Over the past few weeks, I have been contacted via social media by a group of white supremacists. They are extremist, hateful, and attack with no understanding of who they are attacking. Their threats are alarming, but not all that surprising. And to be honest, it’s almost easier to understand extremists—they’ve potentially been given over to their sin (Romans 1). But what’s confusing for many of us are the numerous people who seem to ignore racism, who sweep it under the rug, or who have categorized racism as a lesser evil than other evils.
Welcome to the 2016 election year.
We live in an era when commitments have become opportunities for narcissistic self-realization. I encounter this perhaps most often with weddings. In too many instances, weddings have become state dinners put on by planners and photographers to celebrate the love of the couple. A pastor friend of mine and I find ourselves saying the same thing to couples in premarital counseling, and we find that it is almost always startling. Our message is this: “The most important thing about your wedding is not what makes your wedding unique; it’s what makes your wedding the same as other faithful Christian weddings.” The core of the wedding isn’t the expression of the couples’ unique personalities: the groom’s cake modeled after his favorite football team, the video streaming pictures from their childhoods. The core of the wedding is the exchanging of vows, in the presence of God and these witnesses. Too often, the wedding becomes a stage for photographs, and that’s an acid to the idea not only of what a wedding is, but also of what a marriage is.
In the movie The Usual Suspects, Kevin Spacey’s character, “Verbal” Kint, says one of the great lines in recent movie history: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” While this is true, equally as true is the ease with which we forget God exists. We go through life as lords of our own little universes, solving problems with our own abilities and strengths and depending on external circumstances or therapies to massage our moods. We forget God until we are at wit’s end, then we cry out for help. We don’t need Him at work. We don’t need Him at school. We don’t need Him anywhere. Until we do. Then we seek to summon Him from on high or wherever it is that He waits until we beckon. We live most days as if we appreciate God’s good work in making the world and are glad He went home when He was finished, kind of like the contractor who built the addition on your house.
But not all conservative churches grow. If they did then there is hope for the hundreds of tiny dying little tight churches across the UK, Australia and the USA. There are plenty of churches committed to conservative theology that are now reduced to twenty or thirty older people bouncing around a building that once housed five hundred or more. Their combined ages may be roughly the same as the five hundred, but that’s about it.
And what’s more, not all conservative churches deserve to grow.
The human heart is a slippery thing. Our rejoicing over the deliverance of God and the display of God’s character and justice can so quickly morph into something unbecoming a saint of God. We can start rejoicing at their fall instead of rejoicing in God’s deliverance and His character being displayed. And we can think we are justified in doing this. We’ll put ourselves on God’s team rejoicing over the fall of the wicked. But meanwhile our heart is putting itself in a position for a much more painful stumble. We’ll forget that apart from the grace of God we’d be plunging ourselves headlong into ruin. Apart from God’s grace we’ll be the next ones to fall.
God tells each of us that we are responsible to faithfully parent our children, and that ultimately our task is to raise our children to be fellow disciples of Christ. Through his Word he instructs us how to go about so daunting a task. Yet even while God sets the challenge and provides the instruction, he makes no guarantees about the result. He gives no sure formula that will result every time in healthy, obedient, saved children.
Within evangelical circles, there are differing views on the full meaning and scope of the household qualification. Does this mean that pastors are responsible for the sins of their adult children, who no longer live at home? If the expectation is for every child to be converted, by what age must they follow Christ?
A favorite from the archives:
One of the most frequent charges laid against Christians who oppose abortion is that we care about a child’s life before they’re born and once they die, but don’t really give a rip about anything in between. This, of course, is absolute bunk, especially when you consider the number of Christians who are passionate adoption advocates, who are assisting those in need through organizations like Compassion International.
But even though the charge is bunk, it persists. And Christians would do well to educate themselves about the realities of abortion and its alternatives. Here are a few books I’d recommend to help in this area.