I received an email last week along with scores of other pastors, from a man by the name of Rick. Because of the poor representation in Salem, Oregon’s capital, by spiritual leaders against the impending legislation that grants civil liberties and benefits to homosexuals he was spurred to send out an exhortation. He feels we are failing in our duties as shepherds to speak out against sin. His appeal caused me to think much about what it means to be earnest.
I am deeply concerned that our nation is moving in a direction that violates our freedom of speech and religion guaranteed in our Bill of Rights. I am equally concerned about the breakdown of the family unit and threat to it by those who seek to legitimize perversion. The day will come when Christians who speak out against homosexuality will be subject to imprisonment, property seizure or fines, for not accepting, hiring or tolerating those whose behavior is clearly identified in Scripture as immoral. In essence the sexual “rights” of one percent of the population will trump the moral rights of the majority of citizens against such behavior. When this happens we will truly be living in the days when evil is called good and good is called evil.
Yet, there are many more concerns than just fighting horrible legislation.
1. There is a danger in being earnest of also being woefully inconsistent. We feel good speaking out for certain rights while we often ignore obvious wrongs. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 6:16-19:
The Lord hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to Him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers.
How is it that we feel so piously stirred up against homosexuality yet we look past those who are proud, liars, violent, schemers and producers of dissension? Clearly these are things God hates. Pornography and gambling also break apart families—are we zealous for safeguards against such behavior? What makes us think we can take on one sin while ignoring other sins? Could it be that we are mute about things for which we are often guilty? We look very hypocritical in the eyes of the world when we selectively champion certain issues while ignoring others.
2. There is a danger in equating earnestness with calling. Unless as a believer God calls us to take a stand against a certain injustice, (such as William Wilburfor against slavery), we must be careful to ensure our time and energy are focused on what the Holy Spirit would have us do. For example, Jesus commands us as believers “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19a). Implicit in this command is the need for evangelism. How many of us share Christ with those who do not know Him regardless of their moral standing? I think for many it is easier to speak up for their rights than it is to speak up for their Lord. We are universally and daily called to be salt and light, to share our faith. We are selectively and periodically called to focus our efforts on certain causes.
3. There is a danger in misunderstanding God’s agenda and subsequently our responsibility. Jesus vigorously denounced the religious leaders for their blatant hypocrisy, spoke about caring for the needy and angrily cleared out the moneychangers who were polluting the Temple. Yet, primarily He came to save people from their sins not denounce them for their sins (Mat. 1:21). His ministry was primarily threefold: teaching, preaching the good news of the kingdom of God and healing (Mat. 4:23).
Paul provides rich insight in Romans 1:28-32. Because people reject God, He delivers them to depraved thinking that begets evil actions and encourages evil in others. In the context of Romans one we see a clear pattern. People reject God even though they know He exists. This rejection is caused by their obsession for flesh pleasing. Therefore, when we confront evil in people, we must be careful to avoid focusing on the symptoms, while missing the real problem, which is the suppression of truth about God. God calls us to share truth by living out the truth! The essence of His truth is love. Without love we revert to legalism, judgmental spirits and incessant faultfinding. Very few people are reached for Christ by our attacking them for their evil conduct. What wins people’s hearts is the unmistakable love God has for them as seen through our unconditional love. Christ did not come to set better laws He came to fulfill the law. Laws do not spiritually save people. Jesus offers salvation and makes us new by heaven’s standards because He loves us.
A careful reading of the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that the world gets worse before Jesus returns, not better. Consequently, our earnestness must be first in our Savior not first in our safeguards. Our paramount concern should always be to share the Savior knowing we may suffer dire consequences. Should we speak out against evil—certainly! Should we advance righteousness—of course, but always in the context of humility, consistency and love. If we would see those around us enmeshed in evil as headed for hell, maybe we would understand that it is our hope in Jesus that they critically need. If the Holy Spirit leads me to drive to Salem I’ll go, otherwise, I will continue to love those stuck in perversion by sharing Jesus! When they find the Son, the gay agenda will be replaced with God’s agenda! Just ask my friend Rob, he’s living proof.
Earnestness is not by any means everything; it is very often a subtle form of pious self-idolatry, because it is obsessed with the method and not with the Master.—Oswald Chambers in Christian Discipline
©2007 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)