.”

“Thanks.” Rafe sauntered to the booth and clasped Pastor Rick's hand firmly in his own. “How ya been, Rick?”

“Much better lately. You?” he asked, returning the handshake.

“Excellent, if I do say so myself.” Rafe settled onto the bench opposite Pastor Rick and launched into fifteen minutes of frivolous discussion. When Rafe finally paused to take a sip of his coffee, Pastor Rick asked, “How's Felecia doing?”

The mug froze against Rafe's lips. Slowly he set it down, his cheeks reddening slightly. “To be honest, we've called it quits. Irreconcilable differences.”

Pastor Rick nodded and changed the subject. They talked for twenty minutes more, when Pastor Rick finally brought up the question that had been burning in his heart. “Rafe, I know you hate it when I bring this up, but I have to ask. Where do you stand with the Lord?”

Rafe just smiled indulgently. “Far removed.

“Don't look at me like that, Rick. Would you rather I lie? Now, I knew you were going to ask. So I've thought about it all week. 'Why not just go ahead and do it already, Rafe?' I said to myself. 'It would sure make Rick happy, and then there's Susan and Lloyd. What could be so bad about it?' To be honest, I've felt a little bit behind since all of you jumped on the Jesus train. But for some reason, I've never been all that enthusiastic about it.

“Anyway, you know that I'm staying with Susan and Lloyd, right? Well, I was in the living room just reading the paper when Benny ran in. He's four, now. He was dirty from head to foot because he had been rolling around in the mud outside, and Sue was trying to get him into the bathtub. So, of course, he came in howling to Uncle Rafe to rescue him. And do you know what he said to me? He said, 'I don't want to get washed. I like myself the way I am!'"

“Don't look so dour. You can laugh if you want. I laughed. But I realized later that Benny described my thoughts exactly. I like the way I am, Rick. I'm fine.”

“Is Felecia fine?” Pastor Rick asked quietly.

Rafe sighed. “We never should have gotten married in the first place. I admit I made many serious mistakes. But she knew what she was getting into. Besides, it's the twenty-first century, Rick.”

Pastor Rick just sighed. “And Matilda?”

Rafe glanced at his mug again. “Matti's an adult, now, Rick. She doesn't need her daddy checking up on her.”

“Have you had any contact with her recently?”

Rafe shook his head and avoid Pastor Rick's eyes. He took off his watch and began massaging his wrist. “It's a crappy watch,” he explained. “It chafes.”

“I remember that,” Pastor Rick said, examining the watch. “She bought it for you, didn't she?”

“Yeah,” Rafe said quietly. Then he directed the subject to the recent construction on Main Street. The pair chatted for a little while longer, until Pastor Rick glanced at his own watch. “You expecting someone else?” Rafe asked.

“In a few minutes, yes. It's Saturday, you know.” Pastor Rick smiled weakly.

“Well, that's my cue.” Rafe stood and clasped Pastor Rick's hand again. “Good to see you, Rick.”

“You too,” Pastor Rick answered. Rafe clapped him on the back and left.

Scarcely three minutes later, a gaunt young woman trudged into the cafe, pulling her jacket tightly against herself. Once inside, the girl strode over to Pastor Rick, her mouth set in a firm line. She slid into the seat, looking guiltily resolved. She cleared her throat, and Pastor Rick nodded encouragingly.

“First of all, Pastor, I want to thank you for all the trouble you've gone through. I know I have a lot of problems and I haven't been easy. But to be fair I never wanted to come in the first place. It was Mom's idea.”

Pastor Rick nodded. “I know.”

The doorbell jangled.

“I know that you and Mom think I'm on the brink of disaster, and maybe I am. But I've thought long and hard about this, and—” she paused to take a deep breath, “I don't want anymore help, Pastor. I know it sounds silly and maybe even blasphemous, but—I like myself the way I am. I—I'm grateful, but I don't want your help anymore. My decisions are my own, and if they're the wrong decisions I'll take the consequences.”

