jasonbwatson

August 29, 2014

Live It Out

Ravi Zacharias is, in my opinion, one of the wisest and most articulate Christian apologists on the planet. Rarely do I listen to him speak or read something that he wrote without being struck by something I want to be sure to remember and to try to apply in my own life.

Today, as I was flipping through some index cards on which I have written quotes that I find meaningful and worth reflecting on from time to time I was struck by the relationship between two consecutive cards in the stack. Maybe they have always been next to each other and it never struck me, or maybe they just ended up that way today, because some of the cards had come out of the clip in which I keep them and got rearranged. But I think that these two thoughts complement each other so well, and are such poignant reminders for all of us (and those of us who work with children specifically) that I want to share them with you.

The first is a quote from Ravi Zacharias. He says, “I have little doubt that the single greatest obstacle to the impact of the gospel has not been its inability to provide answers, but the failure on our part to live it out.” The implications of that one sentence could fill pages–could actually probably fill books. The Bible talks clearly in so many passages about the importance of living out our faith. Professed belief is questionable if it does not impact the way in which the one making the profession lives his or her life. James, of course, says that believing in God is all well and good but is, for all intents and purposes, worthless in and of itself because even the demons believe. There must also be action, an out-flowing of the change that takes place inside.

I have heard on several occasions–and I am sure you have too–a political candidate say, “My faith will not interfere with my job,” or something along those lines. While I can perhaps appreciate the point the candidate is trying to make, particularly vis-a-vis the “keep religion out of the public sphere” atmosphere that dominates America today, I always find myself thinking in response, “Then it must not be much of a faith.” If someone can profess a religious faith and also profess that he or she can execute the duties of a political office without that faith having an influence on him or her then that faith is either completely meaningless or completely compartmentalized. (Actually, that’s redundant, isn’t it? A completely compartmentalized faith would be completely meaningless…) There are few positions that involve the influence and the potential impact of a political office; if one’s faith is not influential there, where would it be influential?

To the point that Zacharias is making, many people are completely turned off by those who profess the gospel message and therefore never even give the message itself a chance. When one who professes something lives in a manner completely inconsistent with that which is being confessed such a rejection is hardly surprising. This amounts to little more than “do as I say, not as I do,” and I think we all know how effective that is(n’t).

The index card right behind the one with the quote from Ravi Zacharias was one with this quote from Alison Thomas: “The most persuasive apologetic we can offer our children is not a series of carefully constructed verbal arguments, but a life beautifully lived close beside them.”

These two quotes are so complementary because they have the same idea at their roots. Zacharias’ point is that the gospel has the answers, but when those of us who claim it turn seekers off by the way we live our lives they will never give the gospel a chance. Thomas’ point is that coming up with the grandest instructions, arguments and rules in the world will matter little, if at all, if others–and in this case, children specifically–do not see the gospel demonstrated every day in our lives.

Neither Zacharias nor Thomas is suggesting we must be perfect–because none of us can. We will all stumble, make mistakes and “blow it” from time to time. That’s because we’re human. The frequency with which we do that should diminish over time as we grow in our relationship with the Lord but it will still happen. The question is, what do we do when that happens? Do we acknowledge it and repent? Do we apologize to those we may have hurt in the process? Or do we try to cover it up or excuse it away?

The inverse of Zacharias’ point is equally true, and is the point at which Thomas is getting. If we live a beautiful life alongside our children, one in which they see us growing, learning, struggling, messing up and handling it well, they will learn from us. They will ask questions. They will model what they have seen. The probability is high that they will embrace the faith themselves. Our words can be powerful teachers and testimonies, but only if the reinforce and echo what our actions are already teaching.

I suspect that if I were God I would not have chosen to entrust my message of love, redemption and forgiveness to the human race. Even if I had loved humans enough to offer them that, I would probably have done it in a manner that eliminated the possibility that humans could, through their own bone-headedness, become an obstacle to other humans wanting to receive or even hear my message. God, in His sovereignty, chose to give us mortals that responsibility…and what a responsibility it is! If we are going to profess a faith in Him, we better be sure to live it out.

August 28, 2014

An Open Letter to My Friend

Recently, a young man who graduated from the school where I serve announced that he is gay. It is no secret to anyone who has read this blog that I affirm the Bible’s teaching that homosexuality is a sin. This young man and I have exchanged some messages on the subject and he seems, for now, to be set in his new “beliefs.”

