Society is changing; what was once deemed as unacceptable or indecent behavior is no longer seen the way it was even twenty years ago. As many of you know, I have taught at the college/university level for the past eleven years and during this time, I have seen many changes in society. While some of these changes have been good, many of them have been bad – bad for our communities, bad for the current and future generation, and bad for the church. Yes – I said bad for the church; many churches have compromised their stand and no longer hold fast to the foundation laid out in the Bible but have shifted to a more humanistic and inclusive world view to protect their relevancy in society. Unfortunately this does not make them more relevant in the role that the Lord laid out for the New Testament Church.
Society demands tolerance
Right now there are many Christians that are struggling with various social issues. On one hand, they want to honor the Lord but on the other, they do not want to be labeled as being intolerant or hateful. Society is changing and the world is seemingly doubling down on its efforts to get the church and Christians to conform to its world view. Yesterday, as I was listening to the news, there was a human interest story where one of the people being interviewed was bemoaning that Christians are just too judgmental and are violating one of the key teachings of Christ: Judge not, that ye be not judged (Matthew 7:1). The young man then began to say that Christians have no right to cast judgment on anyone because of the lifestyle they choose since God has told us not to judge. It should not surprise Christians that the world and those who are not Christians would mutilate the meaning of scriptures for their purposes and to justify their agenda. Even the apostle Paul had to deal with this very problem in his day and led him to pen this warning to the Christians in Corinth: And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Society is changing and so are the norms that go with it. Within sociology and anthropology, the term norm is simply a group or societal belief in the proper way a person should behave within society. Most of the time, norms are informal and are not codified into law but are observed by society because of the belief that the norm is the right or correct thing to do. I am reminded of the verse in Isaiah: Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20) as we witness society changing. While demanding tolerance for its world view, the lost world offers no such tolerance for a world view outside of what it has deemed as acceptable behavior. An example of such demands is that of abortion – or the murder of the unborn. The world hails abortion as a responsible and acceptable choice of birth control. Christians and others who oppose it are accused of wanting to deny women basic health care and the right to control their own reproduction. According to those who defend the practice, the debate over abortion was settled with Roe v. Wade and can no longer be tolerated. Society does not consider abortion as a legitimate moral issue but somehow managed to transform it into a social issue. There is now discussion within the Internal Revenue Service questioning if a church can lose their tax-exemption status if the pastor/clergy discuss opposition to abortion from the pulpit since abortion, especially since 2009, has morphed into a social-political issue revived by the Affordable Care Act.
Views on homosexuality are also changing as society changes. Until the mid-1970s, society opposed homosexuality and homosexual marriage. Christians who oppose homosexuality as a sin are often considered hypocrites; the world cites Christ’s teachings on divorce and remarriage: It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery (Matthew 5:31-32). Taken out of context, this verse seems to show just what the world wants us to believe – into shaming Christians and the church into accepting homosexuality because they have already accepted other deviations in God’s plan for marriage. The problem is that yes, those are the words of Christ but what he was doing was teaching the scribes and Pharisees that there was much more to Judaism than upholding the letter of the Old Testament law. Under the law, everyone is a sinner and worthy of the wages of sin. The law points to the need of God’s saving grace – something that cannot be earned by man observing the law. Marriage was an area where yes, the law did allow for divorce, but Jesus was expounding on what the law was teaching to show the religious leaders of the day there was more to fully observing the law than just what was written.
Another argument presented by the world is how Christians opposed interracial marriages; we often hear that the GLBTQ (Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transexual-Queer) movement is the inheritor of the African-American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. There are several problems with this argument that the Christian must stay firm on scripture and understand what the Bible really teaches:
1) God never forbade interracial marriage. The early recorded instance of an interracial marriage is in Exodus 2:21: And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. In Numbers 12:1, the Bible further expounds on who Zipporah was: And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. Moses was a Hebrew, probably about the same skin tone as a modern-day Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi, or Iranian; Zipporah was an Ethiopian – a black woman. As Miriam began to use Moses’ interracial marriage to question his leadership of Israel. The Lord stated: And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed. And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous (Numbers 12:6-10). Additionally, Song of Solomon is written to King Solomon, a Hebrew, by a black woman who was one of his wives. Again, no condemnation on interracial marriages can be supported by scripture.