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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    

Living Letters

March 23, 2011 Leave a comment

God is accused of lots of things, but one of the most ironic is the charge that He is not paying attention. We often say, “Why doesn’t God hear me? Why doesn’t God speak to me?” The truth is that God hears and speaks to us regularly. It’s us who often aren’t listening – we tend to stick our fingers in our spiritual ears and belt out a hearty, wilful rendition of Yankee Doodle while the Lord tries to get OUR attention.

This past week, the Lord spoke to our family of Churches in an interesting way. We believe that for the last while, He has been trying to get our attention about His mission for us – His Church – in this world. It’s all about our role as ambassadors for Christ – ministers and messengers of reconciliation between God and people. We have preached about evangelism, we have taught about hospitality and reaching out to others, we have done activities to practice sharing our faith… All with OK results. Not great, but OK. Then the Lord sent us a letter.

More than one letter, actually. Eleven, to be exact. Francine, one of our members, happened to come in contact with a group called Missionaries to Canada. It was a team of young people from Indonesia and South Korea who were living out a call from the Lord to come to Canada and share Jesus with Canadians! You might think, “Wait a minute. Isn’t that our gig? Isn’t Canada the one that sends missionaries to those countries?” The answer is a sad, “We used to.” Now we’re too enlightened to do that. And this “enlightenment” has caused our nation to become a spiritual shadow of its former self. The Lord knows the trouble that Canada is in, and He has answered our nation’s need for Jesus by sending Christians from other nations to bring the light of the gospel into the enlightened darkness that we have wrought, and to encourage Canadian Christians to pick up the torch again and reach out to the lost all around us. He is sending living letters to Canada.

As a result of this initial contact with the Missionaries to Canada, this team of international missionaries visited us for a week. They stayed in our homes. They ate with us. They provided presentations and equipping for us. They sang. They taught. They served. They testified about what Jesus had done in their lives. And they spoke to us in English, a language that many of them had only begun studying four months ago. Far from home, way out of their comfort zone, into a frigid zone, in our homes, in our Church, around the table, these young people became living letters to us. The Lord sent them and spoke through them about His heart for the lost, and His desire to see us doing Jesus’ work on the earth, with an eloquence and an effect that easily outdid any best-selling book or cool video on the subject.

The week we spent with the Missionaries to Canada was profoundly impacting. That’s because the Lord sent them and spoke to us through them. Sending living letters is just one of the myriad of ways that God uses to get through to us. I’m glad He doesn’t give up trying.

Are you feeling like God isn’t paying attention to you these days? Maybe He is already sending you a living letter. He does that.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob

I Love This Stuff

September 10, 2010 Leave a comment

I love Church youth conferences.

Let me be clear. It’s not because I’m young. It’s because God still has plans for His Church beyond our generation, and young people are a big part of it. As it happens, it’s often at these youth conferences that the Lord fills, envisions and equips those whom He calls to do great things for the advance of His Kingdom on this earth. I love seeing that. And the fact that God is still calling young people to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers is a hopeful sign of His love and care for His Church, now and into the future.

Back in ‘96, I was asked to speak at a week-long Salt & Light youth conference called “Nailed.” The Lord showed up memorably and powerfully there, leaving planned post-session activities empty while young people chose to stay in the chapel, worshiping the Lord and praying for one another until the wee hours. The cool part of me being so old is that I have been able to see that many of the young people who attended that conference are now in positions of leadership in the Church today. What a privilege to see the good, lasting fruit of power encounters with the Lord!

Which brings me to Consumed 2010. It’s our Salt & Light Central annual youth conference, which happened at Mount Zion Church in Bemidji, Minnesota over the September long weekend. One hundred twenty-five people gathered to hear from the Lord, and respond to Him. We had great times of worship, and we heard excellent, practical messages from Andrew and Norm. I spoke about God the Son, Ron spoke about God the Father, and, after a challenging message about repentance from Brian, God the Holy Spirit spoke about Himself. That night there was a corporate power encounter with the Holy Spirit, with most of the young people at the front praying, worshiping, crying, laughing… it was a sight to behold. And the good fruit of this manifestation of the Holy Spirit began to be seen immediately. A bunch of the young people who had never been baptized felt that they must. And so, off they all went walking a quarter mile at midnight to the lake to be baptized. Ron MacLean, who presided over the baptisms, happened to have his handy headband light, which solved the pitch darkness issue. But nothing could solve the water temperature issue. But hey, they’re young. And Ron is intrepid.

Of course, there was great food, great worship and great friendship at the conference, but it was all eclipsed by our great God, who showed up in love and power in an amazing way during the weekend. The result for me and for many was refreshment, joy and hope.

And so passed Consumed 2010 into the history books. The young people who were there will be talking about it for some time, because many have never seen anything like it before. But I have, and I eagerly await the emergence of a new generation of leaders in the Church, whom the Lord is calling to serve Him wholeheartedly in the advance of His Kingdom in the days to come.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob