This article is the essence of a keynote address by Jeremy Marks prepared for the conference of Evangelicals Concerned Western Region (ECWR), in Los Angeles (July 2004).
Jesus answered, ‘ … Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’ Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.
John 6:2729 (ANIV)
Many of us will remember learning in geography lessons at school about iron pyrites, also known as ‘fool’s gold’ a relatively worthless mineral, easily mistaken for gold because of its gold-like colour to those of us who don’t know any better. This is a salutary reminder of the danger of taking issues in life at face value, which can end up with us putting our confidence in something that is of no value at all.
Sometimes our ignorance can be exploited in extremely humorous ways. April Fool’s day is a great opportunity for practical jokes. For many years, BBC radio, TV and other channels have, from time to time, broadcast spoof documentaries or news stories that originate from the mischievous imaginations of script writers and are not based in truth. One of the most memorable was the story broadcast by BBC TV back in 1957 a Panorama ‘documentary’ narrated by the distinguished broadcaster Richard Dimbleby, which featured a family from Ticino in Switzerland carrying out their annual spaghetti harvest. Mr Dimbleby explained how the end of March each year is an anxious time for spaghetti harvesters all over Europe as severe frost can impair the flavour of the spaghetti. He also explained how each strand of spaghetti grows to the same length thanks to years of hard work by generations of growers. Some viewers failed to see the funny side of the broadcast and criticised the BBC for airing the item on what is supposed to be a serious factual programme. Others were intrigued, wanting to find out where they could purchase their own spaghetti bush!
Discerning the truth
Whether we are hoodwinked into believing falsehood because of our ignorance or through being misled by those who set out to deceive us, for humorous or sinister reasons, one of the great lessons in life is to learn to discern between what is true and what is false. I am told that bank clerks, when keeping an eye open for forged bank notes, are not taught what different types of forgeries look like; instead they are taught that forgeries are most easily spotted when you are accustomed to seeing and dealing with the real thing.
When speaking with other Christians about the very contentious issue of homosexuality over the years, I have consistently found that people are more likely to be persuaded to change their minds on the subject when they realise that sound thinking is based on a foundation of genuine love and concern for others. This is surely why Jesus convinced so many ordinary people of his message; they knew he was basically for them. He had no hidden agenda. His words were trustworthy and true, therefore he spoke with authority and people believed his teaching.
However, genuineness and sincerity, important thought these qualities are, do not in themselves guarantee that what one says is true. Knowledge of the truth is essential too. In fact the lesson we read from Proverbs, that ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding’ (Proverbs 9:10). This may come as a surprise in this information-gathering age, when availability of vast stores of knowledge can be overwhelming. Moreover, the Bible teaches that to know God is more important than knowledge of the Bible (though obviously much of what we know about God comes from the Bible). Jesus often had to confront those for whom knowledge of the scriptures was a substitute for knowing God which comes as we live by faith. Jesus said, ‘You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.’ John 5:39,40 (ANIV)
It seems increasingly clear to me as I get older that unless we develop a deeply personal knowledge of Jesus and the Father, coming from an understanding of the scriptures as taught by the Holy Spirit, we find it extremely difficult to distinguish clearly between true and false teaching. Moreover, we can so easily fall into the same trap as the Pharisees for whom knowledge of the scriptures, studied for the purposes of supporting their own agenda, creates a monumental stumbling block to knowing the truth about God and his ways. This warning is reinforced again and again in the gospels. But Jesus taught ‘I am the way’ …
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’
Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’
Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’
John 14:17 (ANIV)
The Great Divide
With this in mind, what can those of us at Courage (or Evangelicals Concerned in the USA) offer, that could be of help in these days when the Church is threatened by an increasing likelihood of schism? One group of Christians, those of a more traditional theological perspective, claims to accept those of us who confess to having a homosexual orientation, but with the clear proviso that we must ‘recognise’ homosexuality as being intrinsically deviant and ‘contrary to Creation and natural order’. This means that a gay person must at least be celibate. Many would go further and suggest that if we are serious about following God, we must surely wish to seek change of such an orientation that we may be ‘conformed to the likeness of Christ’ (as they perceive it). This is a dead-end street from our experience.
