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WWJD Isn’t Rocket Science

July 13, 2016 2 comments

WWJDI find myself shaking my head a lot recently. I don’t think it’s a tic. It tends to happen almost exclusively when I read certain news articles these days.

For example, I found myself shaking my head when I read in an article lately that WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) – while admittedly a useful question to ask in some circumstances – can’t help the Church with how to respond to LGBTTQ* issues, since Jesus didn’t talk about that kind of behaviour in the four gospels. The writer reasoned further that since Jesus was silent on the subject He must have thought it wasn’t a big deal.

Aside from the abysmal logic built on an argument from silence, I disagree with the idea that we can’t ask the question “What Would Jesus Do?” to help us form a right response to the particular issues about sexual behaviour that we are facing in our society today.

To bring younger readers up to speed, “What Would Jesus Do?” was a popular youth movement in the evangelical Church in North America in the ‘90’s. It began as a reminder to believers to consider Jesus as they made decisions – big or small – in their lives. Soon teen Christians all over the world were sporting “WWJD” wristbands and other merchandise. It became so popular that the world even noticed it long enough to make fun of it. Nonetheless, increasing numbers of Christian youth began referring to this helpful question as they faced complex challenges and choices in their own lives. For many, WWJD was a life-changing movement.

So why wouldn’t the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” be valid in determining how the Church should respond to the shifting social sands these days, especially when it comes to LGBTTQ* issues? Does the fact that the Lord didn’t discuss these things specifically in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John make it impossible to gain helpful insight into how Jesus would weigh in on the debate? I don’t think so.

WWJD isn’t rocket science. You just have to look for a similar circumstance in the Bible to the one you’re facing, observe how Jesus responded, and seek to do the same. With a bit of skill in sincerely searching the Word of God and applying some reasonable principles, we can gain a lot of insight into God’s heart for today’s world.

For example, a Biblical description of Jesus facing something similar to what the Church is challenged with today regarding sexuality and gender issues can be found in the book of John, chapter 8. Here’s how the story goes…

The scribes and Pharisees were upset enough with Jesus to resort to ways to fatally trap Him in His own words, which would discredit Him and leave Him open to prosecution. Knowing that He taught uncompromisingly about both the righteousness of God and the mercy of God, they felt they could easily ensnare Him by getting Him to comment on a sexual sin issue. In those days, they had very stiff penalties for all forms of forbidden sex, including adultery, fornication, incest, bestiality, and same-sex sex. Considering that even in Bible times, they were not unfamiliar with sexual issues (people are people), it was relatively easy to catch someone in the act. The person they found happened to be caught in the act of adultery, but any one of these sexual sins would have served their purposes.

So the trap was set. They would drag this person in front of Jesus, and get the Lord to comment on the case before they stoned her to death. If He said, “Let her go”, they would jump on Him for not upholding God’s law, and if He said, “Go ahead, stone her”, they would shame Him by saying, “What happened to the love you teach about? Maybe she was abused by her husband and ran to understanding arms, or maybe she was just drawn into a forbidden sexual relationship by falling in love with someone else. Was that really her fault?”

It was perfect. Or so they thought. So they dragged her to Jesus and demanded His opinion about what should be done with her.

And What Did Jesus Do? John picks up the story:

“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.””

That answer wasn’t what they expected. Somehow, Jesus upheld God’s law – He didn’t say not to execute justice – but He turned the spotlight back on their own hearts. And John records that one by one, they dropped their stones and shuffled off. The story continues:

“Jesus stood up and said to her, ” Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, ” Neither do I condemn you…”

Jesus, being sinless, was actually the only one who could cast the first stone. And He chose not to.

So, What Did Jesus Do in this situation, and how we can imitate Him today? Well, it’s clear that He didn’t give us permission to condemn those in sexual sin. And the reason we can’t just write people off is that we’re all in need of God’s forgiveness for our own sins. With this in mind, it’s obvious that we won’t be on the right side of God by becoming anti-homosexual activists, complete with labels to apply and vitriol to spew. So let’s not go there. It’s not what Jesus would do.

Perhaps you noticed that the story isn’t finished yet. There’s more. After saying, “Neither do I condemn you”, Jesus said to the woman, “Go, and from now on sin no more.”

So What Did Jesus Do there? He upheld the profound compassion and mercy of God without feeling the need to deny the woman’s sin. In fact, having exercised the immense love of God by withholding judgement, He cautioned the woman to treat her sin as sin going forward, and to battle the temptation to justify it or indulge it. And I personally believe that the woman’s powerful encounter with Jesus Christ was transformative  – that by the grace of God she was able to go on without giving in to the impulses of sexual sin. Encountering Jesus can have that effect on people.

