How Far Would You Go?
--Pastor Jamey Nichols
Declaring certainty on almost anything is sure to bring out the culture police. Sometimes I feel it has become a worse evil in our society to condemn immorality than commit it. When I say to my church-skipping friend, “That may not be the wisest decision,” I’m being sanctimonious or judgmental. When I caution him for abusing alcohol, I’m meddling or don’t know how to have fun. Add to that my decision to speak out is challenged because, somehow, true love means never speaking up about moral shortcomings. Who knew? Try cautioning a Christian brother/sister that sex or cohabitation outside of marriage is not God’s best and brace yourself for eye-rolls and words like old-fashioned. I guess the culture has spoken and the biblical standards of morality have been deposed. Worse yet, the direction we are headed nationally is that declaring an opinion out loud is the equivalent of violence and hate speech. Over the next decade, keep an eye out for actual legislation toward that end. Naturally, I dislike the reality, but I’ll live with it. After all, the Bible says if the world hates Jesus it’s going to hate Christians, too. I suppose that is one reason we let our little lights shine.
I have come to appreciate the idea that authentic Christianity must include the notion of embracing what God loves and rejecting what God hates. Christianity is not about having God as an app we download into our lives to use whenever it suits. Christianity is the operating system behind the whole enchilada. It governs everything. Following God means letting him call the shots and lining up behind His judgments. Disliking a thing He stands for does not mean we are free to redefine Him. He’s the Moral Lawgiver. We must conform if we wish to follow Him. We never demand that He conform to us. This is what is meant by Him being King over all kings and the Lord over all lords.
Consider the stunning words of Desmond Tutu, a retired Anglican Archbishop who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. Evidently, he is so unequivocally pre-committed to a certain moral position that he would rather go to hell than to change his mind. He said publicly, “I would not worship a God who is homophobic, and that is how deeply I feel about this . . . I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. . . . I would much rather go to the other place” (italics mine). These chilling remarks have Mr. Tutu setting himself up as the highest authority on the matter. In effect, he quite simply does not care whether God might want to correct his view because he’s already settled the matter in his own mind. Period.
How far would you go? If you read something in the Bible that controverted your beliefs would you be open to changing your position. Or, if God’s Spirit were pressing you to change your view, how hard would you fight it? Would you quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19)? Would you look for excuses to rationalize your pre-commitments? Would you opt for disobedience rather than obediently bend your mind to match God’s? Would you really choose Hell over obedience?
Transcendent moral truth remains no matter what anyone says or believes. Lies must be propped up; not so the truth. Lies are fabricated but truth is discovered. Much modern “truth” is culturally, not biblically, derived. When we galvanize cultural beliefs deeply in our hearts we are no longer interested in thinking. We close ourselves off to conversation and growth. New information is cavalierly disregarded because it simply does not fit our established paradigms. In such moments, we have settled for the beliefs which suit us not necessarily God’s truth. Desmond Tutu’s remarks are stubbornly anti-intelligent and fool-hearty. If God came down to earth to correct the church by blessing incest, rape, murder, lying, theft, and so on—then, as difficult as it might be, His followers would be obligated to change their minds. It would be required to please Him. What depth of hubris to prefer Hell because our idea of God did not correspond to His reality? On the contrary, prostrate before the King, His devoted subjects would repent of their ignorance and joyfully work to adopt His views.
Keep in mind that God’s Word remains the highest arbiter of morality, and the ethics it purveys are for our good. Furthermore, suppression of the truth never has a happy ending (Rom. 1:18-32) so God’s ways are always best. This month, prayerfully ask God if there are any truths you might be exchanging for a lie (Romans 1). Study His book for clarification. Engage in friendly disputation. Long to discover God’s truth. In the end, Christians should be resolute where God is clear and hold our positions loosely when He isn’t. The truest mark of godliness is not professed doctrine, it is a true hunger to know God and love Him via our obedience.