What many Christians feel, and are concerned about, in light of same sex marriage issues

As a pastor, my first obligation is to care for the people that are under my care in the local church.  Everyone knows that the winds have changed and that societal views have changed in regards to marriage, sexuality, gender, and so on.  There can be a lot of commentary about this but what most average Christians feel, from my observations, is something like this:

They really love their friends, co-workers, family members and neighbours.  Whether they’re gay or straight, atheist or Muslim, living together before marriage or trying to adhere (like them) to a Christian sexual ethic.

They’re not especially put off by different life-styles, beliefs, or sexual orientations.  They want to respect differences and have good relationships with the people they live and work with.

They may be confused about how their Christian faith relates to the shift in our culture’s understanding about sex and marriage.  But they do still want to be faithful to God and what their Faith teaches them about such things.

They don’t want to judge anyone but they are concerned and are feeling pressure from the world around.  Messages coming to them from the culture and the media are labelling them ‘bigot’ or ‘intolerant’.  Many are concerned about what traditional/Biblical beliefs about marriage will mean for their careers and some of their relationships.

They don’t hate anyone.

But they don’t believe that same-sex marriage or homosexual activity is what God’s has in mind for his human creation.

They really love their gay friends and neighbours.

But they don’t know what is in store for the future.

They’d really prefer this wasn’t the issue that is pressing today.

 

This video is made by Roman Catholics but I think the sentiments would be the same for almost every Christian I personally know.

 

 

Here’s 3 ‘million dollar words’ (Jude in July)

JUDE in JULYIn my most recent sermon, the first from Jude’s Letter, I dropped what I called 3 ‘million dollar words’.  No one should feel silly not knowing them, many well-trod Christians don’t know them even if they intuitively feel the concepts. Words are important, however, and so these 3 should work their way into our consciousness.  The Apostle Jude is concerned with people being led away from true belief in Jesus by those who have crept in. Christians need to stick with what they’ve been given.  But in order they need to know what they’ve been given. Jude implies that Christianity is received, authoritative, and shared with all Christians.

Here’s where our 3 words come in (they’re each worth $1,000,000 and so pay attention! I paid a lot of money to learn them in seminary but I’m giving them for free today)

1) Jude says that the Christian Faith was once for all delivered to the saints (v3).  This means there is a body of beliefs (about God, Christ, human nature, salvation, etc…) that has been received as a package deal.  If something is a gift than we can’t just mess with it, or choose which parts we like and which we don’t.  This includes both belief and behaviour apparently, as Jude’s opponents get both wrong (v4). The Faith is a received gift and the word that this applies to is: Orthodoxy (adjective is orthodox).  Literally meaning “right belief and/or thought”, to be orthodox refers to be faithful to what has been handed down, respecting how it all fits together.

2) From whom do we receive it, though?  That leads to the question of authority – whose authority do we trust to teach us the truth about Jesus? Jude’s opponents, relying on their own dreams and rejecting authority (v8). Jude warns that their authority to teach spiritual truth is no good.  The authority we need to trust in is that of the apostles.  They were with Jesus, chosen by Him, and to reject them is to reject Him. Any wisdom or revelation must be tested against authority on which Faith is based, that of the apostles.  The word for this is Apostolicity (adj. apostolic). And where is this apostolic authority?  It’s in what they wrote, their accounts and teachings about Jesus in the Scriptures.  Their writing is what is authoritative for us.

3) Our third million dollar refers to the fact that we share our Christian Faith with others.  Jude points out that our salvation is a “common” one (v3). In such a self-centred, self-determining age it is humbling to know Christianity is not our possession.  We share globally with so many different types of believers and historically with so many previous generations.  This is important because we have so many cultural blind spots that other ages and cultures don’t have. It keeps us faithful when we allow them to check us.  The word for this is Catholicity (adj. catholic – notice the small ‘c’). We may think of the Roman church being “Catholic” but all catholic (small ‘c’) means is universal and undivided. To our RC friends we may have to say that we’re “too catholic to be Catholic” (thanks to Peter Leithart for the line!)  Tragically, there is Christian division but we really do share the Faith with many others even as we disagree.

orthodox, apostolic, (c)atholic – a received, authoritative, and shared faith – this is what Jude is promoting and encouraging his people to stay faithful to.  And so must we in the face of pressures and teachings from all directions.

Now you’re a millionaire.

The Unalterable Gift – or – Lord Grantham gets it (Jude in July)

JUDE in JULYWhen a thing belongs to us, originates from us,  we can do with it what we will.  When a thing is given to us, however, and we’re entrusted with it, we must treat it in an entirely different way. We don’t own it then, can’t mess with it, and need to guard it like a steward.

