“Jesus. . . always keep opening my eyes and giving me wisdom.” That’s the prayer I was reminded to pray once again this morning as my heart felt like it was in the grip of conflict.
Last night, I returned from five days spent totally off the grid and out of touch with anything and anyone other than the guys who were with me. I was in the North Woods wilderness of Ontario. When our travels intersected us with a phone signal and we eventually hooked up to wireless, the craziness and pace of the world we had ignored for five days took center stage once again. We had actually wondered out loud what we were missing while we were away. Who died? Have there been any world catastrophes? Did the Phillies climb their way back into first-place? (Not a chance on that last one!)
The connection led to some kind of news about “Call me Caitlyn.” It took some time to process those words and the accompanying photo. Yes, more than we imagined had happened while we were gone.
Now, once again, my ongoing journey to grow in my faith and then to move and engage faithfully and to the glory of God in a rapidly changing culture has gotten even more difficult and confusing. And with social media offering me infinite opinions and directives on what it means to respond to these and other issues to the glory of God making things even more confusing. . . well, my head is really spinning and the conflict in my heart is strong.
How are we to process, understand, and engage with these issues as followers of Jesus? That’s the question that drives me here. The commitment that drives me is to the revealed Christ of the Scriptures. . . not some revisionist Jesus who has been tweaked and remade in our own image, opinions, feelings, and hopes (a reality that I fear is happening to more and more of us without us even knowing it). Yet, I want to always be open to what God’s Spirit might be teaching me because, after all, I can’t and don’t have it all figured out and right. So, with a combination of a stake in the ground regarding Biblical authority, and an earnest search for humility and teachability, I process.
This morning, one blog post appeared in a variety of places. It was shared by a few friends. So, I read it. It’s from someone I don’t know, Josh Cobia, who is a worship leader and pastor. His post caught my eye because of its title: “I went to church with Bruce Jenner and here’s what Caitlyn taught me about Jesus.” I’ve read it a few times over. I believe it to be an honest and straightforward recounting of what Josh Cobia has experienced and believes regarding the Kardashians and the Jenners. It’s heartfelt. As a result, there is a certain kind of tug that it elicits on one’s heart and emotions. It certainly did for me. In many ways, I want to believe and affirm his sentiments and analysis. After all, based on our current cultural leanings, that would be what most believe to be the kind, compassionate, and right thing to do. Still, I can’t go there.
I would encourage you to read Josh Cobia’s blog. I think it provides clear evidence of where we’ve gone as a church culture. It’s the reason why I earnestly pray, “Jesus. . . always keep opening my eyes and giving me wisdom.” I desperately desire to follow and please my Lord. I want desperately to follow Him in His kindness, compassion, and rightness. But I want to do so in a way that reflects good, faithful, and correct exegesis of God’s revelation of Himself in the Scriptures, and good principles of Biblical interpretation. I fear, however, that more of us are praying that prayer while seeking wisdom not from the Word, but from some kind sage-like cloud that hovers in the ethos, dispensing an enlightenment that’s trumping decades of historical orthodoxy.
In the world of biblical studies, this task of interpretation is called Hermeneutics. While this is a complex matter, I fear that a growing number of us are forsaking responsible biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, and resorting to reading the Scriptures and the life and ministry of Jesus through a heremeneutic that’s driven by cultural values and personal emotions. Could it be that more of more of us are praying that prayer while seeking wisdom not from the Word, but from some kind sage-like cloud that hovers in the ethos, dispensing an enlightenment that’s trumping decades of historical orthodoxy? And so, we wind up being drawn to “niceness” and “kindness,” somehow assuming that since this reflects love and compassion (as we define them), then it must be right. So when Jenner and the Kardashians do and say the right things in kind and nice ways. . . well. . . then what they do and say, like them, must be good, true, and right.
Let me be blunt. . . I don’t want Caitlyn to teach me about Jesus. I don’t even want me to teach me about Jesus. I want Jesus to teach me about Jesus. I want Jesus to teach me about the complete Jesus. I don’t want a Jesus who is all about truth with grace that’s been amputated. Nor do I want a Jesus who is all about grace and love, with truth amputated. We must first and foremost seek the complete Jesus who has been revealed in the Scriptures. . . not a Jesus who has been revealed in our hearts, minds, and emotions.
The writer of Proverbs tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” You and I need to tread fearfully, carefully, and with deep humility into God’s revelation of Himself, all the while praying, “Jesus. . . always keep opening my eyes and giving me wisdom.” And, we need to realize that He will never take us down a road where He contradicts Himself. That’s why, as I read Josh Cobia’s blog, I couldn’t help but think about the Jesus who loved, cared for, reached out to, and forgave the women caught in adultery. That’s why I had to remember that He also said to her, “Go. . . and sin no more.”
Once again, I want to remind you of these words from Alex Davidson (a Christian who has wrestled through his same-sex attraction) in his book The Returns of Love:A Christian View of Homosexuality –
“The part of the jungle where I am lost may be miles away from the part where you are lost, but the same map and compass can help us both. That map and compass I take to be the Word of God, both Christ the living Word and Scripture the written Word. Why do people who are otherwise thoughtful and sincere find it so easy to break the third commandment? They take the name of the Lord, and call themselves ‘Christians’; yet they take it in vain, by emptying it of what is necessarily contained within it. The only Christ I can accept is not the tenth-hand Christ of the popular imagination, but the first-hand Christ of the New Testament, and once I admit Him I find I have to admit a whole range of teaching which is inseparable from Him – not only His own as reported in the Gospels, but that of the prophets whom He upheld and ratified, and that of the apostles whom He taught and commissioned: in other words, biblical revelation as a whole. It is on the principles the Bible lays down that I try to base my belief and behavior in general, and therefore my attitude to the matter (homosexual attraction) discussed in this book in particular.”
One line from Cobia’s blog has really caught my eye. He’s not stating anything new here as we’ve been hearing this more and more these days: “What’s more pressing to me is how the church (my tribe) will respond to Caitlyn. The LGBTQ people I know are loving, excepting (sic), beautiful people and many of them have been so hurt by their church communities that they have left the faith.”
How we will respond is the issue. Our response is the issue with any and all matters of sin. When we lean on the law and we are void of grace – which happens far too often – shame on us. But shame on us as well when we fail to faithfully serve Christ and sinners by showering them with grace void of truth. In the former, we hurt them through condemnation. In the latter, we hurt them through accommodation. In addition, we must realize that even when we do strike a faithful, God-honoring balance, there will be those who walk away due to the offense of the Gospel. When that happens, we can’t remove or water down the Gospel to keep people in the building.
‘Jesus. . . always keep opening our eyes and giving us wisdom.”