Homosexual Activist Bullying Is Rife with Hypocrisy

The sex bullies have taken over the social sphere. Now you’re considered intolerant if you simply want to protect the innocence of a child in the classroom, or think that you ought to be able to teach your kids about the advantages of traditional marriage, or believe that men and women are different from each other. You must be cured of your thought crimes. And the sex bullies are there, bullhorns in hand, ready to apply that cure at a moment’s notice.
—Ben Shapiro1

In March of 2015, barely one year ago, the Indiana Legislature passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA], a law that informs and guides state courts in religious liberty cases. The law was extremely controversial, in part because it was woefully misunderstood. In the end, a balanced, reasonable provision was watered down to such an extent that those most likely to be coerced into violating their consciences lost important religious liberty protections. Indiana’s Republican legislature and Republican Governor Mike Pence caved to homosexual activist pressure. A summary of what happened can be found here.

Both bullying and blatant hypocrisy abounded, but in this post I’d like to focus primarily on the hypocrisy that pervades this kind of battle, one that is becoming all too commonplace. We see hypocrisy not just from Big Business and militant gay activists, but also from politicians when they cave in to the pressure.

Fast forward one year, to March, 2016. During this momentous month, we have witnessed similar bullying in both Georgia and North Carolina. In Georgia, a weak and narrow religious liberty bill passed the state legislature and was sent to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk for his signature. The Republican governor vetoed the measure. Bryan Fisher of the American Family Association explains.

Gov. Deal, as Indiana governor Mike Pence did before him, has abandoned any pretext of protecting Christians from discrimination in his state. As one lawmaker bluntly put it, “It’s open season on people of faith” in Georgia.

The bill had been virtually eviscerated before it even got to the governor’s desk. Even if the governor had signed it, it would have provided no protection at all for Christian vendors who exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to the free exercise of religion in the way they run their businesses. Christian bakers, florists, photographers, T-shirt makers, etc., etc., etc., are now officially left high and dry in Georgia, abandoned by the very official who has taken an oath before God to protect them.

About all that was left in the bill was protection for what pastors and churches and faith-based organizations do inside the four walls of their own buildings. Now even that protection has vanished like a whiff of smoke and the governor has left them without a shred of legal protection.

The governor piously claimed “I do not respond well to insults or threats,” and then vetoed the bill after Coca-Cola, Netflix, Apple, Time Warner, Marriott, Walt Disney and the NFL rattled their sabers.

The governor is right. He does not respond well to insults and threats. He folded like a cheap accordion at a Lawrence Welk concert.

Roberto Rivera of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview warns that this has dark and ominous implications for the future of religious liberty in America. Under the cloak of protecting liberty for all, Governor Deal, just one day after Easter, vetoed “a modest bill that would provide protections for churches threatened by government discrimination in the wake of the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage.” Unfortunately, this kind of accommodation has become the norm for many, though not all, Republicans. They promise resistance to the Left’s agenda, then after they’re elected, they cave. It’s hypocrisy, and it’s left conservatives feeling both angry and betrayed.

No wonder Franklin Graham recently declared he has no hope in either the Democrat or Republican party. But wait! While his hope is in God and God alone, Graham also believes that Christians must participate in the political process by running for office themselves if they can and certainly by voting for those who will uphold biblical principles once they’re elected. Among other things, Graham was emphasizing that hypocrisy on the part of politicians who promise to oppose evil must end.

Thankfully, turning to North Carolina, we see a refreshing example of leadership in Governor Pat McCrory, who expressed concern about a new bathroom bill in Charlotte that would have given males access to women’s restrooms and vice versa. To McCrory, such a law defied common sense. Although the governor did not call for a special session of the legislature, he did support it, and after the legislature passed a statewide measure stipulating that men’s restrooms were for biological males and women’s restrooms for biological females, McCrory signed the measure into law. Here is a statement from the governor’s office clarifying what the bill does and does not do.

The wrath of the Left descended upon the state—and with it, the Left’s hypocrisy. Here are some clear examples of leftist duplicity.

