An X-Ray of the “Church”

The internet is like an x-ray machine. It works in two ways: it makes information of all kinds readily available. You don’t even have to push a button, it’s just right there in your face when you log on. As soon as your browser boots up you are bombarded with facts, opinions, spin, and it takes some work to sort through it all and recognize it all for what it is. The internet also makes it very easy to be heard. We can respond to anything in an instant and we can do it without even really thinking–which we absolutely should, but seldom do. This is how the internet works like an x-ray machine:  by sending “rays” out, and then receiving the return signal, it allows us to see right through each other’s facades and into our hearts.

Jesus said, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” In other words, what you say reveals who you are, and in our age we would have to include that you are what you type. If we look at the things being said through the internet then we have to determine that the true church is a lot smaller than all the surveys and statistics tell us.

There have been a number of events lately that highlight the spiritual and moral decline of our culture and which demonstrate the truth that just because someone claims to be Christian, it doesn’t mean they are. Two examples of such events are Aaron and Melissa Klein, the bakers in Oregon who declined to bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding and were fined and vilified, and Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who stopped issuing marriage licenses in response to the SCOTUS ruling and who has now been jailed and vilified. My concern is less over the world’s response to these two cases. I expect them to slander, accuse, and mistreat anyone who stands for righteousness. We see that all the time, Biblical Christianity is constantly assaulted, berated, and dishonored in our country in particular. My concern is the response of so-called Christians to the circumstances of other Christians.

It doesn’t matter where you stand on how the Kleins and Mrs. Davis handled their respective challenges. It is certainly fuel for discussion, but the love of Christ mandates and even dictates that be a civilized discussion among brothers, not an opportunity to judge self-righteously, condemn, berate, and question their faith … especially when 99% of the critics don’t know these people from Adam. We don’t know them, we aren’t acquainted with how God has been at work in their life, and we can’t possibly understand why they might hold the strong convictions they hold. Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit, and if they are convicted (or convinced in their heart) that this is a stand that must be taken, for them, in their current situation, to honor God, then who are you to say otherwise? To declare that their conviction is “unchristian” is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit (or at the very least, risk it), and then who is guilty of the greater sin? (Yes, there absolutely is greater sin. Read Mark 3:20-30, John 19:11, 1 Timothy 5:8, 1 John 5:16-17).  If we sit in judgment–self-righteous judgment–on the work of God in someone else, we sit in judgment on God.

In both of these cases, professing Christians have demonized Kim Davis and the Kleins in an effort to sound more tolerant and loving to the world, but who’s heart are we supposed to be pursuing? If we pursue the heart of Christ our Lord, the world will seldom understand and agree with our beliefs, attitudes, actions, and ideals. “[The world] will [mistreat you[ because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me” (John 15:21) and “The reason the world does not know us is that it does not know [Jesus]” (1 John 3:1). If we fit in with the world, then we must be one of their own, for Jesus also said, “If the world hates you, remember, it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). It’s okay to discuss how you might handle their respective situations differently, but to sit in judgment on them and question the authenticity of their faith for acting on their convictions is evil.

It’s been made to sound like Kim Davis is refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. We’ve bought that and accuse her of hateful discrimination. In fact, she has stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether. In her stand, she is treating all people equally. In order to obtain a license, couples will have to travel something like ten whole minutes to the next office.  Additionally, as has been dug up through the course of the ordeal, Kim Davis has had a number of husbands, and had apparently conceived the children born while married to her fourth husband, while still married to her third husband. That’s adultery, and it is very contrary to the sanctity of marriage for which she is currently taking a stand. That’s not a judgment, it is truth according to God’s word. We could stop there and cry “hypocrite!!”, and many have. The rest of the story, however, is that since then she has surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ. In other words, her adultery was before her transformation. It makes sense that someone who has been redeemed from the perversion of adultery would regard the sanctity and purity of marriage so highly. It’s amazing how quick we are to stop at a juicy tidbit and level a harsh judgment. It’s almost like love, compassion, mercy, and grace are completely foreign concepts … and if they are, then it’s likely we’ve not actually encountered them and they aren’t really residing in us through Christ. Biblically, that’s a sign of lostness, not salvation.

There are a lot of unanswered questions for the overwhelming majority of us too. Are they wrestling with their conviction and trying to figure out what the best response is? I guess we won’t be allowed to find out because rather than working with them to honor God and make things better, we just judge them. The heart and mind of Christ is compassionate and merciful. It will lead us to have discussions, not level judgments; it would compel us to understand before we speak; it would demand that we encourage a brother or sister, even if we don’t quite understand, rather than condemn them. And we need to have those discussions. It’s okay to disagree with how a brother or sister handles something because God is working differently in you. Discuss the how and the why of decisions and actions. Differing in opinion is not condemnation. However, the Kleins were unlawfully fined and done harm in regard to their business and livelihood and many who claim to be the church applauded. Kim Davis has been unlawfully imprisoned and many of those who claim to belong to Christ cheer, condemning her witness as unchristian. “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him…” says Proverbs 6, and verse 19 lists among those things “a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissention among brothers.” What do your words wrought? The Lord also makes it clear that we are to judge and judge righteously (John 7:24), according to his word. If it is a disputable matter, like what’s the best way to act on our convictions, then we are not to judge one another. “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters…Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own Master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand…Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way” (Romans 14:1-13).

There is so much going on right now that is right out of the book of Revelation, from godless legislation to wicked social and cultural trends. But those aren’t the only clues that we are in the beginning of the end. There is also the erosion of the church where the unhealthy, unstable soil is washed away to reveal the bedrock of the body of Christ. Antichrists abound and counterfeit followers fall away. In these days the true church will be revealed, and the sure sign of the true church is not what you might think. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). If we cannot even love one another, then how can we ever expect to love a world that is destined to hate us? We cannot! It is only by the Spirit of Christ in us that this love, this agape, can flow through us; for the evidence of the Spirit’s presence in a life is first of all, love, then joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control. Is this what you exhibit, in increasing measure, in times like these, regarding cases like this? Or do you look more like the rest of the world that shambles along without the Spirit of love and life? This is a critical time to follow another biblical command: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5) Look back over your online interactions the past several months. Do your words and attitudes stand as a testimony for you, or against you?

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