No public safe zone for disagreeing with gay lifestyle

simple-300x388Once again there is no public safe zone for disagreeing with the gay lifestyle. If you doubt it, just ask the Benham brothers or Miami Dolphins safety, Don Jones.

It’s pure craziness that a citizen of America cannot publicly state his belief that marriage is meant for male and female without risking accusations of hate and bigotry? Citizens are only safe to publicly endorse gay lifestyles and homosexuals can publicly say whatever they want about their private sexual preferences. 

It’s even more crazy to think that all of this is being promoted based on the false premise that being gay is equal with one’s race. Are sexual preferences and acts really unalterable? Are we unable to ask people to restrain sexual desires and acts? We certainly can’t ask people of race to stop being the race they were born with. 

Let’s be honest about the manipulative agenda behind this false comparison and where it’s leading us. If we make sexual choices of individuals civil-rights comparable to race and gender, we’ll open a social and legal Pandora’s box. Citizens will not be permitted to morally oppose homosexual behavior without risking accusations of discrimination, hate and racism. Federal law will be used against the freedoms of Americans who believe and teach a different view of marriage and sexuality.

It’s foolish to treat sexual preferences as equivalent with race or gender. There is no conclusive scientific evidence that supports such a comparison. But the comparison is what feeds accusations of bigotry, hate and legal claims of discrimination. I know many people who are morally opposed to homosexuality but are not at all discriminatory or hateful toward those who choose a different sexual lifestyle. I am one of them.

We must expose this false comparison as a manipulative threat to civility and liberty. It also runs the risk of creating a counter group who could claim discrimination against their freedoms to believe and teach their own morality. Where will this path lead us as a nation? Where is it leading us now? Ask the Benham brothers and NFL player, Don Jones.

If someone dares to publicly say that he does not agree with gay marriage, he is likely to be reprimanded and possibly ostracized. We can trash Tim Tebow for his faith all day without consequence, but we dare not say anything about Michael Sam’s preference for sex with men. We are being socially coerced to remain silent when homosexuals openly flaunt their sexual preferences. Perhaps Michael Sam will be an “uncuttable” player on a team too afraid of risking accusations of hate and bigotry. 

Those who oppose gay marriage on moral grounds are now being subjected to discrimination and exclusion in ways that will only promote anger in a free nation. To deny people their freedoms and falsely accuse them of hateful motivations only causes civil unrest.

Those who take a different view on homosexual behavior are now the targets of condescending ridicule, hate speech, name-calling and scornful ad hominem. This behavior is a violation of the kind of civil debate we need in democratic process. It’s also coercion and manipulation of the worst kind.

If you oppose gay marriage, you’re told that you have irrational phobias; that you’re a hate-monger, bigot and guilty of discrimination. Why do people allow this kind of school-yard bullying to scare them into acquiescing to a militant agenda to force one sexual lifestyle on the vast majority of Americans?

Teaching people to treat each other with respect is a better alternative to forced affirmation. Tolerance is about treating others with respect when you disagree with them. Telling people they’re not permitted to disagree about moral lifestyles is coercion, not tolerance.

It’s ironic how intolerance and bigotry once wrongly shown toward people who prefer a gay lifestyle is now aimed at anyone who dares to morally disagree with homosexual lifestyles.

We must see through the manipulation and slanderous accusations being used against those who take a different view of sexuality and marriage. Let’s courageously stand for our convictions and send a strong message that we won’t put up with the absurd and irrational political correctness being forced on us.

This isn’t about the rights of consenting adults to do what they desire sexually. We all have those rights — equally shared by all Americans. This is about an arrogant insistence that the entire nation conform to the sexual choices of two percent of the people. 

Steve Cornell

 See: “Sexual preference or Sexual orientation?

Two versions of reality

I. Reality without God

If there is no personal Creator, our existence is most certainly a cosmic accident. We exist by chance, not by design or purpose. If this is an accurate accounting for our existence, several facts follow:

  1. All our notions of ultimate meaning and purpose are based on wishful thinking and irrational fantasy.
  2. There is no final morality; no right or wrong; no transcendent morality. Morals are simply matters of personal or societal opinion or preference. The so-called problem of evil cannot be addressed and cannot (on rational grounds) really be called a problem.
  3. Death is both the irreversible cessation of organismic functioning and the irreversible loss of personhood. There is no hope of anything outside of this life. Apart from the existence of a Creator, we exist by chance in a deterministic universe governed by raw natural selection.

If this is the true version of reality, I guess we just need to get on with it until it’s over — doing our best to reduce the misery and increase the pleasure. But why then do humans everywhere throughout all of history intuitively sense that this is not the case? Why do we have this pervasive longing for meaning, morality and destiny?

II. Reality with God

If, on the other hand, there is a Creator, a personal God who made us male and female in His image, then at least three truths follow:

  1. Life has value, meaning and dignity beyond the limitation of human opinion.
  2. Personal identity, human freedom and responsibility become genuine markers of our daily existence. We have been endowed by our Creator with these qualities.
  3. The transcendent (which we intuitively sense) elevates us out of the despair of human relativism and the limitations of human inquiry.

