Do You Need to Write this Love Letter?

The following is a letter originally drafted for a woman I met rather coincidentally in a small southeastern town in which I was speaking not too long ago. She was a spirited young woman who made my day by giving me a beautiful cookbook. I had to leave quickly and was unable to study with her at the moment we met. Perhaps the letter below might help another soul somewhere who is yet in sin, or perhaps it might help you as you approach a friend who is coming near to the kingdom. I know I do not always make the most of opportunities to love people in the way that makes an eternal difference. I hope I can do better.

Dear Valerie,

It was really a joy to get to meet you a couple of weekends ago when we spoke in ____________. I am so pleased with my cookbook. Please forward my small donation to the charity about which we spoke. Thanks so much for thinking of me. I love to cook and I love new cookbooks, especially this one with potent reminders of the spiritual bread of life.

I am always refreshed and thankful to meet people who have a zeal for spiritual things and whose lives have led them down a path to a grateful realization that God is so merciful and good. That was definitely you! I know you’re very thankful and amazed by his care and that He has allowed you to overcome so much and come to this good place in your life where you finally have a chance to glorify Him with blessings that he bountifully gives to you.

The burden on my heart now is to be sure that you are in Christ and do have that hope of heaven. I carry this burden with me to every place I speak and I see it in every new face I meet. I just had to write and be sure about this because I am going to stand before the same judgment bar one day that you will and I just want to tell as many people as I can. It’s not that I have any secrets about the will of God that you don’t have. It’s just that the devil is very busy deceiving in our world today through the hundreds of denominations out there all teaching different and opposing plans of salvation. The devil really doesn’t care how religious we are if he can just keep us outside of Christ. He doesn’t care what good hearts we have if he can just deceive those good hearts into accepting false teachings. He doesn’t care how many good things we do for our neighbors if he can just keep us out of Christ. He knows that forgiveness and redemption and all spiritual blessings are found only in Christ (Eph 1:3, 7). So he loves to make people think they are in Christ when they really have not done what the New Testament says to do to be in Christ. I don’t know about you personally, but I love your heart of submission and I want to be sure that I help you if these are things you have not thought about before. I think you are right about something you said to me. When people really want to do the will of God, He can bring people into their lives for a reason. I hope that he can use me in a small way in your life. I am praying as you study the things that are in this letter that you will want to be sure that you have followed his will and that you are in Christ where forgiveness is.

About 98% of the world of “Christendom” today teaches that all you have to do is pray the sinner’s prayer in order to be saved. Something like, “Lord Jesus, come into my heart. Thank you for loving me and saving me right here and right now…” The problem with that is it’s just not found in the Bible anywhere. It is true that he loves us and that he is willing to save every last one of us (II Peter 3:9), but as with all of his blessings, his salvation is conditional on our obedience. It really bothers me that the devil uses this “sinner’s prayer” that is nowhere in scripture to deceive so many people into believing that they are saved, when, in reality, they are still in sin.

It is true that belief in the fact that Jesus is the son of God is a prerequisite for salvation. Without that faith it is impossible to please him or be saved (Mark 16:15,16, Heb.11:6). It is true that we have to repent or put away sin from our lives. If we keep on sinning on purpose, we will perish (Luke 13:3). We have to confess that faith in Jesus as God’s Son (Romans10:10). While all of these things are essential steps toward salvation, the Bible nowhere ever says that these things put us into Christ. It’s just not there.

But the New Testament does tell us what it is that does put us into Christ: Look at these clear teachings:

Rom 6:3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Rom 6:4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

According to this verse, it is baptism that puts us into Christ. Look at another:

Gal 3:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Gal 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Again, God just made it as plain as day how we put on Christ.

We can ask the same question lots of ways:

How do I wash my sins away?

Acts 22:16 And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

When am I forgiven?

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What do I do to be saved?

Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved;

Exactly what saves me?

1Pe 3:21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…

In fact, in every case in the book of Acts where people desired to be saved, they clearly were immediately baptized for the remission of their sins(Acts2, Acts8, Acts 9, Acts 10,11, Acts 16). In one case the man actually risked his life in the middle of the night to leave the jail and go be baptized. If he had been caught by his Roman superiors, he would have surely been executed (Acts 16). Each time I read and reread all of these passages, I get so upset at preachers who are reading the same Bible I am reading and yet are willing to ignore these plain teachings about baptism and teach that it is not essential for salvation…that it is just a symbol of your salvation. Romans 6:3,4 teaches us that baptism is the very place where we contact the death of Christ. If we don’t go down into those waters with a heart of submission, knowing that we desperately need his salvation, we do not even come in contact with the death and blood of Jesus!… and that is a scary reality to take to judgment.

The point is this. If I was baptized because I thought I was already saved, then I was not coming to God on his terms. I was not being baptized for the remission of sins like they did in Acts 2:38. I was not doing it to wash away my sins (Acts 22:16). I was not doing it to be saved (Mark16:16). It was not a step of faith if I did it as a symbol that I was already saved. I was putting my will above his. I was saying, “Lord, I was saved without ever being baptized into the death of your son, and now I will be baptized to show that I have already been saved without doing what you said I must do to be in Christ.” If I am a member of a church that teaches baptism is not essential to be in Christ, then I am a member of a church that is misleading people into a false security of salvation.I said all of those things because I could tell your heart was an open one to His will. I am praying as you read this that you will just want to be sure that you are doing and teaching what the Bible (the only word we have today from God) says about salvation. There is no more important subject. I have already been praying for you and for the good things you are doing already. I just pray that now that you have this letter in hand, you will look carefully at these passages in the context of the whole New Testament and be very careful not to be led astray by any person (including me!) I have nothing personally to gain by telling you this, except to know that I will not have to look into your face in the judgment day and know that I was silent about this very important subject. Just be sure the church with which you are working is the church of the New Testament, teaching the same thing that first opened its doors of salvation to the world in Acts 2. If we do what they did on that day, we will be what they were…Christians. But if we become involved in a religion that leads people astray we will be accountable for that, too. Remember, the devil doesn’t mind religion at all. In fact, since he is the father of lies (John 8:44), he loves false religions. Not every one that says “Lord, Lord” (i.e. not every one who is religious) will enter the kingdom (Matthew 7:21,22 ), but he that obeys the will of God. I could go on and on…
…And I will, if you have any questions at all with which I might be able to help. I’ve thought of you often and prayed for you. Again, let me thank you for my gift. I hope that this letter finds your heart open to do and teach all of his will. You can be a great minister for His cause to other ladies. So many are searching for these truths and so many are being led astray. Let me know if I can help further.

Because of Calvary!

Sister to Sister: How about a Little Empathy?

When I hang a new calendar, looking over the spent and tattered one I’m putting in that file cabinet…the cabinet that now has a stack of gridded sheets that represent the business, the slammed schedules, the birthday parties, the travel. as well as the mundane housecleaning, cabin cleaning, and mending days of the past year, I always try and think about the big picture. Every little square in that twelve page card stock and pocketed book that I’m filing away was a day of movement. Every square was movement toward heaven or away from it. We live sadness and hope. We live purpose and appointments. We live fun and fervor. But we never live static. Each turn of the page is a progression toward eternity. What makes each square so precious is that one square will be the last one. 

…Which makes me think about empathy. With the passage of time in each of our lives, our experiences multiply. I mean, I used to have no clue about grandparenthood. (Who are all these crazies who are obsessing over a dimple or the color of a baby’s hair?) Now I know. I fully empathize because my realm of experience grew. That happened on one of the squares in 2014. I used to come up short in the empathy department for those who were caring for elderly parents. Not any more. That happened slowly on lots of squares in the past ten or so calendar records. Experiences have simply broadened my scope of empathy. It was never that I didn’t have sympathy for those in the sandwich generation. But empathy is a whole different thing. Empathy is what make you give grace and truly feel WITH another who is experiencing something you’ve known firsthand. Remember, empathy is what makes our Lord the GREAT high priest that He is. We do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Rather, we have one who has been tried in every point, just like we are tried, yet He did it without sin (Heb. 4:15). Empathy qualifies him to be my mediator and I am so thankful for His divine empathy. 

