Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Pastoral Concern: God's word matters

While it is disappointing that the Supreme Court has determined that all states must allow same-sex marriages, it did not come as a surprise to me.  Not even remotely.  It was wrapped in the mantle of "freedom," and "equality," and "love," and if you are even 1% American, you are obligated to stand up and cheer for that.  For that reason, it was a foregone conclusion that the Supreme Court was going to make the decision it did.  (I was surprised that the verdict was 5-4.  I thought the margin would have been wider.)

If you are interested in reading formal responses from some Lutheran leaders, the links follow.  The first is from WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) president, Rev. Mark Schroeder (no relation).  You can read his remarks here.

Equally good are the remarks of LC-MS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) president, Rev. Matthew Harrison.  His remarks are here.

The decision, the spirit of our society, the concern of many Christians, and the fears or foaming at the mouth of many people give me plenty of reasons to pray.  I have heard and read too many articles or comments to process.  Nevertheless, I will offer mine.

I will limit myself to encouraging Christians to hold to matters of sex and marriage as Scripture speaks of them.  That means first of all that strive to uphold our own Christian marriages first.  We do not give ourselves over to fornicating, cohabiting, extra-marital affairs, divorce, or other sins which fail to keep the marriage bed pure.  This is the best advertisement and endorsement for traditional marriage we can have.  After all, no one has to answer for the sins of others.  Each of us has to answer for our own.  Nor can we force people to live godly lives.  Each of us can only strive for godly living on our own--and if that means repenting of sexual sins, then we repent of our own sins, flee from them, and find forgiveness from Jesus.

After that, it is best not to resort to rational arguments why following God's word is good and why defying it is bad.  For example, don't argue that children are raised best by a mom and a dad and that's why traditional marriage should be supported and same-sex marriage is bad.  In response, you will hear stories about completely messed up, dysfunctional, or abusive mom-and-dad homes while the children adopted by some wonderful gay couple are thriving and contented.  And just like that, your argument gets thrown back in your face.  Reasonable arguments will always be countered by reasonable arguments.  Anecdotes, generally, prove nothing.  Statistics are also often useless.

God's word matters.  Our hope, our confidence, and our salvation all rest on sacred Scripture because sacred Scripture always stands true.  Others may hate it and reject it, but the Scriptures will still confess and state divine truth.  If the Scriptures are rejected and hated, the problem is not that we have failed to find a solid argument; the problem is that there will always be people who despise God and his word.  As much as we would like to see that change, it will never change for some.  Perhaps even for many.  In the days of Noah and Elijah, it was even for most--but the word of God still endures.

God's word matters, but it is alarming to see many Christian churches try to explain away the Bible and its testimony.  Some claim it is outdated, is misunderstood, or has been corrupted.  Others simply dismiss or ignore the parts of Scripture which are unpopular or which personally call them to repent.  This is simply a matter of unbelief.  Those who dismiss the Scriptures on certain teachings are confessing that they reject the word of the Lord.  Perhaps it comes from a desire to be loved by the world.  But a church which desire to be loved by the world will have to forsake God's word to do it.

Still others will confess a made-up god.  See if any of these sound familiar: "The god I worship would never find fault with nice people who simply want to love."  "Jesus never condemned anyone.  He told us not to judge or we would be judged."  "God is about love, not hate."  Such a god does not exist, because the Bible does not reveal a God who only loves.  Again, this probably comes from a desire to be loved by the world.  But people who desire to be loved by the world will have to deny the Jesus revealed in Scripture to do it.

God's word matters.  God's word sets down the standard of right and wrong.  God demands us to live up to it (Matthew 5:48).  God hates sin and all who are guilty of it (Psalm 5:5).  That means we are all worthy of God's wrath.  We are guilty, and the guilty deserve punishment.  But God revealed his love through Jesus.  Jesus absorbed all of God's anger on behalf of all sinners when he was crucified.  But, that crucifixion also shows us that God does hate sin.  Jesus endured total rejection from God the Father and suffered the divine curse for us and for all sinners.  The guiltless died for the guilty so that sins could be paid for and the guilty could be pardoned.  This isn't true because we want it to be; it is true because God has said so in his word.  God's word matters.

Those who invoke Jesus' name as the reason for engaging willfully in their sins (and it does not matter what the sin is) will not find forgiveness from him.  They are despising his sacrifice, rejecting his call for repentance, and denying the Scriptures which urge us to flee from evil and pursue righteousness.  Again, this is unbelief--no matter how much such people insist that they are devout Christians.  Though many will claim that Jesus delights in them while they willfully sin against his word, they are worshiping a made up Jesus.  God calls willful defiance evil, and God hates evil.

(NOTE: If you have read this far and are struck with fear because you are struggling with your sins and recognize that you keep on doing them, that is NOT willful defiance.  Those who are struggling are still fighting against their sins.  Flee to Jesus.  Come to church to hear the word.  Go to your pastor for confession and absolution.  You need not be devoured by your sin and guilt.  This is precisely what Jesus came to pay for and to provide strength to fight against.  Those who willfully engage in their sins do not struggle against them.  They cherish their sins.  They will not repent of them.  And they want their sins approved.  Though many will encourage them in their sins, the Church will still plead for them to repent so that they do not perish.)

God's word matters.  It is our only way of knowing right and wrong, good and evil.  It is our only confidence that our own sins, which are many, have been forgiven.  It is our motivation to flee from wickedness and pursue righteousness.  It is our only comfort when we are plagued by the guilt and fears our own sins still inflict on us.  It is the only source of mercy for anyone who lives.  And therefore, it must be preached and confessed and upheld in all points by God's people.  Many will still hate it and despise it, but some will believe it and receive priceless and everlasting comfort through it.  And that matters.

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