“Where is there a hope large enough truly to overcome death? Where is there hope sufficiently encompassing to enable us to know that all our pain and suffering has not been in vain? How do we bring together the contrary oracles (raised in Ecclesiastes) concerning both the vanity of everything and the eternity that God has placed in our hearts?”

“Human beings need to orient their lives by means of some sort of comprehensive perspective that helps them comprehend life’s particulars. Our profound yearning can be met only by a spacious narrative, personal enough to help us find our particular place in it and enduring enough to make that place significant.”

“The Biblical chronicle of the Triune God is the perfect narrative to empower us to envision the meaning of our lives. The Scriptures enable us to discern our most profound longings expressed or not, to name who human beings are and what we want to do, to fathom even more clearly who God is, and to perceive how all these things connect. It is a meta-narrative large enough, thorough enough, and promising enough to give us the hope we need to live courageously in the midst of an unbalanced, technologically driven, co-modification-distorted world.”

“The Bible offers a grandly sweeping meta-narrative. That is one of the thrills of reading Scriptures, for they paint an account of God’s action on our behalf from the beginning of the world to the culmination of God’s purposes in the recapitulation of the cosmos.” (Marva J. Dawn, Unfettered Hope: A Call to Faithful Living in an affluent Society)

See: Why I follow a Christian worldview

Steve Cornell

Mocking the Bible

Have you ever heard someone ridicule the Bible based on strange laws from the Old Testament? How should you respond?

The mocker who does this belittles those who look to Scripture by pointing to such “obviously ridiculous requirements” found in it. But the mocker also discredits the Bible to avoid what it says against a way of life or particular behavior he or she desires.

Consistent with the way mockers are described it the book of Proverbs, these people speak and act as if they know better than others and as if they are superior. 

Mockers typically belittle laws from Old Testament books like Leviticus or Deuteronomy. They wrongly suggest that those who follow the God of Scripture today are obligated to obey these laws along with everything else in Scripture. 

Leviticus 19 is a common portion mockers use. Since they are looking at Scripture with an agenda, they overlook the many laws in this chapter that could make any community of sinful people a better and safer place. For example, before getting to the “ridiculous” laws, we find this list from Leviticus 19:

  • 11 “Do not steal. “Do not deceive or cheat one another.
  • 12 “Do not bring shame on the name of your God by using it to swear falsely. I am the Lord.
  • 13 “Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. “Do not make your hired workers wait until the next day to receive their pay.
  • 14 “Do not insult the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. You must fear your God; I am the Lord.
  • 15 “Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly.
  • 16 “Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people. “Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is threatened. I am the Lord.
  • 17 “Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives. Confront people directly so you will not be held guilty for their sin.
  • 18 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. (NLT)

Would you prefer to live among people who followed these laws or rejected them? Please don’t overlook the sad but honest fact about humans that we need lists of “don’ts.” Without laws like this we tend to sabotage ourselves and ruin all good and safe community. Every orderly and civil society must have such rules.

Most societies also have laws that seem unnecessary or pointless. This is how many feel about some of the laws in the rest of Leviticus 19. For example,

  • 19 “Do not mate two different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two different kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven from two different kinds of thread.
  • 27 “Do not trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards.
  • 28 “Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord. (NLT)

Seven Guidelines

Seven things should be understood by those who follow Scripture and those who mock it.

  1. The laws in the Old Testament were not originally given for us to follow as God’s will for our lives. They were required of God’s people during Old Testament history to distinguish them as they lived in very dangerous and bizarre ancient near eastern cultures (see: Misreading the Bible).
  2. We don’t understand all of the reasons why God gave some of the laws but we know that those times were exceptionally evil and bizarre and the laws served a larger purpose of distinguishing God’s people from the nations around them. And God (as the law giver) was not subject to the questions or disagreements from sinful creatures about His law. 
  3. The Old Testament was never intended to be a complete or perfect expression of God’s will. It was provisionally set for a specific purpose at a set time. It pointed to and anticipated a new covenant that would be superior to and replacement of the old covenant (see: A truth we must accept).
  4. Those who follow the Bible should not quote laws directed to Israel as God’s will for people today. We should not look to detailed legislation in Leviticus to guide us as we follow Christ.
  5. We only apply Old Testament Scripture to our lives if it is affirmed and taught by Jesus and the apostles. Jesus is the fulfillment of the entire Old Testament (Matthew 5:18-20). (see: Christ is the end of the Law )
  6. Mockers speak with a degree of hypocrisy because they hold to standards (even the one they’re using to discredit Scripture) and expect everyone else to accept the reasonableness of their ethical code.
  7. The primary thing that the Old Testament law teaches us is how sinful we are and how much we need God’s grace through Christ to be forgiven and accepted by God.

