JUDGEMENT, MERCY, FAITHFULNESS
In late 2014 I was asked if I would prepare a series of messages on God and Human Sexuality. The leaders and pastoral team of a large church in Asia requested this. I said I would, but was a little reluctant yet at the same time could see how vital it is that to consider these matters amidst the increasing folly of our world. We would be wise to always bear in mind the words of the apostle John when he wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17). There is so much worldliness in the churches of today.
Leaders are divided as they respond to questions as to LBGT, the common initials used for, ‘lesbian, bisexual, gay and transsexual. The frequent questions on these matters are usually couched in phrases such as, “And what is your opinion on,” or, “And what is the view of your particular church group.” Often the leader replies giving his or her view but a few are clear enough to say, “It does not what matter what MY view is, what does the Bible say, what does God say about it all?” Obviously, in the twelve months I have had time to ponder and prepare for the messages and reading a number of books, written by both secular and Christian writers, at the same time examining the Bible again and in a detailed and close study has been a valuable exercise for my own soul. To be taught of God, reinforced in thought, clarified in mind is vital for all of us. We must not take lightly the moral slide taking place in the 21st century world. I was glad to be challenged to speak a little on the subject. I do not want to go into any particular details as to LBGT, but to write a little about something that perhaps surprised me as I approached the subject. Probably, the messages took about four hours of five hours to deliver altogether, but I was arrested by the fact that I probably took half that time establishing the nature of God as revealed in the Bible and the veracity of scripture. It seems so many have lost their scriptural moorings. No longer founded upon His word they are adrift in the seas of humanistic thought and the downright demonic wisdom filling the atmosphere.
Something terrible has been freshly released from the abyss (Revelation 9:2). The sun and air are darkened by the release of the lies being peddled as to authentic family life and remember, these lies have a sting in the tail as to scorpions (Revelation 9:5). Many are tampering with God’s word, they think that what was laid down as unchangeable in the holy scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15), can be altered and adapted to accommodate late twentieth century and twenty-first century ideas. The foolishness that is peddled as the norm for mankind is tragic, self love lies at its root and self destruction will be its fruit. It is fundamentally a present day manifestation of the face that all forms of wickedness emanate from rebellion, rejection and hatred of God (Romans 1:19,21, 23, 25). What is the foundation of our thought as we consider these things? Have we jettisoned the plain statements as to nature of God and of mankind made in His image revealed in His book? Reflecting on all this confirmed again to me some of the reasons why the early chapters of Genesis have been thrown out. We are informed that they have nothing to say as to the truth of the origins of all things. Throw out God as Creator and Sustainer of all and the door opens to the total abuse of what is made, we are little better than beasts and the earth is no longer the Lord’s but ours to rape and pillage as we please. So, back to what God has said we must go, and not only go, but submit to His word.
The church needs men and women who are “under authority.” Under authority to what, to who? No wonder faith diminishes, the power of the church is weakened on every side. Jesus magnified the centurion who said, “I am a man under authority” (Matthew 8:9). The soldier recognised that Jesus was under the authority of His Father, of the word of His Father just as he himself had the weight of the Roman Empire at back of him and thus what he commanded was done. Here lies reason for the comparative powerlessness of the church when facing the woeful moral wreckage of the so called ‘postmodern’ society of today. We need to ask ourselves, “Am I living under the authority of God’s word?” Have we been succumbing to the relentless pressures of movies, media, newsprint, opinionated presenters on TV shows, and the subtle lies of some professors in our universities. Relentless indeed, an agenda is being pursued and we need our eyes to be opened to see it and bear forth fruit unto God in the midst of it. Of all the gifts most needed by the church today is the gift of discernment. We shall not have it if we are blind and have drifted from the moorings of God’s word and are no longer truly under the authority of what He has said and revealed.
The anti-Christ attitudes of the religious leaders increased as they watched Jesus and heard Him during the three years of His ministry on earth. Their antipathy intensified and led them to take Him to the cross of Calvary. Be ready for such an intensification in the churches and among the leaders in them. It is quite possible to be a person like Lot, living in the ‘liberated’ and luxurious life of Sodom and possessing enough discernment to recognise angels when they come but to have become corrupted enough to be willing to give virgin daughters to the lustful mob (Genesis 19:1-8). A formidable and death dealing polarisation took place in the Palestine of Jesus’s day and is taking happening in our society. The awful ‘woes’ of Jesus, spoken against many of the scribes and Pharisees are relevant today. Now, as then there are those who are tampering with the word of God, diluting it and robbing their hearers of the spiritual force of God’s truth.