On that page, let me list a few scenarios of which I will not be critical this year. Experiences produce empathy. Empathy produces grace. So here:

  1. I will not criticize young mothers who are struggling in worship services to make toddlers behave. 
  2. I will not criticize young families who are occasionally late for Bible class.
  3. I will not criticize young moms who show up for Bible class on Wednesday night in jeans and a milk-stained t-shirt. 
  4. I will not criticize older people whose eyes occasionally close and whose head sometimes inadvertently bows during the sermon on Sunday.
  5. I will not criticize bragging grandmothers.
  6. I will not criticize grandmothers who buy too many baby clothes.
  7. I will not criticize the careful choices made by children about the care of aged parents.
  8. I will not criticize the families of faithful elders and preachers about matters of judgment.
  9. I will not criticize people who occasionally cry in public–people who others may classify as “emotional basket cases.”
  10. I will not criticize the eating and exercise habits of busy people.
  11. I will not criticize those who do not take every call at the moment it comes.
  12. I will not criticize busy people who lose keys, phones, glasses and other essentials frequently and who sometimes forget appointments.

There’s a little list of a few of the many decisions that experience has helped me make. Experience is my friend. Gray strands are my teachers. I know that our realms of empathy are not all the same. But the world might be a gentler place if we allowed the scenarios  and circumstances we’ve faced to teach us grace. Notice that I did not say “indifference to sin.” We have to care deeply about what grieves God. But empathy makes us also care deeply about the “infirmities” of His people. Experience makes us keenly aware that we might not know details that are crucial in decisions being made by others. Empathy makes us better people.  

Sister to Sister: “Baby Down!”

14305233_937682760579_6131246353948726920_oWhen my Hannah was about four years old, her younger cousin, Abel, was born. Amidst all of her grandmothers’ ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the new baby, Hannah shouted across the room to her grandmother “Pumpie!” (That’s what she called her.) “I’m over here!” 

This week, I’ve had a few vivid recollections of that sort of sibling or cousin jealousy as I’ve held my brand new Colleyanna. Ezra, her big brother, looked at me and repeated a phrase over and over as I was walking around with Colleyanna in my arms today. He kept saying “Baby down.” 

I said “Do you  mean you want me to put the baby down?” 

“Uh-huh,” Ezra said. (Like mother, like son).

Sibling jealousy was a thing…a real thing in the Corinthian church of the first century; so much so that Paul used a good portion of the book of First Corinthians to address it. The climax of the discussion is in chapter 13, where he describes love. As I think about that chapter, I see that several of the characteristics or anti-characteristics of love were a bit lacking in Ezra’s behavior today. For instance, love envies not. I’m pretty sure envy was at the root of “Baby down”. I think maybe Ezra was being pretty focused on himself and behaving a bit unseemly. But Ezra is a little child. (And this kind of attention seeking toward a grandmother is not unpleasant to this Mammy, by any means!)

It’s interesting that I Corinthians 13 concludes by pointing out that children talk like children. They think and understand like children. But when they grow up, they put away childish things. There will come a day very soon, if things are right in Ezra’s home, when he will no longer be jealous of his sister, but rather protective and encouraging. Maturity compels us to protect and encourage each other in the body of Christ—to seek the well-being of one another (I Cor. 10:24). That’s what Christians do when they grow up.

Practically speaking, this means you rejoice when someone else excels in some area of service even if it’s an area in which you also work. You are glad when another receives honor for the good things in her life. You are willing to step aside and let another person have the chance to do something that perhaps you have “always” done. You forbear with someone who does something in a a manner less preferable to you, albeit scriptural. You absolutely refuse to berate a brother or sister to his or her  face or behind his or her back, but you will go to all lengths to save his or her soul. In short, you get out of the way for the cause of Christ. You serve rather than seeking service (i.e “How come no one visited me in the hospital?”). Your path in Him is one of conviction and consecration, rather than convenience. It is always self-instructive, rather than self-indulgent. You are never eager to say “Hey, look! I’m over here!” When a new Christian’s needs take precedence, you never say “Baby down,” because it is your purpose to put childish things away.

And when you use the phrase “Oh, grow up!” you’re talking to yourself and you are wanting to do it the I Corinthians 13 way!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Sister to Sister: “He’s Family.”

13445308_10153545698711384_8626082806051738344_nIt caught me a little off-guard when the manager at Waffle House In Jacksonville, Alabama called me over to the counter to have a word with him. He asked for my phone number. 

Well, that didn’t sound right. What I mean is, he wanted an emergency number just in case any medical emergency ever comes up with my father who’s 93 and goes to Waffle House almost every single day….Sometimes, he goes two or three times a day. I was touched. He said “Well, he’s like family to us. That’s just how much we think of him.” 

