2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
If you reading this you have no doubt already heard about the devastating landfall of Hurricane Harvey in the Houston, TX area. Thankfully, as of now the rains have ceased and numerous rescues are being made. People are also coming together by donating time and money to the cause of helping the survivors. Such a time of destruction certainly evokes feelings of humility and gratitude for daily protection from nature’s forces.
What you may not be aware of is an unsettling connection between Harvey and the Church, particularly Christians who have very recently taken a stand on the authority of God’s Word. Just two days ago, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood produced a series of statements on human sexuality called the Nashville Statement. You can read the statements here. It doesn’t take long. They are concise. Several pastors and church leaders have signed their names to this Statement as well, as an expression of agreement. While I haven’t studied each thesis in depth, I do believe the Nashville Statement accurately reflects the Bible’s teachings and that it is important to take this stand in our culture.
Perhaps just as importantly, it also does so in a balanced, gospel-motivated approach. So often the accusations of hatred and bigotry are leveled against Christians by those who simply don’t want to hear what God says regarding sexuality. However, you can tell the authors went above and beyond to dispel this image. For example, article 8 reads:
WE AFFIRM that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in purity of life.
WE DENY that sexual attraction for the same sex is part of the natural goodness of God’s original creation, or that it puts a person outside the hope of the gospel.
Article 14 (the final one) states:
WE AFFIRM that Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners and that through Christ’s death and resurrection forgiveness of sins and eternal life are available to every person who repents of sin and trusts in Christ alone as Savior, Lord, and supreme treasure.
WE DENY that the Lord’s arm is too short to save or that any sinner is beyond his reach.
These theses make it clear that the intent of the Nashville Statement is not to unfairly shame or throw hatred on those who struggle with homosexuality and transgender feelings. The superior love of the gospel flows throughout the document. But, that is not stopping many, from the Church to the media and everywhere in between, from trying to discredit the document. There are many points to address, but it is here that I would like to zero in on one particular criticism.
Here’s where a connection to Hurricane Harvey comes in. Many are complaining of a lack of sympathy and charity by those who issued this Statement because of its close proximity to Harvey’s catastrophe. You’ve probably seen sentiments of this nature expressed on the news or social media. It is said that this should be a time to unite, not divide. It is said that Church leaders should show empathy, not judgment. But, are these extremes always mutually exclusive? If someone, like myself, agrees with the Nashville Statement, does that mean I automatically hate those whom it addresses? If I don’t object to the timing of its release, does that reveal a calloused and indifferent attitude toward those affected by the hurricane? What if I’ve prayed for those affected by the hurricane? What if I’ve helped them, either directly on the ground or indirectly through a donation? Have I really shown a lack empathy and understanding simply because I agree with God’s Word?
I think, at best, it’s unfair to make these accusations, and, at worst, extremely dangerous. Think of the passage above, especially as you consider the timing of the Statement. Is there ever a bad time to speak God’s truth in love? Paul says we are to “preach the word, in season and out of season.” Another way of saying this is “when it’s convenient and when it’s not.” Hurricane Harvey is surely a monumental tragedy, but who’s to say it’s any more serious than any other tragedy? Surely, there are always moments in life when something bad is happening to someone. If Christians can’t speak the truth in these moments for lack of sensitivity, will there ever be a proper time? By the way, if you continue in the passage, the type of preaching talked about involves convincing and rebuking. That clearly indicates a message of repentance over sin. How can we do that if we don’t clearly label the sin for what it is – a self-glorifying activity that leads away from God. There certainly is no room for “rebuke” if we can never offend someone.
I understand unbelievers who level these accusations against the Church. But, the sad truth is that many Christians are doing the same thing. This is what makes it extremely dangerous. Faith in Christ, the very things that makes a Christian a Christian, is built upon the Word of God. Friendly fire upon this foundation plays into the hands of Satan. According to Christ’s own teaching on loving one another, faithfulness to the Word is absolutely necessary (John 15:10). I ask all Christians to take heed of these points and be aware of falling into the trap of trusting the world’s words over God’s.