The Masterpiece Cakeshop Case: Why It Matters

Close-up of figurine couple on wedding cake

Last week the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In this case, Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, declined to create a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding celebration. Mr. Phillips gladly serves same-sex customers but could not in good conscience create a cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding.

When Phillips declined to make the cake, the couple filed a sexual orientation discrimination claim with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The same-sex couple prevailed in this claim. Since then, courts have upheld the commission’s ruling.

Through the years, Mr. Phillips also declined to make cakes for other events including cakes with messages related to witchcraft, adult-themed parties, anti-American themes, divorce celebrations, and more.

To comply with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Phillips no longer makes wedding cakes. Of course, wedding cakes were a significant source of revenue, so his business has suffered greatly.

The Supreme Court will announce their decision in June. This case has obvious implications for others who provide wedding services such as florists and photographers, but the results will inevitably have implications for religious liberty far beyond the wedding industry.

Please pray for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of religious freedom, allowing space in the public square for Christians to live out their values.

For more on this case, click here.

Standing Firm in Tumultuous Times

AdobeStock_103111638.jpeg

American culture continues to secularize as illustrated by a recent Gallup Poll. Gallup measured the moral acceptability of a range of social issues. In comparing the last poll to previous polls, thirteen issues showed a meaningful change in a liberal direction, and no issue showed a significant shift toward a conservative position. Consider the following examples in which each of these matters related to marriage and sexuality represents the highest moral acceptability positions to date.

  • 69% believe that sexual relations between an unmarried man and woman are morally acceptable
  • 63% believe that homosexual relations are morally acceptable
  • 36% believe that pornography is morally acceptable
  • 17% believe that polygamy is morally acceptable

Next, consider issues related to the sanctity of human life.

  • 61% believe human embryo stem cell research is morally acceptable
  • 57% believe that doctor-assisted suicide is morally acceptable
  • 43 % believe that abortion is morally acceptable

What does this mean for the church and for believers?

First, it means that we need a firm grasp of God’s Word. If we aren’t reading and studying the Word of God, we’ll eventually abandon faithfulness to God.

Second, it means that the cultural pressure is going to increase for those who hold to historic Christian positions. In other words, we’re going to face more opposition for remaining faithful to biblical teaching. For example, the state of Illinois recently revised child welfare policies requiring state workers, foster families, and even relatives who might provide care to children in the state system to fully affirm LGBTQ policies. In other words, those providing care for children must respect the decisions of the child regarding the child’s gender or face termination or lose the opportunity to foster/care for a child.

In Ontario, Canada, recent legislation even permits the state to remove a child from their home if parents don’t affirm their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity. These examples illustrate the fact that Christians will face greater hostility. We must be prepared to stand individually and as a church family.

Third, parents must be intentional in discipling and training their own children in the faith. The culture isn’t going to reinforce biblical values as it has done in some ways in the past. If we aren’t serious about teaching our children God’s Word and modeling deep commitment to Christ, it is likely that our children will be overwhelmed by the tumult of cultural forces. We need to schedule intentional time for faith training in our daily routines.

While the culture rapidly unravels, we must stand faithfully by God’s grace. Consider Paul’s words in Ephesians, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.” For His glory and by His grace, let’s stand.

The Shack: Truth and Deception

cabin-photo

Ten years ago the widely popular novel, The Shack, was published. In this story, author William Young addresses some of the most pressing and difficult questions of life. How can God be good in the face of human suffering? Does God care about injustice? The novel provided insights that were compelling to many, selling over twenty million copies (1). 

Unsurprisingly, this famous story has been made into a movie by the same title, being released on March 3. While the book offers a powerful testimony of God’s love, it does so at a high cost regarding biblical faithfulness. The late, Chuck Colson, briefly summarizes the story and warns his readers:

The story is about a man named Mack, who is struggling in the aftermath of the brutal murder of his young daughter. One day he finds a note in his mailbox-apparently from God. God wants Mack to meet Him at “the shack,” the place where his daughter was killed.

When he arrives, the shack and the winter scene around it transform, Narnia-like, into a mystical mountain paradise, perhaps meant to be heaven itself. Now dwelling in the shack are three mysterious figures-the African-American woman, a Middle Eastern workman, and an Asian girl-who reveal themselves as God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The rest of the book is basically a discussion between Mack and the three persons of the Trinity. While the discussion is mostly on the deep topics of creation, the fall, freedom, and forgiveness, too often the author slips in silly lines that, frankly, seem ridiculous in the mouth of the Godhead. Jesus, looking at Papa, says, “Isn’t she great?” At one point, Papa warns Mack that eating too many of the greens in front of him will “give him the trots.” And when Jesus spills batter on the floor and on Papa, Jesus then washes Her-or is it His?-feet. Papa coos, “Oh, that feels sooooo good.” Ugh.