By contrast, the more ‘liberal’ Christians are prepared not only to accept into the church gay and lesbian people just as they are, but also are prepared to fully support them knowing they are gay, desirous of gay relationships and wanting to serve the church without their sexuality being a barrier.
The classic double-bind
The traditional theological understanding is that even to seek a gay relationship, let alone pursue and become committed to one, would be fundamentally ungodly and sinful. No magnanimous distinction can be made between a ‘one-night stand’ and a committed relationship, in spite of the obvious qualitative difference, since both are contrary to God’s created order. In fact true repentance must demand renunciation of homosexuality in whatever form it occurs whether in thought, word or deed!
For this reason, the appointment of Jeffrey John (the new Dean of St Albans Cathedral), known to be in a committed gay relationship, albeit a celibate one, is to some an offensive, provocative act and a sign of heresy in the Church today. Such a man should be absolutely barred from any form of leadership, however well qualified he may be in other ways. In fact any practising gay person should be disqualified from Church membership, and barred from the communion table, though lay people may be permitted time for repentance.
Increasingly in these days, a stated agreement with such a traditional theological position has become an essential defining issue for orthodox Christians. Anyone who cannot commit to this position is likely to find themselves excluded. This view is undoubtedly splitting the Church of England and will no doubt split other denominations too, unless we can find a way through the minefield that is acceptable to members on both sides of the debate an unlikely prospect as things stand.
So we have two diametrically opposed views and either view, if pursued with more diligence than a desire for the knowledge of Jesus, not only becomes unbiblical but idolatrous. There is an idol accommodated by many Christian churches today whose whispered mantra is, ‘I need to be seen to be right!’ where acceptance is based on our naming and proclaiming the ‘right’ doctrine on homosexuality!
Personally I see the division being between:
On the one hand, those whose heart of compassion and concern prompts them to listen to and consider the case for gay relationships, coming to accept the possibility that some of us are naturally oriented that way and that for them marriage may be inappropriate …
On the other hand, those who ‘stand on principle’ some of the essential principles being that God made us male or female, that sexual union is for heterosexual marriage alone and to live the Christian life calls for obedience to God with acceptance of and willingness to conform to his creation plan; anything less being a sign of rebellion (Romans 1:2127).
For many Christians, and indeed many in our secular society today, this latter view seems to be a reasonable enough proposition, in a predominantly heterosexual society reasonable, that is, until one gets to know a gay or lesbian person well enough to see the damage perpetrated. Such a view forces gay people either to agree that their natural desire for love and intimacy in committed relationship is fundamentally deviant and ungodly, simply because it is directed towards the same sex, or if they accept themselves as they are, to feel alienated, misunderstood and rejected. The traditional view is proving to be profoundly corrosive to a person’s sense of well-being and one which ultimately destroys the faith of many gay and lesbian Christians. An increasing number of evangelical Christians are therefore beginning to recognise that there is something wrong with this position, so the need to listen and pray is becoming ever more important. I believe that studying the life of Jesus reveals there is another principle, clearly at work in his ministry, that has the potential to break down barriers and even unite us.
While the gay issue is dividing people broadly into two groups, there are signs that a growing number of evangelical Christians today are feeling increasingly uncomfortable about being defined in this way, or being forced to take one or other position. One such group just formed is ‘Accepting Evangelicals’ an initiative of Rev Benny Hazelhurst. See www.acceptingevangelicals.org for details. Another group, formed last year, is called Inclusive Church; this is more broadly based, not specifically evangelical. Further information can be found at www.inclusivechurch.net.
Living by principles
Principles to live by are important, indeed often essential to ordinary life: driving safely on the roads would be impossible without drivers observing the Highway Code, one fundamental principle being agreement as to which side of the road we should be driving on! A friend who worked as a missionary in the Philippines some years ago, told me that there seemed to be no clear agreement as to which side of the road people should drive on with the result that getting around was a very hazardous occupation and also explained why almost all the cars there are dented and in pretty bad shape! Similarly, teaching children to cross the road, using the Green Cross Code, fosters good habits and saves lives. We are all grateful today for health and safety principles in the workplace, to protect our well-being; or insistence on important procedural principles in surgery and all medical practice to cut down the spread of infection and disease. To be brought up to practise good personal habits of cleanliness, hard work, consideration for others, basic honesty and telling the truth, will stand us in good stead all our lives. In fact examples of such basic practical principles to live by are numerous in just about every area of life one can think of.