Pastor Rick nodded. “I'm sorry to hear that, Matti, and I'm sorry I can't help you. I'll be praying for you. If you ever change your mind, God's waiting with open arms.”

“I know.” Matti stood and left, not noticing the man who was slumped dejectedly in the next booth. After a few moments had passed, Pastor Rick rose and scooped the watch off his table. He walked over to the next booth and gently laid the watch in front of Rafe. “You left this.”

Rafe's shoulders were shaking.

“Would you like to talk about it?” Pastor Rick asked quietly.

Rafe's voice shook. “Yeah. I want to talk about Matti. But first—” he sucked in a breath, “I want to talk about getting clean.”

Is That Love?

Published on 04/04/14

by Siera Weber, written for MtTFC 2014

He was an older man, though not as elderly as he appeared. He hunched over the table, shivering, as if his body were too worn down to maintain its own heat. His wrinkled face drooped with weariness and concern, and his hands shook as they reached for the coffee mug, hinting that perhaps he was in his eighties. In reality, he was only sixty-two.

A half hour passed, and the man did not leave the table. For most of that time he stared out the window, searching for someone. Several patrons in the restaurant would occasionally glance at him, but he was oblivious to any attention. His back refused to straighten. Constantly he would rub his temples and shut his eyes tightly, a grimace on his face. A waitress came to him twice, and both times he politely refused anything to eat. He had stomach problems, he explained, and he had forgotten his medication. He assured her that he was all right and was just waiting for someone. She left, but she would always find an excuse to walk past his table and make certain he was truly well.

About forty-five minutes after the man had started his vigil at the restaurant, a man in his mid twenties entered through the door. He possessed a vivaciousness and poise that made him stand out from all of the other patrons in the restaurant. Seemingly carefree and even jovial, he nodded a cheery hello to everyone he saw and whistled as he walked. It must have seemed strange that this happy individual went to the table of the melancholy old man and grasped his hand in a warm, hearty handshake. Somehow, his infectious grin grew larger.

“Hello, Pastor Rick,” the young man said affectionately.

“Hello, Tommy.” Pastor Rick smiled as tenderly as he would smile at any of his children, then waved a hand to the seat across from him. “Sit down, Boy. How have you been?”

“Great, I just got promoted yesterday, and now I'll get twice the pay. Nancy and I are thinking of a June wedding, and then—” Thomas rambled on for some time, and Pastor Rick hung on every word. However, as the boy—for he was still a boy to Pastor Rick—continued, the pastor noticed that little was said about some very important matters.

Once Thomas paused for a breath, Pastor Rick quietly asked, “And where do you go to church, Tommy?”

Thomas' smile froze, and his eyes drifted down to his former pastor's gnarled hands. Pastor Rick had been his friend from the time Thomas toddled around in diapers to the day he got his diploma. Never once had he spoken a harsh word to him or made him feel unwelcome in his house, and Thomas had returned the favor by doing his best to please his pastor. The last thing Thomas wanted to do was disappoint his former mentor, but he knew that any lies he told would be unconvincing. Sucking in a breath, he murmured, “I don't go to church anymore.”

Pastor Rick nodded slowly. He asked no questions, but Thomas felt compelled to give him the reason for his negligence. However, he knew the truth would hurt his old friend. “I don't go anymore because—it's not real.”