  • Opponents of North Carolina’s new law claim it will hurt business. While it’s true that Big Business has expressed strong opposition to the state law [part of a pattern we’ve seen before], it’s also true that hundreds of businesses strongly objected Charlotte’s bathroom bill. Frank Turek reports that on Monday, March 28,

Lt. Governor Dan Forest, who helped call the special session to pass HB2, called the executive in charge at one large protesting company and simply asked if him if he or anyone there had actually read the bill. He admitted they had not. They just labeled it “discriminatory” without even reading it.

Who needs the truth when you make so much “progress” by ignoring the truth and engaging in the very bigotry and name-calling you claim to oppose?

The truth is they, like other companies who haven’t bothered to read the bill, are simply taking their marching orders from the misnamed “Human Rights Campaign,” who have the audacity to claim that men have a human right to have access to women and girls in public bathrooms, and that any acknowledgement of the biological differences between men and women is somehow discrimination against people who prefer same-sex relationships.

Amac, the Association of Mature American Citizens (a conservative alternative to the AARP), wonders if businesses that have opposed the North Carolina law now are allowing men into women’s restrooms in their local retail locations in the state. It’s a great question, given the fact that the law allows them to set their own policies.

  • In protest of North Carolina’s new law, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has banned “non-essential” state travel to the Tar Heel state. Yet he’s been to Cuba in an official capacity as governor, and he’s partnering with JetBlue airlines to encourage people to travel there. All of this has taken place despite the fact that transgendered people have not been treated humanely by the Cuban government. The North Carolina Governor’s Office issued this statement about Cuomo’s words and actions:

“Syracuse is playing in the Final Four in Houston where voters overwhelmingly rejected a nearly identical bathroom ordinance that was also rejected by the state of North Carolina,” said Governor McCrory Communications Director Josh Ellis. “Is Governor Cuomo going to ask the Syracuse team to boycott the game in Houston? It’s total hypocrisy and demagoguery if the governor does not, considering he also visited Cuba, a communist country with a deplorable record of human rights violations.”

  • Connecticut Governor Daniel Mallory also has banned state-funded travel to North Carolina. Ed Lee, the Mayor of San Francisco, is preventing city employees from such travel as well. Elected to address problems and issues directly affecting their constituents, these leaders should not be honing in on the affairs of the Tar Heel state. Of Ed Lee, Franklin Graham wrote,

Can you believe it? I think Mayor Lee needs to focus on the problems of San Francisco—which are many—and leave NC to our governor to manage. He and others who are threatening NC with all kinds of boycotts really need to get their facts straight rather than believing the misinformation promoted by the Progressive Left.

  • The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced on March 24 that

they may reconsider hosting 2017 All-Star Weekend activities in Charlotte, because of their commitment to “equality and mutual respect.” They apparently missed the irony in taking this moral stand, given that the NBA and WNBA are separate leagues, but Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation didn’t, observing on Twitter: “Hey @NBA, you’re against bathrooms based on biology, but think basketball should be?”

Watch Governor McCrory share his perspective on the new North Carolina law.

Before concluding, let’s recall that the NBA opposed the new law on the basis of “equality and mutual respect.” We are compelled to state that while some opponents of North Carolina’s new law may sincerely believe they are promoting these virtues, the policy the Charlotte City Council voted to implement on February 22 would have caused great harm. Whom would it harm?

  • Women. The doors of women’s bathrooms would be thrown open to predatory men. The number of such men will only increase under these kinds of ordinances.
  • Those dealing with gender identity issues—despite the fact that these are the very people the policy was designed to help. Walt Heyer knows. He’s had two sex change operations. Born male, he became Laura, then years later, Walt again. He now has a website called Sex Change Regret. If sex change surgery is harmful, then so is encouraging people to follow their inclinations to act as members of the opposite sex.
  • Finally, the teaching that gender is fluid and a matter of choice is harmful to children—so policies that promote this idea are harmful as well. This information comes from the American College of Pediatricians—professionals who are in a position to know.