Consider the strong emphasis in the book of Galatians on the inadequacy of the law for being made right with God

______________________________________________________________________

  • Galatians 2:16 – “For we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” (NLT)
  • Galatians 2:21 – “For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” (NLT)
  • Galatians 3:10-11 – “But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” 11 So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. (NLT)
  • Galatians 3:13-14 – “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (NLT)
  • Galatians 3:23-26 – “Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. 24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. 26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)
  • Galatians 4:1-7 – “Think of it this way. If a father dies and leaves an inheritance for his young children, those children are not much better off than slaves until they grow up, even though they actually own everything their father had. 2 They have to obey their guardians until they reach whatever age their father set. 3 And that’s the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world. But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” (NLT)

Steve Cornell

Syria, Abortion and Hypocrisy

During his speech on Syria, President Barack Obama appealed to those he called his “friends on the left,” saying, “I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain, and going still on a cold hospital floor. For sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.” 

The president also said, “America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

On one level, I understand that we live in a world where international safety might require measures of accountability between nations. We must not allow our weariness with war to make us complacent to the dangers in the world. Admittedly, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were partly based on misguided idealism about our ability to export democracy to the Middle East. But let’s not exchange this idealism for some kind of delusional isolationism. 

Whether we like it or not, we are living in a global community. Advanced capabilities in warfare like long-range missiles and chemical and nuclear power require us to be global in our concerns. The U.S. also is the most powerful nation in the world and with that power comes responsibility. 

I regret living in a world where we sometimes have to kill people to restrain evil. I also find it morally unsustainable to stand idly by while people are being tortured and unjustly killed. Sometimes, aggressive violence must be stopped by principled force. 

In his book, “Love in Hard Places,” D. A. Carson raises important questions: “Where an enemy is perpetuating its horrible holocaust, is it not an act of love that intervenes, even militarily, to prevent that holocaust if a nation has the power to do so? And is not restraint in such cases a display, not of loving pacifism, but of lack of love — of the unwillingness to sacrifice anything for the sake of others?”

Yet, on another level, it’s a bit difficult for me to think of America as the moral leader when it comes to the safety of children. How can we argue for the safety of children from chemical attack in another country when (especially among those on the left) we fiercely defend the legal right to abort millions of babies in this country? 

Some will likely take issue with this comparison, but no matter what title you use for the occupant of a mother’s womb, it’s a human life with the potential of becoming a mature human being. It’s an indisputably verifiable fact that the life of the fetus is more than a “product” of conception. Abortion does not merely terminate a pregnancy; it terminates the life of a baby. 

If you have children, look closely at them and remind yourself that had you chosen to abort any of them at any point from conception to birth, you would have ended the life of the child. Induced abortion is the deliberate destruction of an unborn child.

If you’re unconvinced or offended by my comparison, at least do some research on what happens in an abortion. Induced abortion is the premature expulsion of a human fetus through surgical or chemical means. More than 90 percent of induced abortions are performed for nonmedical reasons. The large majority of surgical abortions are performed during the seventh through 10th week of pregnancy. By this time, a baby’s heartbeat, arms, legs and fingers are identifiable.

The thought of a mother’s womb becoming a baby’s death chamber is unconscionable. In a country where the laws allow abortion, should we expect to be viewed as a moral leader in protecting innocent children in other parts of the world? 

Perhaps the humility and resolve President Obama mentioned should start with our own nation. Jesus gave some excellent advice for all of us to follow when he said: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). 

Steven W. Cornell is senior pastor at Millersville Bible Church. He is also a correspondent for Lancaster Newspapers Inc

7 point strategy to redefine sexuality and marriage

Since the Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage, the topic has been headline news.

Although a majority of Americans do not favor gay marriage, many believe that the institution of marriage will be redefined. They believe that the historic position of our nation (and of human history) will be rejected as a relic of ignorance and bigotry.

A number of years ago, I suggested that legalization of gay marriage as a civil right will open a legal Pandora’s box throughout the nation. When I said this at an Open Forum, a visiting law professor rejected my assertion. She was then countered by a highly recognized lawyer in the audience who listed cases currently in the courts that validated my concerns.    

Earlier this year, I stated that it would be more politically and legally amendable and create less social unrest if the gay community said, “All we want is marriage and the benefits that come with it. We are not asking for civil rights status as a minority group along the lines of racial identity.  We are not asking for businesses and Churches to be forced to affirm gay marriage. We are not asking for curriculum changes at the schools to include gay marriage and families.”

Instead of this approach, we’re seeing growing number of lawsuits aimed at those who hold religious convictions against gay marriage (See: Bakery Owners and Price of Citizenship). Religious freedoms of Americans are under attack.

Gay activists are determined to force the public to bow to the sexual preferences of a very small percentage of our population. If they are successful, people will not be permitted to teach the historical view of our nation and the view Jesus taught that marriage is a gift from God for male and female (Matthew 19:4-6). If you hold this view, you’ll be forced into public silence or threatened with the accusation of discrimination.

We must remind ourselves of the explicit and deceptive strategy that has been used to change public opinion. Beyond media efforts to normalize the homosexual lifestyle, the public has been subjected to an endless manipulation of words and ideas to promote the sexual lifestyle chosen by those who prefer same gender sex.

The seven points below survey the distortions of truth used to change the way the public thinks about sexuality and marriage. My purpose in exposing this agenda is not to force my beliefs on others or to suggest that I am more righteous.  

I offer this to expose manipulation and deception and to encourage discernment and rational dialogue. 

