I often wonder where my fellow believers stand, especially those who I stand alongside of in the church. We live in a day and age where there is much compromise and strife within the church. The church as a body of believers is struggling to understand how to deal with culture. Some seek to embrace culture, and others seek to protest culture. There is an important balance to strike here. And it's clear that we need to be in this world, while at the same time we are not truly of this world.
Jesus said: "I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world." -John 17:14-18
The whole Bible, cover to cover is the Word of God, all of it. How can I know if my brothers and sisters believe this? There is a fairly simple litmus test to administer. I'll preface by saying that you probably won't like it. I don't like it. No one enjoys "controversial" topics like these. But it is a good way of knowing where someone stands; If someone stands more so with the Bible, or if someone stands more so with the cultural views of the world. Its a pertinent concern of our day and age.
Love, mercy and gentleness are important in this process. Anything good done in the wrong spirit can be become an evil. If I have all the right views of Scripture and have no love, I'm a useless Pharisee and a spawn of hell. Plain and simple. But if I have only love and all the wrong views of scripture, and I reject God's word for my own opinions, I've become just as much a spawn of hell, if not more so. Love and truth is in perfect balance in Christianity. Though I would say that love is truth, and truth is love. The Christian concept of love is a love baked together with truth, in essence a 'true love.' The worldly love of the world then, is not love at all, but in fact harmful, veiled in nicety, inclusion, acceptance, and a totalitarian "no one must ever be offended" concept, which is of course not love at all, but something else entirely.
Yet Biblical love is essential, biblical love, mercy and a pouring out of excessive, scandalous grace. We have to be so careful to strike that balance. It's so easy to become a mean spirited dogged judgmental Pharisee when we fight for truth and speak truth on important issues of our day. We have to be so careful that we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Let me say that again, it's the Biblical Pauline epistle formula for speaking truth, we are called to speak the truth in love. And as Peter wrote, we are called to provide an answer, but to do this with gentleness and patience (1st Peter 3:15).
To be truth speakers in a fallen culture, we must make sure, though in the right hand our sword is truth, in the left hand we carry the love that comes with a gentle spirit. That is our goal and formula.
So we seek to help our brothers and sisters who have been misled by the viewpoints of the world, to hold biblical positions on key issues. This is a simple litmus test to see where our brothers and sisters are at.
Question 1: What is your view on the authority of Scripture?
Does the believer consider the Scriptures as the guide of their opinions, viewpoints or do they hold their own viewpoints above the Scriptures, and dictate their own views into the Scriptures? Are they willing to change what the Bible says to suit their own viewpoints? This is the most crucial question, and obviously guides what their answers will be on the next two.
Question 2: Do you consider human life to be sacred, God given, including unborn life in the womb?
Millions upon millions of unborn child have been slaughtered in our time. It is a modern day genocide, a modern day child sacrifice, something like 57 million unborn children have died, and gone to Jesus, precious souls, who never had a chance to live, because they were removed for the purpose of convenience, or to prevent "emotional problems." What a terrible thing! It is the very inversion of the cross of Jesus Christ, Jesus died for us, abortion says, you die for me, for my convenience.
But obviously, if the believer does not hold a high view of the Scriptures, then the issue of abortion isn't really a Biblical issue to them, it's a cultural issue, and the propaganda of the world may have influenced them to think of child sacrifice as women's health. It's a good question to know where they stand regarding the scriptures.
Question 3: What is your position on marriage and homosexuality?
This is probably the most revealing of all three questions. The cultural views on this issue are so dominant, so powerful, that only the most firm Christian, holding the highest view of the scriptures, built up within the deepest convictions regarding our faith is willing to stand up and firmly say that marriage as God designed it is between man and woman, and that the practice of homosexuality is sinful (Genesis 19:1-13; Leviticus 18:22;20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1st Timothy 1:10).
Yet we must always include the fact that homosexuality is not a special sin. A person who practices homosexuality can repent of that sin, turn to Jesus Christ and be born again. Jesus forgives all. Let me repeat that: Jesus forgives all. He transforms us into new people, though we may struggle with temptations in the world, He grants us the victory. Repent and believe the good news is what Jesus said (Mark 1:15).
I think people who struggle with homosexuality, with gender confusion and other issues should be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion. I believe they should be invited to our churches, invited to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ, and invited to have a change of mind, and embrace God's design for living. They shouldn't be bombarded with marriage stuff I don't think, but they should know where we stand as the church on this issue.
I recall early in my Christian walk I participated with a church in a storefront in downtown Wausau where I grew up. The store front outreach was stationed right next to a gay bar. On Saturday nights the downtown mission church would be open on Saturday night with coffee and conversations. Several people caught in homosexuality would come over, be treated with love, dignity and would be treated as friends. They weren't judged, or condemned. But they did know that the church's view on marriage and homosexuality was Biblical. Many of them began attending the church, and got saved. Thank the Lord that this church didn't say "come and don't be changed, come and remain homosexual. Jesus wants you to be homosexual." Instead they said, "Come on in, we love you and we invite you to be transformed by the work of Jesus Christ." I became friends with several of these wonderful men, and I know today they would say that they were so thankful that the church encouraged them to be changed by the love of Christ. So I really worry when Christian leaders change their view on homosexuality, and change what the Bible says about homosexuality. Because it's destructive to people who are caught in that sin. I bet those Christian leaders feel really inclusive, tolerant, and "loving" by doing that. I'm sure it made them popular with the culture. But it's hurting people caught in very real snares of the world. It's a tragedy when churches flip on gay marriage, because it hurts those they're trying to help.
It's a constant issue of our day and age. It's a constant conversation in our culture. Which is exactly why we should talk about it. If we ignore such important issues we render ourselves irrelevant. It's odd when Christians get mad at other Christians for talking about this issue. It's not about causing controversy. It's not. It's about reaching out to the culture and sharing a counter-cultural message that will help people see that the church is a different way of life. We always complain about how much the church looks just like the world. Well, then we need to engage on difficult issues and show that we offer a different, Jesus-centered way of life.
So in conclusion, the three key questions of our day and age relate to the authority of the Bible in the life of a believer, the sacredness of human life, and God's design for marriage and family. Those are the key issues of our day.
I would just appeal to those who are struggling with these questions: Please friends, we are not trying to be mean or judgmental when raising these questions. We're trying to rally people to the Word of God, and what it truly says. There is nothing wrong with picking up the Bible, checking out some key verses and then adjusting our viewpoint on something. There is no shame in that. It's a Biblical thing to do, that we test everything against the Word of God and what it says in our wonderful Book. I'd encourage you to test everything by the Word of God.