Unborn babies bear God’s image. It is His sanctity that makes them holy, not their own. It is not their genetic background, their capacity to feel pain, their wide open futures, their potential capabilities that makes them imbued with dignity and value. It isn’t their relative moral innocence, but the image of God, graciously given to all, no matter the circumstances of their conception, no matter their viability, no matter the relative development of their organs.
Because we need it. I mean that in two ways. First, we have a hard time grasping grace because we are sinners, and sin begins with pride. All of us, from the most pious saint to the most egregious sinner have within us a little Pelagius. We think ourselves, even when our lips confess otherwise, essentially good. Sure, we sin, who doesn’t? But by any reasonable standard, we think in the secret places of our hearts, we’d pass the test. Those other people, the ones who score below us on the test, they’re the ones in need of grace. And of course, those who score higher than us, they’re the self-righteous ones. If only everyone were like me, recognizing my own lack of perfection, but striving to do well, well then, the world would be a happy place.
There’s been a great deal of conversation and consternation of late over issues that are largely symbolic–and when I say symbolic I don’t mean to denigrate them. But we have this idea that symbols because they are “just symbols” don’t really matter…until some symbol impacts us.
It has been for many years now part of the regular liturgy of the church where I serve to pray through the 10 Commandments. The pastor reads a command and the congregation replies, “Lord, have mercy and incline our hearts to keep this Your law.” Time then is set aside for members of the congregation to pray more specifically about these sins before moving on to the next. You could expect prayers against our propensity to turn wealth into an idol, prayers asking for protection for the integrity of our marriages, prayers confessing our unjust wrath against our brother, or our failure to labor more diligently to rescue the unborn.
A great deal would depend on what that someone had to say first. The most important question is, is this person repentant. To such a one I would encourage them to remember that Jesus suffered the wrath of God that was due to us for our sins, that those who rest in the finished work of Christ are not only forgiven, but that their sins have been removed from them as far as the east is from the west, that they are not only forgiven but immutably and infinitely loved of their Father, who because of Christ loves them as much as He loves His Son.
First, that it be a church. The Reformers argued that there are three distinguishing marks of the church- the Word, sacraments and discipline. That means your campus ministry isn’t the church; your podcasts are not the church; your family sitting around the table is not the church. But it also means that those institutions claiming to be the church that lack these things are not the church. If a church refuses to exercise discipline, excommunicating the unrepentant of gross and heinous sins, it’s not a church.
It’s a story I tell often, though it is embarrassing to me. I was a young man and came up with what I believed to be a brilliant idea. It was the height of the Steeler’s dynasty. I loved the Steelers, (and still do) and loved Jesus (and still do.) So I figured out a plan to serve them both. “Lord,” I prayed, “if you will make me an all-pro wide receiver for the Steelers, I will be able to do great things for the kingdom. When I catch the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl I will point heavenward to you. When the reporters ask me if I’m going to Disney World I’ll tell them I’m going to church. In the locker room I’ll give all glory to you.” Great plan huh? But God didn’t bless me with any of the physical gifts I would need. So I came…
How should churches acknowledge singles to help them feel equally valued as members of the congregation? By calling them, along with the marrieds, to repent and believe the gospel. I’m beginning, but just beginning to get some of the social challenges that come with being single. When you speak, no matter how innocuously to a single woman, you have to worry she fears you may be hitting on her. When you speak with married couples sometimes they fear to talk about married life. I don’t want to diminish the hardship. I do, however, want to suggest that such questions mean little to the work and calling of the church. The church has a call to deal with people as people. Each of us, parent and child, married and single, man and woman, tall and short, do not have our final identity in those distinctions, but in Christ. What I need…
While the Christians who went to their deaths under the empire of Rome died for their faith, I fear they did not die for our faith. First, we must understand what Rome had against these saints. Part of the genius of the Roman empire was their “broad-mindedness.” They did not roll into town after their phalanxes had left not one brick upon another and rebuild from scratch. Instead it was their habit to assimilate. As they did with the Pharisees, they cut a deal. We will rule over you, but you can, by and large, keep doing what you were doing. Keep your temple. Worship there. Keep your traditions, your way of life. All we ask of you is that you pay your taxes, acknowledge our authority, and then this one other little thing- we need you to acknowledge that Caesar is Lord. Burn a pinch of incense, bow the…
Friday’s Supreme Court decision, though not much of a surprise, is distressing, disheartening and disgusting. Even the most adamant defender of so called “gay rights” ought to at least affirm that the decision is fundamentally flawed, driven by judicial overreach, and by any sane reading of the Constitution, unconstitutional. It has, nevertheless, been decided. How state and local governments ought to respond is an important question. How local churches and the church as the church ought to respond is an important question. But today I would like to make some suggestions for believers as believers. What should we do? The same thing we do every day.