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?

Resolving conflicts among Christians

We must be realistic about our expectations of life in a fallen world. While conducting our relationships with humble integrity, we must not be unrealistic about differences and difficulties that threaten peace between people — even among those who care deeply about each other. This is a truth that must be taught more clearly in the Church.

Jesus clearly anticipated fractures in Christian fellowship and taught us how to resolve them (Matthew 5:23-24;Matthew 18:15ff). We should not be surprised by them but ready to seek reconciliation.

These fractures are very different from the many minor grievances that should be immediately covered in love (I Peter 4:8) or from non-essential matters that should never be permitted to cause conflict in the Church (Romans 14:1-3). Believers must be mature on such matters.

But when sin divides Christian fellowship, a Church must understand the difference between personal forgiveness and reconciling a broken relationship. It’s possible to forgive someone without offering immediate reconciliation. It’s possible for forgiveness to occur in the context of one’s relationship with God apart from contact with an offender (Joseph being a great example). Reconciliation is about restoring broken relationships.

Forgiveness itself is not whitewashing or pretending a wrong never happened when the offense has driven a wedge between people. Forgiveness doesn’t require us to neutralize our sense of justice. The very act itself takes seriously the offense. But forgiveness does involve a surrender of desires for revenge. As such, it is an act of worship in the presence of the God who forgives our sins because it acknowledges God’s sole right to punish the offender (see: Genesis 5:15-20Romans 12:17-21). Forgiveness thus frees us from grudge-bearing vindictiveness and conversely empowers us to love our enemies as God loved us (Romans 5:8).

Priority Scripture places on pursuing peace

  • “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
  • “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace …” (Romans 14:19).
  • “Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
  • “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy …” (Hebrews 12:14).

What to do when peace does not seem possible

This depends on the nature of the situation. If the person is part of a fellowship of believers, we must follow Biblical mandates for protecting the unity of believers. The steps Jesus taught begin with private confrontation (after the personal preparation of removing logs from our own eyes, Matthew 7:3-5). If private confrontation does not remove the wedge, we move to private conference involving the offender brother and two or three others (enlisting those who are spiritually prepared (Matthew 7:3-5), spiritually mature (Galatians 6:1), and entrusted with spiritual oversight (I Peter 5:1-4Acts 20:28).

This only becomes necessary, if the one confronted has as obstinate attitude (Matthew 18:16). When a sinning member of the church refuses to heed the confrontation of a fellow believer, thus refusing to be restored to proper fellowship, the circle of confrontation must broaden to include one or two others.

Those called to be part of the confrontation do not need to be eyewitnesses of the sin (If they had been, they should have gone to confront the member themselves). Ideally, it would be good to include people who are known and respected by the erring member but this is not always possible.

The one or two witnesses are involved “so that every fact may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (v.16). Their purpose is not to threaten or intimidate, but to help the erring brother to understand the seriousness of the matter. Their main purpose is not really to evaluate the truthfulness of the charge, but to strengthen the rebuke and the call to restoration. After private conference, if the erring member remains obstinate and unwilling to acknowledge and repent of the sin, Jesus teaches a fourth step.

Each of the four steps has as its primary aim the restoration of the brother to proper fellowship. The fourth step is public announcement (Matthew 18:17a). Jesus said, “Tell it to the church (the assembly).”

This step is a sobering reminder that sin is not merely a private and personal matter for Christians. Sin that separates and alienates believers, must be dealt with and resolved. But how do we take this step of public announcement? In our church (due to size), we’ve sometimes handled this in the adult fellowship group the member participates in. Other times, we’ve communicated to all the covenant members through a special meeting of the membership. Some churches make these announcements during communion. Others will use a letter to the membership.

All churches should clearly spell out the process in their documents and seek agreement from the membership to follow it. This step also involves the fellowship in some kind of public confrontation. In Matthew 18:17b, Jesus implies that the church (as an assembly) has made an appeal to the erring member.

