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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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Seeing visions, and dreaming dreams

November 28, 2009 Leave a comment

At first glance, Friday night was just a Church youth event. But actually it was a particularly significant evening.

One of the reasons is that it is the first year we have a youth ministry. When our Church began in 1995, there practically wasn’t a teen in sight. It wasn’t because our fellowship consisted of well-established older believers with grown children. It was the opposite! West End Christian Community just happened to be almost entirely composed of new believers in their twenties. As time passed, people grew up, Cupid drew back his bow, weddings abounded, children superabounded, and now here we are, with a gaggle of ‘tweens and teens. But now that you have them, what do you do with them?

One option is to hide them. Stick them all in the front pew at Church, so we can watch their backs. Or stick them in the back pew, so we don’t have to see them at all. Or stick them in a “youth room” somewhere in the building, and make sure there’s as little contact as possible between them and the adults. Or stick them in a “youth service”, so there will be no contact at all.

While these options may seem to have at least short term benefits, and would probably get uncharacteristic agreement from all sides in a room full of both generations, we feel we just can’t go there, because if we separated the generations due to our differences, we would be the poorer for it as the Church. At Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came on the Church in power, the prophecy of Joel was fulfilled:

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” – Joel 2:28.

If the young and the old lived separate Church lives, who would our sons and daughters prophesy to? Just other kids? Who would our old men share their dreams with? Just other old men? And who would our young men share their visions with? Just other young men? I don’t think so.

It seems that as far as the Holy Spirit is concerned, the generations have something to offer each other. The younger generation needs the older generation’s wisdom and counsel, and the older generation needs the younger generation’s vision and passion. And we all need the Holy Spirit, who distributes His gifts to the Church for the common good regardless of how we prefer to divide ourselves. So the Generation Gap, which for so long has been constructed and nurtured by the world, needs to be torn down by the Church. We need to cooperate with the Lord’s integration of the generations, not the world’s segregation.

So how are we supposed to build a youth ministry that isn’t all about segregation? That’s why Friday night was significant.

It was a “progressive meal.” That doesn’t mean they ate modern food. It means that our young people, accompanied by a number of parents and other adults, visited the elders’ houses, eating part of a meal at each stop. At George and Sherry’s house, they had hors d’oeuvres (that’s French for “Just one. They’re expensive”), at Brian and Tene’s house they had something munchy, at our house they had lasagne, and at Brad & Michelle’s house they had dessert. The cool part was that at each house, the young people prayed for the elders and their families, and then at the dessert house, all the elders prayed for the young people. This mingling of the generations in prayer had a tangible significance to it. I felt that the Lord was saying, “Now that’s what I’m talking about!”

Of course, pursuing integration of the generations doesn’t mean that there should be no Chubby Bunny (if you don’t know what that is, you might not believe me if I explained it). If the older generation was forced alongside the younger in such exploits, it might end in tragedy. But it does mean that separate youth – and otherwise – events would take place in a Church culture of consistently worshiping together, praying together, studying the Word of God together, prophesying together, seeing visions together, and dreaming dreams together. When, as much as possible, we pursue generational integration in the Church, I believe we are near the heart of God.

Which is why I really liked Friday night.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob (www.weccwinnipeg.ca)