The strategy has seven key tactics

  1. Use the language of civil rights: Associate gay rights with battles for racial and gender equality. Claim that a desire for homosexual sex is an inborn condition, not a choice. Assume that a gullible and ignorant public will fall for the false comparison. Repeatedly mention gays and lesbians as if talking about Asians and African Americans or men and women. Associate opposition to gay marriage with intolerance and prejudice.
  2. Use the language of hate and irrational fear: Convince the public that those who speak against gay marriage are racist haters who hold irrational phobias. Those who do not support homosexual behavior must be considered homophobic and hateful bigots. Make them out to be irrational religious fanatics who destroy civility. Deceive the public into thinking that opponents of gay marriage are dangerous people who cling to bigoted ancient laws of a by-gone era.
  3. Expose heterosexual hypocrisy: Talk often about how marriage as an institution has failed. Make Christians appear to be hypocritically unconcerned about their own marriage crisis in order to silence them on opposition to gay marriage. Use the divorce crisis among heterosexuals to make a case for allowing gays to participate in marriage.
  4. Use the language of justice: Make those who oppose gay marriage appear to be unfair perpetrators of injustice. Make them out to be selfish for wanting to keep marriage for themselves and denying loving people the opportunities to have the same rights and freedoms other people enjoy.
  5. Use the language of religion: Connect gay rights to religious freedom and claim God’s approval of gay relationships. Manipulate people into thinking that religion should only be about love and tolerance. Although every major faith for most of history denounced homosexual behavior, convince people that it’s the view of only a radical fringe group of fundamentalists.
  6. Play the victim card: Use every crime or death that can be connected in any measure to homosexuality in order to make it appear that homosexuals need special laws to protect them from violence. Lure people to believe that outspoken opposition to gay marriage incites hate and violence. This will especially play on the gullibility of Christians and silence them.
  7. Use judicial coercion: Since State after State has approved constitutional amendments to protect traditional marriage, we must bully them into acceptance of gay marriage by judicial force. In Massachusetts four justices unilaterally imposed their acceptance of gay marriage on the entire state (even though surveys indicated that the majority of residents did not favor gay marriage).

These tactics have been used to pressure the public to embrace homosexual lifestyles. Our country has been deceptively coerced to create special status for the kind of sex desired by a very small percentage of citizens.

Those who prefer homosexuality are free as consenting adults to engage in the behavior in every state of this country. If treated wrongfully for their choices, they have the same laws to protect them that cover the rest of society. But a radical redefinition of the institution of marriage and family will cause significant social unrest in this nation.

Are we really prepared to make the kind of sex people desire a civil right? This is not about discrimination because discrimination (of the civil rights kind) injures people for what they are by nature not for the sex they desire.

Steve Cornell

(see: Tolerance as a strategy, not a virtue)

We Serve No Sovereign Here

The story is told of an Englishman who came to this country in the decade of the sixties, and upon arrival spent his first week in Philadelphia becoming acquainted with historic landmarks, such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. In order to familiarize himself with American culture, he visited several antique stores that specialized in colonial and revolutionary memorabilia.

In one such shop he saw several posters and signboards that contained the slogans of the revolution, such as No Taxation Without Representation, and Don’t Tread on Me. One signboard attracted his attention more than the rest. In bold letters the sign proclaimed: WE SERVE NO SOVEREIGN HERE. As he mused on this sign, he wondered how people steeped in such an anti-monarchical culture could come to grips with the notion of the kingdom of God and the sovereignty that belongs to the Lord (source: R. C. Sproul, Following Christ).

David B. Hart summarized where we stand now at the end of modernity.

“… each of us who is true to the times stands facing not God, or the gods, or the Good beyond beings, but an abyss, over which presides the empty, inviolable authority of the individual will, whose impulses and decisions are their own moral index.”

“This is not to say that – sentimental barbarians that we are – we do not still invite moral and religious constraints upon our actions; none but the most demonic, demented, or adolescent among us genuinely desires to live in a world purged of visible boundaries and hospitable shelters.”

“Thus this man may elect not to buy a particular vehicle because he considers himself an environmentalist; or this woman may choose not to have an abortion midway through her second trimester, because the fetus, at that point in its gestation, seems to her too fully formed, and she–personally – would feel wrong about terminating ‘it.’ But this merely illustrates my point: we take as given the individual’s right not merely to obey or defy the moral law, but to choose which moral standards to adopt, which values to uphold, which fashion of piety to wear and with what accessories.”

“Even our ethics are achievements of will. And the same is true of those custom-fitted spiritualities – ‘New Age,’ occult, pantheist, ‘Wiccan,’ or what have you – by which many of us now divert ourselves from the quotidien dreariness of our lives.”

“These gods of the boutique can come from anywhere – native North American religion, the Indian subcontinent, some Pre-Raphaelite grove shrouded in Celtic twilight, cunning purveyors of otherwise worthless quartz, pages drawn at random from Robert Graves, Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung, or that redoubtable old Aryan, Joseph Campbell – but where such gods inevitably come to rest are not so much divine hierarchies as ornamental étagères, where their principal office is to provide symbolic representations of the dreamier sides of their votaries’ personalities.”