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Dear friend,

You know that I believe that the Bible means exactly what it says when it calls homosexuality an abomination. Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 use this word for homosexual acts in the King James, New King James, New American Standard, Young’s Literal Translation and English Standard versions of the Bible. The New International Version, Holman Christian Standard and New Living Translation translate the word as “detestable.” The Voice uses that word, too. Here is how The Living Bible presents Leviticus 18:22: “Homosexuality is absolutely forbidden, for it is an enormous sin.” The Contemporary English Version says, “It is disgusting for a man to have sex with another man” and The Message says, “Don’t have sex with a man as one does with a woman. That is abhorrent.” There really is no alternative explanation for what these verses mean. Some have suggested that the homosexual acts being referred to were commonly part of the worship of idols and that the prohibition against homosexuality was really a condemnation of idolatry and not of homosexuality, but this is, at best, a stretch. What it really is is an attempt by those who want to find biblical justification for their choices to find a way of interpreting Scripture that allows them to do what they want. The Bible states very clearly in many places that idolatry is a sin. If God was intending to condemn idolatry only in these passages in Leviticus He would have done so. Instead, He chose to address homosexuality precisely because that was the behavior He wanted to address.

Other attempts to say that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality include the assertion that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality Himself. While that is true, there are many things that Jesus never specifically mentioned that are still sinful. If you look through your Bible or a concordance you are not going to find anywhere that Jesus used the words abortion, euthanasia, pornography or cocaine, either. Yet there are clear instances of Jesus’ teaching that address the sanctity of life, sexual immorality and the fact that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. In Mark 7 Jesus clearly condemns all forms of sexual immorality and said that sexual immorality is but one behavior that defiles a person. Really, the list of behaviors in Mark 7:20-23 could include homosexuality in several of them. Sexual immorality, of course, but also “evil thoughts,” “adultery,” “coveting,” “wickedness,” “sensuality,” “pride” and “foolishness.” I could elaborate on how homosexuality fits into each of these, and maybe I will do that sometime.

Paul includes homosexuality in I Corinthians 6 when he presents a list of behaviors that are not pleasing to God. While there is an effort among some to suggest that Paul is referring specifically to either male prostitutes or to men who kept boys for the purpose of homosexual sex, the Greek word refers to passive and active partners in consensual homosexual sex.

In Romans 1 Paul calls homosexuality a shameless act and says that homosexual behavior is contrary to that which is natural, meaning that it violates God’s intentional design for humans. (This, by the way, would be why homosexuality falls into the category of “foolishness” above). Paul addresses homosexuality again in I Timothy 1:8-10. Not only does he specifically name homosexuality in addition to the broader category of sexual immorality, he states that such behavior is “contrary to sound doctrine.”

You suggested that I watch Matthew Vines’ video entitled The Gay Debate because, you said, he presents “a different view, and one that is actually very logical.” The problem here is two fold. One, if it is a different view than what God Himself has given us in His Word, it cannot be right. If it contradicts what the Bible says it is necessarily wrong. The second problem is very similar in that it is not possible for something that contradicts the Bible to be logical. There may be ways of creating an understanding of things that seems to be logical but it will all be based on falsehood, meaning that it cannot withstand scrutiny or serious examination. I should perhaps mention as well that there is nothing logical about homosexuality; there is no way to explain it that makes any logical sense.

You go on to state that being gay is not a choice. “It is not my choice who I am attracted to,” you wrote. “It just like the color of one’s eyes, it is unchangeable.” This is an erroneous assertion, as well, and one that I have addressed many times in this space so I will not go into it again now. If you want to know what I think about it, it is not hard to find. I will keep it very succinct and simply say this–even if who you are attracted to is the way you were born, engaging in homosexual acts is still a choice. (Please note my emphasis on “if,” because I do not agree with that position at all; I am simply stating that even if that position were accepted, the behavior itself is still optional).

Now, before I close, I need to state that I am a sinner, too. We all are. Scripture is also explicitly clear about that! I do not believe that there are categories or levels of sin. When I sin through choices I make my sin is just as offensive to God as yours is. I don’t think homosexual behavior is more offensive than lying, stealing, gossiping, coveting or heterosexual sex outside of marriage. One thing that I think is often different in the case of homosexuals, and that I see right now in your own actions, is a decision to proclaim to the world that you are embracing that sin and asking everyone else to accept it. If I were to announce to everyone that I have decided that stealing things I want is an uncontrollable urge I have and is just the way God made me I would fully expect to be taken to task. If I were to embrace a decision to engage in extramarital sex and ask all of my friends and acquaintances to accept that decision, I would expect them to not only refuse to do so, but to call me repentance for my behavior. When you announce that you have made a conscious decision to live a life of sin you are in a dangerous position. You are also sending out a plea for anyone who really loves you to share the Truth with you in love in an effort to bring you back to the straight and narrow.

No one should wish you ill or harm, no one is pleasing God by calling you names or issuing threats. But no one who loves God and loves you can also let you persist in this choice without trying to bring you back to the Truth. We love you too much to do that.

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