This week was dominated by President Obama. The award of the Nobel prize for Peace, caught the world , and I daresay himself too, completely off guard. My own personal and immediate view was that this accolade was a bit premature, but I was not unsympathetic to the reason (s)shared with the public why the directors of of such a prestigious body acted in the way that they did - impressed, like so many others across the world, with President Obama's ability to inspire hope, peace and justice and thus be able to usher in a refreshing new approach to International dialogue and co-operation in what hitherto had become an increasingly uni-polar and dangerous world.
But it was not the award alone that stimulated a lot of thought about President Obama, but rather his address to a Gay-Rights Lobby in Washing ton D.C. I saw it on CNN eventually, having not planned to watch it, but providence intervened. Inter alia, he assured the group, that in his opinion, the loving relationship between two men or women is of the same value as that between a man and a woman and equally so the different family arrangements. Against this philosophical backdrop I suppose, he announced the different policy initiatives that his administration had taken to remove some of the injustices which had been meted out to gays and lesbians. And compared their situation to that of black people and their struggles against injustice in white America.
Two thoughts came into my mind as I reflected on his speech and the rousing reception that it triggered from the audience. One, have we as Christians been guilty of, or party to, meting out injustice to gays and lesbians? In the sense that though most Christians, whose faith rests on the unchanging nature of God's Holy Word as ultimately manifest in Christ, the Word made flesh, regard homosexuality as a "sinful" lifestyle, have been sought to protect them and any other group from injustice, hate and neglect? Some of the issues raised by President Obama, as a secular leader; the right to serve in the army; the right to security of tenure in a job; the right to a civil union and the attendant social benefits - visitation in hospital and legacy rights for example: are issues that we as Christians need to reflect on deeply. The second question that arose in my mind, is how does one ensure justice for individuals whose lifestyle is clearly in defiance of God's command, and who are unapologetic, without encouraging such a lifestyle and also not being unmindful of some of the objectives of some of its leaders - the equating of a homosexual lifestyle with that of a heterosexual union as ordained by God. And that was my greatest fear for President Obama, a self confessed Christian.
So what did the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who is always ahead of us, preparing the way, say to His child this week.
The message began in the book of Galatians which our Bible study group completed this week.
" My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you...."
The most important doctrinal lesson that all who claim to be followers of Christ need to learn, including President Obama, is that we cannot have a right relationship with God, we have no claim to holiness before , we cannot be disciples of Christ, unless the Son of God is being formed in us more and more each day. So it is not our good intentions, not our interpretation of what constitutes justice or not, not our good works, not our ability to inspire hope in a world desperately in need of good news and hope for a better and more secure future that matters before God primarily, but whether or not His Son, who died that sinful man may be reconciled to a Holy God, is being formed in you and I.
And that's the living Gospel truth. Otherwise Christ's death on the Cross of Calvary would have been an irrelevant bit of history in the life of human kind. But we know better, that the events that took place on the Cross, has once and for all defined human history. What is confusing the world and an honestly caring, but nevertheless ill informed about his religion, President, is this issue of Sin and sins.
The following meditation helps to explain the difference which is the thrust of this message from the God of Jacob this week.
OCTOBER 5 OSWALD CHAMBERS MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST
THE BIAS OF DEGENERATION
" Wherefore, as by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned". Romans 5:12
The Bible does not say that God punished the human race for one man's sin; but that the disposition of sin, viz, my claim to my right to myself, entered into the human race by one man, and that another Man took on Him the sin of the human race and put it away ( Heb. 9:26) - an infinitely profounder revelation. The disposition of sin is not immorality and wrong-doing, but the disposition of self-realization - I am my own god. This disposition may work out in decorous morality or in indecorous immorality, but it has one basis, my claim to my right to myself. When our Lord faced men with all the forces of evil in them, and men who were clean living and n=moral and upright, He did not pay any attention to the moral degradation of the one or to the moral attainment of the other; He looked at something we do not see, viz., the disposition.
