I won’t be in the pulpit this weekend. My lovely wife and I took a few days off to attend a small attendance church and multi-vocational pastor and wives retreat. As such, I usually write up my thoughts on the passage of scripture from which I prepare my sermon but this week I want to simply share a few thoughts that I’ve been pondering over the past few weeks.
I’ve watched with interest over the last few weeks the many Facebook posts, Tweets and various media accounts swirling around the report regarding child sexual abuse among Southern Baptists and the vote by United Methodists regarding their stance on homosexual clergy and same-sex marriage. In many ways, these reports are more linked than either group would care to admit.
You see, one of the biggest issues facing the church today is her stance on the orthodox view of sin. While Southern Baptists wrestle with one that is still viewed by most as heinous and evil, the Methodists wrestle with the other that’s embraced and courted by “progressive” Christians. While some will be offended that I could even link these two items in the same article, I’m suggesting that both church bodies are, in fact, dealing with two different aspects of the same basic sin.
Now before you proceed to crucify me and my reputation for taking such a stance, please hear me out…
I’ve been a member of a Southern Baptist church for my entire life. If there’s one thing I know, it’s how things work in a Baptist church. Not only have I been a member of one for all those years, I’ve also pastored one for over 40 of those years. Our response to many issues is somewhat like our response to a particularly irritating but influential member of our church, that’s just the way they are, so deal with it. We don’t like confrontation or the struggles of addressing deep-seated issues, so we act like they don’t exist. Ignore the issues or problem people and maybe they’ll just go away.
No doubt, we were all shocked, appalled and angered when sexual abuse allegations began to emerge from the Catholic Church several decades ago. Our anger was exacerbated by the Catholic Church’s response or, shall I say, lack of response. We felt like they not only knew and ignored the issue, but may have even contributed by moving problematic clergy to other another parrish to hide the truth. In the minds of most, this was simply unacceptable. I agree…
Fast forward to the present and we have a similar situation with Baptists. For some, the logical response has been to cite the percentage of good, innocent and truly loving church staff and volunteers. While all of that is true, it doesn’t address the issue. It simply serves to divert our attention away from the issue. The issue? We’ve taken a lackadaisical attitude towards personal sin. To put it another way, we’ve “grown weary in well doing.” We have simply become comfortable with our sinful self. The mantra of our modern culture is “don’t judge me” and, unfortunately, the church has embraced this idea, full force.
Of course, we can cite verses and throw out memes regarding this idea, which is precisely how we have arrived at the issue the our United Methodist friends are facing. While we currently abhor the idea of child sexual abuse, we’ve become culturally numb to homosexuality, transgenderism and, especially, marital failures and infidelities. The United Methodists met last week to decide how they would handle the issue of homosexual clergy and same-sex marriage as a denomination. It appears that the majority of the UMC churches in America would have readily embraced these issues as normal if it had not been for the conservative churches of Africa.
We’ve become so accustomed to the sins of our culture that they’ve stopped shocking us. Once we’d moved from being shocked by them, then we began turning a blind eye to them. Now, we’ve become so comfortable with them we’ve begun to embrace them as acceptable and normal. But sin should NEVER be comfortable for a Christian. Consider this admonition for Hebrew Christians who were suffering for their faith…
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:1-4 ESV https://www.bible.com/59/heb.12.1-4.esv)
So, we Baptists cannot, must not turn a blind eye to the danger of the sin in our fellowship of churches. Like a dark cabinet infested with roaches, we must turn the light on the sin hiding in the dark corners of our churches exposing it to the light of truth and watch those harboring it scatter (or seek TRUE repentance). I can only pray that my friends in United Methodist churches will choose to do likewise. We must cast aside any weight that might hinder and every sin that ensnares us and RUN with patient endurance the race our Lord has set before us.