They know what he orders and they give him a little extra of this or that. They open his creamers and his jellies because they know those arthritic hands have a hard time getting them open. They refill and pamper and “darlin” him till he’s full and then they open all the doors wide for his walker as he leaves. 

That’s how they define treating someone like family. And, mind you, I’m very grateful that they’re so very attentive and kind. They are extremely accommodating and most respectful.  And the fact that they cared enough to get the contact info struck a chord inside me. 

But, still, I’m glad that Dad has a real family. Real family, you see, does a whole lot more than taking breakfast orders, delivering the purchased items, and doing it with kindness and extra measures of respect and friendliness. All of that is so much more than you expect, as a customer, but still not nearly what it means to be “family”.  

Being family is doing everything in your power to identify and make sure all needs are met. Family is shared memories and hopes. It’s defending each other while holding each other accountable. It’s rescuing. It’s reminiscing. It’s communicating about the mundane and struggling together through the challenging. It’s being secure, even in your mutual vulnerability. In the Bible, it’s the Greek word “storge” and the absence of this kind of love is included in some pretty heinous sin-lists in the New Testament (Romans 1:31 and 2 Timothy 3:3).

It’s interesting, in this context, that God calls us— the church—the “family” (Ephesians 3:15). Sometimes I fall so short of the calling of “family” in reference to my treatment of the brothers and sisters with whom I have the truest kinship…the blood kinship that comes from Calvary. 

I’m pretty devoted to my physical family. There’s not much I wouldn’t do for either of my sisters or my brother. I have a pretty constant anxiety about my father’s well-being. The way I miss my mother is deep and, at times, still excruciating. My husband is everything to me, My children and grandchildren are dear to me beyond words. They put the light in my eyes and the spring in my step. I am all about family.

Perhaps the manager at Waffle House really does think my father is like family. But, for me, family is a little bit more. May I work harder to be truly “family” to those who are my siblings in the family of God. May I strive to exhibit the same (or even a greater) care for the eternal family as I do for the physical family. And may I not allow the fact that I can’t keep up with the needs and cares and sorrows of that many people to stop me from doing my best to treat my Christian kin as family; one person…one opportunity at the time.

Love or Hate? Which?

Wire_AP_9673b3bba0d9471ab228d8fc95beac7b_16x9_992It’s one of those days when I can’t find words. I don’t know how to breathe deeply enough to be calm in my soul when I think about the ramifications of last weekend’s Supreme Court  announcement. But I know I have to move on. WE have to move on. A huge premium of morality has been lost in America.  The night when our government dollars would light our grand old White House with the LGBT rainbow is a night I thought I would never see. And, in the shadows of those lights, it is as dark a night as it has ever been in the short history of the United States of America.

My nine-month-old grandson, Ezra, sleeps a few feet away from me tonight. To think that Ezra will never be able to even remember a time in America when marriage necessarily implied the union of a man and a woman is surreal to me. To think that his parents are going to have to talk to him, at least on some level, about the very adult subject of homosexuality, even in his early childhood, is very sad to me. To know that his father, grandfathers, and great-grandfather, all preachers of the gospel,  might very feasibly be placed in a position in which they would have to go to court and maybe even to jail for disobeying the laws of this land when they are called on to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples, is a frightening prospect. The acceptance and legality of homosexual marriage in our United States has happened so relatively quickly. And this final ruling by the Supreme Court which forces all states to issue marriage licenses to gay couples is nothing short of a direct frontal attack on Christianity.

Twenty-three years ago, when my own children were very young, I vividly recall walking into a Walker County, Alabama library in which was being aired the live inaugural parade of the newly elected William Clinton, President of the United States. I could not believe there was a “gay pride” demonstration in that parade, for the first time in history, endorsed by that new administration. I remember the sadness of that moment and asking in my own heart “What will America be like when my kids are raising my grandchildren?” But I could not have imagined that the sacred institution of marriage could be so defiled by the rulers of our land as to legally acknowledge gay marriage. I could not have imagined that, to celebrate such an acknowledgment, our President would make the White House, the national seat of our government, a symbol of the LGBT movement, by shining the gay pride rainbow colors on it.