Then there are a great many biblical principles that come to mind which reveal essential building-blocks for good character and a godly way of life: Proverbs 3:3 ‘let love and faithfulness never leave you’; Proverbs 3:7 ’trust in the Lord with all your heart and not in your own understanding’; Micah 6:8, ‘What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before your God’; or Jesus’ well-known words in Matthew 7:12 ’Do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the Prophets.’ The list is endless, and those of us brought up in the Christian way of life are indebted to our teachers and all who have given us a good example for a foundation established in our lives that will have eternal value.
But at the same time, we must also learn to recognise that when principles or ‘standards’ become more important than the need for loving-kindness, understanding, compassion and mercy, we are on perilous ground. Jesus said as much when he reiterated the words of the prophet Hosea, ‘But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” [Hosea 6:6] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ (Matthew 9:13 ANIV) The context, of course, is one in which admittedly Jesus was speaking about reaching out to sinners those who perhaps know no better. But those of us who have been Christians for a long time find that those principles of love, kindness, understanding, patience, mercy etc., are no less essential in working out our lives in the Christian fellowship, however mature the Christians around us are! There has been no time in my life when I have noticed the absolute necessity of loving-kindness and mercy becoming redundant or needing to be replaced by discipline and judgement. Discipline and judgement have their place but a foundation of mercy and understanding always remains essential.
‘Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!’
James 2:1213 (ANIV)
The Great Temptation
The great temptation for any Christian today, perhaps especially for those in leadership (one that is more insidious than temptation to sexual or financial sin), is to ‘stand on biblical principles’, rather than help to bear one another’s burdens, fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). Jesus put it this way: ‘ … straining out a gnat whilst swallowing a camel!’ (Matthew 23:2325). I particularly appreciate the Amplified version of Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
‘Bear (endure, carry) one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfil and observe perfectly the law of Christ, the Messiah, and complete what is lacking [in your obedience to it].’
Galatians 6:2 (Amplified version)
When one stands back for a biblical perspective, we see perhaps half a dozen texts that can be (and are frequently) used to make a case against homosexuality. By contrast (as observed by Jim Wallis of Sojourners) there are something like 3,500 passages in the scriptures concerning God’s heart for issues of injustice and more than 5000 concerning idolatry! Strange, isn’t it, that in the current debate, so many people fail to notice the disproportionate emphasis on homosexuality, foolishly regarding this to be a defining issue, rather than promoting a more vigorous concern for justice, or that the name of Jesus might be honoured once again in our lands which have in the past been known as ‘Christian’, or have at least stood for some Christian values.
When respecting your conscience harms me …
There have been a number of well-documented cases, over many years now, in which Jehovah’s Witnesses have been prosecuted for manslaughter, because their consciences would not allow them to consider blood transfusions. Even children have died because of this medical provision being refused. This ‘conscientious objection’ is based on the JWs reading of Acts 15:29; 21:25, which tells Christians that amongst other things they must ‘abstain from blood’. (See also Genesis 9:4 and Leviticus 17:1214.) Standing on this principle can kill!
While Jehovah’s Witnesses regard those who are prepared to lay down their lives for upholding biblical principles as saints, the courts regard those who encourage people in this way as guilty of manslaughter and prosecute them accordingly! Some JWs regard organ transplants as a form of cannibalism and therefore unacceptable, though apparently this is regarded as a matter for personal conscience. However, a new generation of theologians amongst the JWs are arguing for acceptance of blood transfusions on the grounds that while scripture forbids the eating of blood, transfusions require blood to be given intravenously so it still remains blood (i.e. it is not being digested). This interesting new approach is beginning to convince some JWs that their traditional hermeneutic assumptions can legitimately be challenged. Unfortunately, many evangelical Christians would simply dismiss my point here because they see JWs as being heretics belonging to a legalistic cult. But I believe we need to recognise that there are many evangelicals who tend to use the Bible in the same way! My point is that clearly views on biblical interpretation can vary greatly and ‘biblical convictions’ can cost lives.
