Extolling the Desolate

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

The following words are going to lose me some readers, so know my heart before you proceed. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I don’t desire complete homogeny in my life. Never, ever will I advocate being a jerk. Neither do I believe that we are to be anything other than loving.

But that love? It is to have a backbone. It is to be rooted in what is true. 

Gentle Reader,

Why do we praise that which is not praiseworthy?

Those who call themselves Christians baffle me in their responses to current events. I choke on the saccharine, sticky, feel-good buzzwords. Acceptance. Tolerance. Love. Forgiveness. Courage.

Nobody defines those words correctly.

When did we become blind to the fact that there is no sin that should be celebrated? Why has our understanding of grace become so disgustingly cheap? The community of faith seems to, in general, buy into the lie that “as long as you’re not hurting anyone, do whatever you want.” Such an idea is antithetical to the Gospel.

No, we Christians should not praise Bruce Jenner. Neither should we call him names or use the anonymity of the internet to share vile thoughts about him. We should be sad. Our love for God and our love for people who struggle with issues like transgenderism should compel us to speak truth. Gentle truth. Respectful truth. But truth nonetheless.

We do not have a God who tells us to surrender to every desire. He does not tell us that salvation came at little cost. He does not tell us that obedience does not matter. He tells us through His word and through the consequences of our experiences that sin and struggle are real because of the pernicious growth of evil in our hearts due to the Fall and our own inwardly warped natures – and He can and will save us from that. Praise Him forever because He loves us as we are but that love means that He cannot allow us to stay as we are.

He is the God who tells us that our hearts are desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). We are not to “follow” them so we can be “happy.” We are to follow Him. He is the God who tells us to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). We are not to dwell on every little thing that comes into our heads. Our minds cannot be trusted unless they are renewed and transformed in Him (Romans 12:2). That same verse tells us that we are not to be conformed to the pattern of this world. We are not to shape our lives based on the ever-changing whims of society. We are to base them on God’s truth.

No, we Christians should not engage in the doctrinal gymnastics and outright denial of Scripture that is required to “support” any kind of marriage that is not made up of one man and one woman. Neither should we call any person names or use the anonymity of the internet to share vile thoughts about them. We should be sad. Our love for God and our love for people who struggle with issues like homosexuality should compel us to speak truth. Gentle truth. Respectful truth. But truth nonetheless.

We do not have a God who says it’s fine to ignore Him. He is the God who tells us that He formed us within the secret place of the womb. He knows us at a level beyond minute intimacy (Psalm 139). He says that we were made for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). He arranged creation in such a way that it screams of His continual presence (Romans 1:21). We do not get to shape Him to fit us.

No, we Christians should not swallow the bubble-gum, fortune-cookie, cotton candy garbage continually hawked by men like Joel Osteen. Have we forgotten warnings about deception and itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3)?

If I had been coddled in my sin and praised for my bad decisions, I would be dead today. If I fed on a steady diet of fluff, I would be dead today. It’s that stark and that simple. I know precisely where I would go if left to my own devices. I know exactly what God has saved me from. I am dependent on Him for every breath, awash in His good graces that I can never, ever deserve or repay. I am intolerant of anything less than the radical, transformative, powerful Gospel and the holy, majestic, entirely-other God behind the message.

Yes, intolerant. It breaks my heart. I can’t stand it. There is a physical pain that presses against my chest when I consider all those who blithely march to hell in the name of “progress” and “openness” and “acceptance” and the people who call themselves children of God let the parade go by without so much as a word. No, I don’t believe in being nasty. I do believe in truth. I do believe that Christ’s death and resurrection were for naught without sin. If we remove that ugliness, that separation, from the equation; if we twist words and decide that God did not mean that _________ is wrong, then what would be the point of the Atonement? If there really isn’t such a thing as sin, and this is what we communicate when we support and give pride of place to it, then why did Christ come?

It is not bigotry to say that something is wrong. It’s not. It is not anything-phobic to say that such and such action or stance does not hold up in the light of God’s word. It is actually loving. It is loving to look someone in the eyes and say, “I know that you are hurting. I know that you have this struggle. I know that you have questions. But please, I beg you, do not go your own way. I can’t stand by and let you, a person I care about, tear your life apart. There is something – Someone – so much better.”

Isn’t this what we say to drug addicts? To alcoholics? To women who keep diving in to bad relationship after bad relationship? To the depressed and anxious? Don’t we try to surround them with love that says, “you are safe and I’m with you” and truth that says, “let’s work through this together?”

So why are sexual sins treated differently?

Don’t we look at liars and say, “You are false. You are fake. I cannot trust anything you say and I will not listen to you.”

So why are we silent in the face of false teachers?

I do not expect the world at large to act if they are saved. I do not expect them to care about anything God has to say. I do not expect my national, state or local governments to suddenly shift course and made decisions based on Scripture.

I do expect this of anyone who calls himself a Christian. I expect us to stop extolling the desolate. I expect us to stop giving people enough rope with which to hang themselves. I expect us to expose liars for who they are.

I expect us to follow Christ.

His refrain when interacting with sinners (i.e. everyone)? “Go and sin no more. Repent and be saved. Take up your cross.”

There are also some words about whitewashed tombs and broods of vipers that would apply nicely to the Osteen’s and Hinn’s of the world.

My journey to faith. (15)