For the first time in American history, the culture, and law, has become diametrically opposed to the teachings and practices of christian churches. A pastor in Pennsylvania was fired (rightfully so) last month for performing a same sex marriage. (read the article: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/09/27/did-this-pastor-deserve-to-be-fired/ ) As the Bible is very clear on issues of sex and marriage (to argue differently is only meant to divert the conversation) and a church cannot allow it's clergy to violate clear Biblical teaching. The real issue at hand is how to uphold Biblical truth in the face of such cultural, political and even legal opposition, without seeming hateful, uneducated or becoming irrelevant to society. Can the church find a balance of love and compassion while upholding truth without compromise?
Romans chapter one clearly identifies God's opposition to homosexual behavior and Jesus clearly identified marriage as a union between a man and a woman in Matthew 19:5. To argue that the Bible is not opposed to homosexual activity and same sex marriage is subterfuge. To argue that the Bible has any influence, or is recognized as a moral authority in our current culture is a valid argument, but that influence and authority should not argued within the church.
Unfortunately, many churches have discarded Biblical truth for the sake of convenience. The pastor who was fired in PA is married to a woman that also happens to be a Pastor of a church. The Bible clearly teaches that the role of Pastor is reserved for men, men of great character, faith and morals. In the book of I Timothy, it is clear that one of the requirements of Deacons and Elders (pastors) is to be a man:
1Timothy 3:1-13 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Nowhere in the above passage is there any loophole or argument that allows a woman to pastor. In fact, the Apostle Paul makes the point even more emphatically in the previous chapter of I Timothy
1Timothy 2:12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
Obviously, God's intent is that men serve as pastors and are responsible for teaching His word in a church setting. Opponents of this teaching will always claim shifting culture as the reason we can ignore the clear teaching of scripture. I cannot find any passage of scripture that allows for shifting cultural mores to dictate the veracity of Biblical truth. Truth is truth and cannot be altered. If a truth can be altered or changed, it is not a truth by definition. If the Bible can be altered or changed to fit societal changes and beliefs, then the Bible is not truth and has no moral authority. In that case, we can discard the Bible and live as we please without any influence from any god or higher authority. It is no wonder this pastor supports same sex marriage as he already has demonstrated contempt for the clear teachings of the Bible.
The Bible tells us that God is UNCHANGEABLE. If we accept the Bible as God's word we must understand the implications of such a belief. We must believe that the Bible is wholly inspired by God and without error. We must believe that because God is unchangeable, so are the teachings found in His word. If the Bible is true, then it is true, regardless of what ever a law dictates, a court decides, or a free press reports. If the Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman and that homosexual behavior is wrong it is the role of the church to uphold that teaching.
The very tricky part is for the church to remain true to Biblical truth and maintain a compassionate heart and a relevancy to society. It is easy for Christians to get angry and forget we are to love people into the kingdom. It is easy for us to allow out emotions to dictate our behavior and allowing us to say hateful and hurtful things about and to the very people to whom we are supposed to be demonstrating the love of Christ. Our example is Christ. To the woman caught in adultery, Christ told her, "go and sin no more." To the paralytic at the pool at Siloam, Christ said, "stop sinning before something worse happens to you." The key is that Christ did not address their sin until He showed them love and compassion. In the case of he adulterous woman, Christ rescued her from and forgave her for her sinful behavior. In the case of the paralytic, Christ healed him of his infirmary, and when the man responded to Christ's gift of healing, Jesus addressed the man's sin.
As a church, we are so quick to attack the sin of individuals that we forget that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The church needs to repent and clean it's own house before we can address the sins of society. We need to be about the work of love without compromise.
It will become increasingly difficult for the church in America to remain relevant as our culture shifts further away from Biblical morals and truth. At one time, lawmakers used the Bible to set laws and govern society. Today, that is far from the case. Emotion, faulty reasoning, and political correctness has hijacked morality and truth. I applaud the church in PA for firing this apostate preacher. I fear for the day when churches are forced to abandon Biblical truth or face legal consequences. I fear for that day, yet I am confident that it is not far away. Given the current state of affairs in the American church, I foresee a great deal of compromise and apostasy in our future for there is a great deal of compromise and apostasy now when we are free to follow Biblical truth.
Now is the time to pray for our church leaders who are still remaining true to God's word, that they will have the strength and fortitude to remain so when not only society shifts against us but the law as well. We need to pray for ourselves, as individual believers, to stand firm and remember the Biblical mandate, "Let God be true and every man a liar." We need now more than ever to love and serve the lost as Christ did allowing them to recognize their sin and need of salvation through the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to immerse ourselves in God's word in order to know what it teaches...and then live by it.