Friday, May 2, 2014

The Voice of the Pulpit : The Business of Christian Education LXXIX

18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Acts 4:18-20
            The elite religious leaders of the time were gathered together and threatened Peter and John.  They used their position in power to stop God’s works.  Earlier, Peter and John performed a miracle.  They healed a lame man in the name of Jesus Christ.  And every day they came to the temple to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ’ salvation to the people.  Many believed.  But the religious leaders did not like what they saw.  After all, they were the ones conspiring to murder Jesus through the hands of the Gentiles.  They were the ones refusing to believe in the word of Jesus Christ.  But Peter and John received a vivid command from their Master.  And they intended to keep the command and obediently making sure that his command was followed every step of the way.  So when the religious leaders, scary and intimidating they were, made a serious threat to them, Peter and John spoke boldly and they stood their ground saying: “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.

            The answer to Peter and John’s rhetorical question can only be: “To listen to God.”  There are two contradictory commands.  One came from God.  The other came from the religious leaders.  The one from God ordered Peter and John to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The one from the religious leaders forbade the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The dilemma was which one to choose.  The religious leaders made their argument long ago based on the safety and security of the nation.  Just right after Jesus’ miracle of resurrecting Lazarus, the religious leaders met and decided what to do with Jesus.  John 11:45-53 records:

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

The religious leaders’ concern was not whether they followed God’s will or not.  But they were only concerned for their own life.  They worried if the crowd did not accept them.  They worried if the higher authority would make their life difficult.  But they never considered how to please God.  In the same token, when they witnessed the marvelous work of God through Peter and John, the disciples of Jesus whom they crucified, they refused to humble their hearts.  They refused to listen to God.  They preferred to air their own opinion.  Thus with their authority they acted as if they were God and ordered the apostles to stop speaking God’s word.

            The Modus Operandi (MO) of the world hasn’t changed a bit.  They did that to Peter and John 2,000 years ago.  They do the same thing today.  The world never concerns itself on pleasing God.  They never listen to God.  They prefer airing their own opinion.  They also label Christians as being intolerant.  Listening to God’s word is not considered as wise.  So they push their agenda by inserting their own words into the mix and confuse many children of God.  The push is increasingly getting stronger nowadays in such a way that the voice from the pulpit is being threatened.  In our era today, the voice from the pulpit is being pressured by the world not to speak the truth when the truth might be offensive to some people.  If the preacher faithfully speaks the word of God that is not pleasant to the people’s ears, then the preacher will be threatened either by direct or indirect intimidation.  This trend is similar to the way the religious leaders threatened Peter and John.  One most common issue continues to surface in our era today, which is the issue of homosexual practice.  The world keeps pushing and pressuring the church to accept the idea that homosexual tendency is normal and thus its practice should be accepted as an alternative lifestyle.  Speaking from the pulpit that homosexual practice is wrong is now under fire.  Those who faithfully declare the truth from the Scripture that homosexual tendency and practice is sinful is considered intolerant and discriminating.  So many preachers are being threatened today, be it indirect or direct intimidation, to not preach the word of God related to the homosexuality issue.  Theologians are being challenged to change their theology on homosexuality.  Churches are being pressured to allow gay marriage and embrace gay practice.

            The world is riding on the momentum gained from the decision by the US Supreme Court of June 26 2013 on the issue of gay marriage.  The US Supreme Court decision to get rid of the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and thereby legalized gay marriage, has become the cornerstone of the gay rights movement.  The movement seeks to obliterate anything that stands in the way.  They argue that homosexual practice is normal, as normal as the heterosexual practice.  So anybody who says that homosexual practice is wrong is considered abusive and stereotyped as persecutors.  Granted that what the society did and what many people in the church did in the past in their treatment of those with homosexual tendency was not right.  Their treatment was harsh, abusive, unjust, and dishonoring.  They treated the homosexuals as less than humans and did whatever they wanted to them.  The Scripture speaks clearly that the homosexual practice is wrong.  But that doesn’t warrant abusive and cruel treatment of the homosexuals.  So the wrong must be named accordingly.  However, the momentum of the gay rights movement has forced for the pendulum to swing to the other extreme, that is the push to allow homosexual practice and accept it as normal.  Such push is a lie.  Admitting that what was done in the past as wrong does not warrant admittance that homosexual practice is thus right and normal.  We do have to stop the abusive treatment toward homosexuals.  But at the same time we have the obligation to name wrong as wrong.  We have the duty to speak the truth of the word of God.