“The triviality of this sort of devotion, its want of dogma or discipline, its tendency to find its divinities not in glades and grottoes but in gift shops make it obvious that this is no reversion to pre-Christian polytheism. It is, rather, a thoroughly modern religion, whose burlesque gods command neither reverence, nor dread, nor love, nor belief; they are no more than the masks worn by that same spontaneity of will that is the one unrivalled demiurge who rules this age and alone bids its spirits come and go” (First Things, David B. Hart, 2000).

R. C. Sproul noted that, “The concept of lordship invested in one individual is repugnant to the American tradition, yet this is the boldness of the claim of the New Testament for Jesus, that absolute sovereign authority and imperial power are vested in Christ” (Following Christ).

Without such sovereign authority, we are never truly free. Jesus said it this way, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Our well-being is at risk on every side if we choose a kind of freedom that refuses to serve the only true sovereign of the universe. 

But this Sovereign One, unlike all would-be Sovereigns, 

“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges, he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11).

Before leaving this world, the Sovereign One said, 

“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Living in freedom under sovereign Lordship,

Steve Cornell

Is there a better way to resolve the gay marriage debate?


For several decades, gay rights advocates have used civil rights language to defend their desire for same-sex marriage. Slowly but surely a growing percentage of society has bought into the comparison between the kind of sex people want with unalterable matters of race and gender.

But this strategy has turned gay rights into a divisive and polarizing debate that is threatening the very respectful acceptance desired by homosexual couples.

Why can’t we find a better way to resolve this matter without portraying those who disagree as hateful bigots who discriminate against a minority?

Before going further, allow me to offer a few words of clarification.

First, I realize that sexual desire is one of the most powerful passions of human beings. We would cease to exist on the planet without sexual desire. Yet both heterosexual and homosexual desires have been behind some of the most horrific crimes against humanity. Because we are corrupt beings, our sexuality, like every other part of our existence, requires laws to restrain, protect and punish abuses of our passions and behaviors. There is not a person on the earth who can claim total innocence with regard to sexuality. Jesus exposed this truth to hypocritical religious leaders when he said, “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

This leads to my second concern. Whether one claims to be heterosexual or homosexual in orientation, the desires and actions associated with orientation must be treated as willful choices capable of restraint. Otherwise one cannot speak of actions like adultery, rape or incest as culpable moral behaviors.

While we cannot tell a person of race to restrain or stop being Asian or African-American anymore than we can tell a woman to stop being female, we must require people of both heterosexual and homosexual orientation to restrain and control their sexual behavior under threat of punishment for wrongful expressions of it. If a society intends on making laws regarding sexual actions, sexuality (whatever orientation one claims) must be treated as a chosen behavior.

My final clarification is to firmly reject unlawful and evil treatment of those who identify themselves as oriented toward homosexual behavior. Sadly, we have witnessed far too much cruelty toward people based on differences. This is where there are some legitimate comparisons between the way homosexuals and people of certain races have been wrongly treated. But why can’t these matters be addressed without making an area of behavior comparable with one’s unchangeable nature?

When gay rights advocates attached their cause to civil rights language, they went too far with the comparisons and invited disagreement from those who simply observed the illogical inconsistencies. But when advocates went to the level of coercion and manipulation by demonizing anyone who disagrees, they’ve engaged in the very acts of intolerance that were wrongly aimed at them.

Despite their gifted intellects, it appears that five Supreme Court justices have carelessly accepted emotionally charged and counter productive false comparison. While the court stopped short of making gay marriage a constitutional right and left in place state laws banning same-sex marriage, the 5-4 decision clearly used inflammatory civil rights language to pave the way to a constitutional civil right for gay marriage. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy slandered those who disagree by implying that they “disparage and injure” the “personhood and dignity” of gays and stand in “violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

Evidently one is not capable of treating homosexual couples with respect if he takes a view of marriage as an institution divinely intended for heterosexual unions. Do we want a society where those who believe this way about marriage must keep it to themselves or face accusations of being hateful and discriminating bigots? Does this support the promotion of tolerance and respect for a fellow human being who chooses a homosexual relationship?

Shouldn’t there be a more rational and less divisive way to secure legal provisions of shared benefits and experiences among homosexual couples? Stop and think about the unnecessary and polarizing ways that this issue is being handled. Consider how it produces some of the very behaviors once opposed, and creates another set of victims of discrimination.

In his dissent, Justice Scalia exposed the intention of the decisions writing, “By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition,”

It appears that President Obama has also bought the illogical comparison. He called DOMA “discrimination enshrined in law.” Of the court’s decision, Obama said, “when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.” Implication? Anyone who sees things differently on gay marriage is guilty of discrimination. This is a manipulative and divisive way to frame a needed conversation.

Wouldn’t it be better to avoid the civil rights language and look for ways for the state to offer more equitable treatment? Is it possible to find a way to address core concerns without polarizing the public and denigrating those who have different views. Does it really help to characterize those who do not support gay marriage on religious or moral grounds as people of hatred, bigotry and irrational phobias?