I realize that some may oppose the new NC law sincerely and with good intentions, and they can’t rightly be called hypocrites. They are misguided and misinformed nonetheless. Other opponents, however, aren’t so innocent, as we’ve indicated above. Yet, even those who are innocent have a responsibility to be sensitive to the way the law would make women vulnerable.

The truth is that the biggest proponents of anti-bullying measures have become bullies themselves. As Dr. Michael Brown says in this important article, “Christians Must Unite Against Gay Bullies.” Among other things, Dr. Brown states,

As I have warned for years (and repeated almost ad infinitum), the activists who came out of the closet want to put you and me in the closet, and they will not rest until that door is safely shut. It is time for us to say: That will never happen, and we will go to jail rather than compromise our convictions. Your bullying will backfire in the end.…

In the days to come, I plan to lay out some specific calls to action, including a strategy for Christian athletes in the NFL and NBA. But for now, it’s time for us to get on our knees before God so we can stand tall before man, resolving in our hearts that, whatever it takes (in godly, not fleshly terms), we will do what is right.

Whatever strategies Dr. Brown offers, I’m sure he would agree that legislation like North Carolina’s new law should be supported. In Tennessee, Representative Susan Lynn and Senator Mike Bell are two very courageous lawmakers. They are sponsoring legislation that would require students in Tennessee’s public schools to use the restrooms and locker rooms corresponding with their birth sex. As you can imagine, especially in light of recent recent events in Georgia and ongoing events in North Carolina, legislators are tempted to run for the tall grass and hide rather than support this common-sense legislation. If you live in Tennessee, please stay informed on this legislation and let your senator and representative know of your support. Wherever you live, stand for the truth in loving ways, yet in ways that refuse to compromise what you know to be right. Moreover, support those who are telling the truth about this important issue. They’re being vilified and need you to stand with them.

Dr. Brown concludes his article with this word of encouragement.

Billy Graham once said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”

Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.
—Billy Graham—

Let courage spread from you to others—in your home, your school, your place of business, your congregation—beginning today.

We will not bow down to the bullies!

If you’re willing to make this commitment, you’re well on the way to winning battle after battle. Why? For this simple reason: “Bullies can’t deal with those who stand up to them.”2

For further reading:

Updates, added April 7, 2016:

Update, added April 15, 2016

Tony Perkins’ Washington Watch, April 15, 2016: Big Biz: Do You Want Appease of Me?

Notes:

1Ben Shapiro, Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America, (New York: Threshold Editions, 2013), 198.

2Shapiro, 7.

Headline graphic courtesy of the Family Research Council.

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Transformed!

Note: Scripture quotations in this post are from the New King James Version. An edition of this article that uses the New Living Translation is available here.

Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good but to make dead people live!
Ravi Zacharias

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
—the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17

“I was a bad lot,” a new believer told a preacher when recounting the place from which Christ had rescued him. “I drank. I pawned the furniture. I knocked my wife about. And now life is real life, and splendidly worthwhile.”

The preacher asked the man about how he was getting along with the men with whom he used to drink and carouse. That very day they had ridiculed him, telling him he surely didn’t believe the story that Jesus had turned water into wine (see John 2:1-11).

Since he was a new Christian, this man apparently hadn’t yet heard the story of Jesus’ miracle at the wedding in Cana—but that didn’t stop him from affirming the miracle he knew Christ had performed in his own life. Here’s what he told his friends: “I know nothing about water and wine, but I know this: that in my house Christ has turned beer into furniture; and that is a good enough miracle for me!”

That man and millions of others whose lives have been changed by Jesus Christ through the years provide substantive evidence that Jesus was who claimed to be—God in the flesh—and that His death was substitutionary, paying sin’s penalty for everyone who would come to Him in faith. Even more specifically, their transformed lives also testify to the historical reality that Jesus rose from the dead. It’s true that for the inquirer, investigating the events surrounding Jesus’ death and reported resurrection are essential to determining just how likely it is that He returned to life—but other aspects of the resurrection are important as well. Today I want to examine evidence beyond eyewitness accounts associated with the resurrection: the transformed life of one of Jesus’ well-known followers—a fisherman named Peter.

