Many in the land have been exercised over recent happenings in Texas. City officials in Houston have issued subpoenas to five ministers demanding their sermons which touch on homosexuality, gender identity, marriage equality, or the the election of Annise Parker to mayor of Houston. Some see the actions of city officials as simply supporting the city’s non-discrimination ordinance. However, others see it as religious persecution and an egregious conflict with the First Amendment.
Personally, I think if someone was really interested in determining which churches were using their pulpits to defeat or encourage social and legal changes, they should subpoena all the sermons from all ministers. But this will not happen, for there would then be an outcry, not only from those in favor of traditional biblical values, but also from those ministers who fly the rainbow flag, march in gay-pride parades, and consistently use their churches and pulpits to encourage acceptance, diversity, and sexual reform. But I digress, for this is supposed to be a scriptural devotional and not a political editorial.
So the question is asked, “How should the church respond when a lesbian mayor sits in their town hall? Helpful advice comes from the lips of Jesus:
And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority … These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
Be Not Silent! First, the church should be involved in the theological and cultural conversation, and they should do so as disciples with authority. Christ has commanded his church to go out into all the world, and he has given his church his Law and Gospel to proclaim. Therefore, the church ought not disobey Christ by isolating ourselves from any sector of society. In addition, she should not disobey and dishonor the Master by altering his timeless and transcultural message. Yes, the church should be vocal and involved. The church should go out into all segments of society and love her sinful and sorrow-filled neighbors by speaking the truth of Christ in love.
Be Not Surprised! Second, the church is not to be foolishly optimistic and expect a favorable reception from all men. Christ’s body should not be surprised when the ministry of Christ separates friends and family members. The Prince of Peace, who gives peace to his own people, came not to give peace to the earth. Some will welcome the ancient truths of Jesus with open hearts and arms, others will seek to use, abuse and excuse us from their presence as did the sex-crazed radicals of Sodom and Gomorrah. The church should not be surprised when tribulation accelerates.
Be Not Scared! Third, the church should not be anxious or troubled. Just as the disciples were not to be unduly concerned with gold and silver, so the church of Christ should not be overly concerned over the financial repercussions of her ministry. Tax benefits may be revoked and law suits are certainly on the horizon, but safeguarding such benefits are not hugely important to the church of Christ. Jesus’ disciples were to trust him completely for support and sustenance. Today, he will continue to provide daily provision in order to fund his will and objective. Therefore, she should be fearful over nothing.
Be Not Stupid! Fourth, while enduring persecution we are to be wise. There are times when we ought to leave. There are times when we ought to flee. And there are times when we ought to stand and defend ourselves.
Be Not Soft! Fifth, we must always persevere and never deny the Lord who purchased us. Proclaiming the Gospel of Christ in the midst of turmoil is a sure sign of being a faithful assembly of God. According to John’s Revelation, those who do so are lamps which will not be snuffed out by Christ.
Therefore church of Jesus Christ, be not silent, surprised, scared, stupid, or soft. Proclaim God’s truth lest a lesbian mayor come to your town. Proclaim God’s truth even if such an individual sits in your town hall. Do not be foolish and think this day of Christian ease and comfort will last. It has come and gone in most cultures and will most likely do so in the United States of America. Let us not be fearful and perplexed about losing any worldly toys. Jesus gave his all for us, and it should be our joy to sacrifice our all for him. He may allow the wicked to take our money, our churches, our freedoms, our children, and our lives. But all of this belongs to the Lord and “all to Jesus we have surrendered.” Additionally, be wise in the conflict. Let us run from some oppressions while going to war in other situations. Let us defend our theology, our children, our churches, and our constitutional liberties; let us be aware and be wise. And finally, whatever we do, let us not faint in the day of adversity. As in the Parable of the Seed and the Sower, many are fruitful for a time but when tribulation and poverty come near, they wither and die. But such is not true for the true disciple. The faithful minister and church receives the Word, digests the Word, and bears fruit that endures to the end.