We live in a culture that is rapidly degrading morally. This degradation has been going on for decades, but its acceleration makes it feel as if it can’t get any worse, but then it does. There is abomination in the land. And it is not only present in the land, it has also gained approval to persecute anyone who disagrees with it. So, how should we think about the swirling winds of change in our culture, and what should we do about it? To find our answer, as Christians, we look to Jesus for our example and to His Word for our instruction.
In John 12:47, Jesus says, “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” In Luke 19:10, Jesus says, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
There was a time of judgment under the old testament of law. Psalm 9:16 says, “The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.”
But, when Christ came more than 2,000 years ago, He did away with the old testament of law and established the new testament of grace. In John 13:34, Jesus says, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Jesus made a new covenant with His church that emphasizes an old testament command found in Deuteronomy 6:5, which says, “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” And Joshua 23:11 says, “Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God.” In Matthew 22:37, Jesus summed the first and great command saying, “… Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”
The new covenant emphasizes love rather than law because it is a covenant designed to show what God does for us rather than what we can’t do for God. So, the old covenant was replaced with a new covenant, hence we have a Bible that contains the old testament and the new testament (Hebrews 8:6-8).
The new testament replaces the old testament. Hebrews 8:13 says, “… A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” And Hebrews 12:24 points to Jesus’ involvement in this new covenant saying, “And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” Today, the old covenant serves as an example for us to learn from. It is a covenant of truth, but its conditions are no longer enforced.
Under the old testament of law, the wages of sin is death. And, for testimony sake of God’s law, that judgment was supposed to be executed immediately. Eye for eye and tooth for tooth was the system of fair judgment for all to learn that God’s judgment is fair. But under the new testament of grace and mercy, the church brings a message of reconciliation, a message of repent and be saved from the judgment of God that is coming.
Make no mistake, sin will be judged. However, under the new testament, judgment is delayed by the mercy of God so that we can have opportunity to experience salvation from that judgment. Second Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” God’s message today is the same as it always has been from the foundation of the world… repent and live! But the new covenant has different conditions than the old covenant. Ephesians 2:8-9 sums this condition well saying, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” This is a message of what God does for us, and His Spirit says, “Come to the love of Jesus and be delivered from His judgment against sin.”
In bringing the new covenant to man, Jesus did not come to judge as the Jews were accustomed to under the old testament. But He will judge. Acts 17:31 says, “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”
The delay in judgment under the new testament is a show of His mercy and grace. And it is this distinction that sets it apart from the old covenant with Israel.
In the meantime, Jesus said, repent from sin. He called it out. He named it. And so did Paul, as did the other writers of the Bible. Naming sin is not the judgment of punishment for sin. It is the judgment of discernment. And naming sin whether it be adultery, lying, stealing, gossiping, or cheating is not hateful. Naming sin is about pointing out what is right or wrong as God defines it. It is not about hate. It is about sin. And naming sin is an act of love to warn others that God will judge sin, and it is time to repent. This is our duty as Christians today. We are called to care about others and to sacrifice our time and resources to tell others what God calls sin and what God offers to deliver us from sin.
Men did not like this message in Jesus’ day, so we should not be surprised that men do not like the message today. It is quite the paradox to note that in return for the message of love and help from God and the acts of kindness and healing that Jesus showed to people; Jesus was hated, despised, beaten unmercifully, and then tortured by the pain of being nailed to a cross and left to hang until He died. This is how people react when their sins are named. And rather than repent, they excuse their sins, deny their sins altogether, censor the message, and silence the messengers.
Today, every attempt is being made to deny sin and to make sin normal. We are told that what is often called sin is simply a natural human behavior. But natural is normal. Therefore, whatever comes naturally in being human cannot be sin. We can’t help ourselves, we are simply being human and doing what comes naturally. What could be more normal? Accept yourself for what you are. Being natural is normal. It is not sin. God is wrong. The Bible is wrong. Christianity is an unnatural system of ancient, superstitious men, relics of the past. It is an obsolete world view that does not fit into the enlightened age we live in today.
Of course, our crime stats show that it appears to be normal to rape, kill, steal, and hurt others too. The daily newspaper confirms this. Does normal and natural make things right to do? Obviously not.
Though we bring God’s message of love, grace, and mercy to people, as did Jesus, in John 15:18, Jesus says, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.”
