Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:9-12)
The Means (4 of 5)
Let’s be clear…all broad-based Christian churches will be riven with strife over the gay marriage issue. For some, such as the Southern Baptists, the primary impetus will likely be from outside as radical progressives lay siege to their tax-exempt status. For others, such as the PCUSA, the primary driving force will be from within.
I believe that in less than ten years time it will be extremely difficult for a PCUSA church to find a pastoral candidate who opposes gay marriage. This will occur because almost no one who holds this position will bother to enter our seminaries. For the few who do, the pressure to conform will be immense. And, finally, even assuming that a few such brave souls graduate with their convictions intact, many Presbyteries will refuse to accept them into membership.
Also, within PCUSA local churches we can expect to find significant numbers of members who energetically and aggressively support gay marriage. In most cases they will have the power of the Presbytery elite behind them. In all cases they will have the power of the progressive political machine and cultural elite behind them.
Pastors who entered PCUSA ministry with convictions that oppose gay marriage will likely face growing opposition. Sessions and Pastors will split over this issue, as will Pastoral and church staffs.
In this poisonous atmosphere, what could it mean to build a Christian community? I can tell you what it will mean to the PCUSA elite. It will mean that all should submit quietly to this false teaching and then go forward pretending that we are all together in “Christian” ministry. However, community organized around falsehood will simply not work.
And yet, we are called by Christ to live out our faith within the context of a Christian community. So, in spite of the associated difficulties we must:
4. Find strength and wisdom in Christian community
The first essential point is that there are definite limits to the extent that the concept of a “Christian community” can be legitimately stretched. This point is both first and essential because of the temptation to place our existing Christian community above every other consideration. Yes, we should and must strive long and hard to maintain the Christian integrity of the Christian community in which we find ourselves. However, that particular community is not our Lord and Savior. No, Jesus Christ alone is our Lord and Savior, and, He is abundantly clear on this point.
“If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26, RSV)
Of course, this statement uses hyperbole to drive home an essential point. Jesus supports the family. But, if even familial relationships compete with our discipleship to Jesus Christ, then He must be chosen with such certainty and clarity that it’s as if we “hated” our family member. What is true in the family is also true in the church. Here’s valuable commentary on this issue.
Normally, there is no conflict between loving Christ and our family members also. But sometimes a tug of war develops, where a family member puts pressure on us to back off from or even abandon our love for Christ. In those difficult situations, we do not love either Christ or the family member if we accede to the pressure. We do not love the family member, because if we bow to the pressure, we are saying that Christ is not worthy of being followed above all others, and we keep the family member from seriously considering the claims of Christ. We do not love Christ because we have put a sinful human being, who did not give himself for our sins, in a higher place than the spotless Lamb of God who freely offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins.
The second essential point is that, for those of us orthodox Christians still in the PCUSA, the primary reason to stay in this community is as visible opponents to its current direction. This is operative at both the personal and church levels. Thus, we need to make sure that the arguments in favor of continued fidelity to God’s Word as taught by our historic Confessions are developed and clearly delivered.
We must engage those with whom we disagree in open debate, not in anger, but rather with firmness of purpose. We must do so at every level of church organization. We must do so out of our love for the Person and Purpose of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; out of a non-sentimentalized, non-culturally-corrupted understanding of Christian love. That understanding is there to be rediscovered in the gospels, epistles, prophets, poems, histories and wisdom from both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, if only we, as a Christian community, will find the courage to look and learn.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)