Okay, it is only an allegory. But like Pilgrim’s Progress, allegories contain deep truths. That is my problem. It is the author’s low view of Scripture. For example, Mack is tied to a tree by his drunken, abusive father, who “beats Mack with a belt and Bible verses.” The author reflects derisively in another spot that “nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that ‘guilt’ edges.”

The Bible, it seems, is just one among many equally valid ways in which God reveals Himself. And, we are told, the Bible is not about rules and principles; it is about relationship. Sadly, the author fails to show that the relationship with God must be built on the truth of who He really is, not on our reaction to a sunset or a painting (2). 

Powerful and compelling stories often have deep impact on our lives and our thinking. For this reason, we are careful that our beliefs about who God is and what is right and good are shaped by the regular study of the Word of God. Further, we are mindful of the danger of being molded by media consumption. In the case of The Shack, we must be especially vigilant as truth is mixed so beautifully with deception. 

In Ephesians 4:14-15, Paul urges believers to mature in the faith “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” 

Here are links to more thorough critiques and reflections:

(1) About, The Shack Facebook page, accessed 2017.02.27, https://www.facebook.com/pg/
theshackmovie/about/.

(2) Chuck Colson, “Stay out of The Shack,” Christian Headlines.com, May 8, 2008, http://www.christianheadlines.com/columnists/breakpoint/stay-out-of-the-shack-11575218.html, accessed 2017/02/27.

A Devastating Celebration of Death: Planned Parenthood Turns 100

White crosses - anti abortion protest

On Sunday, October 16, Planned Parenthood celebrated its centennial anniversary. Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading abortion provider, performing over 320,000 abortions in 2014.[1] Planned Parenthood claims “to provide comprehensive reproductive and complementary health care services.”[2] In reality, the intentional killing of so many little ones can hardly be called “health care.”

Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, nearly 60 million abortions have been legally performed in the United States.[3] Stop. Think about that number, nearly 60 million lives. From a biblical perspective, every one of those numbers represents a person, a person with a soul who has been created in God’s very image.

The 2016 Democratic Party platform wholeheartedly supports abortion. In fact, the party has added language that calls for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents direct federal funding of abortion in most cases.[4] In other words, the Democratic Party seeks to force American taxpayers to fund abortion directly. In an interview, CBS’s John Dickerson asked Secretary Clinton if she supported “a federal limit on abortion at any stage of pregnancy.”[5] Secretary Clinton answered that she did not favor the federal limitation of abortion at any stage of pregnancy. She replied, “… this gets back to whether you respect a woman’s right to choose or not.”[6] Obviously, this means that Secretary Clinton supports killing a baby all the way to moments before the baby’s birth.

As Planned Parenthood celebrates 100 years of operation and millions of deaths, as believers we should grieve. Is our country not unlike the peoples surrounding the nation of Israel in the Old Testament who sacrificed babies in pagan worship? We may be much more sophisticated in our killing, but our country can hardly be called less barbaric. Proverbs 14:34 reminds us that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Let’s pray for our country. Pray for repentance and change. Pray for revival in our churches and a great awakening in our nation. Millions of more lives are at stake.

In closing, the words of one pastor echo loudly, “Oh the irony of Planned Parenthood celebrating a birthday…”[7]

[1] David Crary, “Planned Parenthood Celebrates Centennial as Its Foes Bristle,” Associated Press, October 15, 2016, accessed October 18, 2016, http://www.apnewsarchive.com/2016/Planned-Parenthood-s-100th-anniversary-celebrations-this-weekend-come-with-a-sense-of-relief/id-3d213c2cf9f7408e84064d5aa6dd400a.

[2] “Mission,” Planned Parenthood, accessed October 18, 2016, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/mission.

[3] Steven Ertelt, “58,586,256 Abortions in America Since Roe v. Wade in 1973,” LifeNews.com, January 14, 2016, accessed October 18, 2016, http://www.lifenews.com/2016/01/14/58586256-abortions-in-america-since-roe-v-wade-in-1973/.