So, WWJD about LGBTTQ*? I believe we would be faithfully imitating our Master by extending God’s compassion and mercy to those in sexual sin, without having to call wrong right.

Whereas determining What Jesus Would Do in this situation isn’t too hard, actually managing to do it does feel closer to rocket science. We need to Fully Rely On God as we ask Him for the wisdom and courage to respond these challenges as Jesus would. Whatever it is, I have a feeling it won’t be popular with the world.

But then again, neither was Jesus.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob    

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On the Right Side of God

July 6, 2016 4 comments

BandwagonThese days are challenging ones for Bible-believing Christians in North America. Even needing to use the term “Bible-believing Christian” is evidence of this. It used to be that saying “Christian” assumed the “Bible-believing” part, but that’s not necessarily true these days, when even the Church is laying aside God’s Word to avoid the sting of being labelled – among other things – IRRELEVANT by a world that fancies itself to be heading in the right direction.

And the world – at first smilingly, then imperatively – is beckoning the Church to follow, inviting us onto the New World Bandwagon. In one of the many articles I’ve read on the subject lately, this invitation was accompanied by a dire warning: “You don’t want to be on the wrong side of history, do you?”

It seems that our society, convinced that its ideological and theoretical revelations have given it the higher moral ground, has peered into the future and has seen that it will be right, and that those of us who do not conform will ultimately discover that we were wrong. We will disappear and be forgotten because we didn’t march forward arm in arm with the world into the dawn of a new age of enlightened thinking. If we did, we would share in our society’s glory, receiving glowing mention in children’s history books in the future. In other words, we would avoid being “on the wrong side of history”.

This would be a compelling argument if I cared about being on the wrong side of history. Actually, I am far more concerned about being on the wrong side of God.

I believe that God lovingly created humankind for relationship – with each other, yes, but primarily with Him. I believe that our earliest ancestors traded that relationship for independence from God, with serious consequences. As we cut ourselves off from our primary relationship, we became damaged, and consequently pride and arrogance made their home in the human heart. With no moral compass, we became a broken race, more naturally inclined to sin than to live righteously, and moreover, prone to justify our sin (see Romans 1:18-32). It’s a sad story. We all ended up on the wrong side of God, cutting ourselves off from His love. We all deserved to be cast from His presence forever.

But God is not like us. We are faithless; He is faithful. Even though our independence, arrogance and pride made us a wounded race with a penchant for sin, God so loved us that gave His Son, Jesus, to die for the forgiveness of our sins and reconcile us with our Heavenly Father. I believe in Jesus. I believe He paid for my sin. I believe He brought me back into right relationship with God. I believe that by the power of the Holy Spirit – God’s gift to His people – we can be transformed – less inclined to sin, and more inclined to humbly ask God for forgiveness when sin happens. There is nothing like experiencing salvation in Jesus Christ – being on the right side of God – and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Which brings me back to the New World Bandwagon, with our society alternately beckoning me, shaming me and commanding me to join them on it. The truth is, I can’t.

The difficulty is that, although not all of the “new” morality is bad,  some of it contradicts God’s commands in the Bible, including some specific ones about how – and how not – to relate to each other sexually (see Leviticus 18:1-30). I believe the Bible is God’s Word, and an honest reading of these scriptures – and a number of others in the Old and New Testament – prevents me from shrugging my shoulders and jumping on the bandwagon, simply “because it’s 2016.”

So what is to be done with me? I suppose I can be labelled, judged and written off, which seems to be the common practice these days. Despite its stated values of tolerance and inclusiveness, our society is ironically adept with labels and boxes. It would be easier to judge us and dismiss us if I and other followers of Jesus were two-dimensional haters or “phobes” worthy of such labels. But we aren’t. We aren’t haters for the same reason that we aren’t jumping on the New World Bandwagon: to do so would put us on the wrong side of God. In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…

So we who are followers of Jesus are called to be compassionate and caring to all without having to call wrong right. This is a tall order, especially in a society that doesn’t understand the concept of compassion without agreement, which is true tolerance. But because of what Jesus has done for us, it is nonetheless our call – unwavering truth lived out with unwavering love.

So as the New World Bandwagon hurtles forward into a future that is less certain than we all think, and demands that I join them or end up on the wrong side of history, I will politely but not silently decline. I will offer a compassionate reminder that it is a far worse thing to end up on the wrong side of God than the wrong side of history, and I will happily extend that which God has given to all Christians to share – the good news that because of the reconciling work of Jesus Christ and the transforming work of His Spirit, anyone who humbly places their faith in Him and seeks to honour His Word can find themselves on the right side of God.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob