Sister to Sister: High School Heroes

Things just aren’t like they used to be in reference to morality in our country today. Homosexual advocates have had a champion of their cause sitting in the Oval Office. The icons of our teen girls are a sad lot of extremely immodest, fornicating, pro-choice, feminist and/or vulgar-mouthed screen stars. Television sit-coms would have us believe that there’s a homosexual man or woman living in every third household in America and that conversation is incomplete and flavorless without cursing and taking God’s name in vain. We kill 1.2 million of our innocents every year and we have paid for many of  the murders with tax dollars. Our schools are battlefields in this culture war and, as a result, our kids are often safe from neither physical harm nor molestation of their values systems. Many public schools today, which have outlawed student-led prayer through Christ and/or prayer around the flagpole, grant excuses from classes at certain times of the day so that Muslim children can pray toward Mecca. More and more, children need the solidity and emotional safety of parents who can always be depended on for real answers to social issues, for values that are unchanging, and for the provision of a real home; a haven where they can count on being protected physically and emotionally, but most of all spiritually.

And our own “Christian” teens are living in this moral vacuum. More and more of our children raised in “Christian” homes are coming of age and leaving home without the moral underpinnings that they need to make wise choices. Many have already made serious mistakes before high school or even middle school graduation. Our kids are experimenting with pornography, alcohol, and sex of various kinds during high school. They have often been indiscriminate in their television and movie viewing. They have allowed their minds to become subtly controlled by the materialism of television and the movies while becoming anesthetized to blatant sin. They’ve slowly come to laugh at what should make them, as Christians, cry. They’ve incrementally given their real allegiance to the world while giving only a token Sunday/Wednesday nod to the things of God.

And then, with a little hope, thankfully, many find their way to the Christian university. At Freed Hardeman University, where my son and daughter have both attended, there are some amazing faculty members whose lives are wholly given to the Lord. There is a Bible faculty, on that campus which, in my opinion, is second to none in the world. And, many times, thank God, those students, who arrived as freshmen in a very weak spiritual condition, find themselves growing closer to God, wanting to know the freedom from guilt, and finding joy in heartfelt service to God. Sometimes these kids have the will to truly change during these college years and many of them will be faithful for the rest of their lives. Praise God.

But there is a sad phenomenon that sometimes occurs in this college scenario. Sometimes, those students who walked away from God during high school and became dangerously involved in alcohol abuse, sexual sin or pornography, etc., somehow feel that they have the spiritual edge over those kids who made the better choices in high school. You may be wondering, “Now where could she be going with this?” Let me explain.

More and more I am hearing college devo leaders say things like “If your life has never been totally messed up with sexual sin, then you can’t fully appreciate Christianity like I can.” Or, “I am not going to stand here and tell you that I have led a sexually pure life. You wouldn’t believe me if I did, since there probably aren’t two out of every ten people in this room who could say that. I’m going to tell you I’ve done about everything you’ve done, maybe as much as several of you put together and he still reached down for me.” Or, “I wouldn’t trade places with any of you out there who always walked the straight and narrow because I love the Jesus who came to the wide path and rescued me.” Or, “There may be those of you who think you made all the right choices through high school. You may have. But, if you did, I doubt you really know a lot about reaching the sinner with His forgiveness.”

What’s wrong with this sort of message in a devotional talk? Well, I can think of some definite dangers. First, let’s take this sort of teaching to its natural conclusion. If I can eventually put the greatest appreciation of the Savior in my kids by encouraging them to participate in sin, then shouldn’t I just provide the alcohol for their high school parties? Shouldn’t I encourage fornication and experimentation with homosexuality, porn, vulgarity and lewdness? Shouldn’t I get the raunchiest forms of satellite TV and download the most explicit computer images for them to view? Second, there are many lifelong consequences that come with various forms of sin (even forgiven sin). You can think of lots of these off the top of your head. With fornication comes the fear of STDs and/or the effect that this behavior has on your later marriage. With abortion comes the hauntings of guilt and the cry of the dead baby that you may hear for the rest of your life. With alcohol comes the possibility of alcoholism. With porn use comes the addiction you may have to fight till you die. The high school student who had the foresight, fortitude and faith to leave these sins alone should never be tauntingly stereotyped as the pharisaical, righteous one as I often hear in college circles. Third, It took a lot of courage and conviction to avoid the typical high school sins. It was not an accident that this purity of life was maintained. In fact, it was the same Christ who offered you His forgiveness that reigned in the heart of your friend there, as she worked so hard to never let King Jesus down. Did he ever need his forgiveness? Oh absolutely. Can she appreciate that forgiveness? Definitely. But he or she doesn’t have to walk away from the light to know the power of darkness. Fourth, we have to be really careful not to make a lifestyle of sin appealing to young people. Many—no, most young people who become enamored with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life during the very young teen years, do not emerge on the side of the Savior as adults. We are losing huge percentages of our kids as they experiment with the sins of the devil in high school. Parents and mentors who are really focused on eternity will do all that’s within their power to enable their kids to get in the safety of His will and to stay there every single day as they face the huge challenges of life in high school. Just one time, be on the receiving end of that phone call from a grief stricken parent informing you that a teen has been prematurely snatched from this life while under the influence of alcohol and you will desperately want your child to be among the number of “pharisaical” righteous ones on that college campus one day.

I understand that the one forgiven of much will love much (Luke 7:47). I know, from the life of Paul that the chief of sinners can be the most devoted to the cause (I Tim. 1:15). But there is a real sense in which each of is chief of sinners. There is a sense in which we all have obtained the ultimate forgiveness. We cannot afford to make the depth of depravity to which one has slipped the barometer of perceived spirituality. Let’s stop viewing those who remained faithful to God through what was arguably the most difficult years of life as some sort of self-righteous, sub-Christians. Let’s look to their examples and perhaps even to wisdom they gained for encouragement. I know many of these heroes. Among them are Joseph, Daniel, Samuel, Esther, Mary, the mother of the Lord and Timothy. And I know many of them who are now in college, as well. I can look at the short inexhaustive list above and know that God has a special place in his heart for those who stood relatively alone for truth and right in the high school years.

Sister to Sister: ToleRANT?

images-15I guess you have to get old to start putting it together about who gets to express opinions in this tolerant society. I’m starting to get it. If you think anything is black and white—if you think there any activities that are sinful all the time—if you think there are indeed choices that can be characterized as wrong choices—you must either keep your “intolerant” secrets or you call down the “rant world” around you. Even if it’s your personal blog (you know, that cyberspace where everybody gets to say her unique personal opinions about stuff, express her own passions and air her inner grievances)…even that space is not rant-protected for people who delineate between truth and error, right and wrong. The moment you begin to speak about the wrong candidate, the wrong apparel, the wrong priorities, the wrong speech, the wrong media choices, the wrong parenting ideas, or the wrong sexual behavior, you invite the rage of the “tolerants”.

The “tolerants” get to rant. They get to rant about how the “intolerants” are hateful and judgmental (no matter that the “intolerants” may be speaking logically and from hearts of conviction. It doesn’t matter. It only matters that someone has dared to use the “w” word: wrong.)  Intolerance anymore just means “believing some things are wrong and yes, that some things are even “sinful”—that word that we used to hear from pulpits and commentaries before it pretty much dropped from our vernacular. The “tolerants” are the only ones who get to be intolerant, but they do have the privilege. The “tolerants” get to be intolerant of intolerance.  So just get ready if you believe in black and white, truth and error, right and wrong. You will be placed in the “intolerant” category and you will fall victim to the rant; and, unless you surrender all convictions about right and wrong, you will likely continue to be subject to the rant.

