Posts Tagged With: Supreme Court

 
 

Choosing Life, Good, and Blessing—Deuteronomy 30:15-20

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” (Deuteronomy 30:15–20).

lightoftheworld1

God calls us to bring His light, life, and love to the world. Photo by Alvinysf (Crossmap) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

In recent weeks, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, which means that President Donald Trump will have the opportunity to appoint his replacement. For many observers, this is significant. Kennedy is usually considered a moderate “swing vote” on the Court. Most believe that Trump will replace him with a strong conservative, like Clarence Thomas or Neil Gorsuch, thereby giving the Supreme Court a distinct conservative majority.

While this has been in the news, a friend asked me, “Do you think Roe vs. Wade (the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion-on-demand throughout the United States) will be overturned?” My answer may surprise some people: I do not expect a political solution to legalized abortion in the foreseeable future. While many Christians believe there are currently four pro-life justices on the Supreme Court, only one of them has proven it in a ruling. In a ruling upholding a partial-birth abortion ban in 2007, only Clarence Thomas and the now-deceased Antonin Scalia expressed the belief that this ruling should be overturned. The other allegedly pro-life justices did not formally agree to that statement. (See the Wikipedia article about Gonzales v. Carhart for more about that ruling.) So, we may have only one truly pro-life justice right now (I am not aware of any abortion-related cases where Gorsuch has stated his opinion), and I do not think we will have more than three after Trump’s next nominee is approved.

Thus, a political solution is not likely in the near future.

A political solution would be a quick fix. If we could just get one President to support Christian moral values and have five people in black robes issue an edict for us, things would be so easy. Americans like easy, quick solutions. Why should Mom spend an hour or more cooking a healthy, nutritionally balanced dinner when countless fast-food drive-through windows will satisfy our cravings with little effort? If that seems excessive, the grocery store sells plenty of meals that can be zapped in a microwave oven in less than five minutes. We want quick/easy/painless solutions to all of our problems, and we hope somebody else will take care of them for us.

The Christian should not seek political solutions to spiritual problems. In Deuteronomy 30:19 (a popular verse at pro-life rallies), God calls His people to “choose life.” He presents two paths before us: life vs. death; good vs. evil; blessing vs. cursing. Those who walk in His ways choose life, good, and blessing. Those who rebel against Him walk in death, evil, and cursing.

The Gospel of John tells us that the light and life of God are found in Jesus: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4–5). Elsewhere, the Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8). Thus, three of the core features of God’s nature are life, light, and love. We are called to share His life and love with those around us. We are called to be the light of the world, reflecting Jesus’ light to others (Matthew 5:14; John 8:12). “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). With God as our Father, we can be witnesses for Him with our words and life.

It is not an easy solution. God calls His children to the mission of changing our world: one heart, soul, and mind at a time; one day at a time, 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 52 weeks per year. But, it is God’s way. He does not call upon us to wait for others to solve this world’s problems. He calls on us to change our world by living a lifestyle of life, good, blessing, light, and love.

Copyright ©  2018 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christians and Culture, Current events | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In the World, Not of It (Revisited)

This month, I am reposting a few favorite articles from the past. This article was originally published on July 25, 2015.

In a recent post, I shared my thoughts about how Christians should respond to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling legalizing gay marriage. This ruling reflected the state of our society: we cannot consider America a “Christian nation” at this time. Likewise, our response to the ruling should be a reflection of our faith. Neither the Supreme Court ruling, nor the Church’s response, occurs in a vacuum.

Christians should not be surprised by the Supreme Court’s ruling. Neither should we be surprised that a growing majority of Americans have come to favor legalizing same-sex marriage in recent years and, as a corollary, have come to view pro-traditional-family Christians as bigoted, hateful homophobes. Jesus warned us that Christians would always find themselves as “outsiders” in the world:

“But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:13-22, NASB).

Most American evangelicals have lived comfortably in a society that has been at least courteous to, and at times even supportive of, our faith. However, as the above passage and countless other Bible verses show, Christians should not really be surprised that society is growing increasingly hostile towards us. We should be surprised that we have enjoyed a somewhat favorable status in American society for so long. Jesus warned His disciples that the world would hate them.

As the world’s hostility becomes more visible, how should Christians respond?

First, I would urge Christians to begin reading the Bible from a different perspective. We have grown accustomed to reading the Bible as if it were written to people with a socio-cultural experience similar to our own. We imagine Jesus and the disciples as a bunch of working-class guys—like the working-class guys we know from our jobs. However, American comforts would have been foreign to them. When Jesus told His disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” they probably took it literally: Pray for food for the day. They did not think long-term, budgeting a two-week paycheck so that you can buy several weeks worth of groceries and make your car payment. Their idea of “prosperity” was probably having leftovers after dinner. The so-called gospel proclaimed by some preachers—those who claim that faith in God will bring us health, wealth, success, and comfort—would seem odd to the first Christians. To them, faith meant that you would still call yourself a Christian and believe you had eternity with Jesus as the executioner’s sword was coming toward your throat.

The Bible was written primarily to oppressed people. The Old Testament was written to a small country, which was frequently threatened by the great empires of its day. The New Testament was written to members of a fledgling religious sect, considered extremist by many and treasonous (after all, they claimed that Jesus was their King) by the government. Their neighbors probably thought the early Christians were as odd as the Amish, as wacky as the Heaven’s Gate flying-saucer cult, and perhaps as dangerous to society as an Islamic terrorist organization.

As you read the Bible, take time to remember that Jesus is speaking to “outsiders.” Paul is writing to people who may have to sneak to church (the church in Ephesus did not run newspaper ads), whereas we casually arrive, carrying our big Bibles for all to see.

The Bible is speaking to people who hear the word temptation and think, “The Romans might threaten to throw me into an arena with lions if I say ‘Jesus is Lord.'” They probably did not equate “temptation” with an ice cream sundae.

We need to repent of a world view guided by the secular culture:

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, NASB).

Scripture should renew our minds, transforming us so that we may no longer be conformed to this world. Many Christians are shocked when the Supreme Court determines that marriage should be defined by whatever makes some people happy. Yet, how many Christians base their life choices on personal happiness instead of the “good and acceptable and perfect” will of God? How often do we try to “baptize” sinful attitudes (pride, self-righteousness, greed) and try to make them seem spiritual?

Perhaps more can be written on this topic. I expect that future posts will be written from this perspective, as it has begun to shape how I read Scripture during my daily devotions.

I will conclude by saying that the standard American brand of Christianity will not be adequate to stand against the most recent onslaughts against our faith. We need to reclaim the faith that recognizes that we are strangers and pilgrims in this world.

[PS: In my previous post, I proposed that the church should “eliminate the connection between civil marriage (which requires a license) and holy matrimony (which is a sacrament or ordinance performed by the church or other religious body).” I would like to clarify that this was not intended as approval of redefinition of marriage. Rather, it should be seen as more of an example of resistance against the ruling: Christians and other religious groups should never have allowed the secular government to define marriage for us, and we have reached a point where a state-issued marriage license no longer means what true Christian churches mean when we speak of “marriage.”]

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christians and Culture, Current events | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pro-Life Movement after Antonin Scalia’s Death

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia 1936-2016

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia,
1936-2016

The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last week is a major blow to conservatism in the United States government. Scalia was considered one of the court’s two most conservative justices (along with Clarence Thomas). Scalia and Thomas were unapologetically conservative on social and moral issues like abortion and marriage. With Scalia’s death, I believe Thomas is the only truly committed pro-life justice on the court.

His demise will have a significant impact on several high-profile cases this year. It is significant enough that some commentators consider it almost a deadly blow for political conservatism. I have even read a few comments online and in social media suggesting that the Constitution died with him.

I believe our problems as a nation are deeper than that. If the fate of our nation rested so heavily on the shoulders of one unelected official, we truly are in trouble.

The real problem is the idolatry of politics that many Americans, and particularly many Christians, have adopted. Many worship at the altar of the state and pray to “deities” named Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. (I am not suggesting that any or all of these men consider themselves divine; just that many of their supporters place a level of faith in them that should be reserved for God. Also, since I write from a rather conservative perspective, I doubt many worshippers of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders are reading this.) While I pray that voters will elect men and women with integrity, who will honor our nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage and biblical values, I do not believe this will heal our land.

Now as always, if not more than ever, Christians need to get our priorities in order: “[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NASB).

While we should seek political leaders who will establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty, we cannot expect them to do the work that only God can do. We cannot give them the loyalty and trust that only God deserves.

Our nation is not drifting from God because Antonin Scalia died, and his death by itself does not create a moral and ideological crisis for our nation. Our nation suffers because God’s people do not recognize Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I will end this post with Psalm 2 (NASB), which reminds us that God is still the King, even if earthly rulers refuse to acknowledge Him:

Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”

He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
“But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

“I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”

Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the Lord with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

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In the World, Not of It

In a recent post, I shared my thoughts about how Christians should respond to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling legalizing gay marriage. This ruling reflected the state of our society: we cannot consider America a “Christian nation” at this time. Likewise, our response to the ruling should be a reflection of our faith. Neither the Supreme Court ruling, nor the Church’s response, occurs in a vacuum.

Christians should not be surprised by the Supreme Court’s ruling. Neither should we be surprised that a growing majority of Americans have come to favor legalizing same-sex marriage in recent years and, as a corollary, have come to view pro-traditional-family Christians as bigoted, hateful homophobes. Jesus warned us that Christians would always find themselves as “outsiders” in the world:

“But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:13-22, NASB).

Most American evangelicals have lived comfortably in a society that has been at least courteous to, and at times even supportive of, our faith. However, as the above passage and countless other Bible verses show, Christians should not really be surprised that society is growing increasingly hostile towards us. We should be surprised that we have enjoyed a somewhat favorable status in American society for so long. Jesus warned His disciples that the world would hate them.

As the world’s hostility becomes more visible, how should Christians respond?

First, I would urge Christians to begin reading the Bible from a different perspective. We have grown accustomed to reading the Bible as if it were written to people with a socio-cultural experience similar to our own. We imagine Jesus and the disciples as a bunch of working-class guys—like the working-class guys we know from our jobs. However, American comforts would have been foreign to them. When Jesus told His disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” they probably took it literally: Pray for food for the day. They did not think long-term, budgeting a two-week paycheck so that you can buy several weeks worth of groceries and make your car payment. Their idea of “prosperity” was probably having leftovers after dinner. The so-called gospel proclaimed by some preachers—those who claim that faith in God will bring us health, wealth, success, and comfort—would seem odd to the first Christians. To them, faith meant that you would still call yourself a Christian and believe you had eternity with Jesus as the executioner’s sword was coming toward your throat.

The Bible was written primarily to oppressed people. The Old Testament was written to a small country, which was frequently threatened by the great empires of its day. The New Testament was written to members of a fledgling religious sect, considered extremist by many and treasonous (after all, they claimed that Jesus was their King) by the government. Their neighbors probably thought the early Christians were as odd as the Amish, as wacky as the Heaven’s Gate flying-saucer cult, and perhaps as dangerous to society as an Islamic terrorist organization.

As you read the Bible, take time to remember that Jesus is speaking to “outsiders.” Paul is writing to people who may have to sneak to church (the church in Ephesus did not run newspaper ads), whereas we casually arrive, carrying our big Bibles for all to see.

The Bible is speaking to people who hear the word temptation and think, “The Romans might threaten to throw me into an arena with lions if I say ‘Jesus is Lord.'” They probably did not equate “temptation” with an ice cream sundae.

We need to repent of a world view guided by the secular culture:

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, NASB).

Scripture should renew our minds, transforming us so that we may no longer be conformed to this world. Many Christians are shocked when the Supreme Court determines that marriage should be defined by whatever makes some people happy. Yet, how many Christians base their life choices on personal happiness instead of the “good and acceptable and perfect” will of God? How often do we try to “baptize” sinful attitudes (pride, self-righteousness, greed) and try to make them seem spiritual?

Perhaps more can be written on this topic. I expect that future posts will be written from this perspective, as it has begun to shape how I read Scripture during my daily devotions.

I will conclude by saying that the standard American brand of Christianity will not be adequate to stand against the most recent onslaughts against our faith. We need to reclaim the faith that recognizes that we are strangers and pilgrims in this world.

[PS: In my previous post, I proposed that the church should “eliminate the connection between civil marriage (which requires a license) and holy matrimony (which is a sacrament or ordinance performed by the church or other religious body).” I would like to clarify that this was not intended as approval of redefinition of marriage. Rather, it should be seen as more of an example of resistance against the ruling: Christians and other religious groups should never have allowed the secular government to define marriage for us, and we have reached a point where a state-issued marriage license no longer means what true Christian churches mean when we speak of “marriage.”]

Categories: Bible meditations, Christians and Culture, Current events | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Same-sex Marriage: How Should the Church Respond?

It has been over a week since the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage must be allowed in all 50 states. I have waited until now to post, in part to avoid making the sort of knee-jerk responses that have flown around the Internet. To listen to some people, you would think that every Bible-following church in America will be forced to lock its doors next week, and that Jesus has retired as King of Kings and turned all authority over to Satan.

