In case you missed it World Vision, a Christian relief charity focused on children in impoverished conditions, announced on Monday that it will change its hiring policies and will now allow same sex couples to work within its organization. You can find out more information by reading an interview published by Christianity Today with World Vision’s U.S. President Richard Stearns here.
That decision lasted until Wednesday when World Vision’s board announced it had made a mistake and had failed to be consistent with the Bible. You will find that story posted here.
I find World Vision’s actions, as well as the wide range of “Christian” reactions posted on social media and the blogosphere to be indicative of this current age of confusion. It is symptomatic of the very thing Paul said we should not be in Ephesians 4:14b, “children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
Why is the church so wishy washy, confused, and compromising? Why is our message so unclear? Pointing back to Ephesians 4, Paul says in verse 13 that there should be some semblance of “unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” about us. This means that what we say on Facebook and in blogs doesn’t have to match precisely, but I’m not sure how much room there is in the word “unity” for our message to be all over the place.
Why are we as we are in a time such as this? Again, I point to the passage. It is a systemic failure of the pulpit. According to Ephesians 4:11, it is the assignment of the shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for all of this. If anything this week has shown, it is that when it comes to homosexuality, missions, Biblical policy, and social posting we have some glaring inconsistencies in our equipment.
Being a pastor I would like to address my fellow pulpiteers, stoolpiteers, tablepiteers, or whatever you choose to -piteer as your furniture of choice for preaching; by offering a short laundry list of Biblical issues we have failed to faithfully address over the last few decades.
Sex in and of itself is not a social issue it is a Scripture issue. Sex in and of itself is not sinful. It is the boundaries of sex revealed by God in Scripture transgressed that is sinful. The boundary we are categorically crossing is that sex is reserved for free, enjoyable expression between a man and a woman in covenant marriage for the purpose of union and procreation. The union of man and woman in marriage is a model of Christ and the church. Anything else distorts the gospel and dishonors Christ. This we call heresy. Let’s be clear not only on what’s wrong, but why.
The reason we are confused about homosexuality is because we are compromised deeply on the Biblical message of sex altogether. Before there was World Vision there was a landscape of broken preachers and churches wrecked by sexual sin. The track record of clergy abuse, rampant pornography, affairs, and sexual failings that has plagued the church for the last 30 years has led us to our current quagmire. The reason we can’t get homosexuality right is because we can’t get holy heterosexuality right.
What are we to do? Repent of our sin and return to faithful, simple preaching of the full counsel of the Word of God. Sex outside of marriage is sin – all of it, not just the homosexual version – all of it.
If we are to return to faithful preaching we cannot return to where we were when I was a teen. The only message I heard was that I was supposed to save sex for marriage. O.K., then what? O.K., now what?
As a tempted teen we were told only to deny and resist. We were never equipped in a gospel way to deal with the broader range of issues that surround sex, both positive and negative. We just weren’t supposed to do it and we sure weren’t supposed to talk about it.
True, God condemns fornication, adultery, and homosexuality, but that’s not all He said. He also said that sex in marriage is to be celebrated and enjoyed. We fail to equip the saints when we only condemn. We should also affirm. The Bible has a definite “No” but it also has a resounding “Yes.”
Purity rings, true love that waits, and all of those youth camps that told us not to touch one another had their place, but because we never heard a single word from Song of Solomon, or Proverbs 5, or anything wonderful about what God has reserved for marriage, all we have now is a sexually dysfunctional laity of social media addicts who are, as I stated previously, “all over the place.”
Don’t just preach to your boys not to touch the girls, teach them and show them how to be godly men. The girls don’t just need to hear about modesty because they may “make a boy think a sinful thought.” Teach them the model and reward of womanhood Christ has for them. When it comes to homosexuality we are arguing socially, emotionally, and culturally and mistakingly calling it Christianity. Hey preach, maybe its time we stop preaching 1,000 versions of our lame lists of how to be successful and develop some solid expositional sermons on how to be Biblically sexual.
If homosexuality is wrong, what’s right? Let’s not amputate the better half of our message again. Why is marriage between a man and a woman better? Why is it right? How has God designed man and woman to unite? What is it in the sexuality of a man and the sexuality of a woman that gives them the capacity to become one flesh in a way no other arrangement in creation is capable? Even though Genesis 2:22-25 does carry with it some logical and simple refutations of the homosexual lifestyle, this is not the primary message. I beg of you then dear pastor, please stop using Gen. 2 as a trite proof text that Adam didn’t have a husband named Steve! Cliche‘ does not equip the saints, exposition does. Preach Genesis 2 for what it is, a celebration of heterosexual covenant marriage. The passage is not a stupid joke, it’s the gospel in its infancy. If anything this week has proven, the saints have no idea how to articulate this message. Again, the pulpit is to blame.
This leads me to our next glaring failure. The reason we are confused on what to say about homosexual couples on the mission field is because we have been categorical failures when it comes to marriage at home. Hey preach – when you cut on your wife and make jokes about her from the pulpit, it’s not funny. Honestly, personally, it makes me want to punch you in the face – no joke. When you ignore your wife and pay attention to her only when it benefits your “pastoral image” before “the people”, hey bro, the teens in your congregation are watching. So are your kids. The teens that have been watching this charade for 20 years are grown now – and they made a mess of Facebook this week. Why? Because they failed to see you faithfully model Biblical love for your wife.
Now they are divorced, abused, confused, broken and ashamed. The reason they won’t take a stand on homosexuality is because they have watched everything else we tried to get them to stand on turn to quicksand.
If we say homosexual marriage is wrong, dear God, please help us be more serious about getting Biblical marriage right; not just as something we say in the pulpit, but as something we model for YOUR people.
What happened this week was that a generation of sexually broken, Biblically malnourished, confused adults tried to deal with something sexual and we stomped, fumed, condemned, posted, commented, and debated in the name of Christ but categorically failed to articulate a well grounded Scriptural message about Christ, the church, the gospel, and sex. We were emotional, but not equipped. We said stuff about sin and sinners and love and forgiveness and casting stones and all sorts of churchy gibberish what not . . . World Visions reversed their decision . . . Christian social media heads dutifully reversed their reactions . . .those that mourned on Monday rejoiced on Wednesday and Monday’s rejoicers became Wednesday’s mourners . . . but in the end we said nothing at all. Why, because we are miles apart on Ephesians 4:13. Why, because we are miles away from Ephesians 4:11.
For me, this week was not as much a commentary on our cultural compromise as it was an indication that the church is childish. It is ill equipped to survive the social swirl, the angry churn of confusion Paul calls in Eph. 4:14, waves. The decisions of Word Vision exposed the church as a weak swimmer in dangerous waters, with arms flailing, begging for help. If we do not change the course of our preaching, if we do not connect the true gospel with sex, immediately, in due time there will be no reaction to these decisions at all. Drowned men have little to say.