When the church is informed, (which reasonably implies that the pastors will be involved) warnings should be made about the need for the whole assembly to avoid gossip, slander and a proud or critical spirit (Matthew 7:3-5Galatians 6:1). Members should not play spiritual detective or allow either a lenient or a punitive attitude. They should be encouraged to pray for repentance and restoration, and to appeal to their fellow member to submit to the leadership of the Church. In such an appeal, one might humbly say, “I don’t know all the details, nor is it my place to know them, but I do want to encourage you to make things right with the church.”

No one should give the erring member the feeling that he is in good fellowship with the Church (cf. II Thessalonians 3:12-14). Never act in cross-purpose with the church. We should not do anything that would cause disrespect for the leadership. Remember the goal: “Win your brother.” It is redemptive!

The final step Jesus taught is public exclusion: removal from membership. The primary aim of this step is to protect the purity of the assembly (see: I Corinthians 5:1-11). Failure to practice these steps invites God’s discipline on the entire assembly (see:I Corinthians 11:30-32Revelation 2:5,1620-233:3-19).”

Steve Cornell

Responding to false accusations

False accusations are serious matters. How should we respond to them? 

On a personal level, the first thing I recommend is deep reflection on the fact that our Lord and Savior knows the experience of being wrongfully accused.

During Jesus’ so-called religious and political trials, “many brought false witness against him” (Mark 14). They said, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King” “We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.”

On this level, I must seek to follow our Lord’s example. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (I Peter 2:23-24).

The present tense of the verb (he entrusted himself) indicates that Jesus (kept) entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” This offers an insight from the scene of the cross not as evident in the gospel accounts. When following this pattern one is not treating lightly the false accusation but entrusting justice to the Judge of all the earth.

God is quite capable of being our strong defense (Psalm 62:1-8) and we must be careful not to play God by hastily taking matters into our own hands (see – Romans 12:17-21).

On a relational level, one thinks of the apostle Paul who defended himself before the Church of Corinth (a Church that appears to have allowed themselves to be swayed against the apostle by detractors who wanted to shift the loyalties of the Church from Paul to themselves. The apostle had no desire to engage in self-defense but was compelled to do so when the spiritual well-being of others was attacked.

This sets a helpful example because sometimes attacks against us are aimed at or include hurt toward others. We need wisdom and grace to sort out these concerns, but sometimes we must defend ourselves to protect others. 

On a spiritual level, I think of the words of John Bunyan, “He who is down need fear no fall.” The late Martyn Lloyd Jones described the poor in spirit as the person “who is truly amazed that God and men would think of him and treat him as well as they do.” We tend in the flesh to think the opposite – they should treat me better than they do! But, as the Psalmist so clearly confessed, God “does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10-12).

When these truths are kept close to our hearts, we will be postured in the gospel (Titus 3:1-6) and protected from angry reactions against those who wrongly charge us. 

Steve Cornell

Are you a social cannibal?

Beware of social cannibals

Some people enjoy bad news about others. They savor bits of gossip and slander. You might want to keep your distance from them when they give you the feeling that they might like to hear a little bad news about you. Let’s call these people social cannibals.

The analogy works because gossip and slander are behaviors that feed on weaknesses in others to nourish a sense of superiority. Like hungry cannibals savoring the flesh of another, social cannibals take pleasure in the problems, difficulties and failures of others. It’s dangerous to be in their company because you just might end up in their pot.

Have you ever been transparent about a personal misfortune only to feel that someone found a bit of pleasure in your circumstances? Sometimes it’s expressed in a little laughter and you’re not sure if indicates a strange enjoyment in what you shared. Be careful, you might be facing a social cannibal.

Have you ever caught yourself enjoying a bit of bad news about another person? Maybe you publicly feigned concern over the “unfortunate” news, while quietly finding pleasure in it. 

We must be humble enough to admit that this kind of response reveals, “human antagonism in one of its basest and most unheroic forms” (Cornelius Plantinga Jr.). It is also a sin of the heart that is detestable to God (Pr. 6:16-19).

Why are we drawn to bad news about others? Could it be a diversionary tactic to make us feel better about ourselves? We must guard against this deeply sinful and destructive tendency. 