Peter was quite sincere in his devotion to Christ, but he frequently inserted his foot in his mouth. Peter’s impulsiveness and fickleness may actually sometimes remind us of ourselves!

  • In Matthew 14:22-33, while he did have enough faith to venture out from the boat and walk on the water toward Jesus, Peter became afraid and began to sink “when he saw that the wind was boisterous.” Jesus rescued Peter and then gently challenged him with the words “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
  • In Matthew 16:13-23, the Lord asked his closest followers “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” After they reported what the people were saying, Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter rightly answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus commended him for his answer, telling him, that “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” This was truly awesome, but just a short time later, when the Lord explained how He would be persecuted, killed, and raised to life again, Peter rebuked Him: “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” Jesus responded by rebuking Peter and the sinister, evil source from which Peter’s idea had come: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
  • In Matthew 17:1-8, when Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, Jesus’ “face shown like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and One for Elijah.’”
  • In the upper room, on the occasion of the Passover celebration, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet (see John 13:1-20). When the Lord approached Peter to wash his feet, Peter said,

6 “Lord, are You washing my feet?”

7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”

8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

  • In this same upper room on the very same evening, Jesus warned his closest followers they would desert Him (see 26:31-35). Peter denied it outright, saying,

33 “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”

34 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”

35 Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”

And so said all the disciples.

How brash can a man be? Peter would learn the hard way. Jesus was arrested and placed on trial, and Peter followed to see what would happen. Waiting in the high priest’s courtyard, the fisherman was asked three times about having been with Jesus, and he denied it strongly each time, even swearing the second and third times. Then the rooster crowed, and “Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ So he went out and wept bitterly” (see Matt. 26:57-58,69-75).

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Jesus was right about the other disciples, too. Earlier, at the time of the Lord’s arrest, “all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (26:56).

Peter, and the rest of Jesus’ disciples as well, were extremely unlikely to become leaders who would change the world. Yet after His resurrection Jesus said to them, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Just how could Peter, as fickle as he was, along with the other cowardly followers of Christ, boldly witness to the world? We see the twofold answer in (1) the fact that Jesus indicated to His followers they would be his witnesses after the Holy Spirit had come upon them, and (2) in the fact that Jesus made this statement after He had been raised from the dead. These two events were transformational.

Significantly, in one of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to Peter, the Lord gently challenged him by giving him three opportunities to tell Him that he loved Him. It was the same number of times Peter had denied the Lord. Jesus also directed him three times, “Feed My lambs.…Tend My sheep.…Feed My sheep.” Furthermore, Jesus told him, “Follow Me.”  (see John 21:15-19).

01_Jesus_Questions_Peter_1920

Despite Peter’s failures, the Lord wasn’t through with this man who by nature was outspoken and impulsive. In fact, God would use him to shake the world. Contrast the old Peter to the new.

  • At Pentecost, a mere fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter preached the sermon that marked the birth of the church. His sermon is recorded in Acts 2:14-39. In it, the fisherman-turned-preacher declared,

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.

  • In Acts 3, Peter and John created a controversy by being used of God to heal a man who never had been able to walk. After the man had been healed, these spokesmen of God used the occasion to credit Jesus publicly for the healing. Peter boldly asserted,

12 “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. 14 But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. 16 And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

  • The healing and the public preaching greatly displeased the Jewish leaders: “Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:1-2). They arrested Peter and John and asked them how they healed the man. Full of the Holy Spirit, Peter proclaimed it should be

10 “known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which as become the chief cornerstone. 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (vv. 10-12).

Significantly, when the Jewish leaders “saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (v. 13). They warned the apostles not to preach or teach Jesus any more, but they were undeterred. We can summarize their response this way: “We can’t help it! We have to talk about what we have seen and heard!” (see vv. 14-22).

