Thursday, August 18, 2005

Standing on the Bible, Standing with Jesus

Commentary by Robin G. Jordan

To take a Biblical view of homosexuality in our day and time is likely to earn oneself the label of “homophobic.” But what really motivates many orthodox Bible-believing Christians to take this view in the face of hatred, contempt and persecution for upholding a Biblical position on human sexuality and marriage? What do those who most frequently apply the label “homophobic” to those who do not support their view of homosexuality really mean?

In 1982 InterVarsity Press published God’s Book for God’s People: Why We Need the Bible. John R. W. Stott originally preached the substance of this little book as a series of five sermons in All Souls Church, Langham Place, London, during February and March 1980. In Chapter 2: Christ & the Bible Stott examines how the Scriptures bear witness to Christ and how Christ bears witness to the Scripture – how Jesus endorsed the Old Testament and how Jesus made provision for the writing of the New Testament. On pages 33-34 he makes a very important point:

“…there is no evidence in the Gospels of Jesus’ disagreeing with the doctrinal or ethical teaching of the Old Testament, On the contrary, he endorsed it. What he contradicted was the scribal misinterpretations and distortions of the Old Testament. This was his point in the Sermon on the Mount, in which six times he said in effect, ‘You have heard this, but I tell you something different.’ What they had heard we the so-called traditions of the elders. It was these which he was criticizing; it was not the teaching of Moses in the law. For what stood written in Scripture he received as his Father’s Word.”

Stott goes on to say:

“…we have to add that disciple is not above his teacher. It is inconceivable that a Christian who looks to Jesus as his Teacher and Lord should have a lower view of the Old Testament than he did. What is the sense in calling Jesus ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and then disagreeing with him? We have no liberty to disagree with him. His view of Scripture must become ours. Since he believed Scripture, so must we. He emphatically endorsed its authority.”

At the conclusion of the chapter (pages 37-38) Stott reiterates this point:

“Let me sum up. We believe the Scriptures because of Christ, He endorsed the Old Testament, and he made provision for the writing of the New Testament by giving to the apostles his authority. We therefore receive the Bible from the hand of Jesus Christ. It is he who has invested it with his own authority. And since we are determined to submit to him, we are determined to submit to it. Our doctrine of Scripture is bound up with our loyalty to Jesus Christ. If he is our Teacher and our Lord, we have no liberty to disagree with him. Our view of Scripture must be his.”

Stott in this statement sums up beautifully how many orthodox Bible-believing Christians see Christ and the Bible.

In the Gospels Jesus defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Nowhere in the Gospels does he endorse sexual activity outside of marriage. For those who do not or cannot marry, he prescribes sexual abstinence. He identifies sexual activity outside of marriage in its many forms – fornication, adultery, incest, homosexuality, lesbianism, and bestiality – as one of the evils that comes from within ourselves and that defiles (dirties or pollutes) us in God’s sight, by which we make ourselves unfit for God’s company.

Militant gays and lesbians and those whom they have influenced label as “homophobic” anyone who does not agree with their assertion that sexual arousal to a member of the same sex is a normal acceptable human impulse and sexual activity between members of the same sex is normal acceptable human behavior. All kinds of evil motives are ascribed to a person so labeled. “Homophobic” has become a favorite smear word of theirs along with “fundamentalist” for orthodox Bible-believing Christians. Indeed anything that is not pro-gay is labeled as “homophobic.” One might say “homophobic” has become synonymous with “not pro-gay.” Their aim, of course, is to prejudice the minds of those they are seeking to influence against what orthodox Bible-believing Christians believe – the teaching of the one to whom orthodox Bible-believing Christians are determined to submit as Teacher and Lord. The one whom militant gays and lesbians and their fellow travelers are reviling is Jesus Christ himself.

Those who have adopted the views of militant gays and lesbians must discard, ignore or twist much of teaching of the Old Testament that Jesus himself endorsed and the teaching of the New Testament the writing of which for which he made provision in order to regard themselves as his disciples. I personally cannot see how those who disagree to such a large extent with Jesus can call him “Teacher” and “Lord.” Like Stott, I find it difficult to conceive. If they were honest with themselves, they are really not willing to submit to him. They are not willing to accept his hard teachings.

Jesus tells those who seek to become his disciples that they must first count the cost of discipleship. We must be willing to put him before everything else. To the rich young man Jesus said that he must be willing to sacrifice his great wealth if he truly wanted to follow Jesus. To others he is saying that they must be willing to sacrifice a habitual pattern of sin that they have come to see as part of themselves, part of their identity. They cannot walk with Jesus and cling to their besetting sins. The life of discipleship to which Jesus calls us is one of forsaking the “flesh” with its sinful desires, of pursuing holiness, and of practicing godliness. Nor can they cling to a view of the human condition that disagrees with Christ’s, one that views a “normal” and “acceptable” and even endorses what the Old Testament and the New Testament do not. What they are saying to Jesus is, “I will follow you but with these reservations.” That is not discipleship.

If being a disciple of Jesus Christ entails being labeled “not pro-gay,” not pro-sin, so be it. Jesus himself was not pro-sin. He called upon those who flocked to hear his teaching to repent, to turn away from their sins. To the woman caught in adultery, he declared “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11) His purpose for seeking the lost was to save them. Ultimately he gave his life so that we might no longer be the slaves of sin. As Jesus himself taught – and Stott admirably draws to our attention, no disciple can be above his teacher.

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