Despite our message of love and salvation, the unrepentant world ascribes to Christians what they in fact are: hateful, spiteful, murderous sinners. Though many Christians willingly and lovingly sacrifice their lives and resources to help sinners escape their plight of sin and impending doom, they are despised and hated for their message just as Jesus was. The lost hear only that God is calling them sinners. They hear only that what they think and do is wrong, and this infuriates them. And their wrath blinds them from hearing the rest of the message that God loves them and wants to save them. They absolutely refuse to tolerate the message that they are sinners. So, they hate the message, and they hate the messengers. This is where hate in this cultural controversy lies. And there is no hate more despicable than a hate shown toward those who love them. Sacrificing time and resources to offer help to sinners is not hateful, it is love. Naming sin is not hate. Naming sin is simply pointing out the morality of thought and deed as God defines it. It brings no harm and warrants no hate.
For some reason, there is confusion about the sin of homosexuality and what the proper response to it is. I say, ‘for some reason,’ but of course, we know that there are two main reasons for the confusion.
First, there is a deceiver in the world controlling the environment of the culture that we live in. We know this deceiver to be the Devil, Lucifer, Satan, the old serpent, the Father of liars. Second Corinthians 4:3-4 says, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” And Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Second, mankind lives in a flesh of sin, which dulls our senses, clouds our thinking, and makes us vulnerable to confusion. This is our natural state of being. Romans 7:18 says, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”
Sin and Satan are our two worst enemies. And when we love one, the other is loved as well. We are easily duped and manipulated to conform to the mantras of our sin-tainted culture, which are the mantras of a greater evil lurking in the shadows of our culture.
Homosexual activists are fighting for cultural legitimacy. They are fighting to remove the stigma of sin. They are fighting for moral acceptance. They are fighting for normalization. They are fighting for legal protection. And they are fighting to criminalize its opposition.
The US Supreme court decision to legalize homosexual marriage is the day that the courts of men declared that God is wrong. The Bible is wrong. And everyone who believes God and the Bible is wrong. Thus saith the courts of men.
But the Bible says, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). Romans 1:26-27 says, “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”
Now municipalities are passing laws to punish anyone who does not participate in homosexual marriages and activities. These ordinances make obedience to God illegal. These ordinances outlaw the right and free exercise to believe and obey God. And with the acceptance and enforcement of these ordinances and laws, the legalized and government sanctioned persecution of Christians has begun.
In 2010, in London, “… Christian relationship counselor Gary McFarlane lost his appeal bid over being fired for refusing sex therapy to homosexual couples.” I cite this example because of the rationale used by the judge. Lord Justice Laws refused to grant McFarlane permission to have his case heard before the Court of Appeal on the grounds that doing so would be “divisive, capricious, arbitrary.” He wrote: “In the eye of everyone, save the believer, religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence. It may of course be true; but the ascertainment of such a truth lies beyond the means by which laws are made in a reasonable society,” he said. “Therefore it lies only in the heart of the believer, who is alone bound by it. No one else is or can be so bound, unless by his own free choice he accepts its claims.” By this logic, a believer was punished for obeying God.
In 2011, Jerry Buell, a veteran teacher of 22 years of American History and former Florida Teacher of the Year, was suspended for posting his Christian view about homosexual marriage on Facebook. He said the suspension was a clear violation of his first amendment right because, “It was my own personal comment on my own personal time on my own personal computer in my own personal house, exercising what I believed as a social studies teacher to be my First Amendment rights.” Surprisingly, the ACLU actually agreed with him. Horatio Mihet, an attorney with the Liberty Counsel says, “The idea that public servants have to whole-heartedly endorse homosexual marriage is repugnant to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” Fortunately, Buell was reinstated.
In 2008, The University of Toledo dismissed “the school’s associate vice president of human resources, Crystal Dixon, who wrote to a local newspaper in response to an article that claimed homosexuals to be victims of civil rights abuses. In the letter, Dixon, who is black, objected to the article’s claim that homosexual civil rights are being trampled on. In her view, civil rights and homosexuality do not fit into the same box.” She argued in court that, “when government officials engage in discriminatory treatment based on the exercise of the fundamental right to freedom of speech they violate not only the First Amendment, but they also violate the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment.” In 2012, the court ruled in favor of the university to punish a believer for obeying God.