Pastor Rick raised his eyebrows at that statement, but he still allowed Thomas to do all the talking. “In Sunday school,” Thomas rushed on, “I learned a lot about the love of Jesus, and when I was little I didn't question that it was real. But as I got older, I began to notice the adults in the church, and I learned a lot more about this 'love.' I learned that Mrs. Banks and Mrs. White weren't friends anymore because of that incident at the potluck. I learned that the pianist and the song leader disagreed about everything from the choice of music to where the piano should be. I learned that the Jenkins believed that Christians shouldn't celebrate Christmas or Easter because they were pagan holidays, and so they left the church when no one would listen to them. I learned that Mr. Sikes believed Mr. Harvey was on the outs with God because he let his daughters wear pants. I learned that a lot of inconsequential things could turn into a source of conflict. Most of the issues I remember were never doctrinal. They were just silly things that got on people's nerves and escalated into arguments and then estrangement. I learned that the love of Jesus was just a children's song and that it doesn't apply to real life. If it did, those people would be able to overlook the unimportant things and get along; but instead, all they did was fight. I can't remember any of your sermons. The only prayers I remember are the ones Mr. Blake prayed because he sounded so in touch with God while he was praying, but after church he would kick God to the curb and start badmouthing every one of his dear 'brothers-in-the-Lord.' That's why I don't go to church; it doesn't work.”

His speech finished, Thomas sank against his chair and fiddled with the napkin dispenser on the table. For several minutes neither spoke. Only the gentle hum of the other patrons' voices filled the awkward silence. Finally, Thomas repeated quietly, “It doesn't work.”

Pastor Rick closed his eyes and pressed his fingers against his aching temples. Suddenly, Thomas became aware of how broken his pastor seemed, how aged he had become. “Look what they've done to you,” he whispered.

Thomas never did order anything. He sat with Pastor Rick for a little while longer, but there was no further conversation. Finally, Thomas stood, hugged the shell of his friend, and left the restaurant, the spring in his step gone. The wind outside whipped his coat and stung his eyes; that was why they were watering.

The meeting haunted Pastor Rick for the rest of the weekend and hung over him on Sunday morning. As he watched the pianist cast dagger eyes at the song leader and listened to Mr. Blake pray, his face twisted into a sad grimace. Finally, after the last note of the final song had been played, he shuffled to the pulpit and cleared his throat several times before speaking. “If any of you have a scrap of paper or a bookmark, you're going to need it today. Turn in your Bibles to Ephesians 4:1-3, and mark that page.” While he gave the people time to flip through the pages, he looked out over his congregation. They were not clearly divided; they sat relatively near each other in the pews. Yet there was an aura of tension between certain people, and he knew it would only worsen as time went on. “Turn to 1 John 4:7 and hold you place there before you turn to John 13:35. I need you all to really listen to me today. We've all committed a great sin, and now two young people about to start a life together are suffering or are going to suffer because of it.”

A murmur swept through the congregation, but Pastor Rick ignored it and began reading. “'By this shall all men know ye are my disciples, if ye have—if ye have love one to another.' Now flip back to 1 John 4:7.” Pastor Rick squinted at the blurring pages. “'Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God: and everyone that loveth—'” He stopped because he could no longer see the page. His eyes were flooding.

A Christian Perspective on Homosexuality

Published on 04/03/14

by Siera Weber, written for MtTFC 2014

Homosexuality has revolutionized our culture's view of masculinity, femininity, and marriage. Once a questionable and shady practice, it is now considered natural, permissible, and a civil right that is not only to be respected, but also accepted by all communities, including the Christian community. Hemant Mehta, the “Friendly Atheist” blogger, warned that failure to accept gay marriage would result in historical infamy for the Christian sect.[1] Despite the risk of historical infamy, many Christians refuse to embrace homosexuality because they believe that it is wrong. But is homosexuality truly a sin, or is homosexual activity only wrong when out of the confines of marriage? The laymen, scientists, and scholars of our culture have many varied opinions on this often debated topic, but the opinions of man can be misleading and dangerous.[2] Christians must examine what the Word of God, the only real standard of truth,[3] has to say on this controversial subject.

