11 Beloved, I urge you has sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
As you probably felt, I felt a certain not unexpected sadness and disappointment in this past week with the Supreme Court decision that there is no need for the family in society. Instantly the internet seemed to explode with messages celebrating this bad news. Others warned of impending attack and persecution as Biblical ethics and family structure officially become the minority opinion. Certainly this is a bit disappointing, but as I thought about this, I recognized that this is not a particularly new phenomenon. We have enjoyed a culture that was shaped by Christian ethics long ago, but we have never lived in a Christian culture. In fact, we were never meant to live in a Christian culture. The Christian life is the life of a “bondservant” as Titus says. He goes on to describe the Christian life by saying,
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself ta people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. -Titus 2:11–14
The world is the culture that we live in. When Christians see the values of Scripture, we respond by trading in our values for what God’s values are. Titus says that this culture has different values, different desires, and different ideas of what is right and what is wrong. If we agree with the world, that’s when we should start to be wary. The Christian life is meant to be lived as a minority lifestyle in the world, because it is a value system that is drastically different. This is nothing new. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in the midst of a culture that was sex obsessed (Sound familiar?). He wrote to the Thessalonians in the midst of the same culture. In fact, Paul addresses this conflict of values between believers and the culture directly saying,
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles(i.e world) who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. -1 Thessalonians 4:3–8
The will of God is that we as Christians become sanctified. This sanctification is then described as pursuing the passions of God rather than the passions of men. The journey of sanctification as Christians is a journey away from the culture and towards God. It is today, and it always has been. Many churches who have tried to be more “culturally sensitive” have preached a message that says, you can pursue God and do what you feel like is right with impunity. This is neither a Christian message, nor is it truthful. God’s word says that both paths are mutually exclusive. They are opposite directions. If your desire is to pursue your own passions, then you cannot pursue the passions of God. They stand in opposite directions and not surprisingly, they ultimately lead to two very different places.
What does this mean for us? Where do we go from here? Firstly, I think that it means nothing. Or, rather, it means we should continue to pursue God through the sanctification of laying down our lives for the sake of Christ. This is an unchanging commission for Christians. The culture doesn’t change God’s word, God’s will, or God’s holy standards. Secondly, I urge you to live a life baptized by the gospel. 1 Peter 2:12 says, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” This means that if we live life informed by the gospel, our lives will vindicate us against our critics. Simply continue to live like Christ, and we will be above reproach. Lastly, I think that we should recognize that God is still in control, and that His plan will be accomplished for His people. What happened in the Supreme Court decision was not by any means good nor should it be celebrated, but God is still working. It is true that our culture is moving from a position of polite amity for God’s word to a place of greater hostility, but I can see God’s plan in this. I am frankly very excited at the prospects for the future of the Christian family. Casual Christianity has always been a lie that stagnates the church. When the message of the gospel is not shaded by people who simply like the idea of going to church, it transforms lives like we have not seen in this country in a very long time. It transforms people with great conviction and power. This is true today of believers in countries around the world where they have only ever been the minority, and God is doing great things in these places. This is why one of my dear brothers in China said to me that he has prayed for many years for the church in America to experience persecution and segregation. It forces us to choose to live with conviction or to live like the world. There is no middle ground in the gospel. Jesus didn’t go part way to the cross, and neither should we. The family of faith will grow in new ways and it will endure as it always has, through empires and movements, through laws of men and the voyage of history, through good times and bad. The family of Christ will remain an unbroken heritage of faith that stretches through antiquity to the consummation of all things. Be at peace, God is the author of all things. It will because God has said it will, and He is the ultimate High Court.