It was during a recent sermon I was hit with the question of whether or not I am willing to be named among God’s people, no matter the cost. The sermon was in relation to Queen Esther, who, as we know from the book in the Bible named after her, was faced with a choice to either risk her life by breaking laws of formality by going before the king un-summoned to plead the cause of her people, or to refrain from being an advocate for the Jews and hope to survive the impending genocide inside the walls of the palace. Of course, Esther chose to risk her life in order to at least attempt to save her people from the evil that was to befall them at the hands of Haman the Agagite and all who obeyed the edict to annihilate the Jews from the face of the earth. To this day, Esther is celebrated as the one who was placed in the palace “for such a time as this” and, by the unseen providence of the God of Israel, succeeded in thwarting the plans of Haman and bringing calamity upon him and those who hated the Jews.
The question raised about my willingness to risk being “put out of the palace” for being counted as one of God’s people was convicting. There have been times where the fear of man and self-preservation (of my career) have resulted in my silence or avoidance of certain situations and topics. While it’s true we are to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves, there have been times when I used that as an excuse to let “relief and deliverance” arise from “from another place.” In other words, I chickened out because I was afraid I’d lose my job if I refused to hide my convictions, or, as my employer terms them, “deeply held religious beliefs.” There are many examples of people getting steamrolled by the progressive agenda from cake bakers to photographers to military commanders and even chaplains. These are real examples of real people who have given up their reputations and livelihoods to stand for what they believe – to be counted among God’s people. Of course, these are “first world problems” compared to the persecution and martyrdom Christians are suffering in other parts of the world.
The most maddening thing about this is that real Christians – those who truly understand certain truths I will lay out momentarily – are the least threatening, most understanding people who should be embraced, not crushed, by those who disagree with them. But, there are two reasons why this cannot be so. First and foremost is the fact the darkness will always hate the light since light exposes what the darkness wants to hide. This is Biblical truth supported by more than six thousand years of empirical evidence. The second, which is closely related to the first, is that there is no room for disagreement anymore in America, just opposition and hostility. We have lost the ability to “agree to disagree” with each other. Now, just because I believe certain things, such as in the traditional definition of marriage and binary gender identity, I am labeled as a “phobic” and “hater” of things I don’t embrace or celebrate. I am no longer allowed by our society to believe an action or lifestyle is unhealthy, unnatural or sinful.
That last paragraph may seem like a digression from my main point, but it’s not. The paradox of the Christian life is learning how to be in a culture and love the people therein, yet remain unstained by the sins of that culture and call sin what it is, even if it’s unpopular and might land you in court or in the unemployment line. The following Christian truths are paradoxical as well. They are the most equalizing realities, yet create the most polarization because they are based on premises most people reject. Believe them or not, here they are:
- We are all equally valuable because we’re made in the image and likeness of God. The lies of humanism and evolution have resulted in a society where life is devalued and people of all colors, cultures and creeds are not given the respect and dignity they should have. This includes all people, no matter what they believe about religion, sexuality, gender, etc. I would also add state of gestation.
- We are all equally depraved and sinful. I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner. We’re all sinners. It just takes different forms for each of us. For some it’s adultery or drunkenness, for others it’s sexual immorality/perversion or anger, while for others it’s pride (including pride in self-righteousness, religion, status or morality) or any number of other sins. Just because I believe something to be sinful (using the Bible as the sole basis for this definition) does not mean I hate, detest, fear, or even judge the person sinning. God is the ultimate judge – and he will judge according to his standard, not mine, nor that of any person or culture. If that’s true (and I believe it is), then the most loving thing I can do is to tell people they are depraved sinners in need of a Savior in order to escape the impending judgment and wrath of God.
- We are all equally offered salvation from our sins. Christians are saved sinners, and they are called to share with all people the message of salvation through faith alone in Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that there is “no partiality” with God. All people are held to the same standard, and salvation is made possible for every person for whom Christ died. We don’t know who will be saved, so we go and we preach and we love all people from every nation, culture, orientation and belief system. The Bible is explicitly clear that the good news of Salvation through Jesus Christ is for all kinds of people.
What does this all mean? It means that Christians who are named among the people of God are called to live their lives in accordance with God’s word, to love others and to not tolerate or celebrate sin in their own lives, the lives others or in the culture/society in which they live. This means a true Christian might not bake cake or agree to photograph a wedding if they disagree with someone’s lifestyle choice, but it simultaneously means they will also love them and seek to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. It does not mean they hate, fear or seek to harm them in any way.
I, for one, desire to be named among the people of God no matter the cost. I’m sure this blog post will be dug up someday in order to prove that I’m some kind of narrow-minded, homophobic, sexist, bigoted, misogynistic racist who stands opposed to all that is right and good in a progressive and liberal world. Although I am none of those things in the least, I will accept the risk of being labeled as such by our culture. I would rather be named with the people of God and lose everything in this life – and even my life, if necessary – to gain Christ. In the words of Esther, “If I perish, I perish.” To perish in this life is but the gateway to true life in heaven. To live this life not among the people of God is to perish in the next life, and that for all eternity.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16