Because the leaders within our churches are no longer willing to contend for the faith, men have “perverted the words of the living God” (Jeremiah 23:36), where instead, the Lord is declaring, “the person who has my word should honestly speak my word” (Jeremiah 23:25). If the church continues to fall further from the truth, we will need bold leadership who will stand and proclaim the truth. The only thing that will bring about change is for our leaders to possess a strong conviction of sin and humility in their own lives.
For instance, a couple of years ago, Rob Bell stated, “I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs to adapt — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.” He has restated this several times.
In response to that, one pastor wrote:
Unfortunately, Bell misses the point that genuine Christians have nothing but compassion for those trapped in sexual sin — whatever sin it is. Those who strongly believe in the Bible and God’s will regarding sexual behavior also strongly believe in unconditional love and forgiveness. To say that authentic Christians hate or fear those trapped in the homosexual lifestyle demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of the Christian faith. What we forget is that to “confront in love” simply comes from a desire to honor God and to truly love and care for others. Our culture does not determine what The Church is to stand for. There is no way for The Church to “affirm” what the Bible clearly calls sin.
Frankly, I feel Bell’s biggest error is believing that The Church needs to adapt. At no time has our Lord asked us to alter our values and standards so we can fit in with our current culture. However, I will admit that The Church has failed to truly display the most basic criterion of a follower of Jesus. I am referring to our ability to have genuine concern and love for people, regardless of their lifestyle. Instead, we want to yell and scream or the run and hide. But our Lord is calling us to love. That’s right. If we wish to be a disciple of Jesus, we must be willing to reach beyond your comfort level and love those who need love the most.
I have said it many times before, but true Christianity is more than a verbal explanation of life. It is a way of life. A twenty-four-hour a day, demanding, challenging, courageous way of life. I like what Steve Camp has described the demands of our Christian lives:
“There’s safety in complacency but God is calling us out of our comfort zones into a life of complete surrender to the cross. To live dangerously is not to live recklessly but righteously and it is because of God‟s radical grace for us that we can risk living a life of radical obedience for Him.”
As I see it, the Holy Spirit is the bond of tenderness between the Father and the Son. So, the indwelling Spirit bears the indelible stamp of the compassion of our Lord, and the heart of the Spirit-filled person overflows with tenderness. Remember what Paul said?
“The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5:5)
This divine nature was imparted to us. Because of that, our most noble aspiration and the most demanding task is to become like Christ. As one early Church father wrote, “God took on our humanity so we could become like God.” Granted, for many this has meant different things but the life of our Savior suggests that to be like Him is to show compassion to whomever we meet.
I say that because in one Jesus’ parables, he told us to let the wheat and the weeds grow together. Paul caught this spirit when he wrote in I Corinthians, “Stop passing judgment and wait for the Lord’s return.”
To live as a member of the Kingdom of God means that we should be the most nonjudgmental people. We should actually get along with sinners. Remember the passage in Matthew where Jesus says, “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect?” (Matthew 5:48) In Luke, the same comment from Jesus is translated, “Be compassionate as your heavenly father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36). Some believe that the two words, perfect and compassionate, can be reduced to the same reality. In other words, to follow Jesus in His ministry of compassion precisely defines the biblical meaning of being perfect as the heavenly father is perfect.
I don’t think you can find a better illustration than by this account from Charles Colson’s book, “Who Speaks for God?: Confronting the World With Real Christianity”
“At a time when most Americans were panic stricken over the contagious disease or snickering at snide AIDS jokes, Christy [a young woman on his staff] and her prayer group were visiting terminally ill AIDS patients at a Washington area Hospital.
“None of the men had families in the area, and certainly no visitors. So Christy’s group brought them postage stamps, stationary, books, tapes, and cookies. In a prayer memo Christy explained why she visited AIDS victims: ‘They are socially unacceptable because of their lifestyle and medically unacceptable because of their disease. They are scared. They are dying. They are unsaved.’
“… was she afraid? ‘No,’ Christy responded. ‘We believe we are doing the will of God.’
“And of that Christy can be sure. For while the Word doesn’t tell us whether AIDS is a judgment of God, it does demand we care for the sick and have compassion for the suffering. The AIDS sufferers who are waiting to die alone, feared, ostracized, of all people need to hear the Good News of the Gospel.”
In his book, “Abba Child,” Brennan Manning put this so clearly:
“My identity as a child of God is not an abstraction or a tap dance into religiosity. It is the core truth of my existence. Living in the wisdom of accepted tenderness profoundly affects my perception of reality, the way I respond to people and their life situations. How I treat my brothers and sisters from day-to-day, whether they be Caucasian, African, Asian, or Hispanic; how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike; how I deal with ordinary people in their ordinary unbelief on an ordinary day will speak the truth of who I am more poignantly than a pro-life sticker on the bumper of my car”
The reality is that if we are going to follow our Lord, then we must extend compassion to whoever we deal with, without compromising the authority of the Scriptures. Yeah, yeah, it may sound like double-talk and that we are using contradictory terms, but as Idleman pointed out, “warning, confronting, challenging, advising and admonishing are all characteristic of genuine love.” Think about it, isn’t that what a parent does? Don’t they warn, confront, challenge and admonish their children? Of course they do. Only individuals who are filled with hate themselves will attribute these traits to “hate-speech.”
I admit that there is no way we can come into unity with Bell or folks who agree with him because we are divided on foundational issues. There is no way we can “just all get along.” When people depart from the truth, they are departing from the One who establishes the truth.
The most important point is that Bell forgets that truth is narrow; it is never popular. We are not “making a lot of noise;” we are contending for the faith, albeit not always in love. In reality, it is the minority (the homosexual agenda) who is making most of the noise.
Christian leaders would do well to revisit Jeremiah 23 regularly. Although this passage was written primarily to the leaders in Jeremiah’s day, the principle still applies today:
“How horrible it will be for the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep in my care,” declares Yahweh . . . They support those who do evil so that no one turns back from his wickedness . . . and to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘Nothing bad will happen to you’ . . . I didn’t send these prophets,, yet they ran with their message. I didn’t speak to them, yet they prophesied . . . If they had been in my inner circle, they would have announced my words to my people. They would have turned back from their evil ways . . . They don’t help these people at all,” declares Yahweh'” (Jeremiah 23:1-32).
Don’t confuse our King’s patience with His approval and preach with conviction from the pulpits again. As A.W. Tozer taught, “When we become so tolerant that we lead people into mental fog and spiritual darkness, we are not acting like Christians—we are acting like cowards.” “When the foundations collapse, what can righteous people do?” (Psalm 11:3).
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