[4] Bradford Richardson, “Democrats’ Platform at Convention Backs Abortion Funds,” The Washington Times, July 11, 2016, accessed October 18, 2016, http://go.shr.lc/2dLJtLN.

 [5] “Face the Nation Transcripts September 20: Clinton and Paul,” CBS News, September 20, 2015, accessed October 18, 2016, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/face-the-nation-transcripts-september-20-clinton-and-paul/.

 [6] “Face the Nation Transcripts September 20,” CBS News, September 20, 2015.

[7] J. R. Vassar, Twitter post, October 17, 2016 (6:46 a.m.), accessed October 18, 2016, https://twitter.com/jrvassar.

Prayer and the Gospel: Hope in the Midst of America’s Brokenness

Veteran Funeral

Our hearts break as our nation struggles through this difficult time. We hurt for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the police officers who were killed, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarippa. Let’s pray for these families and these communities in their grief.

Unmistakably, our nation faces a difficult time with mounting racial tension and hostility. For believers, it is a time to pray. We need to pray for God to break our own hearts over our sin. We should pray for God to break our hearts over our apathy and spiritual half-heartedness. We should pray for God to move in churches and bring revival. We need to pray that God will move in this nation, bringing a great awakening. We need to pray for our law enforcement and government leaders (1 Tim 2:1-2). Pray for their integrity, wisdom, and protection.

In reality, the true and lasting solution to racial tension and division is the gospel. During the first century, the enmity between Jews and Gentiles was substantial. Yet, through Christ even this division could be overcome. Consider Paul’s words concerning Jesus and reconciliation, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14). In Christ, even the Jews and Gentiles could be made one! If we want to see an America that is united, then we need to share the gospel.

Further, as believers we must model a love for others within our faith family. Jesus told His disciples that the world would recognize them by their love for each other (John 13:35). Unbelievers should be able to look at our church family and see the reality of the life-transforming power of the gospel. Our church family should be a place where we love and care for each other without regard for the color of our skin, socio-economic factors, or any human construct.

In these difficult days, let’s be a people of prayer. Let’s be a people who share the only true and lasting hope for racism and for all sin. Will you pray? Will you tell others about Jesus?

Another Heartbreaking, Death-Imposing Decision from SCOTUS

Law and Order Pillars in the Supreme Court

On Monday in a 5-3 decision, the US Supreme Court struck down parts of Texas House Bill 2, the abortion law that required abortion clinics to meet similar standards as outpatient surgery centers and that required abortionists to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital.[1] This bill sought to prevent the kinds of horrors that were uncovered in the Kermit Gosnell abortion clinic; Gosnell was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder for killing infants born alive and for involuntary manslaughter for the death of a forty-one year old woman.[2]

In line with the dreadful precedent of the Roe v. Wade decision, the court ruled that the bill placed an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion. In 1973, the Supreme Court invented a constitutional right to abortion. Undoubtedly, this week’s court decision strengthens this so-called constitutional right, making restrictions against abortion more difficult to enact.

In truth, the fury for abortion in our day is incredibly ironic. Our society is driven to advance the cause of people deemed vulnerable or oppressed. But what group of people is more vulnerable than these little ones who have absolutely no voice? Moreover, at what point will the logic of abortion lead to the legal killing of infants already born? Sounds crazy, but Peter Singer, a professor at Princeton, openly advances killing infants who are born with some disability if parents so desire.[3] Moreover, Singer has said that he doesn’t want his health insurance to increase to pay for treatment for infants who will have “zero quality of life.”[4]

In abortion, not only does a little one lose a life, but also would-be parents face a lifetime of regret. What about the countless women and men who live with tremendous guilt over a past abortion?

There is a better way. God’s Word reminds us that every person is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Thus, every life from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death has value (Psalm 139:13-15). In today’s secular environment, little ones aren’t the only ones at risk. Laws permitting euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are gaining momentum. At some point, this movement will almost certainly lead not only to a right to die but also ultimately to a duty to die. Undoubtedly, elderly and disabled people will be encouraged to “do the right thing” or policy makers will decide that treatment must be delayed or withheld in light of limited resources.

When we decide that we know better than God, the consequences are always devastating. It is estimated that over 58 million lives have been legally killed in America since 1973.[5] What kind of nation tolerates this kind of killing? Only a people who have forgotten God and who have brazenly rejected His Word. God help us.

