Lifestyles of the Righteous and Favored

I read an article in the Christian Post this past week entitled “Angelina Jolie Advocates Teenage Cohabitation.”  The article was written by CP columnist Jim Denison and was a response to another article written in USA Today that claimed Angelina Jolie was allowed to have her boyfriend move in with her when she was fourteen and she planned to be as liberal minded with her children when they become sexually active.

     In the USA Today article columnist Amanda Marcotte acknowledges there is widespread acceptance of premarital sex and cohabitation.  In light of such acceptance she believes parental agreement of a teenager’s live-in boyfriend or girlfriend would reduce the risks associated with teenage sexual activity.  Marcotte thinks this is a way to control teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among teens.  I guess she believes these risks can be properly addressed if there is some parental supervision of teenage sex in the home.

     If we were to follow Marcotte’s advice, how can she guarantee permitting teenagers to have sex in the home will ensure a stable sex life or a healthy attitude toward sex?  Angelina Jolie, who Marcotte holds up as an example, has a love/hate relationship with her father Jon Voight, has been married and divorced twice, has had an on-again-off-again lesbian relationship with Jenny Shimizu, and she was purported to be the cause of Brad Pitt’s divorce from Jennifer Anniston, with whom she now lives.

     I am not trying to be mean to Angelina Jolie.  She is like all of us who are fallen and live without Christ.  Her life would greatly benefit from repentance and turning in faith to Christ.  I am just honestly sharing what is the aftermath of one who was allowed to cohabitate with her boyfriend in her parents’ home as a teenager.  Can Marcotte say she would wish Jolie’s heartache on anyone?  Does she think children can succeed where adults have failed?

     I know it sounds like a script from the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but Angelina Jolie is rich and famous.  Rich enough to absorb the financial consequences of her failed relationships and poor decisions, and famous enough to be idolized and adored by countless fans.  But stripped of her fortune and fame, who would want their child to follow her example, to go from one failed relationship to another?

     God does not give us a pattern to live by that is meant to be a joyless and empty experience.  God loves us and sexual relations were a part of his plan from the beginning of Creation.  Sexual relations exclusively between a husband and wife can build a bond of intimacy that can last a lifetime.  Sexual intimacy strengthens a companionship in marriage that can survive even when sexual intimacy is lost due to injury, disease, or old age.  The body may become infirm, but “Love never fails” 1 Corinthians 13:8.

     From the beginning God decreed “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” Genesis 2:24.  Long before there was any government, or educational systems, or businesses, God gave mankind marriage.  The home forged in marriage is the most basic of human institutions and is the foundation of any successful civilization.  It is within the context of the marriage that God blesses sexual pleasure and sanctions the procreation of humanity.  As the home goes, so goes the nation.

     The Scriptures clearly affirm that sex within marriage is both righteous and favored by our Father.  Sex outside of marriage is a perversion of its created purpose.  Sex for pleasure’s sake alone is fleeting and never satisfying.  When sexual relations are part of the intimacy of marriage they forge an unbreakable union, when practiced for pleasure’s sake alone it is ultimately divisive.  Sex can unite and it can separate; it can build a relationship or tear it down.  Those civilizations that have forsaken the biblical pattern have suffered and ultimately collapsed under the weight of their own decadence.

     God is not a killjoy, quite the opposite.  We can expect to enjoy life when we do as He says and not as we please, because the Father knows best.  I have not seen lasting happiness among the lifestyles of the rich and famous; I have witnessed and experienced the kind of lasting joy possessed by the lifestyles of the righteous and favored.

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The Messy Middle

An article entitled Study: Some Evangelicals in ‘Messy Middle’ on Homosexuality, Civil Unions appeared in the online edition of the Christian Post.  The article contained a paradox. According to a 2010 Baylor University Religion Survey it seems, “A significant number of evangelicals believe both that homosexuality is a sin and civil unions for same-sex couples should be legal.”  There were other results from the survey, but this one brings into specific relief what our attitude toward sin should be, and our response to it and those who engage in sinful practices.

     Homosexuality is a sin.  It is clearly and firmly denounced in both the Old and New Testaments.  It is descriptively decried in Leviticus 18:22 and along with adultery, Leviticus 18:20, and bestiality, Leviticus 18:23, and several other practices, is called an abomination, Leviticus 18:26.  The apostle Paul rails against homosexuality in his epistle to the Romans in the first chapter, verses 26-32, and again in 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:10.  Homosexuality is not treated with ambivalence in the Scriptures.

