It's Good Work If You Can Get It
I read last week that our United States Congress is seen as one of our most dysfunctional institutions, so it probably doesn’t help that our annual General Assembly (G.A.) functions like the Congress of our denomination. But it is. I am headed to Dallas for the week to gather with pastors and ministry leaders from all over to reflect on our health and strategize for the coming year.
Among ministry reports from every area, this year we will almost surely address the increasing tensions over sexual identity and what our culture celebrates (while angels weep). At the center is a particular case in Missouri where a pastor has acknowledged that he is same-sex attracted and has been almost his whole life, while he is resolved to live faithfully for Jesus (and you can read his story here). To some in our denomination, this is a trigger point for outrage – that “this man has to be removed as a pastor.” And others hear him as a faithful man confessing his internal struggles while he works diligently to remain sexually pure and faithful in ministry. You need to know that this will likely be the only thing that gets reported from G.A. And I expect that some churches will leave our denomination over this.
This is hard! So how do we respond? We want to measure everything by God’s Word and by how Jesus has led us in the Gospel, that there is both Truth and Grace (see John 1:14). We believe in real standards and hope for anyone who repents. We believe there is a true right and wrong by virtue of God’s good design and we believe that Jesus saves anyone who trusts in Him (Romans 1:16-17). We acknowledge our wrongs and trust Jesus to change what we cannot change (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
This is key: many in our time and culture want to exalt one or the other: to either elevate Truth (without Grace) or to lift up Grace (without Truth). The social and political Right wants to emphasize morality and deny mercy to any who “sin.” The Left emphasizes acceptance of all denying that there are any standards. But by God’s Word we want to be faithful to hold onto both at the same time. Jesus says to the Left, there is a true design; there is right, and sin is destructively wrong. And Jesus says to the Right, “No one is righteous; I offer mercy and hope for anyone who repents.”
I hope you hear that the Gospel is a 3rd thing, neither essentially Right or Left, and greater than both.
What can you do right now? 1) Pray. 2) Repent of your own capacities to deny Truth and Grace. 3) Do not believe everything you read in the press – whether from the right or the left. Listen carefully and think biblically. And 4) rejoice that there are men and women in our church who have come from same-sex attracted backgrounds who have found both Truth and Grace in Jesus. They literally embody hope for our time and generation – and possibly even for our denomination.
Things to pray for:
- Clarity. Ask the Father to give us a profound sense of clarity as a denomination. Pray that the Holy Spirit would give us insight and wisdom to live faithfully in our generation.
- Faithfulness. Give thanks to the LORD for how He has blessed us immeasurably, and ask Him to bear in us the fruit of faithfulness (see Galatians 5:22-23).
- Courage in the face of criticism. Almost no one will be completely pleased with what is decided at G.A. so please pray that the Father will help us to have clear convictions from His Word and the courage to live them out graciously.