Social cannibalism is a predatory form of behavior that can be found in every culture and class of people. It tends to be more prevalent among refined and ostensibly religious people. The Germans call the behavior schadenfreude. The word refers to a twisted kind of pleasure in the misfortune of others. Social cannibals threaten good relationships and destroy wholesome community. Are you a social cannibal?

  •  “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter” (Pr. 11:13).
  •  “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife” (Pr. 26:20-22).
  • “But let none of you suffer as …. a busybody in other people’s matters” (1 Pet. 4:15).

See: Social Cannibals

Steve Cornell

5 links to see (and a fun video)

How (and why) to be the meanest mom in the world

When your kids tell you you’re mean, take it as a compliment. The rising generation has been called the laziest, rudest, most entitled kids in history. The news stories scare the best of moms. It’s easy to want to throw in the towel with your own kids. After all, don’t we all want to be the cool mom? Don’t give up. They may think you’re mean now, but they’ll thank you later.

The Irony of Despair (David Brooks, NYT)

“According to the World Health Organization, global suicide rates have increased by 60 percent over the past 45 years. The increase in this country is nothing like that, but between 1999 and 2010, the suicide rate among Americans between 35 and 64 rose by 28 percent. More people die by suicide than by auto accidents.”

“Suicide is delayed homicide.” Suicides happen in clusters, with one person’s suicide influencing the other’s. If a parent commits suicide, his or her children are three times as likely to do so at some point in their lives. In the month after Marilyn Monroe’s overdose, there was a 12 percent increase in suicides across America. People in the act of committing suicide may feel isolated, but, in fact, they are deeply connected to those around. As Hecht put it, if you want your niece to make it through her dark nights, you have to make it through yours.

Diagnosis: Human (Ted Gup, NYT)

Challenge and hardship have become pathologized and monetized. Instead of enhancing our coping skills, we undermine them and seek shortcuts where there are none, eroding the resilience upon which each of us, at some point in our lives, must rely. Diagnosing grief as a part of depression runs the very real risk of delegitimizing that which is most human — the bonds of our love and attachment to one another. The new entry in the D.S.M. cannot tame grief by giving it a name or a subsection, nor render it less frightening or more manageable.

The 5 Gossips You Will Meet (Tim Challies)

Gossip is a serious problem. It is a problem in the home, in the workplace, in the local church and in broader evangelicalism. It is a problem in the blogosphere, in social media, and beyond. In his book Resisting Gossip, Matthew Mitchell defines gossip as “bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart” and shows…”

The Hole in the Gospel (D. A. Carson)

What is the gospel? In recent years that question has been answered in numerous books, essays, and blogs. Like the word “sin,” the word “gospel” can be accurately but rather fuzzily defined in a few words, or it can be unpacked at many levels…

God-centered, Mission-focused purpose for our troubles

I am speaking to a group at Sandy Cove Conference Center this week (Monday-Wednesday) on the theme of meeting the God of all comfort in all our troubles.

My primary text is II Corinthians 1:3-4 where we learn that God is an active presence in our troubles and hardships.

These verses provide a God-centered focus for our troubles that fills them with purpose and mission. 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

The Apostle Paul, the one who wrote about the God who comforts us in our troubles, was no stranger to hardship. He was marked out for these experiences by the Lord Jesus. 

At Paul’s conversion, the Lord said, “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15-16). 

The most extensive list of Paul’s hardship and suffering is found in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 (Read it).

It’s tempting to think that being a Christian should minimize the challenges and troubles of life. We have God with us! Shouldn’t He protect us from hardships? Shouldn’t life be easier? 

But Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33) and Paul told new believers in Antioch that, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). 

In the book of II Corinthians, the primary occasion for emphasizing God’s comfort and purposes in suffering was the accusations leveled against Paul. Those who wanted to harm Paul were claiming that his suffering called into question his ministry and apostleship. 

It’s an old accusation to suggest that a person’s hardship is a sign of God’s displeasure.  In this case, however, it was being used to accomplish an evil and subversive plot. Paul’s critics were trying to discredit God’s apostle with the intention of taking over his place of leadership in the church at Corinth.