The Bible addresses the subject of homosexuality in both the Old and New Testaments. In Leviticus 18:22, God commanded, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination.” In Leviticus 20:13, God instituted a seemingly harsh penalty for those who were discovered committing homosexual acts. Genesis 19 describes the destruction of Sodom, a city that God destroyed for its wickedness, including homosexuality. Lest anyone argue that the law of the Old Testament does not apply to Christians today, Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 also clearly describe homosexuality as unnatural and a sin. Romans 1:26 declares, “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use for that which is against nature. And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust toward one another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. ” The word natural in these verses is a translation of the Greek word phusikan, which means “produced by nature, inborn.”[4] The word use in these verses is the translation of the Greek word xrasin, which is used specifically with a sexual connotation.[5] Romans 1:26-27 declares that homosexuality is biologically abnormal because it goes against the natural sexual functions of men and women—which is reasonable considering human anatomy and reproduction. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul declares that those who are “effeminate” (Greek: malakos, “a person who allows himself to be sexually abused contrary to nature”)[6] or “abusers of themselves with mankind” (Greek: arsenokoites, “sodomite”)[7] will, along with other evildoers, be barred from heaven.

Despite the biblical evidence that homosexuality was not designed by God, some gay-rights activists and homosexuals have argued that homosexuality is a physical trait that cannot be changed. However, this is not the case. Not only is there little credible scientific evidence that homosexuality is an inborn trait,[8] but also it is possible for homosexuals to change, although the process can be excruciating and will often last for years.[9] Even if homosexuality were a natural inclination, it would not automatically be a right inclination. As sinful humans, we have many natural inclinations that go against God's Word.[10]

Even though the Bible has declared homosexuality a sin, our culture still embraces it, even to the point of legalizing same-sex marriage. Is the marriage union between those of the same gender legitimate in God's eyes? According to Genesis 2:21-24, which gives us the creation and institution of marriage, God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman. Nowhere in the Scriptures is a same-gender marriage even considered, let alone accepted. One of the practical purposes of marriage is to produce children and raise them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.[11] This cannot be done naturally by a homosexual couple because those of the same sex are unable to procreate. Furthermore, children that are adopted into a homosexual family cannot be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord because homosexuals live a lifestyle contrary to God's Word. Not only does marriage have a practical purpose, but it also has a symbolic purpose. Throughout the Bible, marriage is used as a picture of God's relationship with His people. In the Old Testament, Israel is considered the bride of God the Father; and in the New Testament, the Church is considered the bride of Christ.[12] Same-sex marriage distorts that image and flouts God's original intentions for marriage.

How can our culture so readily scorn God's plan for sex and marriage? In mere decades, our society has moved from opposing homosexuality to openly lauding it. How is such a change possible? It is possible because our culture has willfully ignored God's literal signs in the heavens and earth. All of creation testifies to the existence of its Creator,[13] but our society has chosen to accept that chance produced the complex systems of the universe. Cloaking their arrogance in the guise of science,[14] scientists and laymen alike have reduced man to a merely mechanical being allowed to do whatever he wants, regardless of any moral laws the Creator has imposed on His creation. When a society rejects God's Word, God gives that society over to the depraved fancies of its members.[15] One of the results of man being turned over to his own sinful desires is homosexuality.[16] Because man will have nothing to do with God and the way He instituted marriage and sex, he has decided to replace God's plan with his own. The result is an idolatrous relationship that elevates the creature above the Creator.[17]

Because homosexuality is blatantly against God and His Word, how are Christians supposed to respond to those who profess to be gay or lesbian? First, we must remember that all sin is equal in God's eyes.[18] The sin of homosexuality is no better nor worse than adultery, fornication, gossip, lying, theft, disputing, or murder. Often, we make the mistake of emphasizing one particular sin, such as homosexuality, and then minimizing other sins that we consider minor. We should remember that every sin is serious in God's eyes. Second, as ambassadors on this earth for Christ, we need to live in a manner befitting God's kingdom in both word and deed.[19] If a homosexual sees sin in our lives, he will be less likely to accept Christ's message because our own deeds will declare our faith to be dead.[20] Third, we need to remember that a homosexual is the same as every other sinner. Satan has blinded him, and his heart has deceived him.[21] Instead of realizing that God is love, the homosexual turns to sinful sources to receive the acceptance and affection he craves. He does not realize that God is the only true source of satisfaction. Finally, we should proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, for only the power of the gospel can truly change a sinner.[22]