We can all begin to see scripture in a different light when difficult circumstances challenge our basic assumptions. It is interesting that, unlike the JWs, most mainstream evangelicals think nothing of accepting blood transfusions, far-reaching surgery and all kinds of other medical treatment without apparently needing to find biblical justification for the practice. At the same time, those of us who are evangelicals, still taking a high view of scripture, have had our own assumptions challenged regarding homosexuality, and some of us have subsequently become convinced that same-sex partnerships can be acceptable before God. From this perspective, one becomes incredulous that those who hold unswervingly to traditional interpretations insist that they are right and are prepared to split the church over it in spite of the fact that we have no disagreement over our basic creed! In view of this, I believe there is one essential question that all Christians at this time need to be asking ourselves:
Where does our hope really lie?
Paul reminds us that it is not only for this life that we are saved the gospel message gives us hope for the life to come (1 Cor 15:19). Yet many of us get so bogged down with how we are to live life now that one wonders what inspiration we actually find in the hope for life with God in Heaven? One of my unbelieving relatives once observed, ‘I can’t understand you Christians. You want us to believe the “good news” that there is a wonderful life with God in Heaven to look forward to after death, if you become a Christian, yet the first opportunity you get to go there, for instance through serious accident or illness, you’re all desperately praying for healing!’ A baffling testimony indeed.
Returning to the questions of conscience for JWs, many Christians would no doubt want to advise anyone caught up in a dubious sect like that to get out of it as soon as they can. Yet we do not see the obvious parallel for gay and lesbian people. Thankfully, an increasing number of Christians today are becoming less rigid in their approach to scriptural interpretation. Some would even say that gay people are well-advised to leave those churches that maintain an oppressive attitude towards them!
It is well documented that many gay people suffer serious depression, may even be suicidal, are full of internal conflicts and feel deeply disenfranchised … because the Church (and society) takes an intransigent view of the subject. Even today many remain unwilling even to listen to the experience of lesbian and gay people. ‘You are wrong because the Bible says so!’ we are bluntly informed. If we protest that we don’t agree, then we are automatically branded as heretics. No argument! Only today (the day of writing this piece) I have received two e-mails from Christians assuring me of eternal hell-fire because, they tell me (on seeing the Courage website), that I have compromised the truth of the Bible. Clearly, in their view, I am beyond all hope!
Happily I remember that Jesus gave to his followers the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 16:19). Keys are given to people to indicate that they are trusted and have authority to pass through a door that has been locked and to permit others to pass also. You don’t hand over your car keys or your house keys to a person unless you trust them! Yet to the Pharisees Jesus warned: ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.’ (Matthew 23:13)
It is worth noting here that whilst Jesus gave us the keys to the Kingdom, the keys to Hell he did not delegate to anyone (Revelation 1:18). So what any of us think we are doing when we tell people they are going to hell, I cannot imagine! Jesus is the only one who has been given the authority to pass such a judgement. He is the only one worthy to do so, having paid the price for our sins.
Our conscience is a vital God-given tool; we must be careful not to trample over it or cauterise it (1 Timothy 4:2). But unless our consciences are educated by scripture, as revealed by the Holy Spirit and in prayer, then unfortunately our consciences can cause overwhelming difficulties for ourselves and others, quite needlessly.
Questions of conscience can raise some interesting dilemmas at times!
To give a humorous example: my wife and I once attended a church in Buckinghamshire, where we lived at the time. This fellowship had close links with another church in Africa. Members of our church, and the leaders in particular, would enjoy exchange visits. The African Church leader, however, felt the need to confront our pastor on the matter of church members drinking alcohol. (This was after having been offered a glass of wine with his meal, when receiving hospitality in our country.) He considered the consumption of alcohol to be a great sin and argued his case forcefully. He was unable to see any reasonable argument in favour even of limited social drinking ’this is ungodly compromise’, he insisted. Then our pastor had an inspiration; demonstrating that this is largely a cultural issue, he declared, ‘Nor would I be happy if your female parishioners came to worship in our church with their breasts uncovered! But this seems not to be a problem in your country.’ Well that turned out to be an easier argument to resolve!