Although I do not believe in gay marriage, I am neither hateful nor fearful of those who choose a gay lifestyle. In opposing a change to marriage to include homosexual unions, I have no intention or motivation to portray homosexuals as evil people or to support wrongful treatment of them. In my worldview, we are all sinners in desperate need of the grace of God. We are clearly going in the wrong direction with this debate by seeking freedoms for one group by denying freedoms for another.

The path currently sought by radical homosexual activists is to force all of society to see things their way or face severe legal consequences. They are already attacking the religious and moral freedoms of Americans with this agenda and we are only seeing the beginning. Anyone who tells you that this approach will never threaten religious liberty is lying to you. If this becomes a matter of civil rights with the full force of federal law behind it, churches throughout this nation will be attacked with the strong-arm of law if they fail to offer full endorsement of gay marriage.

The Supreme Court carelessly and recklessly sent an implied mandate to lawmakers to conform to gay marriage or be numbered among the hateful bigots. I hope that lawmakers will not cave to the manipulation and false comparisons, but will expose the agenda as a means to silence and coerce Americans against their moral and religious convictions.

More importantly, I think we can find a better way to have this discussion so that the state can offer equitable treatment without sharply dividing people against one another by threatening the freedoms of fellow citizens.

Steve Cornell
Senior pastor
Millersville Bible Church
58 West Frederick street
Millersville, Pa. 17551

Judge not, lest you be judged.

“Judge not, lest you be judged.”

    • These are perhaps the most well-known words of Jesus.
    • They’re commonly used to keep people from making moral judgments about others. 
    • Some people use these words to excuse themselves from making judgments. “Who am I to judge?” they ask. “After all, Jesus did say, ‘Judge not…’”

So…

  • What exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke these words?
  • Was he advocating a mind your own business policy?
  • Was he forbidding all judgments about the actions of others?

A good question


John R. W. Stott asked if obedience to these words required us to “…suspend our critical faculties in relation to other people, to turn a blind eye to their faults (pretending not to notice them), to avoid all criticism and to refuse to discern between truth and error, goodness and evil?”

Let the context speak

As with most confusion over the meaning of the Bible, a careful reading of the context is the key to understanding.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:1-6).

While Jesus clearly condemned a certain kind of judging, he equally advocated a need for judgments. Jesus was not excusing us from all moral judgments. He was not promoting an individualistic attitude. Far from it!

Later he spoke of the need to go to one who sins against you and “tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (Matthew 18:15). Love requires moral concern for others. But that concern must follow the order Jesus taught in Matthew 7:1-6.

What kind of judging did Jesus condemn?


Jesus said, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). Jesus condemned hypocritical judging. He insisted that we must “first” remove the log from our own eye before we’re prepared to notice and remove the speck from our brother’s eye.

Jesus encouraged involvement in other people’s lives, but only after careful self-examination and self-correction. On another occasion Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were notorious (as are most religious people) for judging based on appearance. They were also notorious for their hypocrisy (see: Matthew 23).

When we hold other people to tight moral standards while making plenty of allowances for ourselves, we engage in unlawful judging. When we “play God” by trying to enforce standards not specifically established by God, we are in danger of being judged by God (Matthew 7:2; Romans 2:1-4).

Some professing Christians, (like the Pharisees), view their traditions as equal with God’s commands and wrongly judge the godliness of others based on them. This happens when people make personal applications from general commands of God (like his demand for non-conformity to the world and holiness of life), and then elevate their applications to command status.


Three categories for Christian standards


To avoid unlawful judging, we need to recognize three categories for setting Christian standards.

  1. First, some behaviors are clearly commanded.
  2. Secondly, some things are clearly forbidden.
  3. Finally, certain matters are permitted, or left to free and responsible judgment according to the best of our knowledge and conscience.

When we demote something from categories one and two into category three, we treat God’s clear standards as negotiable. When we elevate matters from category three by treating them as if they belong to categories one or two, we self-righteously judge others with our own opinions. The first action threatens purity; the second unnecessarily disrupts the unity of God’s people.

Matters of freedom vs. Matters of command


When a behavior, custom or doctrine is not addressed in Scripture with specific requirements or moral absolutes, it’s a matter of Christian freedom. When Christians condemn others in areas not specifically addressed by Scripture, they become guilty of the judging forbidden by Jesus.

But to agree with God’s clearly revealed standards does not constitute unlawful judging – unless, of course, it involves the kind of self-righteous hypocrisy Jesus repeatedly condemned. It’s possible to make accurate judgments but to be hypocritical in making them. Self-examination and self-correction are necessary for avoiding hypocritical judgment.

Scripture clearly reveals many moral standards God expects us to follow. Aligning with God on a specifically revealed moral judgment is not to make oneself judge, but to honor the standard of the Judge.

Follow the example of Jesus


Jesus taught with conviction and authority on many subjects.

“It is all too easy to believe in a Jesus who is largely a construction of our own imagination- an inoffensive person whom no one would really trouble to crucify. But the Jesus we meet in the Gospels, far from being an inoffensive person, gave offense right and left. Even his loyal followers found him, at times, thoroughly disconcerting. Jesus did not go about mouthing pious platitudes; had he done so, he would not have made as many enemies as he did” (F. F. Bruce).