Once hidden, now flaunted, homosexuality is a deviance from God's original plan for sexual relations that has been embraced by our culture. Homosexuality is not exonerated when practiced within the confines of marriage, for it ignores the foundation and purpose of marriage. As Christians, we are to stand firmly against homosexuality; and we are responsible to share why we must oppose it. We need to communicate in both word and deed the love of God, which is better and truer than any replica the homosexual community can conjure in its search for fulfillment. We need to tell of our God Who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”[23]

[1] Hemant Mehta, “The Debate Over Gay Marriage is Precisely What Christians Will Be Known For.” April 1, 2014. www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/04/01/the-debate-over-gay-marriage-is-precisely-what-christians-will-be-known-for/.

[2] Proverbs 16:25.

[3] John 17:17.

[4] Matt Slick, “Romans 1:26-27 and Homosexuality.” Accessed on April 9, 2014. carm.org/romans-1-26-27-homosexuality.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Matt Slick, “Matthew Vines on 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.” Accessed on April 8, 2014. carm.org/matthew-vines-on-1-corinthians-6-9-10.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Sue Bohlin, “Homosexual Myths—Exposed from a Biblical Perspective.” Accessed April 7, 2014. www.probe.org/site/ExposedfromaBiblicalPerspective.htm.

[9] Sue Bohlin, “Can Homosexuals Change? —A Christian View of Homosexuality.” Accessed April 10, 2014. www.probe.org/site/c.fdKEIMNsEoG/b.4219369/k.6288/CanHomosexualsChange.htm.

[10] Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 11:32; Psalm 32:8.

[11] Ephesians 6:4; Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 6:20.

[12] Jeremiah 3:14; Ephesians 5:22-25.

[13] Romans 1:20; Psalm 19:1.

[14] Romans 1:22.

[15] Romans 1:24,26,28.

[16] Romans 1:26-28.

[17] Romans 1:23, 25.

[18] 1 John 5:17; James 2:10.

[19] 2 Corinthians 5:20; Colossians 3:17.

[20] James 2:26.

[21] Jeremiah 17:9; 2 Corinthians 5:20.

[22] Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 1:16; John 1:12.

[23] Psalm 86:15.

Judge Not

Published on 04/03/13

by Siera Weber, written for MtTFC 2013

“Judge not, lest thou be judged.”[1] Matthew 7:1 is a popular verse because it seemingly indicates that Christians are to abstain from judging. If this is the case, then we are never to confront another believer who is doing wrong, denounce the wicked practices of the world, or condemn false doctrines. If we dare to speak out against any of those things, we are likely to be bombarded with, “Christians are not supposed to judge.” However, John 7:24 says, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” This supposed contradiction may cause some confusion in us if we do not know what the Bible says about judging. “What can this mean? Are Christians supposed to judge or not?” we may ask.

The answer to the latter question is this: “Yes, Christians are supposed to judge.” Matthew 7:1 is often taken out of context. If we would read down to verse 5, we would discover that Jesus was talking to hypocrites who were condemning sinners for committing the same wrongs as they themselves were committing. Multiple verses in the Bible command Christians to judge. However, there are certain restrictions on what we are to judge and how we are to go about judging.

First, let us define what judgment is. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines judgment as “the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning or comparing.”[2] This definition leads us to ask the following question: “What are we to compare?” In Matthew 7:16-20, we are told to compare the fruits, or actions, of men. In 2 John 1:10 we are warned to be wary of the doctrines that men teach, lest they go against God's Word. The Bereans judged the doctrines Paul taught them and were commended for it in Acts 17:11. This information may lead us to ask, “To what are we to compare these fruits and doctrines?” The Psalmist answered that question when he said, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”[3] We are to shed God's light on all of the fruits of men and the doctrines they teach so that we are not swayed by erroneous teachings. When Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, she let herself be persuaded by the serpent's beguiling lies rather than remain grounded in the command God had given to Adam and her.