Sin is a thing I am born with and i cannot touch it; God touches it in Redemption. In the Cross of Jesus Christ God redeemed the whole human race from the possibility of damnation through the heredity of sin. The condemnation is not that I am born with a heredity of sin, but if when I realize Jesus came to deliver me from it, I refuse to let Him do so, from that moment I begin to get the seal of damnation. " And this is the judgement" ( the critical moment), " that the light is come into the world and men loved the darkness rather than the light."
As I write, the words of the song writer come into my mind. Words from the penultimate verse of that great hymn:
Thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown
When thou camest to earth for me.....
Refrain: O come to my heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for thee
Thou camest O Lord with the living word
That should set thy people free
But with mocking scorn and a crown of thorn
They bore thee to Calvary
O come to my heart Lord Jesus
There is room in my heart for thee
One of our political leaders whose base was in the, now much feared Tivoli Gardens area, and probably where the very popular term " Don" emerged, once claimed that " everybody want to be a Don. Well there is only one Don". An outburst which was to earn him the dubious title and much lampooned sobriquet of " The One Don". An observation which sums up the reason behind sin which entered the world through Adam, and which lies at the heart of the debate about, not just homosexuality, but Sin. Mankind inherited the disposition to claim the right to be him or herself, or in other words to be his or her own god. To be his or her own "Don". And God says NO. And left His throne and His kingly crown, became man , incarnate, in Christ, and died on the Cross so that we may receive the disposition - to trust Him alone, the only truly God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac and Jacob. And the problem with many of us, even within the church, much less the homosexual community, is that we are not prepared to relinquish our "sovereign rights" over our bodies, our minds, our souls, and our sexuality, to the God who created us in His own image and calls us to be Holy as He is Holy. An image which is marred, but not destroyed by Sin, and which can be made whole again, only in and through Jesus Christ.
It is the opposition to this world view that has fueled, among other things, the abortion debate - it is my body; the homosexual debate - it is my right to live how I please; the gambling debate - it is my right to use my money as I please.
Finally my eyes "happened upon" a meditation from The Complete Works Of Oswald Chambers which i would have read tomorrow but which is very relevant in our understanding of human nature and how to reach out to non-believers and passionate but ill informed Christians.
The Disposition of darkness.
" The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God ; for they are foolishness unto him. ( 1 Cor. 2:14)
The word " disposition" is used here in the sense of the mainspring that moves me. Apart from a knowledge of Jesus Christ, and apart fro being crumpled up by the conviction of sin, men have a disposition which keeps them perfectly happy and peaceful. The natural man is not in distress, not conscious of any disharmony in himself; he is not " in trouble as other men ", and is quite content with being once-born; the things Jesus Christ stands for have no meaning for the natural man. The Bible refers to this disposition as one of darkness --" being darkened in their understanding" ( Ephesians 4:18RV). We preach to men as if they were conscious of being dying sinners, they are not, they are having a good time, and all our talk about the need to be born again is from a domain they know nothing about...there in nothing attractive about the Gospel to the natural man; the only man who finds the gospel attractive is the man who is convicted of sin. Conviction of sin is produced by the incoming of the Holy Spirit because conscience is promptly made to look at God's demands and the whole nature cries out, in some form or another. " What must I do to be saved?"............
When Jesus comes He comes in he upsets the this false unity; he comes not as a Comforter, but as a thorough Disturber. " if I had not come...they had not sin" --- then why did he come? If I was peaceful and happy, living a clean upright life, why should Jesus come with a standard of holiness I never dreamt of? Simply because that peace was the peace of death, a peace altogether apart from God. The coming of Jesus to the natural man means the destruction of all the peace that is not based on a personal relationship to Himself.
And such a relationship does not come to once-born people. A hard message but one that we must not resile from presenting to the world, whether to Presidents or homosexuals, or those going to church for many years but living a disobedient lifestyle. Otherwise we are being traitors to the Cross of Christ, and therefore guilty of preferring the " darkness" over " the light", the basis for the final judgement from the God of Abraham. So let us pray without ceasing for ourselves, President Obama and all others with good and decent intentions for the upliftment of all mankind, that we may realize that God does not intend to redeem the world and make it right, but that in Christ, and through His death on Calvary, He has already accomplished that great task, and for which, and in return, all He requires is that we believe. Amen