     Homosexuality is not innate in the sense that it is genetic.  There is not a single shred of scientific evidence suggesting homosexuality is genetic.  It is innate in the sense that everyone is born with a sin nature and possesses a propensity to sin.  Homosexuality is just one manifestation of the sin nature like stealing or adultery.  No thief or adulterer will be exonerated before that heavenly tribunal claiming he was born that way and neither will the homosexual.

     The sin of homosexuality is a matter of biblical certitude.  For anyone to believe otherwise is to simply refuse to believe what the Word of God clearly says on the subject.  The devout Christian has a responsibility to warn those who engage in homosexual sin of the consequence of impenitence just like any other sin.  We do so because it is the loving thing to do. To stand silently by and let another go blindly into eternity without sharing the hope that can only be found in Christ would be a greater sin than homosexuality.

     That is the spiritual and biblical perspective embraced by those who are in the “messy middle.”  But how should that translate into practice?

     I do not believe it reflects the love of Christ to persecute, harass or assault homosexuals.  Despite recent rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States, I believe in a moral basis for law.  But I would not be in favor of laws that discriminate against homosexuality while ignoring adultery, fornication, and other sexual sins just as pestiferous and deadly to social morality and stability.

     This may explain why those in the “messy middle” are not opposed to civil unions.  It is their sense of fairness that dictates their perspective.  The evangelical community has not been immune to the sexual revolution.  It may be the recognition that it was their moral laxity that paved the way for a greater acceptance of homosexuality.  It is difficult for heterosexuals to hold the moral high ground on the issue of homosexuality when they have been sexually promiscuous themselves.  They can’t see the justice in making homosexuals the scapegoat of sexual sin when they are just as guilty.

     If we have repented and sought forgiveness for our past sins, we cannot let them paralyze our current practice of Christian citizenship.  The welfare of our homes, our families and our nation hangs in the balance.  We have been told, “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked” Proverbs 25:26.  We defile ourselves and our nation when we do not stand for righteousness.

     I believe sin has spiritual implications and practical consequences.  I believe when God forbids something it is for our own good.  Ergo, I believe the practice of homosexuality harbors both seen and unforeseen consequences for society.  So I take my conscience and convictions with me into the voting booth.  As a Christian citizen I have a responsibility to vote for those laws that I believe best reflect the righteousness of God because that is what is best for our nation.  It is what is best for both heterosexual and homosexual.

     We need to repent of our sins and labor to bring ourselves and then our culture under the sway of God’s Word.  The Scriptures are the only safe guide in such matters because, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” Proverbs 14:34.

Prayer

It’s in the news again.  The constitutionality of when, and where, and how one can pray is under legal challenge.  Senator Marco Rubio submitted an article to the Christian Post about a ruling from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  It says the town council of Greece, New York is in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to The United States Constitution because it invites chaplains from the community to give an invocation at the beginning of their meetings.  This ruling is made in spite of the fact that those invocations have been offered by representatives of “various Christian denominations, the Jewish faith, and a Wiccan.”

     Despite these accommodations the Second Circuit Court of Appeals was not swayed and ruled this practice of the Greece township unconstitutional.  Senator Rubio made an excellent case for the history of legislative prayer.  He noted our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and since its inception legislative prayer has been commonplace from the highest levels of the federal government to local representative bodies like the town council of Greece.

     A basic rule of interpreting and implementing any law is to give due consideration to the intent of those who enacted it.  The first ten amendments to the Constitution are known collectively as the Bill of Rights and were adopted shortly after the Constitution itself.  The First Amendment is considered a cornerstone of the rest.  The first words of the First Amendment read, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

     I find it significant that the very first words of the First Amendment of the Constitution were written to prevent a state adopted religion, and to protect the freedom to worship as we please.  The intent of these words was to stop the establishment of a state church that would persecute and attempt to restrict the freedom to worship of those who refused to join and conform to the dictates of such a church.  That was the historical context of those who had fled the persecution of the Church of England.  There is no evidence the intent of these words in the First Amendment were meant to prohibit legislative prayer which was commonly practiced in the first thirteen states.

     It is asinine for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to assert otherwise.  But that is what we have come to expect from the federal court system.  Rulings that divorce themselves from the clear intent of the law, to issue one judicial fiat after another to impose their arbitrary and subjective opinion on what they think the law should say rather than interpreting it for what it says.  The court’s decision in this matter has not stopped the establishment of a religion; it has prohibited the free exercise thereof.