            Unfortunately, even Christians, big name Christians, were among those deceived by the gay movement wave.  Desmond Tutu for example.  He is highly respected in what he did to the reconciliation in South Africa.  But his position and remarks regarding homosexuality is a cunning deception that hides behind smart play of words.  He said that he will not worship a God who is homophobic.  And he added that if God is homophobic, then he wouldn’t want to live in heaven.  He would rather live in hell rather than to live with a homophobic God.  His statement gained great support from the people who support gay rights movement.  Tutu got the glory of siding with the victimized homosexuals through his bold statement.  Tutu, in this case, has chosen to listen to the world over the word of God.  His smart language play got a lot of simple people confused.  The term “homophobic” is a trap word.  The term is used cleverly so as to force whoever is at the verge of being labeled thus to answer “No.”  For sure those who can’t accept homosexual practice are not afraid of the homosexuals.  Disapproving homosexual practice does not equate phobia of the homosexuals or homosexual practice.  But the term “homophobia” will always generate a “No” answer.  With “No” as the answer, the next pressure would be: “Then why are you not allowing the homosexuals to practice it?  Especially when there is nothing wrong with it.”  At this point, people got so confused that they would just agree to allow homosexual practice.  How much more if such argument is added with the argument of love and the like.  Which Christians would want to say no to “loving our neighbors”?  Now, with that under his belt, Tutu pushed further by bringing God into the equation.  Instead of just stopping at assigning the label “homophobic” to those who disapprove homosexual practice, he became bolder to use the label on God.  His tactic was to generate a response that would confirm that God is indeed not a homophobic.  In this strategy then he would force the people who disapprove to approve, because if God is not homophobic, why then his followers are?  Aren’t his followers supposed to reflect God?  And in this case, his not homophobic ness.  This is a cunning strategy using word play at a very high and sophisticated level.  Attempt to assign homophobic term to God in order to generate a no answer is an unfair strategy.  It is an unfair question just like the question: “Do you know that you are stupid?”  The question: “Do you…? begs a “Yes” or “No” answer.  But either answer is tainted with a cunning tactic to humiliate the person to whom the question is addressed.  Answering “Yes” would acknowledge that he/she knows his/her being stupid.  This is perfect to humiliate him/her.  To answer “No” also has the same effect.  So whatever proper answer given leads to humiliation and trap.  In the same way, Tutu’s cunning word play is a trap, designed purposefully to corner those who disapprove homosexual practice.  If Tutu insists on using the same word, then using his own strategy we can also label whoever is pushing for gay rights movement with “VERITAS-phobic.”  This term challenges Tutu and his followers to acknowledge their allergy of acknowledging the truth as declared in the Scripture about homosexuality.

            The voice of the pulpit should not be reduced to the opinion of man.  The pressure of the world should not restrict the proclamation of the truth from the pulpit.  Homosexual issue is similar to the other sins in terms of human’s inability and unwillingness to let go of the sinful act and tendency.  The push to say that homosexual practice should be permitted because it is considered as normal due to the genetic constitution is a lie, just like it is also a lie to say that the cultural practice of the Chinese people to worship their ancestors is normal as an act of honoring our parents, elders, and so on.  So many Chinese people do not wish to let go of this ancestor worship practice simply because they consider such practice as natural.  They grow up with such practice that has been perpetuated for 2,500 years, besides all they can see is the high moral ethical conduct emanating from such practice.  So why would they throw away such highly ethical practice when they become believers in Jesus?  It doesn’t make sense for them to throw away a very highly ethical practice as they embrace Christianity, which is also known as a religion that upholds high ethical value and practice.  Some churches gave in and thus allowed the Chinese people to get their way, the way that they considered as natural for them, and mixed the Christian practice with the Chinese way of life.  Once that gate was opened, the whole floodgate rushed in with it.  So cultural practices such as going to soothsayers asking for future, fortune, and so on cramped into the church.  What shall we say then?  Just allow what people consider as natural and normal to be practiced and accepted regardless of what the Bible say?  In the West it is easy to dismiss the ridiculous Chinese cultural practice of ancestor worship and say that the Bible forbids such thing.  Because the Chinese ancestor worship is foreign to them.  People are unfair in this sector.  They accept what does not cost them anything.  But they refuse things that cost them dearly.  People prefer to ignore God’s word and keep their own way of life for the sake of convenience.  It is rare to see people changing their way of life for the sake of God’s word.

            In light of this, the world forces the church to change the theology and the pulpit proclamation of the truth simply because God’s truth is in conflict with the way of the world.  The church is under fire now.  The pulpit is being challenged.  The demand of the world is to take over the pulpit and thus control it for their desire.  Many preachers are being threatened and intimidated, be it indirectly or directly.  Many have given in to the demand of the world.  Slowly they change their theology and slowly they are being recruited by the world.  And very soon, many preachers no longer preach the word of God.  They no longer become God’s servant.  Very soon they will become the world’s servant who perpetuates sin.  Peter and John understood this challenge and the cunning deception by the world, and the great mastermind of deception, the Devil.  So they put a stop on it.  Thus they asked the Sanhedrin: “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!  Peter and John made the final decision that, 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard. Now, this challenge has come to us.  Would we take the same stand Peter and John took 2,000 years ago, that is to listen to God and to be obedient to him forever?  As for me, I stand my ground and cannot help speaking about what I have been taught through the word of God – the teaching of my Lord Jesus Christ.

No comments: