By Edwin Crayton/Opinion
Let’s play a game of pretend for a moment. Imagine you’re a parent of teenagers. You’ve told your children many times not to have other teenagers over or to have parties when you’re not home. But one day, they invite a bunch of kids over and they began to drink, use drugs, and several couples go into your bedroom, taking their clothes off as they enter. This isn’t all happening while you are out. Oh no. They do it right in front of you. How would you feel? What would you do? Would images of steam coming out of your ears serve as a proper illustration of your emotions? Well, is it possible that this is what God feels when he sees his children—especially those who claim to believe in him—-doing things that he dislikes?
Allow me to suggest that this scenario is precisely what is happening in our world today. God has given his followers—Christians—-clear information about what he desires and what he dislikes, what he wants and what he doesn’t want. He has also told us what to do to please him and what not to do, so that we won’t anger him. He has even taken the trouble to write a thick, informative Holy Bible filled with his laws, cautions, enlightening, entertaining parables and wisdom and sent prophets who have risked their lives and often even given up their lives in order to instruct us in his ways. In other words, if you are a Christian and you have read your Bible there is really no way you should not know what God requires. You should know as well, that he has given direction on every issue that mankind has faced yesterday, faces today and will face tomorrow. That includes the issues of homosexuality and abortion. God has prohibited homosexuality in both books of the Bible—Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament in Leviticus 18:22, God himself said man should not have sex with another man. In the New Testament, Romans, chapter 1 condemns both homosexuality and lesbianism. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 makes it clear that homosexuals cannot enter the kingdom of heaven unless they will stop practicing the sin. Verse 11 makes that clear. Abortion is the act of stopping a life. In the case of abortion, the life that is being ended is that of an innocent baby. Taking the life of an innocent person is known generally as murder. Exodus 20:13 says, “Thou shalt not kill.” Women who believe in abortion like to point out that their body belongs to them. They claim only they should decide what happens to it. Therefore, they maintain, they have the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. But the Bible disagrees with that logic. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says if the woman is a Christian, she, like all Christians, gives up her body to Jesus when she becomes a believer. That means her body belongs to Jesus. By the way, in reality, God owns everything, so even a nonbeliever does not “own” her body. And because the life inside her is not her own life, that life is not the woman’s either, now is it?
The bottom line is Christians are called to obey Christian guidelines for living as outlined in the Holy Bible. That would mean no believer can step over God’s authority and override him. What God opposes, we should oppose. What he supports, we should support. We must do what God says we must do. But also, we must do it the way God wants us to do it. One of the things Jesus commands us to do is oppose our enemies nonviolently. Not everyone who opposes sin does so peacefully. Some oppose it from a standpoint of hatred. They personally do not like a sin and take it upon themselves to punish the sinners. This is not the Christian way. First, we believers realize that we are sinners too. The only difference is, we are sinners saved by grace. Next, Jesus gave us the command to love our enemies. This means we don’t want to see our enemies condemned. We want to see them converted and saved.
As bad as violence is, there is something worse. I am referring to disobeying God’s call to his followers to warn people about their sins. The Bible teaches that every believer in God is called to oppose sin and to warn others so that they will not be trapped by it. The Book of Ezekiel does a great job of explaining this responsibility. Particularly Ezekiel 33:8-9 which says, “8 When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for[a] their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 9 But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.” God has made it clear that it is our responsibility to speak out about sin and to care enough about people travelling wrong, to warn them, so they can turn around—repent and be saved. A society that rejects God and his guidance will become an immoral society. That is because, without God’s holy guidance, humans cannot tell what is good and what is evil. Such a society will anger God. He will punish it or destroy it. Ancient Israel became such a rebellious society. After being blessed by God they abandoned him and went their own way. They chased idols and practiced immoral lifestyles. God had enough. He cut off their power and they became captives. Does that sound like another modern nation whose initials are U.S.?