 

[1] Adam Liptak, “Supreme Court Strikes Down Texas Abortion Restrictions,” The New York Times (June 27, 2016), accessed June 28, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/28/us/supreme-court-texas-abortion.html.

[2] Sarah Torre, “How Gosnell’s Abortion ‘House of Horrors’ Led to this Week’s Suprememe Court Case,” The Daily Signal (March 1, 2016), accessed June 28, 2016, http://dailysignal.com/2016/03/01/how-gosnells-abortion-house-of-horrors-led-to-this-weeks-supreme-court-case/.

[3] “Peter Singer FAQ,” Princeton University, accessed June 28, 2016, https://www.princeton.edu/~psinger/faq.html.

[4] Jessica Chasmar, “Princeton Bioethics Professor Faces Calls for Resignation over Infanticide Support, The Washington Times (June 16, 2015), accessed June 28, 2016, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jun/16/peter-singer-princeton-bioethics-professor-faces-c/.

[5] Steve Ertelt, “58,586,256 Abortions in America Since Roe v. Wade in 1973,” LifeNews.com (January 14, 2016), accessed June 28, 2016, http://www.lifenews.com/2016/01/14/58586256-abortions-in-america-since-roe-v-wade-in-1973/#.

A Closer Look at the Transgender Movement

Transgender Sign

Introduction
Christians who are committed to a biblical worldview must think carefully about transgender issues as well as how to compassionately minister to those who are transgender. We must remain faithful to a biblical anthropology or a biblical understanding of the nature of humanity.

From a biblical perspective, every person is made in the image of God and is worthy of respect and love. God created people with gender, male and female. In this way, gender is a part of God’s good creation and is meant for human flourishing. Further, every person is broken by sin and in need of the Gospel. The following resources will help you explore these issues and help you better minister to and care for others with Christ’s love.

The Inconsistency of Transgender Logic
The following video illustrates how dramatically our culture’s view of reality has shifted and reveals inconsistency in the logic that drives transgender thinking.

Understanding Transgenderism
This article by Joe Carter gives some basic facts to help you as you think through transgenderism. Of note in this article Carter differentiates between transgender and intersex, “Transgenderism differs from intersex, a variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female. Intersex is a physical condition while transgender is a psychological condition.” Read more.

Glossary of Terms
In this article, Carter defines various terms related to the transgender movement. Carter says, “I’ve provided definitions for 31 terms commonly used by the gender identity movement. This list is not exhaustive (Facebook allows you to choose from more than 70 gender options) but it should help you better understand the linguistic radicalness of the gender identity revolution.” Read more.

The Faulty Logic of the Transgender Movement
In this article, Kevin DeYoung exposes how the logic of the transgender movement is harmful and is unloving. He considers how a school counselor might respond to an underweight teenage girl who sees herself as overweight. From the article, “As Rebecca walks out the door, your first reaction is to feel a deep sense of satisfaction. She left your office feeling better than when she came. That’s what you like to see. It’s always gratifying to have helped a hurting student. And yet, there’s another thought you can’t quite shake. When you think about her rail thin body, and how desperately she needs food, and how everything must change to conform to her reality, you can’t help but wonder: was this really love?” Read more.

Responding to the President’s Edict Regarding Transgender in the Public Schools
In this article, Andrew Walker considers how to respond to the president’s edict requiring public schools and universities to allow biological boys who identify as girls to use girls’ restrooms and locker room facilities and vice versa. Of note, “Above all, let us remember that this debate isn’t about transgender men or women using the restroom of their choice. Instead, the restroom wars are merely a proxy debate for a larger conflict about what it means to be male and female. As Christians, we’re told God created us in His image. God made men and women as equal, but distinct. These distinctions are beautiful, good and a testament to God’s wisdom in creation. Rewriting laws to conform to the spirit of the age cannot rewrite the laws of nature and nature’s God (Psalm 24:1).” Read more.

Harmful Effects of Transgender Ideology on Children
The American College of Pediatrics, a socially conservative pediatric association, argues that transgender ideology is harmful to children. From the article, “When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such.” Read more.

Our Culture’s Hypocrisy Regarding Transgenderism
In the article Kell and Henderson, argue that our culture’s insistence on choosing gender identity does not match what our culture says about a host of other issues. Of particular note in this article, “Is it that we just don’t want someone, anyone, telling us how to live if it goes against what we desire? Do we just want to do what is right in our own eyes? I’m not sure how familiar you are with history, but cultures where everyone did what was right in their own eyes always ended in a pile of rubble. Can we just admit that our desire to do what we want might be driving this brave new world agenda? And is it possible that it is driving it off a cliff?” Read more.