In 2011, An honors student in Fort Worth, Texas, was suspended for two days for telling a classmate in a high school German class that he believes homosexuality is wrong. The student said, “I guess [the teacher] heard me. He started yelling. He told me he was going to write me an infraction and send me to the office.” After Liberty Counsel contacted the school administrators, the student was allowed back to class. A school has no business punishing students for believing what God calls sin.
In 2010, A federal judge ruled in favor of Eastern Michigan University’s decision to remove a Christian student from its graduate program because of her belief that homosexuality is morally wrong. The University offered to allow her back into the program if she participated in a remediation program in order to see the error of her ways and change her belief system. Public universities have no business requiring students to denounce their faith and belief in God in order to participate in education programs. This is extortion.
Another student filed a lawsuit against Augusta State University because they required her to participate in a reeducation program and diversity sensitivity training. Jeremy Tedesco, legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund said, “Public universities are imposing the ideological stances of private groups on their students.” Public universities have no business forcing acceptance of opinions of one group of students on others.
Homosexual activists pressured the PayPal company to not handle donations made to groups that promote traditional values. Peter LaBarbera, founder of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, refers to it as “homofascism in action” because of their attempts to characterize anyone who disagreed with them as being cruel and hateful and to cut off their funding. Just as the Nazis in Germany, homosexual activists are guilty of the very things they accuse traditional value adherents of.
In 2008, NPR.org quoted Marc Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Congress, saying, “if the early cases are any guide, the outlook is grim for religious groups.” For example, “Yeshiva University was ordered to allow same-sex couples in its married dormitory. A Christian school was sued for expelling two alleged lesbian students. Catholic Charities abandoned its adoption service in Massachusetts after it was told to place children with same-sex couples. The same happened with a private company operating in California.”
In 2013, a California federal appeals court upheld a ban preventing state-licensed therapists from offering recovery therapy to young homosexuals wanting to escape their lifestyle. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie followed California’s lead in signing a similar law to ban gay conversion therapy. Thousands of homosexuals wanting to escape their lifestyle are being denied that right.
In 2015, an Indiana Christian pizzeria closed its doors due death threats and threats to burn down their building by homosexuals because they refused to allow a homosexual wedding to be held in the Christian pizzeria. There were many other secular venues to use, but the homosexuals insisted on using the Christian venue in order to abuse the Christian owners rights with the power of a city ordinance and hateful intimidation tactics.
In 2015, Rep.Lois Capps of California introduced a bill, known as the “Amend the Code for Marriage Equality Act of 2015”, which seeks to modify sections of the U.S. Code to replace gender-specific terms, such as “he,” “she,” “husband,” and “wife”, with gender-neutral references.
These are just a few examples of the hateful persecutions that the homosexual activists are allowed to get away with. And this it is not over.
Christians need to respond to these persecutions while we can. We need to do everything we can to stop the hate that is being allowed to be shown toward Christians. We need to stop the censorship and the criminalizing of the first amendment right for freedom to believe, and particularly, the freedom to believe God. Our founders believed that the freedom to believe is a right given to us by God not by governments of men. And laws that make obedience to God illegal are immoral and oppressive.
One way we need to respond is by giving an answer to those who ask for a reason why we believe as we do. Here are some of the questions and challenges we need to answer.
1. Why do you seek to censor homosexuals and to take their right of free speech away from them?
Homosexuals are obviously enjoying their right to free speech, and it is obvious that no one is taking that right away from them. They have just as much right to say that they are right as Christians have to say that they are right. Likewise, Christians have just as much right to say that homosexuals are wrong as homosexuals are to say that Christians are wrong. There is no wrong in holding and sharing your beliefs. However, it is wrong when you force others to agree with you. It is wrong to punish people for believing what God says about sin and homosexuality. The fact is, the right of free speech among Christians is being violated. They are being punished for not agreeing with homosexuals. That is wrong.
2. Why do you support the mistreatment of homosexuals in public institutions?
Christians support fairness and respect toward everyone. The teachings of Jesus are about loving even your enemies. The fact is that homosexuals are being shown special favors in public education and businesses. This is not fair to heterosexuals. Everyone, should be treated the same. Christians and anyone else deserves no less in benefits than homosexuals are granted. If homosexuals get special services to help them adjust in a work environment, then that same service needs to be offered to Christians as well. If there is sensitivity training offered for one group, then it needs to be offered for all groups. In a public institution, no group should be more favored than another. As for Christians, others should be taught to respect Christian values and beliefs whether they agree with them or not.
