At the present time, I am not a very popular person in my country. As a white, southern, conservative, upper-middle class, evangelical, protestant, Christian who is ordained, straight, absolutist, and motivated, I am persona non grata – an unwelcome individual. So how am I — as one who on the issue of Gay Marriage stands with the minority on the Supreme Court, as one who stands in the minority in the American church, and as one scorned and ridiculed by the majority in our culture — to minister and share the religious teachings of Jesus Christ?
Matthew 10 was of great assistance to me this morning:
And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 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.”
So, how ought Christians to respond to the societal ethical shift?
1. We are to show the compassion of Jesus. He is the one who sought to improve the condition of his neighbors. Financially, physically, relationally, and emotionally, Jesus loved his neighbors and instructed his disciples to do the same. They were to be busy exorcising spirits, removing afflictions, healing diseases, and even raising the dead. In like manner, we are to be sharing the Gospel in works of service.
2. We are to present the teachings of Jesus. Jesus told his disciples to proclaim his truth aloud. They were to proclaim it from the rooftops. Therefore, since Jesus is the one who sent his Spirit to inspire the Old Testament prophets, and he is the one who taught the doctrine presented in the Gospels, and since he is the one who sent his Holy Spirit to inspire the New Testament apostles to pen the thoughts of God, let us as ones who have knowledge of Jesus’ Gospel and Law be very vocal in the proclamation of his will. As we pray, “Thy kingdom come; thy will be done,” we must do all we can to proclaim his holy directives.
3. We are to have no misconceptions of peace. Jesus told his disciples they would find many who would not receive them or listen to their words. Though they came with news of salvation, people would treat them as the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah treated the angels. Jesus’ disciples were to see themselves as sheep in the midst of wolves. They were to anticipate opposition, arrest, indictment, and flogging. Persecution would come from both secular and religious institutions. And not only will neighbors seek to mute them, but family members will be found in the opposition party. Jesus told them, “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.” Therefore, we are not to be surprised by our minority status. We are not to be surprised or shocked at the conflict caused by our expression of God’s Gospel of peace. According to our Master, while trying to show love, we should expect to be hated by all for Christ’s sake.
4. We are to have no fear or anxiety. Disciples of Christ are not to fear how we might make a living. God promises to provide for his messengers in his own way, in his own timing, and in his own amounts. In addition, we are not to fear having the proper verbal response to every question thrown our way. God’s Holy Spirit will bring God’s Holy Word to mind as we seek to communicate on his behalf. Also, we are not to fear we are doing something wrong when people do not appreciate our ministry. The world is in the hands of the Father. The hearts of men are turned by the Father. And we, as his beloved Children are of much more value than even the sparrows for whom God cares. Let us stop the panic! Nothing has changed. God is still God. Men are still wicked. We still have good news. And God will do with us and his news that which he desires.
5. I am to have no thoughts of quitting or turning back. Jesus told his disciples to leave one town and go on to the next. He told them to endure on, for those who endured to the end were the truly saved. Hear again the words of Jesus, “Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven … Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me … Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” There were eleven disciples who showed love, proclaimed God’s will, experienced conflict, overcame their fear, and marched on with Christ until the end. Their fruit endures today, and their blessed state in paradise proves it was worth it all. However, there was one — Judas — who showed love, proclaimed God’s will, experienced conflict, succumbed to fear and peer-pressure, and turned away. His name is accursed today. According to Jesus, it would have been better had he not be born.
Dear friends, I know it was much more enjoyable when it seemed like we really were “One Nation Under God.” We truly were blessed to enjoy a season of life when God’s ethic was preferred in the land. Well, it appears things have changed, but God’s truth marches on. So show love, speak truth, and be ready to be spent for the Gospel. And have no fear; Jesus is coming again, and those who submit to his Gospel and Law will find it worth it all in the end.