Several charges are being leveled at people like me, who are still writing and speaking about the sinfulness of homosexuality. The first is that we are hypocritical. “You just pick out one sin to hate, while ignoring the sins of your own hearts and lives.” Let’s make it crystal clear that Christians hate all sin of all kinds, especially the ones that beset us personally.  We understand that all of us sin and that none of us has any hope of eternal life without the blood of Jesus. But while continuing in any sin can keep you out of heaven, there are  certain sins that have greater consequences in this lifetime, than do others. Purposefully bringing up children in homes without a mother AND a father is a sin against those children. Recognizing nationally a “right to marry” for gay couples leaves Christian justices and ministers in a position in which they must disobey federal law or violate their convictions based in clear passages of the New Testament (Romans 1: 26-32). For the first time in United States history (at least of which I am aware), the federal government is obligating Christians to violate the law or violate their consciences. It is difficult for me to see how this conflict is going to play out without resulting in persecution of preachers and their families, among others (cake-makers, caterers, formal shops, and jewelers, to name a few).

Secondly, there is a broad charge against Christians who believe that homosexuality is a sin and who are opposed to the legalization of homosexual marriage, that we are filled with hate and that we “spew forth conservative venom against innocent people.” There may be some people in the “One-man-for-one-woman-for life” camp that are full of hate. You can probably take almost any platform that has a large number of adherents and find some hate mongers. But may I say that hate mongers are not Christians. If they call themselves Christians, they lie, for, by definition, a Christian is a follower of Christ—the Christ who said “As you would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” He commands, over and over, those who follow Him to love—even to love our enemies. Christians are not militant. They do not hate people. They are a people of self-control. Christians love people and hate sin.

I’ve been privileged to get to travel all over the United States and speak to conservative groups of women. I have often spoken about what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. I’ve engaged many women in conversation who have family members or loved ones who are involved in the sin of homosexuality. I cannot recall a single time when any of these women had anything but hearts of love and kindness toward those who were caught up in the sin of homosexuality. They are saddened, it is true. But they are kind. They are meek, prayerful and broken over the loss of souls that they love. This picture is the spirit of love; not hate. And it is the spirit of the overwhelming majority of those who, basing their opposition on the Word, oppose homosexuality.

The truth is, there are many “haters” in the homosexual camp. They are very critical and angry at those of us who still call homosexuality a sin. Why are they so angered by those who believe what the Bible clearly says about homosexuality? I suggest that it’s not really because we are hypocritical or hateful. We could change “hypocritical” or “hateful”. But proponents of gay marriage are highly critical of Christians because of something we cannot change: the Word of God. We cannot change the very clear truth about homosexuality from the Word of God:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (I Corinthians 6:9-11).

Finally, let’s just imagine, without blaspheming the Word of God, that our lives here on earth are done and we come to the other side of death….Only there is no other side. The Bible-rejecting majority was right. Life on earth was all there will ever be and we are all simply and forever annihilated. Who would be worse off? The one who sojourned on earth as a Christian or the one who lived in the sin of homosexuality or some other sin of outright rebellion against the Word? Honest people would have to answer “If we are all annihilated, never to again live, no one is any better or worse off than anyone else.”

But what if people, like me, who have examined the evidence and believe that Jehovah is our creator and sustainer and that His word is absolute moral law, in the end, are right? What if there is a God and the sins of Romans 1 do make us “worthy of death”?  What if there really is a place of eternal punishment and a place of everlasting life?  Who, in this scenario, would be worse off? Ah, in that case, the homosexual couple would give a million lives and “marriages” just like the one they celebrate now to have another chance to renounce sin and live for Him. But, in that scenario, there would be no more chances.

So now I would pose this question: If I really believe His Word (and I do), what is it that motivates me to call homosexuality “sin”?  Is it love or hate? Which is it that compels me to speak against the sin of homosexuality…to beg those who are involved to leave those “vile affections” (Romans 1:26) and be washed and sanctified and justified (I Corinthians 6:7-9)?  Is it love or is it hate if I really believe the Word of God? I submit to you that the convicted cannot help but call sinners to repentance. That’s not “hate speech”. It’s “love speech” at the highest level. It’s love that, in 2015, takes courage. And it’s love that may soon take His people to places of persecution—even maybe to jail.  But, for true believers, it’s worth the risk. We will work beneath the blood-stained banner that calls all men with all kinds of sin to salvation, even if the White House is, of all things, striped. Yes, it IS love that makes us call sin, “sin”.   And ultimately, eternally…love wins.

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.