Troubling Questions Regarding Transgenderism
In this article, Trevin Wax considers seven questions that are troubling as one thinks through the transgender movement. Of note, “If the disjunction a transgender person feels between their gender and their body is psychological, why should we recommend invasive surgical procedures to make the body more closely match the mind instead of seeking treatment that might help move the mind closer to the sex they were assigned at birth?” Read more.

Ministering to Your Transgender Neighbor
Denny Burk suggests ten ways to minister to our transgender neighbors. Burk says, “Understand that your transgender neighbor often feels distress over the conflict between their biological sex and their perceived gender identity. There can be a real sense of alienation that they feel from their own body. For some, the experience is quite agonizing. How would you feel if you had to walk a mile in their shoes? We all experience some measure of brokenness due to the fallenness of creation. So we too know what it means to groan (Rom. 8:23). Of all people, that ought to summon forth a compassionate response to our transgender neighbors.” Read more.

How the Gospel Speaks to a Person with Gender Confusion 
In this three part article, Bob Thune explains how he uses the gospel to minister to a person struggling with gender confusion. Thune says, “… you have to get him to delight in Jesus more than money or love or ambition or control or self-interest. The only way to do that is to constantly remind him of his deep brokenness and sinfulness – the “bad news” of the gospel – so that he despairs of his own efforts, and then to constantly rejoice in the powerful grace of God through the cross – the “good news” of the gospel – so that he deeply feels and believes God’s radical love for him.” Read more.

Ministering to a Transgender Person Who Wants to Follow Christ 
In this article, Russell Moore considers how a church might minister to a man who had identified as a woman and who had undergone surgery and hormone treatment to transition to a woman.  Of note, “The first issue is the gospel. Christ Jesus came to save sinners. He offered up his life as a sacrifice, and his bloody cross and empty tomb are enough to reconcile any broken person, including this one, to God. We should abandon any sense of revulsion because Joan’s situation is “weird” or “perverted.” All sin is weird and perverted. The fact any of it (especially our own) seems “normal” to us is part of why we need the gospel.” Read more.

Considering the Implications of the Transgender Decree

President

The sexual revolution that began in the 1960s continues with almost breathtaking velocity. On Friday, the president issued a decree that requires all public schools to permit students to utilize the restroom or locker room according to their gender identity [1]. If public schools are indeed required to conform to the president’s order, biological boys will be able to use girls’ restrooms and change in girls’ locker rooms and vice versa. One wonders where the sexual revolution will lead next.

The implications of such a policy are troubling at many levels. Of course, privacy and safety are obvious concerns. If this policy moves forward, and it most likely will at least eventually, we have to recognize the powerful influence these kinds of policies will have on shaping our children’s understanding and thinking about identity and sexuality.

From a biblical perspective, gender is a good gift from God and is a part of God’s plan for creating stable families and nurturing the next generation (Genesis 1:27, 28; 2:24). When a biblical understanding of gender and the family breaks down, the result is brokenness and pain at an individual level and ultimately instability at a societal level.

How did we get to this place? The answer can be found in Genesis 3. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, all of creation and every human heart were broken by sin. Thus, struggles with identity and gender are reality in a fallen world. The answer is not to abandon the Bible’s teaching on the nature of humanity and sexuality. Instead, we must compassionately point people to the Gospel, to the hope and healing that are found in Christ and in Christian community.

As the culture continues down the path of the sexual revolution, Christian parents must recognize that a secular understanding of human nature and sexuality are almost certainly going to be persuasive to our children. Consequently, we must be intentional in teaching and training our children in a biblical understanding of human nature and sexuality. Are you intentionally discipling your children?

Also, for those who are married, we must model a God-honoring relationship with our spouse. A godly family will be compelling to our children. Finally, each one of us must love Jesus in a way that our children see the reality of the Gospel and Christ’s work in our lives. This kind of genuine faith that is lived out before our children is critical in passing a love for Christ and commitment to God’s Word to the next generation.

[1] Julie Hirschfeld Davis And Matt Apuzzo, “U.S. Directs Public Schools to Allow Transgender Access to Restrooms,” New York Times, May 12, 2016. 

