Even If You Should Suffer: Thoughts on the Supreme Court’s Latest Ruling

Even If You Should Suffer: Thoughts on the Supreme Court’s Latest Ruling

In I Peter 3: 14 we are given an essential perspective for facing the coming cultural upheaval the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex ‘marriage’ will generate: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed.” Much of the response to that arrogant redefining of the God-given, universally accepted and historically practiced “natural marriage” from Christian and conservative writers has been to warn of further efforts to punish and silence those who oppose the LBGT agenda.

The four dissenting justices (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito) issued strong opposition to the majority’s politically correct disregard of the Constitution and warned that religious freedom will come under prolonged, relentless attack. The majority knew from the oral arguments in April that approving same-sex ‘marriage’ would lead to assaults on Christian institutions and churches which recognize only heterosexual marriages but religious freedom is less important to them than ‘marriage equality.’

Such thinking is not only the viewpoint of the ‘progressive’ elite in our society; polls indicate that 60% of Americans believe people should be able to ‘marry’ whomever they choose, regardless of gender. This does not bode well for constitutional protections religious institutions have been afforded throughout our history. Refusing to recognize same-sex unions is already seen as ‘hateful’ by many and ​may ​soon be considered grounds for losing tax exempt status and expose churches and Christian institutions to punitive lawsuits. Other consequences will be developed by those bent on silencing every form of dissent from their goal of gaining not just acceptance​,​ but ​also ​approval of their sin.

Affirming the absolutes of scripture may be costly, both to the church and individuals: we must be resolute in our commitment to be faithful to our Lord. If we waver on something so clearly expressed in the Word of God -​-​ marriage can only be between a man and a woman, what will we waver on next? Jesus said, “…whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory…” (Luke 9:26). When the topic comes up, confirm your belief in God’s definition of marriage; do it without being obnoxious or defensive, but say it. You may be ridiculed, belittled, accused of intolerance or mocked, but remember Peter’s words: “…even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed.”

Season of Lent

Season of Lent

Our worldview is reflected in our customs. Our customs are reflected in our calendar. Therefore our worldview, in part, at least, is reflected in our calendar.

But our calendar is increasingly secular while retaining some remnants of Christianity. We still, for the most part, celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. That said, there are aggressive attempts to remove all traces of the memory of Christianity from our culture. Thanksgiving is becoming “turkey day.” Christmas is merely a season or holiday. Easter is about a bunny and new clothes.

Whereas this is happening in our general culture, it ought not to happen in our minds and hearts, individually or collectively.

In ancient Israel, the calendar was all about the story of God’s redemption. The church through the ages maintained a calendar as well. It is centered around the life of Christ: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, winter ordinary time, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, summer ordinary time and then back to Advent.

If our life is Christ, it follows that our life together is also Christ and it is thereby profitable to synchronize our life together around the life of Christ.

This is the period called Lent, approximately a 40 day period preparing for the celebration of Resurrection Sunday. Whereas Advent emphasizes the first and second coming of our Lord and our eager longing for His return, the emphasis in Lent is on repentance and renewal as we follow the life of our Lord on His journey to the Cross.

• It begins with Ash Wednesday reminding us from dust we came and dust we shall return, the curse of Adam is still with us.
• It is a time to consider what Christ has done for us in delivering us from the power of sin.
• It is a time for reflection and self-examination as to whether we have been believing the Gospel, out of which flows the grace that teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions, or whether we have been giving in to the pull of the flesh, the enticements of the world, and the deceptions of the devil. That is why this time is celebrated as a time of self-denial as preparation to be able to receive the glorious blessings that come with the story of the Resurrection.

Lent is a period of approximately 40 days. The number 40 in Scripture is the number of testing. In Noah and the flood it rained for 40 days. He waited 40 days after the ark came to rest. Moses was on the mountain for 40 days receiving the Law. Elijah hid from Jezebel for 40 days. The Israelites were in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days.

This doesn’t mean that it is only this period when we engage in self-denial or self-examination. It means that we discipline ourselves to think about the various aspects of our life together in Christ that is to be lived out every day of the year. At different times of the year there are different emphases about the life of Christ and our life together in Him so that we don’t forget.