The scribes and Pharisees had emphasised certain things and distorted others. They were manifesting a peculiar and terrible unfaithfulness to God and man. They were unwilling to live under the authority of the tenor and testimony of God as He had given it to Moses in the law. In this rejection they were following in the footsteps of multitudes of their forebears. Entrusted with so much light, they had perverted it into something that put God into the shadows, replacing God with their traditions. Remember, throughout the history of Israel, a remnant was present, obeying and longing for the coming of the Messiah. From that remnant came that wonderful young woman Mary. From her came Jesus! The faithful remnant are always the key to salvation history. I have often wondered how Jesus spoke the words, “Woe, woe, woe.” Did He thunder His denunciations? Did He utter them heartbrokenly? A whisper? A loud cry? Eight times He said the word, (Matthew 23:13,14,15,16,23,25,27,29). At the beginning of HIs ministry He had said in an ejaculation, “O the bliss,”(Matthew 5:3-10). What a contrast, those who reject the bliss, the blessedness are sure to know the woe. Jesus calls those teachers “hypocrites,” men wearing masks, instead of opening the wonderful realm of God to their hearers they were shutting it, (Matthew 23:13). They were blind guides and leading others into the ditch of destruction, (Matthew 15:14, 23:16,17,19.24,26).
There was no discernment in them, zealous for the wrong things they were death dealing teachers. Shutting up the kingdom of heaven and of God, locking their hearers into their own dark dungeons of confusion, neglecting the weightier matters of the law, replacing it with distortions of their own fabrication. They had omitted the things that really mattered, “Judgment, mercy and faithfulness,” (Matthew 23:23). This is reminiscent of the words God spoke through Micah. “He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Three things alone are necessary. Perhaps, one of the tragic issues facing us today is that the absence of the humility to sit under the authority of God’s word. Many are unwilling to be taught of God and this arrogance always leads to the blindness and confusion about significant matters of the faith afflicting many in the church today. Do we know better? Are we ‘come of age’ and can plot our own course and tamper with the scriptures God has given us? We must measure ourselves soberly against the three words Jesus used. These are the ‘weightier matters.’ The first is ‘judgment.’ We could translate it, ‘discernment.’ Jesus was speaking of the powers of right discrimination. Giving things their true value and weight, judging through things rightly and not distorting them. The word He uses is that from which we derive our words, critic, criticism and criticise.
We usually put a negative connotation on them but Jesus is not being negative at all. I am well aware that many of us err in the direction of negative criticism. Finding fault may well be the strong suit as far as our habitual living as persons is concerned. We are quick to judge and slow to exercise the second word, ‘mercy.’ We are not merciful at all, critical people usually lean to hardness. However, maybe there are those of us who major on the second word, we seem to prefer mercy, tolerance, tending towards a sentimental view that wants to be ‘merciful’ to all and not bring what they are doing under examination and scrutiny. We are likely to bend the scriptures of God and excuse ourselves in the process. Of course, if we magnify the judgement and diminish the mercy, we shall be both unfaithful to God, to our fellow man and ourselves. The third word of the weighty trio is ‘faithfulness.’ If we would be faithful to God, faithful to our fellow human being and to ourselves, then we must be those who are both discerning according to God’s word and way and merciful too. The word for mercy includes compassion of heart. Now apply these words to our attitudes to LBGT. It would seem that plenty who call themselves Christians and even leaders err towards the first word and are light on the second. Then there are many who are strong on the mercy and what appears to be compassion and are light on the discrimination that judges righteously as to what God has said. This means we are thoroughly adrift in either our hardness or sentimental excuse of compassion.
There is no faithfulness here, we are failing God and those we are seeking to help, to teach, to disciple. We are setting ourselves up for future temptations when we will possibly fall into the ditch along with those we are trying to assist. I note that Jesus spoke of these matters earlier on in His ministry (Luke 11:42). On this occasion He spoke of the neglect of two things, “you pass over judgement and the love of God.” You may notice that in the Matthew scripture Jesus mentions that they have OMITTED the weightier matters, and in the Luke scripture they have PASSED OVER them. In the original these are two different words. In the first it indicates that the religious leaders have ‘sent away’ the things that really matter. Rejected them, not simply let them slip, but moved them out of sight, out of remembrance. They did not want to retain these onerous and demanding, and life bringing things. Instead they embraced their religious code, and with it, their superficiality was visible for all to see. Is something similar occurring to day in some circles? The church has lost its teeth, there is no real substance, just enough of Jesus to keep us from being thoroughly filthy but lacking His Life and the purity of His ways for family and sexuality.
I think we see this a good deal, the “sending away” of the things that really matter and the embrace of the world’s standards in the name of tolerance and a false compassion. In the Luke scripture Jesus uses a word that means that the scribes and teachers had adopted something that is almost but not quite. It is a doctrine and way of life that runs in parallel but not the real pathway. Whether rejection, or walking a path that is more or less in parallel but lacking the high road of holiness, these were blind leaders and the blind wanted to follow them. Let us examine ourselves, it is time to watch and stand fast under God’s word and truth and be courageous in the face of the temptations to a compromised Christianity. We must not neglect that needed judgment, nor the compassionate mercy. These two are ‘givens’ for the Christian life and in them both we must increase so that we might be faithful to God, to His image in us and faithful to those around us in a lost and wrecked world.