God gave Israel every opportunity to change. He sent prophets to warn the people. But they dug in their heels and rebelled. Like Ezekiel and the prophets of ancient days, we Christians are being called to warn a sin-sick world that it is travelling wrong. But many who claim to believe in Jesus are refusing to obey that call. Why? The excuses are many: Some don’t want to offend others or come off as “judging them”. They don’t seem to realize that when you warn a man to avoid stepping into a pit, you are not judging him, you are trying to help save him. Others want to be friends with the world—they want to be popular and liked. They want to fit in. But God realizes that following him will make his people stand out from the crowd and that it will bring criticism. In fact, God wants his people to be a “peculiar” people, The Bible tells us. Others won’t answer the call because they are afraid of being attacked for being a follower of Jesus. But the Bible says, “perfect love drives out fear”. And of course, there are those who just don’t believe. Yes, they say they are Christians, but they have a lukewarm or cold feeling about God. Whatever the excuse, I call this business of ignoring God’s call, “The Jonah Syndrome”. God called Jonah to warn the people of Nineveh to turn from their sin. But Jonah was prejudiced and did not want them to turn from their sin and be saved. So, he tried to run from God in order to avoid doing the task. God let him experience some awful things and he finally realized he had to obey the call. He warned the people and they did repent and were saved from disaster. Like Jonah, many of us refuse to obey God’s calls and his commands because we believe we have a better idea or plan. This always leads to disaster. God’s will is best and works best whether we like it or not. Jonah had to put his personal feelings aside and let God lead. He did and it worked out. That’s true for us today. God should decide what is right. Not us. Jesus said, his disciples must forget themselves. Yet today, many who claim to believe in Christ struggle with letting go and letting God lead. This is why we are seeing such an increase in sin in the world and even inside the church. We’re deciding in our flesh what is moral and then trying to make our faith back up what we have already decided. It just does not work. The Bible calls this “leaning to our own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Let’s be honest. We all do it sometimes. That is why the Bible says, we’ve all fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3;23). To disagree with mankind is known as debating. To disagree with God, is known as rebellion.
Israel was blessed. They were God’s people. In fact, they were blessed among all nations on earth. But they became a little full of themselves. They made the mistake of rebelling against God. Like the teenagers at the beginning of this article, they began to sin in front of God: they practiced idol worship; they committed sexual immorality, they were unjust and corrupt. God forgave them over and over. Finally, he had enough. He broke their power and made them captives. Their religious leaders were corrupt and allowed immorality. God destroyed the nation. We can see shades of Ancient Israel in America. Some churches approve of sinful lifestyles. Church conventions have to vote on whether or not they will obey the Bible. Even though Jesus commanded all believers to spread the gospel to the whole world, I read a study that showed that many young people in churches don’t believe they should share the gospel at all—they believe it is forcing religion on people. God help us when even Christ gets push back in his own church.
My sense from reading the Bible is historically, God often punishes rebellious nations by giving them bad leaders. Look at the front runners of the top two political parties in America. On the Democratic side, Mr. Biden supports gay and trans gender lifestyles, which are sins according to the Bible. The front runner for the Republican Party, Mr. Trump has several indictments and seems to be involved in some scandals or another. Among their followers, you’ll find many who claim to be Christians. Can’t America do better than this?
We in the Christian world have arrived at a decision point. Like Joshua, we must decide if we will follow God or the world. Those who don’t follow God will end up belonging to Satan, because he gets God’s leftovers. If you are a Christian, you are being called to stand for Christian values, even though it’s not easy to do so these days. A great ad executive named Bill Bernbach once said, “A principle isn’t a principle unless it costs you something”.
Like Ezekiel and the prophets of ancient days, you and I and all who claim Jesus are being called to love America enough to warn her that she cannot remain great without God. All the goodness in the world comes from God. Your ability to love; a beautiful sunset: the joy your children bring you: a great meal: success: the love you give friends and others—it all comes from God. James 1:17 confirms this when it says, “All good things come from above from the Father of Lights.” When we kick God out of our lives and take control, he will take his blessings with him as he goes. The absence of God is the presence of hell.
I have no doubt that you have heard of the so-called culture war. Well, it is misnamed. It’s really a spiritual war. Ephesians 6:12-13 says, 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand”.
How you respond to God’s call to reject sin and warn others to do likewise will determine which side you end up fighting for.
Go ask Ezekiel:
4 He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the people of Israel and speak my words to them. 5 You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and strange language, but to the people of Israel— 6 not too many peoples of obscure speech and strange language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you. 7 But the people of Israel are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for all the Israelites are hardened and obstinate. 8 But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are. 9 I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.”
10 And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. 11 Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.” (God’s vision to Ezekiel 3:4-11)