It amazes me that churches purporting to follow Jesus would literally vote to support a practice the Bible condemns. This column appeared in the Macon Telegraph on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Ironically, the same issue of the newspaper did a nice feature on Jerry Walls of Southside Baptist Church. We just hosted a trip to Israel with Southside. What an honor to be connected with a great man and a great church.
Here’s the column:
There once was a church that entertained a debate on gravity. Some of the more progressive members of the church felt the law of gravity was no longer relevant in a modern society. “Gravity is too restrictive,” said one member.
“It has held us to the ground far too long,” said another.
“Even if I personally choose to believe that gravity still has some value,” said another member, “we need to include those who do not believe as I believe. Who am I to judge?”
“I certainly don’t want to offend anyone in our community,” said the pastor. “That would not be a loving thing to do.”
And so it came to pass that the church had a vote on gravity. After an admirably civil discussion, the majority voted to ignore the old-fashioned and outdated standard. From that day forth, the law of gravity was off the books. When it was over, the church congratulated itself for its progressive attitude. Its members headed happily to their homes. No one seemed to notice that the law of gravity had ignored their decision, even as they left the building.
There are some matters on which a church should never vote. The law of gravity is one example. God’s definition of marriage is another. Perhaps it is not surprising that political leaders and secular courts have recently redefined marriage. Politicians and judges are not charged with upholding biblical standards. That’s a pity, for without a biblical anchor of unchanging morality, generations of political leaders and judges have been amazingly inconsistent in dealing with the most basic of human values.
Consider American history for a moment. Our political leaders and judges once defended slavery. Aren’t you glad another generation abolished the “right” to own human beings?
One generation of our national leaders supported legal segregation only to see the next generation deem their opinions and actions “immoral.” Indeed, there was nothing fair about “separate but equal” policies in this country.
On the other hand, leaders from the past would never have passed or even considered laws protecting abortion or assisted suicide. They also would have never dreamed of defining marriage in any way except the way it had been defined for centuries.
The definition of “right” and “wrong” in any society is a matter of debate and subject to the whims of those in charge. If Abraham Lincoln is your leader, you’ll get solid moral leadership. If Adolf Hitler is in charge, there will be hell to pay.
Thank God for the Bible.
Ignoring the whims of popular culture, the Bible proclaims a consistent message that has held its value for centuries. The Bible’s instruction for sexual relationships could not be more clear. Sexual activity is to be reserved for one man and one woman committed to a life-long marriage. All other sexual activity is condemned.
Jesus held fast to this definition of marriage. He was once asked about divorce. Jesus’ reply comes out of Matthew 19:4-5.
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’ Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Throughout his ministry, Jesus never lowered the bar on the Bible’s clearly-stated moral standard. Instead, Jesus called people of his culture to a higher standard. An easy divorce? Jesus wouldn’t agree to what his questioners wanted to hear. Old fashioned adultery? Jesus called men out for even looking at a woman lustfully. Later on, Paul would write, “But among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality …” (Ephesians 5:3) These were not “inclusive” positions!
All of us love the Bible’s message of grace and the old hymn that proclaims God will take me “Just as I am.” But thank God that he will never leave us just like we were. If it is not possible to live to a higher standard, then we are a people with no hope. If a better life is not possible after grace, what good is grace?
When Jesus befriended prostitutes, tax collectors and foul-mouthed fishermen, those who followed him left their former lifestyles and found a far better way to live. Though they struggled as much as we do, they did not go back to those former lifestyle choices. Everyone who met Jesus — from Roman soldiers to Jewish Pharisees — was confronted by the offer Jesus made. Jesus was delighted to offer forgiveness and a second chance. But he did expect those who followed him to take it up a notch.
Some followed. Some didn’t.
Through it all, Jesus never compromised on existing biblical values. So strange that any church purporting to follow this same Jesus would ignore his teachings. So absurd to think that God would follow us when we decide his commands are outdated.
If your church will lovingly hold fast to biblical standards, it will have hope to offer those who are searching for it. If it does not? It’ll be as poorly grounded as a church without gravity.
Andy Cook is a resident of Peach County and the founder of Experience Israel Now.