I agree with the one who suggested that, “the capacity of judging, of forming an estimate and opinion, is one of our most valuable faculties and the right use of it one of our most important duties.” Judicial systems in every nation depend on the proper exercise of this capacity. But let’s be sure to use this valuable faculty first and most directly on ourselves. This will ensure a more humble and merciful application to others.

For further reflection

  • He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored (Prov 13:18 NIV).
  • Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself (Gal 6:1-2 NLT).
  • See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:12-13).
  • My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins (James 5:19-20 NLT).

Watching vs. Watching out for

When we honor the distinction between watching others and watching out for them, we’ll be far better postured to avoid wrongful judging. The first is prideful and pharisaic behavior; the second is humble and loving care for the wellbeing of others. Let’s live and teach this distinction to ensure we obey Jesus’ command, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”

Steve Cornell

See: Understanding legalism 

Against the grain of the universe

 

“When we read of a murder in the newspapers or hear of one on television, we often read or hear that it was senseless. Observers offer this characterization not only of drive-by homicides or the methodical shooting of strangers by a crazed killer…, but also of the first-degree murder of a businessman by his greedy partner, or the enraged slaying of a wife by her jealous husband-even of murders committed in the course of robberies and rapes. Indeed, we hear of almost any murder that it was a senseless slaying, a senseless act, an example of the senseless violence that keeps threatening society.



But why senseless? After all, unless the killer was grossly impaired, the killing probably made sense to him. He was trying to silence a witness, or gain revenge, or express his power, or act out his racist hatred, or stimulate and satisfy his lust. In a culture whose up-to-date intellectuals often drift toward moral subjectivism, how can an act that makes perfectly good sense to its perpetrator be judged senseless by outsiders? The outsiders cannot mean that the act was motiveless. Do they mean, then, that the act was unintelligent? That it lacked alertness, say, or foresight? Do they think that the killer stupidly miscalculated the odds of getting away with murder? Not likely. 



The truth is that, when pressed, even the most avant-garde observer drops his moral subjectivism, forgets all Nietzschean attempts to get beyond good and evil, and joins the rest of us in expressing shock, indignation, and the metaphysical judgment that a murder does not belong in the world, no matter what its author thinks of it. The murder of a human being is not the way its supposed to be. This act is out of order. It is senseless because it saws against the grain of the universe, because, as Christian believers would say, it doesnt fit the divine plan for peace and comity.



Senseless is only one word people use to express this conviction. People who prefer not to judge or confess sin will nonetheless concede that some objectionable act was stupid, tragic, shortsighted, mistaken, unfortunate, miscalculated, erring, regrettable, or out of line. Suppose a white-collar criminal, for example, confesses to a judgmental lapse or to inappropriate behavior after cheating thousands of retirees out of their life savings.

Despite the ludicrous and cowardly nature of his euphemism, the criminal has nonetheless admitted that he was wrong in an important way. He has admitted that he was out of order, out of line-that he was, in a word, foolish. He will not concede that he has been a knave, but he feels obliged to concede, in effect, that he has been a fool.



By so doing, ironically enough, he enters a mainstream of biblical thought, and a route to the biblical concept of sin. For biblical writers think of sin as the main species of folly. Indeed, if a person confesses folly, and then admits that he is to blame for his folly, he has as good as confessed his sin. A person who calls his theft of two packages of AA batteries from a supermarket checkout display inappropriate or a lapse in judgment thus puts us in position to reflect not only on folly, but also on the nature of sin, and then to deepen our understanding of both by exploring the relation between them” (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be).

Unlocking the enigma of existence

Telling the story of humanity requires contrasting terms. It includes a narratives of goodness and evil; love and hate; beauty and cruelty;  life and death. Themes of human dignity and human depravity are relentlessly recurrent in all cultures – at all times. 

Why do we need words of sharp contrast to explain ourselves? Wouldn’t it be nice to only need terms of honor and dignity to tell our story? But the required vocabulary for a truthful account must also include descriptions of depravity.

Although we all experience times of deep happiness and peace, thoughtful and honest people know that, at some deeper level, things are not the way they’re supposed to be. But why do we share an intuitive sense that things were meant to be better than they are? Is a narrative of survival enough for explaining the physical and the metaphysical realities?

Human existence— even when joyful, is marred by vulnerability, corruption, tragedy and sadness. God has shown kindness to humanity and testified to His existence by giving blessings to all people. He gives “rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides us with plenty of food and fills our hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17).

The birth of a baby is a moment of great joy. Marriage can be a beautiful relationship filled with joy. When husbands and wives treat each other with honor and respect, happy and healthy homes bless human life and enrich communities. When these relationships are filled with selfishness and neglect, there is no misery so miserable as a miserable marriage — everyone pays a price when relationships break down — particularly the children. 

When governments seek true justice based in mercy, people joyfully flourish. When governors are greedy and selfish, people groan under oppression. When what we call natural disaster destroys a community, human responses range from heroic to calloused indifference to barbaric. 

Why are things as they are? Some just say, “It is what it is.” But this is not enough to satisfy me. I want to know more. Where did our story begin? If we had a good beginning, where did it go wrong? Where is it going? How will it end? Can we find answers to these questions? Or, do we just ride out our time making the best of it until the grim reaper visits us?