  • In Acts 5:17-32, the apostles were arrested again and imprisoned by the Jewish leaders. An angel freed them and told them to preach the truth of Christ at the temple, and they obeyed. The Jews put them on trial once again. The high priest told them,

28 “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”

29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

This doesn’t sound at all like the man who, just a few weeks before, had been too embarrassed to admit he had been with Jesus, does it? Later, in writing to the Corinthian believers, the apostle Paul would explain what had happened to Peter—and to himself as well.

3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas [Peter], then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed (1 Cor. 15:3-11, emphasis added).

We see that Peter never got over Jesus’ resurrection. It was years later, near the end of his life, when, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter wrote these words (1 Peter 1:17-21) to persecuted believers.

17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Indeed, Peter was a different man after Jesus rose from the dead—and the stark difference between the former man and the new man provides strong evidence Jesus really was raised. Having been transformed by Jesus’ return to life, Peter let it be known that he could not take credit for the changes that had taken place. Like a turtle on a fence post, he didn’t get where he was on his own.

Peter is not alone, for countless lives have been transformed by the resurrected Christ. Are you among those Jesus has brought from death to life? If you aren’t yet, you can become such a person today. What more appropriate time could there be than Easter to allow Christ to make you a new person?  If you a believer already, then make sure your life testifies to Christ’s resurrection as a sure fact of history.

After all, if Christ was powerful enough to come back from the dead, then He easily can turn water into wine—and beer into furniture!

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

photo credits: www.lumoproject.com

Good News or Bad News? Making Sense of What Happened at the Alabama Supreme Court

The Supreme Court was wrong when it denied Dred Scott his rights and said, “blacks are inferior human beings.” And the Court was wrong when Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in Buck v. Bell, “three generations of imbeciles are enough,” thus upholding Virginia’s eugenics law that permitted forced sterilization. Shamefully, that decision was cited during the Nuremburg trials to support the Nazi eugenic holocaust.

In these earlier cases, the definition of “human” was at issue. Now the definition of “marriage” is at issue. The Constitution does not grant a right to redefine marriage — which is nonsensical since marriage intrinsically involves a man and a woman. Nor does the Constitution prohibit states from affirming the natural created order of male and female joined together in marriage.

We will view any decision by the Supreme Court or any court the same way history views the Dred Scott and Buck v. Bell decisions. Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line.

—the Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage, a statement of commitment to uphold natural marriage drafted prior to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling and signed by more than 53,000 people

On Friday, March 4, 2016, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an important ruling on marriage. The opinion of the court was especially significant because it was, in part, a response to Obergefell, the US Supreme Court’s ruling of June 26, 2015 that redefined marriage nationwide to include same sex couples. Yet, reading several different headlines, one might wonder in just what direction the Alabama Supreme Court went with its decision.

Here, on the one hand, are three headlines that tilted the news one way.

Yet on the other hand, these headlines appeared on conservative websites.

A casual observer might be forgiven for wondering whether the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision upheld or undermined marriage. Previously, on March 3, 2015, the Alabama Court had ruled strongly in favor of traditional marriage. It did so based on the state’s Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act,  both of which the court said were constitutional. Accordingly, in a 7-1 ruling, the justices ordered the state’s probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the opinion of Callie V.S. Granade, a Federal District Judge who had ruled otherwise.

In a report dated March 10, 2016 titled The Gay Marriage Legal Battle Just Entered Uncharted Territory in Alabama, Nate Madden explains, “Following the June 28 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, the Alabama Supreme Court requested the parties [that had been involved in the state marriage case] file additional documents.” The Alabama Citizens Action Program and the Alabama Policy Institute submitted petitions to end same-sex marriage in Alabama, and they hoped the court would affirm the petitions. However, it instead dismissed them. Eric Johnston, who represented the plaintiffs, said, “We’re disappointed. What I had hoped was this court would affirm its decision, which would have required further review by the U.S. Supreme Court. They did not do that.”

The dismissal of the petitions caused supporters of same-sex marriage and many in the mainstream media to cheer. You can even sense the celebrative tone in these statements from a Reuters report of the Alabama high court’s decision:

The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday affirmed the right to same-sex marriage, dismissing a challenge by conservative religious groups that opposed such unions.

