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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    

We were Made for This!

April 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Eric Liddell

This is Eric Liddell – or an actor who played Eric Liddell in the movie “Chariots of Fire”. Eric Liddell (the real one) made headlines during the 1924 Paris Olympics when, after breezing through the heats, he refused to run in the 100 metre final because it was scheduled on a Sunday morning – the day and time when God’s people go to Church. So he went to Church on that Sunday, then later in the week ran as a last-minute entry in the 400 metres – which wasn’t his event – and promptly won the gold medal!

This wasn’t the only thing that irked the Olympic gurus. Eric had this irritating habit of running “funny”. Contrary to all scientific sprinting theories of the times, Eric would run normally for a while, then begin lifting his knees high, throwing his head back and dropping his jaw, running like a crazy man. Then he would win.

When questioned about his unorthodox style, Eric Liddell simply stated, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” So it seems that this world-class sprinter, when doing what he was made to do, became supercharged by the joy of the Lord!

I’m sure we can all relate to this. Sometimes in life when we find ourselves doing exactly what we were cut out to do, we can gain such strength and endurance – and joy! – that even in the face of hard work and long hours we can shout joyfully, “I was made for this!”

The Church in our city can take a lesson from all this. These days, often the Church seems just plain tired. And it’s not the kind of tired that doing less fixes. In fact it seems that the less the Church does, the more fatigued it becomes. Perhaps this is because the Church needs to be doing more of what it was cut out to do. We need the joy of the Lord that comes from doing what we were made for, and the Spirit-stoked energy that proceeds from this.

But, what are we made to do? What are we cut out for? Happily, the Word of God gives us some key insights into this question. These insights come in the form of the “identity” things that Jesus says about His Church. There are many times when the Lord helps the Church understand who we are. I’ll just mention three.

First, we are ONE. This may be news to some of us in the Church as we continue to fragment, compartmentalize and isolate ourselves as households and local Church fellowships, but Jesus considers us to be one, a perspective which is summed up in His prayer to the Father as recorded in John 17:20b: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one…” So when we gather as the parts of the Body of Christ, cooperating to be His hands and feet in this world, we are doing what we were made for!

Second, we are SALT. Jesus says, “You are the salt of earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” (Matt. 5:13) According to Jesus, the Church is made to have a preservative influence on the world around us – preserving the truth that hope is still to be found in this world – hope in Jesus Christ. So it makes sense that we get out of the saltshaker and into the world, doing what we were made to do; preserving hope in Jesus in a world that has lost all hope, and bringing the flavour of Christ to a world that has become tasteless.

Third, we are LIGHT. In Matthew 5:14 Jesus calls the Church “the light of the world”. So as the Church, we are made to shine the light of God’s character in our dark world. The life of Jesus demonstrated that God is kind, patient, and generous, blessing the righteous and even the unrighteous, because of who He is. And when we as the Church shine the light of God in our fallen world, we are doing what we were made to do. Acting any other way doesn’t make sense. Jesus puts it best: “A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

So we are one, we are salt, and we are light. How can we as the Church do these things we were made to do, so that we can get out of the churchy doldrums and feel God’s pleasure as we function according to our design?

I’m glad I asked. On Sunday, May 26th starting at noon at the new Bomber stadium, the Church in Winnipeg will be getting together to celebrate Jesus at the One Heart City Church service. It will be a great time, but more than that, it will be the Church being ONE, which is what we were designed to be. I know that we will feel God’s pleasure as we gather.

The One Heart city-wide Church service is actually the kickoff event for another great opportunity to be what we were made to be. This opportunity is called Love Winnipeg – a chance for the Church in the city to be salt & light, working together as local fellowships in our city to preserve and shine, reflecting the character of God in our communities through neighbourhood cleanup projects, helping hands and practical expressions of God’s kindness to those around us. Here at WECC, we will be helping Discovery Children’s Centre on June 4th as we partner to provide a Family Fun Day for hundreds of people in our community. What an excellent chance to do what we were made to do, blessing and serving both this child care centre and the community around us!

Of course, there will always be critics of the Church as we attempt to be what we were made to be – salt & light together in a world that desperately needs our help and our message. But, as with Eric Liddell, the criticisms lose ground to a victorious Church that, although at times running awkwardly, is feeling God’s pleasure.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob