A Call to Patient Endurance

In the wake of “the ruling” handed down by SCOTUS there have been a number of reactions. Much of the nation celebrates its great victory while, at the other end of the spectrum, others pour out vitriol and venom like a baby rattle snake. Regarding the church, I’ve (sadly) seen both reactions and I’d add to the list:  hunker down and hide. The book of Revelation gives us our only real appropriate response, “This calls for the patient endurance on the part of the saints” (Revelation 13:10, 14:12).

To the church I would say we cannot react in anger, fear, resentment, or hate. That said, the Spirit of justice and righteousness God has given us will indeed cause us to feel anger over the growing darkness and feel hatred toward sin and its consequences (but not toward the people). Jesus died to free us from sin, yet many still embrace their sin (whether it’s homosexuality, adultery, drunkenness, pedophilia, stealing, lying, murder/abortion, illicit hetero-sex, or anything else) and find their identity in that rather than in relationship with their Creator. It’s good to acknowledge that stirring of our spirit, that holy discontent, and then with the Spirit of self-control, we act in love according to the deep truths we profess in order to be a part of the solution rather than being a part of the problem. The greatest of these deep truths is that even though our nation’s leaders have embraced the mark of the beast — a mindset and worldview, not a microchip — God is still on His throne and is in sovereign control. This decision by a human court has not surprised Him, nor does it have any authority whatsoever in eternity. The church needs to be faithful in their pursuit of holiness for themselves … not trying to force holiness on others. That is Pharisaical hypocrisy. Church:  pray, meditate, pray, love one another, pray, serve, and pray. Draw near to God and let your heart dwell on the things of God, not the works of the enemy or of the world. Be aware, but not consumed. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

This ruling does not mean that pastors will be going to jail for choosing not to marry a gay couple. Not yet. Presently, weddings can be defined as “an act of Christian worship” in the bylaws of the church and therefore offer protection from legal action … for now (click here for more information from AFA). And now is all we have. What the church needs to do is practice love — real, true, and godly love. The world lives by “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Whether they say so or not, the motto it lives by is “get mad and get even…or one-up them if you can.” The church needs to live according to the law of Christ. We are ambassadors of Christ, representatives of his kingdom. Like any other ambassador we live under the law of the kingdom we represent, not the law of the land in which we live. A perfect example is the response from the members of the Emmanuel AME Church in Charelston. The shooting had everything to do with their race, and very little to do with their religion, yet that does not change the gravity of the tragedy nor does it dilute reality of the evil. Rather than picket, protest, or form a lynch mob they chose to remember, grieve, mourn, pray, celebrate, and … forgive, letting justice take its natural course. In the SCOTUS ruling, Christians have not been singled out and attacked. Really. This isn’t the great persecution (not directly, on this side of the curtain of eternity, anyway). What we believe and hold dear is being trampled on, but that’s a by-product of humanity “going its own way.” Certainly, this begins a slippery slope and it has not even begun to reach its end. I’m not declaring that this will get worse, I’m just affirming what the Bible has been saying for thousands of years. There are many passages that describe what we are seeing now, but Revelation 17:17 is a great example, “For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled.” And this opens up a discussion on the other side.

There’s an old saying that goes back to Aesop’s fables which says, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” I seriously doubt that the average homosexual citizen intends any harm in their push for same-sex marriage. They just want to have equal civil rights. We can’t really fault them for that and, in fact, our Constitution provides for it. Under an unbiased law, life partners should be able to take care of each other and maintain the benefits of partnership, just like in business. That could have been accomplished through a civil union amendment. Marriage is indeed a civil union according to law, but not all civil union is marriage. Apart from my homosexual relatives, or the guy at your office–the people we know and love–there is a bigger agenda at work that seeks to destroy, not just the church, but all mankind. He is our true enemy, not the people, industries, lobbyists, or even the legislators. Marriage, Christian marriage in particular, has indeed been intentionally targeted. We are told that Satan is “given authority to make war against the saints and to conquer them” (Revelation 13:7), so it should come as no surprise that these things happen. What will be a surprise is when the devil’s scheme comes to fruition and we see the far reaching impact of what is now happening. Whether we are talking about a same-sex couple, a single parent, or a separated/divorced couple we are talking about a broken home. Satan is attacking the foundational structure of civilization:  the family, the micro society where people grow up and learn to be part of a greater society. No matter how hard a single parent may try they cannot be both mom and dad. Likewise, no matter how hard a man or woman may try, they can never fulfill the role of the opposite gender. Children will be growing up in a variety of broken homes and that tears the fabric of society and fosters incomplete and unhealthy future relationships. We can see the impact of this tragic reality even now. It’s only going to get worse.

Presently, as I write this, WordPress has taken it upon themselves to adorn the “Add/Edit Post” page with a rainbow header. At first I was a little shocked … and, honestly, bothered. Then the irony began to dawn on me. Regardless of how mankind wants to use the rainbow, it is what it is:  a reminder of both God’s holy and righteous judgment and of his amazing mercy and grace. He placed it in the sky after he judged the earth for its wickedness and after his promise not to destroy the earth again by flood. That flood declared God’s hatred of sin and served as a foreshadowing of how he intended to overcome it once for all through Jesus Christ. The “bow” in rainbow isn’t like a bow on a package, but like a bow used in battle. It curves across the sky as though God has set it down on a stand. He has used a far greater weapon to overcome sin and death, and its destruction is total. This is God’s fight; Christ is the Victor, and we are the beneficiaries. I find great comfort in that. No matter what I may have to endure here in time, in eternity it is done, done, and done. Therefore, let the church continue in the shelter of truth and love. Confess your anger and hatred, and repent. These have no place among the children of God who have been redeemed and filled with the riches of God’s grace. We cannot be lashing out like animals when we are called to be children of God. Don’t worry, the world will hate you and there will be appropriate occasions to stand firm in the truth and declare it — with humility and compassion. However, if we accuse, berate, and get irate all we will ever accomplish is closing doors to the power of the Gospel, feeding the fires and thickening the darkness, and demonstrating the weakness and smallness of our own faith.

This calls for the patient endurance of the saints as we live under the authority of the Holy Spirit — separate and distinct from the world, yet among them. It will be costly, but history shows that when times are the darkest, the glory of God shines brightest. Just ask the churches in Jerusalem, Corinth, Rome, and no Iraq. When the gravity of sin and the conviction of the Spirit of God begin to do their work in those appointed to salvation, we will be ready to lead them to Jesus and welcome them into the kingdom and family of God.

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