Considering What “Marriage Equality” Will Really Mean

Happyness of three couples

Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding the definition of marriage. The Court is expected to render a decision on June 26. Based on the Court’s recent actions and inaction, it is likely that the Court will declare a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. However, we want to continue praying for God’s mercy in this matter.

Some will ask, “Why do you care? Why not allow two adults who love each other to be married?” That argument sounds reasonable, right? However, consider the logical conclusions of this argument, and you’ll quickly discover that there is no stopping place. In other words, if marriage is no longer defined as a relationship between one man and one woman with the obvious biological realties connected to procreation, then marriage can and eventually will mean anything.

To put it another way, if a loving, same-sex couple can be married, why not a “throuple” or three-some in their meaningful, loving relationship? Or why not four? Could a father marry his adult son? Could widows and widowers group together in various arrangements, marrying to share social security and savings?[1] And the list goes on. If marriage is severed from the biological realities associated with procreation, there will be no end to innovation. What does marriage equality mean in these contexts?

If marriage is redefined, then marriage ultimately loses all meaning. Rampant divorce and the culture of cohabitation have already done irreparable harm to children and families. The redefinition of marriage will be another momentous step away from the stability of family structure. Why do we care? Love of neighbor compels us to care. Marriage was instituted by God to provide a healthy context for the nurture and instruction of children (Genesis 1.27-28, Ephesians 6.4). When we abandon God’s good provision, children will suffer. Ultimately, society as a whole suffers as the structure and stability of family gives way.

Anderson, George, and Girgis are exactly right, “Marriage plays a fundamental role in civil society because it is characterized by sexual complementarity, monogamy, exclusivity, and permanence. These marriage norms encourage men and women to commit permanently and exclusively to each other and take responsibility for their children.”[2]

Am I a bigot and mean-hearted for praying and hoping that the Court will not take this next step in furthering the erosion of the family? That’s certainly what I’d be called by many people. As believers we must remain faithful to God’s Word even when it feels awkward as it certainly does in today’s cultural climate. God’s Word and love of neighbor compel us to remain steadfast even in the face of opposition. Will you join me in praying for God’s mercy in this matter? God can change the hearts of kings (Proverbs 21.1). Perhaps, He will.

[1]Hadley Arkes, “The Jujitsu of Same-Sex Marriage: One Last Surge of Reflection for the Court,” First Things, April 14, 2015.

[2]Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (New York: Encounter Press, 2012).

A Sad Song of Human Depravity: Reflections on Racism and the Hope of the Gospel

AdobeStock_23844565.jpeg

On Sunday and Monday, a couple of videos surfaced of members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity from the campus of the University of Oklahoma singing racist lyrics. In these two short clips, the young men chant that you can hang them from a tree but pledge that no African American will be a member of SAE [1]. Of course, their language is coarse and offensive. It is disheartening and difficult to imagine that young men in 2015 could joyfully chant about the lynching of African Americans.

This awful song points to an ugly reality. Human sinfulness is far-reaching. Our wicked hearts can lead us to the worst and most cruel behavior. Amidst attempts by our culture to right the awful wrongs of our nation’s past, these shocking videos reveal that racism is persistent, and it ultimately points to the fact that we need a cure that gets to the very heart of a person.

Truly, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only cure for our terrible depravity. He is the One who changes sinful hearts and brings true reconciliation among people. In New Testament times, there was often hostility between Jews and Gentiles. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul taught that the blood of Christ could eliminate hostility between the Jews and Gentiles, paving the way for true reconciliation.

Consider these powerful words from Paul’s letter, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph 2.14-16 ESV).

What do these verses teach us? The true remedy for human sinfulness, a sinfulness that can bring the worst kind of hostility is found in Jesus. Through the cross, our deep-seated sin can be forgiven and transformed, and we can be reconciled to one another!

Where is the one place on earth where true harmony among diverse people should be seen most clearly? It is in the church where we share this wonderful, heart-transforming, reconciling grace. We all have this in common. We are really sinful, and we really need Jesus! If we can understand that, we can get along. The blood of Christ really does unite us.

May this sad song of human depravity remind us of our great need for Jesus. And may we take hope as one day these sad songs will give way to a beautiful and glorious song. On that day, people from every tribe and tongue will gather around the throne of God in one, united voice, offering a splendid song of worship to our Savior and King (Rev 7:9-12). Won’t it be a glorious Day!

[1] Manny Fernandez and Richard Pérez-Peña, “Fraternity Is Closed Over Video With Slurs,” New York Times, March 9, 2015.