On this first Sunday of Advent, we consider a messianic psalm: Psalm 72. When will divine justice come, and what will it look like? Pastor David helps us investigate this idea.
We have read some troubling stories lately in our Chronological Bible readings. In the past month, we have worked our way through the books of Joshua and Judges, which contain no small amount of violence and bloodshed. Some of these biblical stories can make your stomach turn with disgust!
Two recent stories have my attention today, and I’d like to share my reflections with you. First, though, please know that my primary concern with these stories is discipleship and serving Christ, not politics or even ethics.
Yesterday on the radio I heard an interview of a woman named Sarah Tuttle-Singer. She had an abortion at age 19, has become the mother of two children since then, and recently wrote an essay about her experience with abortion as a college student. She stands by her decision to have an abortion, even though she acknowledges that it was a “very challenging, very painful process” – especially when she later became pregnant again. At the end of the interview, she commented that when a woman is considering terminating an unwanted pregnancy, “the choice that’s made has to be in her best interest and has to come from what that voice inside of her says is the right choice to make.”
This goes against a biblical understanding of how we should make our choices.
Today, I saw online a “mashup” video – a video that combines two different things or ideas. With soft jazz music playing in the background, the video alternates between (a) biblical phrases taken from the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), part of Jesus’s “Sermon on the Mount,” and (b) video clips of Christian pastors condemning homosexual behavior and the people who practice such behavior. (If you are reading this online, please take a couple of minutes to watch the video.) To be fair, many Christian pastors have gone too far in condemning individuals for specific sins, specifically those in the realm of homosexuality; it is God’s place to judge, not ours. I don’t believe people are easily attracted to Christ while being mercilessly criticized by Christians. What disturbed me, though, about this video was its conclusion: after showing so many pastors (and children!) preaching that terrible things should be done to gays and lesbians, the video concluded with these words:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10 NRSV)
My interpretation was that the video was giving gays and lesbians the designation of “those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”
This also goes against a biblical understanding of how we should make our choices.
Please remember that I am thinking about discipleship and serving Christ, not about politics or ethics. I am not advocating for abortion rights or gay rights; however, those issues aren’t my main concern. My main concern is how we view scripture, ourselves, God, and the nature of righteousness.
God has given us the immense responsibility of free choice, so that we can freely know and choose to follow him. Yet that responsibility does not translate into a self-determined righteousness that says, “I believe this choice is good; therefore it is good.” God has also given us the immense challenge to follow and to serve Jesus Christ with our lives, facing persecution if necessary from those who do not believe in the gospel message. Yet that call to suffer for Christ does not translate into a self-validation that says, “I choose to live my life how I please, and look how persecuted I am by people who disagree with me.”
These present-day stories about abortion and homosexuality are warnings to us who claim Christ as Lord: Our ethical choices about life and sexuality do matter to God. Beyond that, though, our understanding of right and wrong cannot begin and end with our own preferences. We must strive to become more Christlike, even when that goes against what we think or feel is right for ourselves.
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:33 NLT)