Monday, March 18, 2013

A loss of holiness. . .

A common theme among a few of the speakers at the 2013 Fort Wayne Symposia was the idea of personal holiness.  There is much to cover here.  We do not talk about holiness much.  We do not lay out  holiness as either expectation or goal for ourselves or our people.  Instead, we are pretty comfortable with our weakness and frailty -- so comfortable that both our expectations and our efforts toward holiness are minimal.

I recall one speaker asking if we spoke of holiness from the pulpit, if we held up holiness as that which informs and shapes our sexual identities and practices.  In this particular area he challenged the preachers in the room to hold up holiness of life and conduct as that which is worth the effort and energy in the face of a world where desire rules over all.  Another spoke of the way we have accepted the heavy influence and power of our sex saturated culture to direct our thoughts and actions.  Even in solid, conservative churches where Scripture has its rightful place, the subject of holiness is avoided.  Those of us sitting in the audience could not help but be convicted by their words.  We have preached against abortion and pre-marital and extra-marital sex and even the GLBT agenda but largely with the no of the Law.  We have not preached theses subjects within the context of the Christian pursuit of things good, right, beautiful, truthful, and holy.

Sadly there are more churches and more pulpits urging us to happy sex lives within certain boundaries -- as if the Gospel's great concern was sexual pleasure -- than there are words or sermons calling us to be holy, to live holy, self-controlled, and pure lives.

Our sexual ethics now differ from the world's more in terms of where you place the fence of right and wrong than in the very nature of sex's gift and purpose.  A good example of this can be found in the declining rates of childbirth and the increasing rates of couples choosing to be childless.  Why do we disagree?  We have different hermeneutics.  The true scale has Scripture first, with natural law and reason next, followed by scientific reason and finally experience.  The inverted scale of modern day Christianity places experience above all things, followed by scientific truth, natural law, and, at the bottom, Scripture. Our core values are not formed from nor consistent with Scripture. 

I must say that the words spoken challenge the way we preach and teach.  We must do more than merely move boundary lines or say yes or no to specific things.  We must address that which informs our ethnics and morality.  At the root of this is the purity and holiness of Jesus.  His holiness is not for our admiration.  His holiness is, in part, to show us what holiness is.

The sad but honest truth is that our constant exposure to vulgarity and our glorification of base desire have had consequences.  They have born poisoned fruits but we continue to feast upon them seemingly without shame.  Until the Church holds up again, without compromise or adjustment, the claim of holiness and speaks forth the call to holiness of life and speech, we will continue to simply be naysayers against a people who no longer hear the word "no".  We need to articulate and speak to the world the radical voice of holiness.

Christians are not merely forgiven sinners who continue to sin.  We are a people who have died and risen to new life in Christ. We are not on our own but have been bought with a price and Christ now lives in us.  What are the consequences of this new life?  Of Christ now living in us?

Some troubling thoughts for preachers and teachers...


Anonymous said...


Pastor Peters,

Thank you so much for this post.

I realized at 14 that I was homosexual (exclusively attracted to other guys). After researching the Bible to see what it said, I concluded that I would strive for celibacy. I slipped up a couple of times in my teens but have been completely celibate for 30 years.

The liberal churches preach about people like me as if we were idiots for not following our sexual desires.

The gay community treats people like me as if we were traitors and hypocrites (even though I have never supported their agenda - how can you be a traitor to something you have never believed in?)

And the conservative churches preach the Gospel. But they seldom preach it about homosexuality so that the place I feel most alone, scared, ashamed and dirty is in Church. We kind of get the idea that we homosexually tempted people will get to heaven only as kind of a package deal. You know, "Christ died for everyone so I guess he has too take you queers too"

I have remained celibate strictly because of Christ and what He has done for me in the cross. But it is still nice to hear someone say the pursuit of holiness is worth honoring instead of some sort of consolation prize in the search for sexual and personal fulfillment in which our culture and our churches are so frantically engaged.

Thank you - Thank you - Thank you

Rev William Smith Jr said...