But Paul opens his letter praising God for the very thing his opponents are using to discredit his ministry. Instead of suffering and hardship being a sign of abandonment by God, he revealed the truth that God is an active presence in our trouble and hardship (cf. Hebrews 12:1-15).

Here in II Corinthians 1:3-4 we find a God-centered, Mission-focused purpose for our troubles. These are truths that hold us in our troubles.  

Look more closely at II Corinthians 1:3-4

  1. Verse 3 – who God is. — “He is the God of all comfort”
  2. Verse 4a – what God does. — “Who comforts us in all our troubles”
  3. Verse 4b – God’s purpose in what he does. — “So that we can comfort those in any trouble”

God brings us into His school of comfort where we study His ministry of comfort so that we can be equipped to be His instruments of comfort. This is the mission-focused part of going  through hardships. 

Everything God does to and for me is designed to equip me to serve Him by serving His people (Hebrews 6:10).

Reflect deeply on this truth

Our God is so personal that He meets us in our troubles and comforts us through them. People who know God can say with confidence, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

It’s a very personal relationship. And because the Lord is my Shepherd, I can say, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”(Psalm 23:4; cf. II Timothy 4:16-18).

The apostle Paul reminds us to be good students of divine comfort. God is preparing you for a ministry of comfort when He comforts you!

Steve Cornell

(More to come on this theme as the conference continues)

When life hurts

Life is hard because evil is real. It hurts to live in this world.

If we’re not hurt by our own stupidity and sinful deeds, the evil committed against us by others can be deeply painful and damaging. And our hearts become particuarly vulnerable when we’re victims of the evil actions of others.

Beyond what happens to us, there is also a secondary kind of suffering we experience when those we love are either hurt by others or when they hurt themselves.

In all of this painful mess, the question will sooner or later be asked about how God relates to our pain. 

When bad things happen to us that we cannot directly control and that prayer will not immediately change, we might find ourselves wrestling through a few dark nights of the soul concerning how God relates to the hardships of life. 

But in such times, when we’ve been hurt badly by uncontrollable turns in life, we must guard our hearts from misguided conclusions about God. He is our source of comfort (II Corinthians 1:3-4) and we only add to the pain when we distance ourselves from God.

But the temptation to become disillusioned and bitter is real and Scripture warns against it. The possibility of developing “a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” is presented as a serious concern for the community of believers (see: Hebrews 3:12-13). According to this text, we are called to watch out for one another and to encourage one another — daily, if necessary.

Reflect on the example of Joseph

A man named Joseph suffered a series of “misfortunes” beyond his control (Genesis 37-50). There was little he could have done to stop the abrupt and sad change he experienced. As is often the case, it all began for Joseph with a dysfunctional family.

Joseph came from a large family. He had many brothers but his father loved him more than any of them. Joseph was the “victim” of parental favoritism that made him the object of sibling hatred born of jealousy (see: Genesis 37:11).

When only seventeen years old, “his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him” (Genesis 37:4). As the object of two opposite responses (parental favoritism and sibling hatred), Joseph became a victim of unimaginable circumstances.

After many years of forced separation from his family, Joseph reconnected with his brothers. His words to them are rich reflections of deep trust in God’s providential rule over the evil intentions and actions of man. 

“Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Genesis 45:1-8a).

Joseph said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

Liberated to love

When we yield to God’s sovereign control in the ugliness of life (see: Daniel 3:16-18; 4:34-35; Proverbs 3:11-12; Romans 12:17-21; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-12), it liberates us to follow Jesus in radical kingdom obedience (see: I Peter 2:21-25). Jesus said,

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).

We are free under God from the poison of bitterness and the evil of revenge. We are free to refuse to participate in the multiplication of evil. We can even choose to absorb the loss and return a blessing instead (see: I Peter 3:9). Even if we do choose to require restitution or other measures of accountability toward those who hurt us, we are free to do this without a vindictive or vengeful motives.

Steve Cornell