     While I embrace the Christian faith, I do not object to, feel offended or threatened by, or fret over those of other faiths who pray.  I expect Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists, etcetera, to pray as their conscience and convictions dictate.  I think it is irrationally fatuous for atheists to claim they are threatened or harmed by prayer to a God they claim does not exist.  No one is harmed by the prayer of others; we harm ourselves when we do not pray.

     There is a story about prayer in the Old Testament that is appropriate here.  Men jealous of Daniel during the reign of Darius incited him to decree no petition could be made for thirty days except to him.  Daniel continued to pray three times a day to God as was his practice.  His accusers notified the king and Darius was forced to throw Daniel into the lion’s den.

     The next day Darius calls to Daniel in the lion’s den, “has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?”  Daniel replies, “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime” Daniel 6:20, 22.

     The decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals is being appealed to the United States Supreme Court.  Senator Rubio and thirty-three Senators have filed an amicus brief supporting the practice of legislative prayer.  I applaud their efforts, but regardless of how the Court ultimately rules, I will continue to pray when I wish privately and when asked publicly.  Because by doing so, I have not violated the law of God or man.

     And I always bear in mind the real Supreme Court does not convene down here.

Well Done Is Better Than Well Said

I heard a story this past week I found hard to believe.  A man had come to know Jesus Christ as his Savior and wanted to join and become involved in the church that had introduced him to this new life.  His wife was already a believer and had been attending another church for years.  When his wife refused to change churches he divorced her and started going to the church he preferred.

     I have been studying church history of late and I am well aware of the stupid things people will do in the name of Christianity.  What this man did is one of them.  While church involvement is important, I wrote about it last week, it should not be the cause for dissolving a marriage.

     Marriage was the first human institution ordained by Father God and is the basic social unit of every other institution known to man.  This husband may have been ignorant of the importance and biblical teachings regarding marriage.  His actions are an indicator he did not hold marriage in as high esteem as God does, indicating he was either ignorant or indifferent to what the Bible has to say about the matter.

     The sad thing about all of this is this new convert, if he is indeed a convert, is not much different than many who claim to be Christians.  I think it is a paradox that two people who claim to be followers of Christ, and claim to love God and each other, rush into divorce court over trivial excuses.  In many cases there is no effort made on the part of either the husband or the wife to correct unbiblical behavior or seek biblical counseling. 

     When a man and a woman claim to love God and one another but refuse to address marital conflicts according to the word of God one or both of them are lying.  God gives us ample marital advice in the Scriptures.  I do not know if marriages are made in heaven; I know on earth they have to be maintained.  When the biblical principles for marriage are consistently and prayerfully applied they produce a marriage that is heaven on earth.  But to make marriage work in this age of anything-goes-and-it’s-all-about-me requires a deeper faith in the Word of God and a stronger commitment to it than many so-called Christians want to make.

     When Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees on the issue of divorce, He replies, “Have you not read…” (Matthew 19:4), and goes on to relate the Father’s instituting marriage with the first man and woman, Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:21-25).  Throughout His earthly ministry Jesus consistently pointed people to the Scriptures when he was questioned on a host of subjects.  The Son of God was setting an example for us to put our confidence in the Word of God as our guide just as He did.

     Of course, the low opinion of marriage in our culture is consistent with our equally low opinion of anything the Scriptures have to say on most any subject.  I do not think a person can be a Christian and show an indifference to what the Scriptures teach us.  Being a Christian means being like Christ, and Jesus was not indifferent to the Word of God.  Imagine the impact Christians could have on our culture if we spent as much time at being what we should be as we do at trying to entertain ourselves.

     It is an easy thing to claim commitment to Christ it is quite another thing to actually be committed.  Commitment does not lie in what we say it lies in what we do.  That is what James is getting at when he said “faith without works is dead” James 2:26.  His point is there is no dichotomy between faith and practice.  What we believe is what we do, and what we do is what we believe.

     If we believe marriage is important we will do it God’s way and not our way.  If we believe it is important to read the Bible we do it, we do not talk about doing it.  In Matthew 7:21-23 and 21:28-31, Jesus makes it clear that it is not what we say but what we do that counts.

     Talk is cheap.  Well done is better than well said.