I saw this idea at work in, of all places, season 1 of Downton Abbey.  *** if you require a spoiler alert here, c’mon!, this was back in season 1 ***  Lord Grantham is walking with his daughter Lady Mary and she is upset that inheritance laws will keep her from getting a piece of the family wealth, title, estate.  She protests with him and his answer shows that whatever we might believe about peerage, aristocracy, or inheritance – we could stand to learn something about receiving an unalterable gift.  He tells her:

"Sorry, my dear, can't mess with what I've been given."

“Sorry, my dear, can’t mess with what I’ve been given.”

You are my darling daughter, and I love you, hard as it is for an Englishman to say the words… If I had made my own fortune and bought Downton for myself, it should be yours without question. But I did not. My fortune is the work of others, who labored to build a great dynasty. Do I have the right to destroy their work, or impoverish that dynasty? I am a custodian, my dear, not an owner. I must strive to be worthy of the task I have been set.

Lord Grantham gets it.  He didn’t create it, he doesn’t really own it, he must preserve it to pass on.  He certainly doesn’t have any right to chop it up into preferred pieces. This is true of Christian Faith as well.

In a world where we so often live according to our preferences, it’s only natural that we try to apply that to spiritual matters of faith.  Whatever our level of commitment to Christ may be, we’re inclined towards what we prefer and away from what we don’t.

But the Apostle Jude doesn’t portray a smorgasbord of spiritual things.  He portrays a package deal, a “common salvation” that was “once delivered to the saints” (vss 3-4).  It is not ours to change or chop up.  The task of the faithful is to keep the faith.

Your faith isn’t just yours (Jude in July)

JUDE in JULYWe so often think that our relationship with God – our faith – is ours.  Now, surely it is ours in a certain way.  Faith in God through Christ is personal and can be a treasured possession but it is not just ours.  We share it.

The Apostle Jude lets us in on this truth at the beginning of his short letter.  Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation… (v3)  Jude goes on to write about other matters but not before calling a relationship with Jesus part of a common salvation.

That means that while it is ours, it is not just ours.  When we receive Christ and enter into relationship with God we are entering something much larger than ourselves.  We are becoming part of God’s People – a family which stretches across centuries and has spread to almost every corner of the globe.

This humbles us to be part of something so much larger than just ourselves.  And we need this kind of humility in such an individualized, all-about-me age.

What is for Christians? (Jude in July)

JUDE in JULYWhat is for Christians?  When we are Christian what do we receive?  What is for us?  Another 3 part answer comes to us from Jude’s intro.  May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. (v 2)  That right there, is a blessing.  We’re blessed with these three things.

Mercy.  The mercy of God coming to us.  We are not treated as we ought to be because of our sins.  God could justly treat us in a certain way but he treats us in the opposite.  That’s mercy.  Peace. Peace in the Bible usually doesn’t mean a kind of ‘inner peace’ that we may long for (although that may be a great thing).  It usually means peace between two or more parties.  God has made peace with us and bridged the animosity we’ve had towards Him.  Love.  The greatest of things is love.  Love is not mere feeling but neither is it dispassionate posture.  It is complete self-giving towards another.  God has given us love in Christ.

Christians are blessed with Mercy, Peace, and Love.  This is what is for Christians.   But we’re not merely to receive these things but to give them out as well.  As we’ve received so we must give mercy, peace, and love to others.  What is for us must also be what we are for.

What is a Christian? (Jude in July)

JUDE in JULYWhat is a Christian?  What are we when we call ourselves Christian?  A million possible answers could pop into our heads and many may be very insightful.  None is better, though, than the heart-warming nugget contained in the intro to the letter of Jude.  (I’m preaching through this small, strange, and often neglected letter through July and I’ll be micro-posting along with that).
Jude greets the Christians he’s writing to as …those who are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for [by] Jesus Christ. (v 1b)  There, concisely and beautifully, is what we are when we call ourselves Christian.  We are:

Called. To be Christian is to have heard the call of God and responded.  God is all about calling a people to Himself.  Starting with Abraham, the nation of Israel, the inclusion of the Gentiles (non-Jews), and right up to the present day.  To be Christian is to be a part of that.  It’s right even to say that “called” is almost synonymous with “Christian”.

Beloved.  Loved by God, specifically by the Father, that’s what a Christian is.  Be careful to not dismiss this as mere idea; the Father’s love is to be experienced.  To be the object of such love is the privilege of all Christians.

Kept.  Either to be kept for service to Jesus or kept by His faithful preservation.  Both options are encouraging and blessed.  We’re neither purposeless nor left to our own devices.  Jesus does not save us from our sins and then leave on our own.  We’re kept.  Safe and sound by his care.

What is a Christian?  Called, Beloved, Kept.