3. Why do you oppose civil rights for homosexuals?
Homosexuality is neither civil nor right. It is a chosen behavior that God calls sin. It is not civil because God says it is sin. And it is not right because God says it is sin. Sin is not acceptable behavior, and its acceptance must be opposed. Encoding acceptance of homosexuality into law makes obedience to God illegal. This is wrong to do, it is immoral, unconstitutional, and I oppose it. In America, the first amendment guarantees the right to be free to believe. Today, I cherish that right more than ever. And homosexuals are free to believe as they choose. But so are Christians. Neither of the two should be forced to accept the other’s beliefs. And neither of the two should be punished for disagreeing or for sharing their beliefs.
4. Is it not hateful to condemn homosexuality?
It is not hateful to disagree with others. Disagreement is not about hate. It is about thinking differently about what is right or wrong and what to do about it. It is not wrong or hateful to disagree. It is not wrong to share disagreeing positions. However, it is wrong to punish another for not accepting what you believe. And it is just as wrong to force others to support your view by requiring them to teach and to participate in programs that promote your view.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God loves everyone, but condemns sin. Naming sin and warning people about sin is not hateful.
On the other hand, forcing others to accept sin as acceptable behavior is willful contradiction and rejection of God. This is hateful. It is hateful and immoral to force others to disobey God. And it is hateful and immoral to make laws that criminalize obedience to God. It is one thing to accept that people disagree and that people have different values. But it is immoral to force people to accept a moral position by punishing them for not accepting that view.
Pointing out sinful behavior, warning of its condemnation, and offering help for deliverance from sin is no less loving than warning and offering help to sex addicts and drug abusers. It is an act of loving help. The sacrifice of time and resources to help others escape sin is not an act of hate. It is an act of love.
God condemns, and we warn. We simply warn people what God says about homosexuality. We do not make up the rules. We tell others about the rules that God has given to us.
5. Do you think disagreeing with the homosexuality lifestyle gives you the right to stop the behavior?
Disagreeing with someone else is a cherished right to think and believe without fear of someone punishing you for disagreeing. Everyone has the right to choose his/her behavior. But the right to choose a behavior does not make the behavior right. And having the right to choose your behavior does mean that others must accept your behavior as right.
The days of Christian persecution have returned and are upon us. We now live in a culture that is accepting this persecution. It is a persecution that is occurring in incremental steps. It means the acceptance of labeling the Christian message as hate speech, followed by the criminalizing of Christians for obeying God, followed by punishing Christians for obeying God, followed by increasing severity of punishment until the choice is life or death.
Ironically, many Christians have bought into the cultural mantras that are leading us to the lions’ dens. The prevailing mantra is that “Natural is normal, and normal is ok, therefore, it is not sin.” This disregards the Scriptural position given by God that defines sin. Ultimately, we will return to the days of Christian persecution like those in Rome, and then the error of these mantras will be realized.
What we thought was a civil culture in America, was civil only because of the widespread presence of Christ in the population and the acceptance of His values. Now we see the civility of the past, that we took for granted, fading; and the true nature of man, with all of its evils and horrors, is manifesting itself.
Is it scary? Yes. Is it disheartening? Yes. But, take to heart the words spoken by the Spirit of the Lord to the church in Smyrna in Revelation 2:8-11. He said, “And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”
Our hope is in Christ, and our victory is in Christ. Regardless of the circumstances around us, we do not have to be dismayed. Our duty to God is to sacrifice our time, our comforts, and our resources to love others and to offer His help to them whether they want it or not. We do not force it, and we do not hate. It is the love of God, not hate, that compels us to sacrifice our time and resources to proclaim His Word, to name sin, and to declare salvation through Jesus Christ. If we have enemies, it is because they chose to be enemies of Christ and to hate Christians in spite of the love shown to them.
The words of John Rippon’s song, “How firm a foundation,” are reassuring.
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
These are times that will test your resolve for Christ and cause you to search what you really believe about Christ. Is your faith fire proof? Will it stand in the day of persecution?
From message delivered by Patrick Briney, Ph.D. to Mission Blvd. Baptist Church in Fayetteville, AR June 30, 2015.