Struggling with what he felt to be the exasperating enigma of existence, the frustrated Scottish writer, Richard Holloway, groaned in honest reflection,

“This is my dilemma. I am dust and ashes, frail and wayward, a set of predetermined behavioral responses, … riddled with fear, beset with needs…the quintessence of dust and unto dust I shall return…. But there is something else in me…. Dust I may be, but troubled dust, dust that dreams, dust that has strong premonitions of transfiguration, of a glory in store, a destiny prepared, an inheritance that will one day be my own…so my life is spread out in a painful dialectic between ashes and glory, between weakness and transfiguration. I am a riddle to myself, an exasperating enigma…the strange duality of dust and glory.”

There are surprisingly few places to turn for thoughtful answers to the deeper questions about suffering, life and death. Many efforts to explain the human story are either simplistically naïve in their utopianism or forced versions of scientific reductionism. I have only found one source to be wide enough to explain the complex dimensions of the human story and large enough to address the innate longings of the human heart.

The source I have found deeply satisfying invokes reactions from some who know little about it yet feel surprisingly justified in rejecting it. Merely mentioning this source in most academic settings invokes an arrogant and condescending ridicule. Those who take the source seriously are treated as unenlightened simpletons. Ironically, those who respond this way rarely offer thoughtful alternatives for answering the important questions.

The source I look to offers truths that range from simple and accessible to complex and mysterious. It speaks to the child and challenges the scholar. It covers the physical and metaphysical. It reaches into time and eternity. It tells us where we came from, why we’re here, what went wrong. It connects with universal inner longings by revealing where to find hope for a better future. It addresses the universal human needs of forgiveness, freedom, security and peace.

The source is the most widely circulated and best-selling book of history. It’s main character came from eternity, entered humble earthly circumstances and died a brutal death. His death, we are repeatedly told, was a redemptive sacrifice for all people. He transformed countless individual lives and human history itself more than any other person who has lived. He introduced himself as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, who is, who was and who is to come. He said, “I was dead and behold I am alive forever and ever” (Revelation 1:18). The source is the Bible and the main character is Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ remains the most amazing person who ever lived on this planet. Although born in obscurity over 2,000 years ago, the world can’t escape his legacy and global influence. No individual comes close to the impact Jesus made on humanity. How amazing is it, for example, that this seemingly obscure person— from an even more obscure period of history—continues to make the front page of many non-religious magazines every Easter and Christmas?

Jesus Christ is so amazing that he can only be fully explained by use of terms that defy normal categories.  We need terms that reach beyond our reality and shatter many of our common assumptions.

Here is one who:

  • healed the sick
  • made the lame walk
  • opened the eyes of the blind
  • raised the dead to life

What do you do with one who:

  • fulfilled ancient prophecies in his birth, life and death?
  • predicted his own death and resurrection?
  • claimed to exist before Abraham was born?
  • claimed the right to forgive sins?
  • claimed that he would be the judge of all people?
  • claimed eternal duration for his words?
  • claimed equality with God?
  • claimed the ability to give eternal life to those who believe on him?

We simply don’t have a category for Jesus.

  • Pre-existence?
  • Virgin birth?
  • Incarnation?
  • Resurrection?
  • Ascension?
  • Promised return?

It’s too much for us to fully wrap our minds around. It demands a God who “breaks in” on the natural order. Jesus Christ is so extraordinarily unprecedented that he shatters our categories and demands our worship.

Some people find the central message about Jesus a bit difficult to accept because it involves exclusive claims about the only way to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the father but through me” (John 14:6). “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” (I Timothy 2:6)

The sacrificial death of Jesus is repeatedly emphasized as something offered for the sins of the world, for all men; for the whole world (see: John 3:16,17; I John 2:1-2), but this inclusive demonstration of God’s love is the only way to be forgiven and accepted by God.

Seven inclusive truths testify to the extensive reach of God’s love.

  1. God has demonstrated his love for all people (John 3:16).
  2. God desires the salvation of all people (I Timothy 2:3-4).
  3. God has made provision for the salvation of all people (I John 2:2).
  4. God commands all people to repent (Acts 17:30).
  5. God will hold all people accountable for their response (Acts 17:31).
  6. God takes no pleasure in anyone’s rejection of his love (Ezekiel    18:23,32).
  7. God will save all people who place faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16). 

We recognize the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1 – “There is a time to be born and a time to die.”  We understand by experience what scripture teaches when it says, “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). “Death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). We cannot hide from the dreadful reality but Jesus offered to transform our understanding of death when He said,” Because I live you also will live (John 14:19).  In another place He promised, “…everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Do you believe in Him?

The story chronicled in the Bible turns on four main themes covering the whole account of reality. First, there is creation: the good; secondly, the fall of humanity: the evil; thirdly, redemption, the new; finally, restoration: the perfect. Here we find truth about dignity and depravity; the finite and the transcendent; time and eternity; dust and glory—God’s word through the words of men. A rich treasure awaits you in this amazing book we call the Bible.

Steve Cornell