Jesus died for people, not for principles
Jesus died that we might be reconciled with the Father, not simply that the moral ‘standards’ might be raised! The cross of Christ does reveal the godly principle of self-sacrifice, yet take your eyes off the person of Jesus, the torn flesh, his shed blood, and consider the principle alone and you will very likely lose the value, even the meaning, of the principle.
Principles can give us some tremendously helpful guidelines but they must never be given greater importance than our personal relationship with God worked out in practice by looking out for the well-being of others. If one needs a principle, then surely it must be the one that Jesus taught throughout his own ministry. He summarised its importance in answer to the question as to which is the most important commandment to love God above all and your neighbour as yourself (Matthew 22:3640). But principles that fail to recognise that God sent his only Son that anyone who believes in him should not perish (John 3:16) and then proceed to compromise the well-being of others in society – are worthless. The living heart of Christ can never be reduced to a set of principles unless they are founded on the two most important commandments.
‘Standing on principle’ inoculates people against the Christian faith
God calls us to follow Jesus Christ not Christianity, nor the traditions of the Church. The one who trusts in Jesus reaches out to the poor, the needy and the outcast; the one who trusts in Christian principles often becomes the oppressor of the poor, and the one who does the casting out! This lack of Christian integrity can be seen by those outside the church; the gospel is discredited and ‘principled people’ can have the effect of inoculating others against the Christian faith. And when Christian leaders make Christian principles their focus, it is not surprising that many of us find it hard to move away from principle-based Christianity (if we’ve been brought up to think in that way) to live our lives by faith in God.
Lessons from marriage
The Bible uses marriage as an illustration of the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:2232). Paul’s words to the Ephesians reveal his understanding of the relationship between husband and wife, Christ and the Church that such relationships must operate on a foundation of love. Nobody marries merely because they are convinced that marriage is a good principle. Men and women marry when their desire for another is kindled and becomes mutual. Then they seek God’s blessing on their love and commitment to one another. The same is true for same-sex couples.
In fact ‘Marriage’ is the name we give to the love, commitment and consummation of relationship between a man and a woman. But view ‘Marriage’ as an institution and you are in danger of losing the heart of what marriage was given for.
One of the most spectacular contemporary illustrations of how badly a marriage can go wrong, when built on an institutional foundation rather than a basis of true love, is the tragic story of Charles and Diana who, we all thought, were destined to become the future King and Queen of England. With the benefit of hindsight, we can understand much better now how it all went so wrong. But it is important to recognise those lessons, not only for any couple in relationship, but for the Church today. If we fail to do so, we shall simply repeat the same mistakes.
Charles needed a wife who could be his future queen. Being brought up with a very strong sense of duty and responsibility, he needed to be sure he had found the ‘right’ woman for the job. No doubt the pressure on him ‘to do the right thing’ must have been greatly exacerbated, given the instance in recent family history of his great-uncle (Edward VIII) having to abdicate the throne because he wanted to marry the woman he loved who was a divorcee, and therefore (in those days) ineligible to be married to the future King. The Royal family had completely disowned Edward after that!
In the course of meeting eligible young women, Charles met Camilla who, we all realise now, he fell in love with and the feeling was mutual. But his heavy sense of responsibility resulted in Charles lacking confidence in his choice. By the time he had weighed the matter with others, Camilla had given up hope and become engaged to someone else. Yet they continued to have a very close relationship. (Maybe at that time, for Charles to keep his true love out of the public eye was the only way he could function.) When eventually he met Diana, and she was deemed eminently suitable to be his future queen, everyone thought she was so delightful that the relationship seemed to have been ‘made in heaven’! Yet from the start, there were clear warning signs that all was not well. In the famous and often repeated interview with the newly engaged couple, the interviewer concluded his questions with, ‘ … and in love?’ to which Diana unhesitatingly replied, ‘Of course!’ Charles was more circumspect, replying with a sheepish grin, ‘ … whatever “being in love” means!’ Years later it became apparent that Charles knew very well what ‘being in love’ means, but sadly, ‘being in love’ did not seem compatible with ‘doing one’s duty’. In other words, the tension between living by principles important though they may be and living with a real awareness of what was in his heart, was to break the marriage!
