Wednesday, January 06, 2010

God's Word Never Changes

I fully expect to witness the convergence of Venus, Jupiter, and our moon on November 18, 2052. I'll be 99 years old on that date, my birthday. Be that as it may, the reliability of God's physical universe and our certainty about when this convergence will next happen, reminds us of the complete reliability of God and of His Word, which does not change, says Dave Branon. I agree.

The psalmist applauded God's law and how it guides us through life and leads us to repentance and renewal: "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105).

In August of last year, the denomination of which I am a part, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), voted to depart from God's Word and to follow a different path. The Churchwide Assembly voted to allow congregations to ordain gays and lesbians involved in committed relationships and to provide congregational legitimization of such relationships among the laity.

This action, seen by its advocates as an act of love and justice, is, in truth, a deeply hateful act.

It pours contempt first of all, on God. God's will when it comes to sexual intimacy is clear. When God created Adam and Eve, God's intentions could be seen. The genders, each equally created in the image of God, were also created to complement one another. To prevent the man from being alone and to offer him the intimacy which God enjoys within the Trinity, God made the woman. It is deeply instructive that there is no "Adam and Adam" story.

Among the cultures by which it was surrounded, ancient Israel, God's people, were alone in seeing homosexual behavior as wrong. Homosexuality was widely practiced throughout the ancient world and seen as acceptable. But Israel's God said this shouldn't be so. Much of the Old Testament book of Leviticus details laws relating to sacrifices, laws supplanted by the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. But a section of Leviticus is an explication of the Ten Commandments, valid for all time, including today. There, sandwiched between proscriptions against incest and bestiality, an expansion on the Sixth Commandment, "You shall not commit adultery," God says to the men of Israel, "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination" (Leviticus 18:22).

Jesus affirms heterosexuality expressed within marriage as a lifelong commitment in his discussion of marriage and divorce in Matthew 19. In spite of the prevalence of homosexuality in the Greco-Roman culture that was so omnipresent in first century Judea that the New Testament was written in Greek, Jesus never once utters a word indicating that homosexual behavior is an option for human beings. (By the way, there are those who say that because the Church is so accepting of divorce these days and so willingly looks the other way when it comes to fornication, sexual intimacy on the part of unmarried heterosexuals, it's perfectly OK for the Church to change its teaching on homosexuality. Although the Church has been lax in addressing divorce and fornication, the Church has never officially said that congregations that want to legitimize such behaviors may do so if their consciences tell them it's OK, which is what the ELCA did when it comes to homosexuality last August.)

Jesus assumes that sexual intimacy may only happen between heterosexual partners in a lifelong marriage relationship.

In Romans 1, Paul says that the orientation to homosexual behavior, along with a catalog of other human sins, is a consequence of our inborn human alienation from God, something we all inherited from Adam and Eve, who fell into the condition of sin because they wanted "to be like God."

I was born with a penchant toward egomania. It is my orientation. God didn't make me that way; I was born that way. It is a manifestation of my fallenness as a member of the human family. Woe to me if I seek to legitimize my penchant to egomania by pretending that it's OK. It's not OK! Jesus calls me to acknowledge my sin and seek His help in acting in accordance not with my sinful orientations, but in accordance with God's Word and will.

God's will is clear. We do not act lovingly toward those engaged in homosexual behavior if we lie to them and tell them that, while God hasn't changed His mind about His Word or will when it comes to any other sin, He's willing to fudge on this one.

How dare the Church show that kind of contempt for people who may want a relationship with Christ, but who are encouraged to continue doing things that will, if engaged in unrepentantly, destroy that relationship, denying the unrepentant a place with God for eternity?

There are those who say that my position on this issue--the position historically taken by God, the Bible, and the Church--is unloving. But, let me ask you to imagine a scenario for a second. If you see a woman saunter out into the middle of a busy highway, heedless of the cars that speed by and threaten her life, what is the more loving act: Affirming her right to be in the road or reminding her of the consequences of such behavior and urging her, even helping her, to safety?

The Church has been commissioned by its Savior to present the truth about sin and death, as well as the truth about forgiveness, the power for holy living, and eternal hope that comes only through Jesus. We are to help people to the safety and life that comes from a faith connection with Jesus Christ.

The Church should welcome all people to wrestle with sin and redemption, death and life, grace and faith. The Church is not authorized to, as Pastor Jaynan Clark has put it, "unsin sin."

Nor is it authorized to replace the authority of God's Word with its own reasoning or preferences.

It would be far easier for the Church to acquiesce to the world's current preferences on matters sexual, far pleasanter for we who bear the Name of Christ to simply "go with the flow" of contemporary society. We could be very comfortable, all the while dying by degrees for our disconnection from Christ! Discipleship and faithfulness aren't always easy. At times, we are called to speak "the the truth in love" (Epehsians 4:15).

I favor full civil rights for all people, no exceptions. I favor justice for all people, no exceptions. That is clearly God's will.

But I do not favor the Church editing God's Word to suit its desire for acceptance in a world that wants to follow its own ways and deities.

It's gut check time for the ELCA: Will we follow the Word or the world?

My prayer is that God will guide us all again back onto the path of God's Word. I pray that we ELCA Lutherans will regain our commitment to "Word Alone. Grace Alone. Faith Alone."

God's Word and will do not change. As I've said before, truth doesn't come with an expiration date.

May we turn back to God and trust in God's Word before all our congregations lose their saltiness and become a string of nice religious clubs that do nice things, but are devoid of the life-transforming power of God by which we are called to life styles of daily repentance and renewal and, in growing closer to Christ rather than to the world, are given God's power to draw the world to Christ!

I'm a believer in confessional resistance to the heresy which has taken hold in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I pray each day that the ELCA will reverse and repent. God's Word demands nothing less.

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