There are a number of reasons for Christians to be concerned about its ruling in the case, Obergefell v. Hodges. One is the likely “normalization” of homosexual marriage. Judging from previous history, it is likely that children born 20 years from now will not have a clue that same-sex marriage was ever considered unusual, let alone illegal. It will probably be as socially acceptable in 20 years as inter-racial marriage is today. Whereas there is nothing in the Bible prohibiting inter-racial marriage, Scripture is unanimous in its condemnation of homosexuality. It will become increasingly challenging for the church to teach a biblical view of marriage in a society where same-sex marriage is commonplace. However, this is nothing new; we have faced this challenge with the issue of premarital sex over the last couple generations.

Another major factor is the implications of this ruling for freedom of religion. I do not fear that allowing two men to marry will somehow harm my own marriage. However, I am concerned that a government which legalizes gay marriage will one day require me to accept and approve of it. Will my church be prohibited from “discriminating against homosexuals” by refusing to violate Scriptural teaching and church tradition to perform homosexual weddings. Many proponents of the Supreme Court’s ruling say this is not the case, and that the ruling includes a “conscience clause” for religious organizations. The Court’s majority ruling reads as follows:

“Finally, the First Amendment ensures that religions, those who adhere to religious doctrines, and others have protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”

On the surface, it sounds good. The ruling says that religious groups and persons may continue to “teach” or “advocate” their beliefs; however, it really does not go further than that. As Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his dissenting opinion: “The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to ‘exercise‘ religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.” Judging from previous landmark rulings by the Supreme Court, the lack of this word could lay the foundation for future erosion of religious freedom in same-sex marriage.

So, how should we as Christians respond to the ruling?

We must remain faithful to God and His Word. When ordered by the local authorities to stop preaching Christ, the apostles said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Even in the face of persecution, the early Christians chose to obey God’s will when it conflicted with the laws of man. We must do likewise.

Second, we must focus on the entire Gospel, rather than emphasizing one sin. While the Bible teaches against homosexuality, it also condemns many other sins. Yes, the Bible does say that homosexual behavior is “an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). However, it also identifies several other sins as abominations. On the basis of Proverbs 6:16-19, are we willing to excommunicate liars, people who create strife among brethren, or those with haughty eyes? Many Christians will have nothing to do with a homosexual, but if someone has pride we will probably appoint him to a place of leadership in the church.

As Christians, we should not endorse any sin. Yes, we live in a world filled with sinners, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The proper response to all sin is confession and repentance, not endorsement, excuses or approval. On the other hand, our first responsibility is to confess and repent from our own sins. Far too many Christians are eager to complain about the Supreme Court’s ruling while making excuses for their own lust or other sinful behavior.

Third, remember that Jesus Christ came to save all sinners. Homosexuality is often listed with other sins:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, NASB).

All of these are sins that Jesus came to forgive. None are beyond His grace of power to deliver. Our job as Christians is to preach the Gospel and introduce them to Jesus. It is our responsibility to proclaim Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to transform sinners’ lives when they repent and come to Him.

I would like to close with what may be my most radical proposal in this post. It came to me probably within 24 hours of hearing about the Supreme Court’s ruling, but I have heard similar proposals from some politicians since then. A few states even considered eliminating state-issued marriage licenses in response to the Court’s ruling.

Let us, as the Church, eliminate the connection between civil marriage (which requires a license) and holy matrimony (which is a sacrament or ordinance performed by the church or other religious body). If a couple wants a marriage license so that their union can be recognized by the state, let them go to the courthouse and have a ceremony officiated by a justice of the peace or other government official. If they want their union blessed by God, let them come to the church and receive the sacrament of holy matrimony (or whatever wording your religion prefers—different religious bodies prefer different terminology and even many churches dislike the word “sacrament”). If they want both, they are free to do both and then decide which ceremony really matters for the purposes of consummating their relationship or defining anniversary celebrations. This will allow civic officials to grant legal benefits to people under state and federal laws, while allowing religious bodies to continue to determine who is eligible to receive a religious ceremony that implies divine blessing.

The Supreme Court’s ruling will not be the last word about same-sex marriage. States will revise their ordinances based on this ruling. Religious bodies will have to decide how they will respond. Public debate will continue, as it has for abortion. The challenge for Christians is to remain faithful to God and learn how to follow Him in a society that is increasingly hostile to our faith.

Categories: Christians and Culture, Current events | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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