Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Vexing. . .
I was asked a question on how the church can stay relevant in the context of gay marriage being legal in the two states of the USA where we have campuses. My answer was simply an admission of reality—no more and no less. I explained that this struggle for relevance was vexing as we did not want to become ostracized by a world that needs Christ.
What is striking here is less what he said or did not say about homosexuality but with his pursuit of relevance and his fear that his church(es) would become ostracized by a world in need of the Gospel. It is clearly a problem for many Christians and has led to a distinction between public words and private conviction. What we say in public is sufficiently vague as to keep the door open while in private we remain convinced of the Scriptural and traditional position on this matter. Perhaps Houston is not unlike the desire of Pope Francis in trying to keep the doctrine but to publicly appear welcoming and sympathetic to GLBT, their families, and those who ally with them. We have all wanted to do this on one issue or another or at one time or another.
I certainly do not fault those who find the dilemma vexing. It most certainly is vexing. But it is also a tension Jesus not only predicted but warned His Church about. There will be those who deny the truth for the sake of public acceptance. There will be those pressed by fear of persecution (the worst form of ostracization). But the counsel of God's Son is to remain steadfast in the truth that endures forever. Instead of apologizing for what we believe, we are called to speak it. A defense of the faith is not an attempt to make it reasonable or comprehensible to the world. Such is not possible. His ways are not our own. We walk not by sight but by faith -- trusting in that which mind cannot understand and eye cannot see.
We get in trouble more by waffling before the challenge than by simply letting our yes be yes and our no be no. Houston is now viewed with suspicion by those who are not so sure he might have walked back his support for the Biblical truth and he is certainly viewed with suspicion by those to whom he had hoped to remain in open conversation. How can you dialog with those who believe one thing privately but say something different in public?
In the end it is a lesson. To be faithful means that the world will not understand, will not agree, and will, indeed, persecute those who speak the truth faithfully -- even when they speak it in love. But we can do no less. We can no more fail to speak the truth than we can afford to speak it in such way that it becomes a weapon rather than invitation. For the Word of the Lord will produce its own results and God will bring forth His own appointed fruit from its speaking. That is enough for you and me to know. We are speakers of the truth but God is its voice and its power. Regardless of how the truth is received by the world, it will not return to Him empty handed. Once we get that right, we will find it easy to escape the conundrum that Pastor Houston and Hillsong have found themselves in.