What is the problem with America? If you ask Phil Robertson (which GQ’s Drew Magary actually did here) he would say that America was founded on Christian values and morality. That we have strayed to the point that right and wrong are not clear but blurry and that now “sin becomes fine.”
Most of you have seen (ad nauseum) what Phil said after this. Magary asked him what is sin and here is Phil’s response:
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
Now, Phil said some other rather inappropriate things about both anatomy of males and females and comments regarding civil rights movement. But for this blog I am sticking to the quotes above; not because the other quotes are unimportant but because from my point of view this statement reveals the most about the issue from several different sides. You can see what “pushed people’s buttons” so to speak.
It got me thinking…
1. Intolerance is the new Tolerance
Clearly, there are limitations to tolerance. Apparently we are only tolerant of people who share our convictions. Therefore, A&E and the majority of America will not tolerate a “Bible-thumper” from backwoods Louisiana who is outspoken on his view of morality because it doesn’t jive with theirs. Yet, just as clear, Robertson supporters are intolerant of A&E for deciding what to do with an individual they are under contract with. Christians are instructed by God to be intolerant about a few things: oppression of the widows, orphans and poor. Beyond those things we are not instructed to be “intolerant” or “tolerant.” We are instructed to love God, love our neighbors and love our enemies.
2. As Christians we cry “Foul” instead of “Rejoice”
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of various kinds, for your know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3
When we see a Christian oppressed in America, we are quick to cry “foul!” or “ridiculous!” We are shocked! Why? What’s worse is that we are offended when an unbelieving world rejects…our morality. What’s amazing here is that we (1) count this as a major trial, and (2) we are offended when people who don’t trust the Bible as God’s word don’t believe it is accurate, and worst of all (3) our message is typically moral in scope (more on this in #4). We should stop screaming “foul” and start, even sometimes through tears, cry “rejoice.”
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 1 Peter 4:12-14
3. Boldness over Boycotts
In the Bible’s book of Acts, chapters 3-4, we see Peter and John censored by the local government. Their response should give a lot of us pause. Shortly after the Spirit of God filled the earliest Christ followers Peter and John were heading towards the temple and found a lame person at entrance. Although he was asking for money Peter and John gave him something better. They healed him. After this they went in and preached to the crowd that it was faith in Jesus’ name that healed the man. Immediately they were thrown in jail for uttering the name of the crucified and resurrected Messiah. The religious leaders told them to no longer speak about this Jesus guy. Peter and John told them they couldn’t follow this command of theirs. During their imprisonment the apostles didn’t complain about their rights or how unfair this ruling was. Upon their release we have no record of a boycott. Instead they met with the other apostles and Christians, explained what happened, and prayed for…boldness. They didn’t pray for anyone’s demise or gossip about how terrible the leaders were. They just prayed for God to give them more boldness to speak the gospel.
Which leads me to:
4. The biggest problem with America is not how much homosexuality, idolatry, adultery or debauchery there is. The biggest problem with America is how little preaching there is of the real Jesus and his gospel.
When Phil is listing the list of sin from 1 Corinthians 6 in GQ he is listing me and he is listing you. Maybe we are not all homosexuals? Maybe we are not all adulterers. Maybe we are not all involved in debauchery. Maybe we are not all sleeping with multiple women or men.
But we are all idolators.
John Calvin, the great French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation, said, “the human heart is an idol factory… Every one of us from our mother’s womb is an expert at inventing idols.” We may not bow down to a stone idol or a Buddha statue but we put something in God’s rightful place of worship in our hearts. We worship football, our spouse, our children, our parents, our jobs, our hobbies, our “freedom”, etc. We worship food, comfort, sex and relationships. We worship these things by placing them at ultimate importance; ultimate even over God our creator and to the determent of those around us. As Paul says in Romans 1, “We worship creation instead of the Creator, who is blessed forever.” And as Paul makes clear in Romans 1, it’s this replacement of God in our hearts with all of these other things, some even good things like family, that ultimately cause degeneration of society and the human heart. The sins listed in 1 Corinthians 6 are not the root of the problem they are the symptoms of the deeper problem of misplaced worship.
As I read in a blog this week by Sam Rhodes titled “Why Satan Loved 7th Heaven more than Breaking Bad”, the great Presbyterian preacher Donald Barnhouse, who served in Philadelphia, was once asked what he thought it would look like if Satan took complete control of a city. His response was insightful. It may surprise you. I probably would surprise Phil Robertson. His response:
All of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” and churches would be full every Sunday…where Christ is not preached.
You see, when we try to make Christianity’s message about morality we offer nothing of life change. Don’t get me wrong Scripture clearly teaches that there is a certain way God’s people are to live. But God’s people are to live in a way that brings him glory because he has made us a new creature. He has made us a people to show that living under his rule and reign is good and life giving. Christians are reborn into new life.
This is all done by God’s grace towards us through Jesus. Grace doesn’t make all of our actions perfect. At least not in this lifetime. But grace does make us approved before God as though we are perfect because Jesus was perfect and took our place.
Yet even after all of that good news Christians still remove God from the throne of our hearts at times. But his Spirit within us turns us back to him. This makes him more glorious and us more humble.
One day, Jesus will return to make all things new and restore all things. He will also end all rebellion at that time. The difference between who will be a part of God’s family at the time of consummation and who won’t is not about morality. It’s about Jesus and whether you are his and he is yours. The good news: you can be his by grace.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10
So, give up your pursuit of morality and pursue Jesus. Then grace will change you from the inside out so actually CAN walk in the good works God has prepared for you in Jesus. That’s good news!