Disclaimer
There is, admittedly, a certain ambivalence when it comes to Lent.
Here is the superstitious aspect of it from my observation:

• The smearing of ashes on the forehead to indicate that one has entered a period of self-denial and fasting, belies Jesus’ injunction to “anoint your head and wash your face.”
• The dangerous association of meritorious good works, as defined by Roman Catholicism (e.g. The Treasury of Merit, Indulgences, etc.), with Lent belies what we read in the Savoy Declaration, “Good works are only such as God has commanded in His holy Word, and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men out of blind zeal, or upon any pretense of good intention.”
• We must be careful that only the Scriptures bind the consciences of our people such that some might be unwilling to participate for whatever reason. Indeed we’ve already given people the freedom not to celebrate Christmas or have a Christmas tree in their house (Colossians 2:16).

That said, we already celebrate other aspects of the liturgical year (Advent, Christmas, Pentecost, etc.) and there is still a value in celebrating a period of time that would highlight events in the life of Christ and culminate in the celebration of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. The Old Testament holidays and feasts were the story and the reminder of God’s redemption. They even added one not prescribed in the Old Testament, that of Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication, John 12) and apparently Jesus was willing to participate in it.

The question is how do we celebrate Lent (which is an Old English word for spring) in a meaningful and edifying way so as not to engender superstition or legalism? Certainly various disciplines that amplify an awareness of the need to die to ourselves in the spirit of our Lord’s mind that “though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor,” would be helpful. Let each person decide what that might look like in his or her life. Whatever we do in this regard must be Word oriented to the end that it would be Word planted and lived out in our lives.

By This Is My Father Glorified

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:8, ESV)

Certainly these words of our Lord Jesus capture the highest and purest object of prayer — that the Father may be glorified. It is to bring glory to the Living God that we yearn to bear fruit, both in character and spiritual reproduction. IN the daily discipline of praying for specific requests, we can sometimes forge these are but small steps toward achieving the greater purpose: the exaltation of our God and Savior. The key to effective prayer seems to be that unity with God’s purpose and therefore joyful expectation of the answer. “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Originally written February, 1985

Christmas is for Sinners

‘Happy Holidays’ is slowly replacing ‘Merry Christmas’ in our post-Christian culture. Fewer and fewer stores have greetings or displays which have anything to do with the birth of Jesus. It is not surprising. The human heart does not find the true Jesus attractive; in fact, He is (rightly) perceived as a threat to self-rule and self-exaltation. As in first century Jerusalem, He must be marginalized or, failing that, destroyed.

Less obvious, perhaps, is the gradual but monumental shift of emphasis in many of our churches. Rather than redemption, the “good news” seems to be the promise of psychological integration. Instead of a call to holiness, there are suggested paths to “wholeness”.  In place of sacrifice and serving, there are benefits and blessings. Yet, the glorious truth cannot be suppressed: Jesus Christ came to save sinners!

 

Originally written Christmas, 2003

Lift Him Up

“When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to Myself.” John 12:32

The truth and comfort of this promise has been impressed upon us lately.  Neither victories (with their joys) nor defeats (with their sorrows) are to be our focus, but simply to faithfully exalt our Risen Lord by our lives and words.  As bondslaves, we are to do our Master’s bidding–regardless of its apparent effectiveness.  So the admonition to “not grow weary in well-doing.”  Perhaps, at times, we are too concerned about “results” and “success” in trying to “bring people to Christ” and not concerned enough about lifting Him up and then trusting Him to draw people to Himself as He promised.

 

originally written November, 1989

November Building Update

We are on the last leg of the building project! The “punch list”—the finishing touches which our contractor has committed to seeing through—we hope will be completed by the end of November. A few inspections remain in order to acquire our long-awaited Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, but the architect and contractor believe we are in good standing to meet NYC Building and Fire Dept. standards.

The most recent progress includes the leveling of the surrounding plot and a wall on the back of the property—both thanks to the generous and skillful labor of BHOF covenant member Wilbert Belezaire.