Ours is not a political mandate

The Washington Post recently ran an article titled, “Trump threatens to change the course of American Christianity.” Having won the Presidency with 81% of the white evangelical vote, it is commonly accepted that it was the religious right that led the way to Trump becoming the leader of the free world.

It was men like Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, that helped catapult Trump to the White House. Evangelicals who supported Trump, like Jeffress, are thought to have Trump’s ear and are seen as having possible significant influence as Trump’s advisers.

Writing for the Post, John Fea says Trump’s faith, questioned while he was campaigning, has not changed since being elected. He goes on to suggest that American Christianity will not change Trump as much as Trump will change American Christianity.

Only time will tell if Fea is a journalist or a prophet, but believers might want to keep their eye on the man who co-authored the book titled The Art of the Deal. Trump has already got what he wanted and it remains to be seen what evangelicals will reap, although the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is a good down payment.

It is in the political arena where we observe the greatest animosity today. The first election I voted in was when Jimmy Carter ran for President, and I do not think I have ever seen the sheer bitterness I have witnessed in this last campaign and seems to persist.

While politics can be a dirty business, I believe Christian citizenship requires believers to thoughtfully consider the competing platforms of each party, and then to prayerfully vote our convictions. But in doing so, we should guard our hearts that we do not allow ourselves to become puppets of any political party.

Billy Graham said several years ago, “The central issues of our time aren’t economic or political or social, important as these are. The central issues of our time are moral and spiritual in nature.” Times haven’t changed.

Christianity’s primary mandate is not a political one, Jesus Christ commanded, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you,” Matthew 28:19, 20.

I do not remember the date; it was the seventies. The Florida Baptist State Convention met that year in the Veteran’s Memorial Civic Auditorium in Jacksonville, Florida. Two men I admired were to speak, Vance Havner and Dr. W.A. Criswell.

Dr. Criswell was at that time the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, as Jeffress is today. He delivered a sermon to the pastors present encouraging them in the importance of the Gospel ministry.

While my memory is vague on the date, his words still ring clear, “If I were offered the Presidency of the United States, and left my pulpit to accept, I believe I would be taking a step down.” I hope Jeffress is listening to his predecessor, and pray we do not take a step down.

The Christian response to homosexuality

We live in a time when there are widely contradictory perspectives among Christians and those who claim to be Christians. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., said it well when he wrote we are “living in an age of widespread doctrinal denial and intense theological confusion.”

This dichotomy is most readily seen in the different responses to same-sex issues. Some have capitulated to the propaganda of LGBT activists, and others have faithfully held to a biblical perspective of marriage and human sexuality.

Nominal Christians are lauded by the LGBT community, while genuine Christians are maligned as homophobic, bigoted, and hateful. So what distinguishes a nominal Christian from a genuine Christian?

The simplest definition is a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ and His teachings: one who lives as He did. If a Christian by definition is one patterning his life after that of Christ then we cannot deny that Christ placed His confidence in the authority of Scripture.

When he was twelve His parents lost Him and later found Him listening to and asking questions of those who taught in the temple. When He was tempted in the wilderness He replied to the devil’s three temptations with “it is written.” In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill,” Matthew 5:17.

Time and again when Jesus was questioned about marriage, the resurrection, His authority to do the things He did, He unwaveringly gave the authority of God’s Word as the authority for what He believed and did. Christ never disobeyed the Scriptures.

The inescapable conclusion is that to be a genuine Christian one must place the same confidence in the authority of Scripture Christ did. Anything less is not Christian. Scripture frames the Christian’s worldview, so that the Christian concept of what is sin, and what is not, is informed by Scripture.

If we are to remain true to the Scriptures as Christ did, we must declare homosexuality to be a sin because that is what the Scriptures declare.

But this is not a license to treat those in the grip of homosexual sin in an unloving way, to bully or shame them, because their sin is no greater than our own. We needed someone to love us when we were in sin and warn us so we could repent and turn in faith to Christ.

This is why we are compelled in God’s Word to love and warn those deceived by homosexuality, because while their sin is no greater than ours, it is no less grave.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators…nor adulterers…nor homosexuals…will inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

It will take more than childish name calling to stop us from warning those who are lost, not because we are bigoted or hateful, but because we love as Christ loved us.

The couple, the baker, and the supreme lawmaker

Jack Phillips is a baker and owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. In 2012 a gay couple asked him to bake a cake for their wedding. He told them the same thing he had to those wanting him to bake a cake for a bachelor’s or Halloween party; “I’m sorry, but I can’t promote messages that violate my beliefs, though I’d be happy to sell you anything else.”

Jack took the words of Christ seriously. When Jesus was questioned about divorce He replied, “Have you not read that He who created them from 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?” Matthew 19:4-5. Since the beginning of time marriage has been one man and one woman. Jesus said it; Jack believed it.

The couple reported Jack to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and it effectively shut down his cake making that represented forty percent of his business. He has been battling for the right to run his business according to his deeply held convictions ever since. Colorado claims Jack violated the couple’s civil rights; Jack says Colorado violated his free exercise of religion.

Jack is going to get his day in court. The case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is on the docket for the next session of the Supreme Court. Since the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, that in effect legalized same-sex marriage, the First Amendment’s protection of the “free exercise” of religion has been questioned.

But in his majority opinion Justice Anthony Kennedy addresses the First Amendment protection. He wrote, “Finally, it must be recognized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”

The Court seems to be saying that granting same-sex couples the right to marry is not a right to force another to abandon their right to freely exercise their beliefs. The right to marry does not obligate another citizen to compromise their faith to help you celebrate or secure that right.

In the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges a number of states introduced legislation similar to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect those persons who wish to practice their Christian faith. Incidentally, that bill was signed into law by then Governor of Indiana Mike Pence.

One person who objected to Indiana’s law commented he was against it because he did not want to be forced to live by “Christian rules.” Here’s a news flash, Christians are not the ones trying to make someone bake them a cake.