Sister to Sister: Be Brave and Fear Him

You could name lots of enemies of a Christian’s boldness in our world today. One enemy is the overemphasis of tolerance. We’d rather be villains in almost any other category than to be labeled as intolerant or judgmental. (The most quoted and misapplied passage in this culture is Matthew 7:1.) So we stop speaking out about sin. We fear being ostracized. We fear confrontation. 

Another enemy of boldness to speak God’s truth is our busy-ness. Our schedules shout at us. Our commitments bulge in their time limitations. We simply over-commit and there is little time left to write letters to editors, show up at venues like gospel seminars or meetings that serve to inform and embolden, or take time to speak to individuals about the gospel.  We fill up our calendars and then allow them to control us. Their demands often make even the free moments of our lives full of anxiety or dread for the upcoming stress of deadlines and back-to-back responsibilities. They make us physically tired and weaken our spiritual stamina. We lose some of the will to do spiritual battle against wickedness in high places (Eph.6:12). It’s “wrestling”, as Paul put it, and we are too exhausted for that.

One more enemy is worldliness. This is a big one. We slowly become anesthetized, through entertainment choices, the news media, the public education system and governmental influences. We stop thinking very much about the societal departure from truth that is quickly becoming so complete. We start thinking like the world, instead of like the Lord. We are influenced, sometimes unknowingly, by pop culture’s psycho-babble and we become complacent—even ignorant—about the polar differences between the way God wants us to think and act and the accepted norms of society around us. 

Part of fearing him who is able to destroy body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28) is being wise to slow anesthetization by the culture. We simply cannot go to sleep in the devil’s gentle lull of  tolerance, busy-ness and the normalization of sin. See, ironically, those who fear are the brave. It’s those people who’ve developed a healthy fear of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell who are emboldened to stand against His lies in a culture of relativism.

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.

 

“It’s All Good.”

It’s a challenge to raise godly children.  To do so in our present culture of relativism is extremely difficult.  Our culture calls the acceptance of sin tolerance.  It calls avarice and greed success. When women forsake their god-given roles in rearing their own children it’s feminism.  Homosexuality is love and murder in the womb is abortion.  When my children live in a world where blatant immorality is ascribed these most sterile names, it becomes my job, as a mother, to be ever more vigilant in peeling back the devil’s deceitful and glamorous facade.  As we evoke again Judges 17:6, we know that calling wrong right does not make it right.  Neither does its renaming provide any protection from the consequences of wrong.  This philosophical diet of moral tolerance must be countered at home with the antitoxin of God’s immutable truth.  If my son’s history teacher is an outspoken advocate of homosexuality and my daughter’s theater director is a spiritual Universalist, these situations must light a proverbial fire under me as their mother!  When even conservative religionists tell my children that the New Testament is merely a book of general principles rather than a standard of absolute truth, my job as a mother again intensifies.
Sometimes when I sit back and evaluate this world in which I struggle as a parent, I’m truly amazed at how far society has veered in one generation.
***When my children were small (1992), I had to shield their curious eyes from witnessing the inaugural parade of our U.S. Presidency because homosexual advocates were given, for the first time, a place of honor in that Presidential procession.  Thirty years earlier, when I was small, homosexuality was never mentioned in any honorable public arena.
***Prime time television today is filled with sexual innuendo, as well as graphic sexual material.  As a teenager, I can remember when the show Happy Days first aired.  My parents were amazed at the innuendos that frequently surfaced in this sit-com and we frequently had to turn it off.  Typical recent themes would certainly make Happy Days seem very benign. These recent themes have included “breast-only orgasms”, homosexual and lesbian heroism, and sex driven competition in amazingly vulgar reality TV.
***The Boy Scouts of America have been forced to sacrifice corporate funding from hefty donors like the Levi-Strauss Company because the organization refuses to sanction homosexuality in its leadership.  They’ve faced numerous lawsuits because of this stance.  When I was a child, no known homosexual could have successfully led an adult civic club, much less a group of innocent young boys!
***Our federal government has offered tax incentives to young working mothers, actually rewarding mothers who choose to have babies and then relegate their care to day care workers.  When I was a preschooler, 90+ % of my peers were being daily nurtured at home, with their mothers.
***Popular CDs are rarely curse free, and even more rarely, pure in theme.  I checked the lyrics recently of the top 5 songs on America’s pop charts and four of the five contained lyrics that were extremely objectionable.  When I was a child, an album with objectionable material was far more rare than an album with decent lyrics.
***Several mothers of middle schoolers in my small town have related to me that oral sex is the popular pastime of the early teen years.  When I was in middle school, I had never heard of oral sex.  I believe my innocence in this regard was fairly typical at the time.
***Wednesday night ballgames, play practice, club meetings, etc. are all very common in most American communities.  When I was a child there were only very rare Wednesday night Bible study conflicts because entire communities were cognizant of the priority of Bible study in most American homes.
***Less than half of American children now live with both birth parents.  Divorce rates have exceeded marriage rates in America in recent years.  When I was in elementary school, there was only one girl in my class whose parents were divorced.  In most of our eyes she was an anomaly.
***Over a million babies this year in America will be aborted.  Not one single baby in America had ever been legally aborted until I was fourteen years old.  The word “abortion” was defined by Webster’s dictionary as “a miscarriage” when I was a child.
The list could go on and on.  If you are over thirty-five you could easily reminisce and make your own list.  But why? Why have we seen such a rapid and expansive moral decline during the last thirty five years?
The women of the book of Judges in the Old Testament were raising children in the shadow of national disobedience.  Remember, God was clear in instructing the tribes of Israel to destroy the peoples of Canaan as they entered the promised land (Dt.7:1,2).  But they didn’t.  Instead, they left remnants of these heathen groups. They made treaties with them.  They finally intermarried with them.  They allowed their sanctified status to become polluted and cowered in compromise to big armies and military might. Judges chapter one relates in detail their multiple failures to rid the land of idolatrous heathen tribes. Now as we study the judges we find that succeeding generations are left to struggle in a nation plagued by the spiritual pollutants of that idolatry.  Tolerance turned to acceptance which turned to conformity.
Sound familiar? We are raising the next generation in the shadow of the sexual revolution, a national rejection of absolute truth and a disdain for the time honored values of integrity, purity and hard work.  It will not be an accident if your children and mine emerge into adulthood with a faith that can weather the assaults of the devil through humanism and its attendant materialism and relativism. It will be the result of the unrelenting will of moms and dads combined with their reliance on the Word and the power of prayer. I pray that this blog can be a small tool to help us be able to one day sit down around the throne of God with our families in a place where the devil is totally impotent. Only then can we finally say “It’s all good.”
Portions taken from Women of Troubled Times by Cindy Colley, Publishing Designs, Huntsville, AL