We can understand now how Charles’s heart must have been divided and this schism between heart and mind is common in the experience of many Christians. We want to be true followers of Christ but, in all honesty, we are not sure about this mysterious invisible God whom we cannot see in whom we are told to trust. So obedience to principles, laws, procedures, becomes a convenient substitute for seeking to know God.
Unthinking, unquestioning, indiscriminate obedience seems to offer the benefit of Certainty the very opposite of living by faith. After all, ‘doing the right thing’ shows commitment (which satisfies) and provides opportunity ‘to demonstrate one’s love for the Lord’ (puffs up!). Yet subtly, our determination to ‘do what is right’ can so easily become idolatrous, replacing our relationship with the true God. The idol we worship, of course, is ourselves! All too often, it is to justify ourselves that we focus on ‘doing the right thing’. The fruit is pride and self-righteousness the very antithesis of a life with Christ.
For this very reason, Jesus said, ‘Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father.’ (Matthew 7:21)
And what is the will of the Father? ‘ … to believe in [cleave to, trust in, rely on] the one he has sent.’ John 6:29 (Amplified Version)
Well, Prince Charles ‘did the right thing’ as he saw it for Queen and country but to do so, he denied his true love, and then (just as significantly) denied Diana the love she truly longed for and had a right to expect, as his wife! Unsurprisingly their marriage rapidly foundered, as there simply wasn’t the foundation of mutual love to support it. The end result portrayed a travesty of marriage in spite of the promised commitment between two very special people (each in their own way).
Which will survive in the 21st Century? A Church of Principle or a Church of Love?
It is my conviction that the tension threatening to split the Church today is not the conflict between one or other view of homosexuality. The tension is over this question: are we motivated by the need to hold to principles, or are we motivated by love for God and our fellow human beings? ‘No one has ever seen God’, as John reminds us in the first chapter of his Gospel and again in his first Epistle, ‘but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.’ 1 John 4:12 (ANIV).
Jesus said that, at the last judgement, the sheep will be separated from the goats (Matthew 25:3146), the sheep being those who, without giving a thought for their own ‘righteousness’, simply blessed those in need out of a generosity of heart that is truly characteristic of our God, as seen in his son Jesus Christ.
I believe we know in our hearts what God wants us to do and how he wants us to live.
‘All that glitters is not gold’
Working with gay and lesbian Christians for many years now, it is my conviction that ‘standing on principle’ (especially when this destroys the unity of the Body of Christ) is to cherish something that looks precious like fool’s gold but is of little, if any, worth at all.
To those who want to ‘stand on principle’, I appeal to you:
In the book of Isaiah, chapter one, in his call to repentance the Lord says, ‘Come now, let us reason together … ’ (Isaiah 1:1820). If Almighty God calls sinful people to come and reason with him, then even if the traditionalists in the Church today cannot bring themselves to accept gay partnerships, the very least they might do is come and reason with us. The one thing to keep in mind here, lest we forget our own need of God’s grace, is to remember that we are all sinners dependent on the mercy of God.
True righteousness is not based on principles, however good they may be. True righteousness is found in relationship with God a theme corroborated throughout the Bible. We are called to place our hope in Jesus the one whom God sent.
‘What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.’
Romans 4:35 (ANIV)
The call to worship
The I AM, the Almighty and Everlasting God, who created us, and who has personality and desires relationship in particular, restoration of relationship with humanity that is lost in sin calls us back to worship. I believe God’s call to all Christians at this time of tension and debate over homosexuality is this: to give up our idolatrous self-righteous attitudes and seek to know the living God who calls all people to repent.
Let us join that great cloud of witnesses that the writer to the Hebrews speaks of (Chapter 12), ‘ … throwing off everything that hinders and the sin [self-centredness] that entangles … Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’ Hebrews 12:13 (ANIV)
This is the way to buy ‘fine gold’ as Jesus commanded (Revelation 3:1422).
© Jeremy Marks July 2004