Someone wisely said “When tolerance is the primary virtue, it soon becomes the only virtue.” I would go further than that. When tolerance becomes the primary virtue, it is no longer virtue at all. It is the enemy of courage. It is the enemy of strength. It is the enemy of self-discipline. It is the enemy of accountability.  It is the enemy of righteousness. It is the arch-enemy of truth, because truth implies error. And there is no room for error in the camp of the “tolerants.”

But that’s just it. Tolerance was never meant to be primary. It was never meant to rule the virtues. Love is primary. “The greatest of these is love” (I Cor. 13:13). Love, the queen virtue, is a demanding ruler. According to this chapter, love suffers long and is kind, but it cannot rejoice in iniquity. INIQUITY? How long has it been since you’ve heard anyone describe any behavior as “iniquity”? But perhaps the translation in the ESV is even more apropos. That version says love does not rejoice in “wrongdoing”.  Even the great inspired description of love forces our admission that certain behaviors…certain “doings” are wrong. They are “wrongdoings” and we cannot be happy about them.

Love doesn’t envy and it is not boastful. But it does rejoice in the truth. There we go again. The greatest virtue demands an acknowledgement of truth, and thus, by implication, error. Fleshing it out, love has to be kind and gentle, meek and humble, but love has to be unhappy about sin and sad about error. I can express sorrow over sin in the society around me and still be loving. I can call out error and still be ruled by the greatest virtue. It is possible and it is even important for God’s people to be vocal about sin…iniquity…wrongdoings in the world around us.

Sometimes, a mere restatement of a clear passage calls down the rant of the “tolerants”. If I say, for instance, that a woman, according to I Timothy 2:9,10, Matthew 5:28, Mark 9:42 and  I Timothy 5:22 can be a partaker in the sin of lust when she dresses immodestly, I sometimes call down the rant. If I say that a woman must be a homemaker (Titus 2:3-5), I call down the rant. If I say that homosexuality is vile affection (Romans 1:26), I call down the rant.

And should we ever begin to try and make application of general commandments to the culture in which we find ourselves, we almost always call down the rant. If I classify any specific popular activities of  teenagers (or adults, for that matter) in current America as lasciviousness (Galatians 5:19-21), and thus works of the flesh, even by an examination of the behavior in light of the Greek meaning of the word, I call down the rant. If I try to talk about forsaking the assembly as a “wrongdoing” from Hebrews 10:26 and Matthew 6:33, I may call down the rant.

In the blogosphere, it’s generally not okay to say any of the things that people do nowadays are wrong or sinful. But let me tell you, once someone does call behavior “wrong”, then suddenly it becomes okay to call that someone hateful, judgmental, “holier-than-thou” (whatever that means) and self-righteous. Could it just be possible that, sometimes, people who attempt to identify sin around them really are trying to meekly follow the Savior to heaven and take other people with them? Could it ever be that they really are trying to diligently apply the Word to the world in which we live? Could it just be that they are convicted in conscience and thus are following the dictates of a convicted mind to speak truth in love?

As I think about this, I have to remember Jesus’ words in Luke 6:22,23:

Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!

Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

If there is no black and white, no right and wrong, no truth and error, no absolute standard for my choices and behavior; if it is true that “everyone must make the choice that works better for  her life and/or family and no one has the right to judge the choices of other people,” then why would anyone ever be excluded, spurned or reviled on account of the Son of Man? If there ever was such an exclusion, it certainly would not be because of Jesus!

It takes making a stand to receive persecution. It takes deferring to a standard to be reviled. It takes vocalizing a conviction to ridiculed for that conviction. It takes all of these things to have the great reward in heaven. Perhaps calling down the rant,  though a minor form of persecution, is sometimes a sign that one is doing something right. “All who live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” II Timothy 3:12. We shouldn’t go  searching for the rant. But, when and if it comes as a result of conviction by the Word…as a result of humbly submitting to that Word ourselves and calling others to do the same, we should be okay with it. In fact, if the rant should be coming your way “on account of the Son of Man,” go ahead and start practicing your leap…for joy.