We are also to discern between what is righteous and what is wicked. Solomon, a Hebrew king who felt inadequate to rule Israel, beseeched God for wisdom to judge the people of Israel and between goodness and iniquity. God did not berate Solomon for his words, but rather, He blessed Him with riches, wisdom, and honor because he asked for the understanding to judge![4] The prophet Amos instructed the people of Israel to “hate the evil, and love the good.”[5] How can this be done without judging between what is evil and what is good?

Another instance in which judging is necessary is when we see a brother in Christ behaving in a way that we know goes against God's Word. When this happens, we need to admonish him in a spirit of meekness and love.[6] If we refuse to rebuke a sinning brother in Christ because we do not want to offend him, then he may continue down the path of wickedness until he is horribly scarred by his wrongs. There are consequences to sin, some more grievous than we could ever imagine. Did not James say in James 1:15 that “sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death”? Amos the prophet also associated wickedness with death when he said in Amos 5:14 that the Israelites should seek righteousness if they wanted to live. True Christian love is not manifested by allowing a brother in Christ to strain his fellowship with God and to destroy his own life by his unrighteous works. Rather, true Christian love is manifested by warning the believer of danger. Would we let a loved one perish by eating something that we knew was poisonous just because we did not want to offend him? Will we allow our brethren in Christ to consume the poison of sin? Brethren in Christ are not the only believers we need to judge, for we need to judge ourselves as well. We are to be constantly shedding the light of God's Word on our own lives, determining if we are living as God intends.

There are certain things which Christians are not to judge and ways of judging that are prohibited. While we are to judge the fruits of men, we are not to judge men themselves by their outward appearance.[7] Furthermore, we are not to judge the hearts or motives of a person, since only God knows the heart.[8] On that note, we can never make judgments about the eternal soul of a person, since only God knows the final destination of the souls of all mankind. Judging hypocritically is also against the Biblical guidelines of discernment. If we condemn a Christian for doing the same sins as we are doing, then we are being as stiff-necked as the Pharisees Jesus rebuked in Matthew 7:1-5 and the wayward believers Paul admonished in Romans 2:1-4. We must confront ourselves before correcting another believer.

We are not to make legalistic matters, such as dietary habits and the celebration of holidays, issues of doctrine when they are not mentioned in the Bible specifically as right or wrong. The Apostle Paul addressed that very issue in Romans 14:1-14. Always, we are to make judgments about doctrine and the fruits of men based on the Word of God alone, and not the opinions of men.[9] Our own judgment is corrupt, just as we are corrupt. In fact, King Solomon informs us in Proverbs 14:12 that some ways which a man thinks are right really lead to death.

In the end, judging, or discerning, is the responsibility of all believers, no matter what the world may say. We must make sure, however, that all of our judgments are made upon the solid foundation of God's Word. Any judgment not based on this Biblical paradigm is folly and detrimental to the Christian's spiritual welfare and testimony.

If you are ever reprimanded for being too “judgmental,” you should first determine that you are judging in a Biblical way. If you are not, then you ought to correct yourself. However, we must not let the world’s view of “tolerance” dictate our Biblical discernment.

[1]Matthew 7:1.

[2]Merriam-Webster Dictionary, s.v. “Judgment,” accessed February, 20, 2013, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/judgment.

[3]Psalm 119:105.

[4]1 Kings 3:9-11.,/p>

[5]Amos 5:15.

[6]Matthew 18:15-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:13-15; Titus 1:13; Colossians 1:28.

[7]John 7:24.

[8]1 Samuel 16:17.

[9]Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 3:5.