In a one-sentence order, the high court turned aside a lawsuit by the Alabama Citizens Action Program and the Alabama Policy Institute questioning the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that effectively allowed same-sex unions.

“It is ordered that all pending motions and petitions are dismissed,” the court said in ending the legal battle.

Yet this isn’t the whole story. The legal battle, in fact, has not ended—although the March 4, 2016 ruling of the Alabama Supreme Court arguably does close the chapter on this particular case. Even so, another chapter begins. Recall that Nate Madden’s feature, cited above, is titled The Gay Marriage Legal Battle Just Entered Uncharted Territory in Alabama. Americans need to know that the Justices of the Alabama Supreme Court didn’t simply dismiss petitions; they went to say a great deal about Obergefell and about traditional marriage. Even now, in the wake of Obergefell, the Court also “left undisturbed” the order to probate judges it had issued a year prior. That order, as we have noted, upheld the Alabama State Constitution’s provision on marriage and directed probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Why would the Court dismiss the motions and petitions plaintiffs had filed? We cannot know fully; however, the fact that the justices left in place their previous ruling speaks volumes about the Court’s position on Alabama’s marriage laws and on the US Supreme Court’s overreach in Obergefell. Keep in mind the US Constitution says nothing about marriage, and it certainly says nothing about a right to same-sex marriage.

Moreover, as we emphasized in a previous post, for supporters of traditional marriage, the prevailing question isn’t How can Obergefell be most directly challenged? but How can it be most effectively challenged? At least some of the justices may very well have felt that, although Obergefell was an erroneous ruling, affirming traditional marriage beyond the actions the Court already had taken essentially would have invited the US Supreme Court to rule directly against Alabama’s marriage laws. Alabama was not part of the Obergefell case from the 6th Circuit and therefore, arguably, the Supreme Court’s ruling did not apply in Alabama. (The 6th Circuit includes Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.) According to legal expert Mat Staver, it actually “only applies to the parties in that particular case [the parties in Obergefell].”

The March 4, 2016 press release from the Family Research Council is both informative and instructive. It names specific justices and affirms their opinions. I quote the release here in its entirety.

Family Research Council Commends Alabama Supreme Court Justices for their Concurring Marriage Opinions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Family Research Council President Tony Perkins made the following comments in response to the Concurring Opinions of Chief Justice Moore and Justices Murdock, Bolin and Parker of the Alabama Supreme Court, which properly characterized the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell opinion as without constitutional basis:

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“We applaud the Justices of the Alabama Supreme Court who have exposed the constitutional flaws in the U.S. Supreme Court’s lawless ruling that imposed marriage redefinition on all fifty states.

“Chief Justice Moore, Justice Murdock, Justice Bolin, and Justice Parker have boldly and clearly annunciated constitutional truths for the generations to come, declaring that the U.S. Supreme Court was without authority to do what it did in Obergefell. Instead of solving anything, the U.S. Supreme Court has politicized itself and delegitimized itself in the eyes of the American people.

“Polls show that the American people are increasingly concerned with the future of the U.S. Supreme Court. This is becoming an important factor in their voting.  They are tired of the Court preempting social consensus by imposing its views on all fifty states, as it did with abortion and marriage.

“We commend these Justices for standing for the Constitution and speaking for the tens of millions of Americans whose voices were stripped away by the U.S. Supreme Court last summer,” concluded Perkins.

Let’s conclude by actually looking at some of the statements in the March 4 ruling made by the justices Tony Perkins named. Eloquently and forcefully, they describe the situation in both Alabama and the United States.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

Chief Justice Roy Moore:

I agree with the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts, and with Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, that the majority opinion in Obergefell has no basis in the law, history, or tradition of this country. Obergefell is an unconstitutional exercise of judicial authority that usurps the legislative prerogative of the states to regulate their own domestic policy. Additionally, Obergefell seriously jeopardizes the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.…

Based upon arguments of “love,” “commitment,” and “equal dignity” for same-sex couples, five lawyers, as Chief Justice Roberts so aptly describes the Obergefell majority, have declared a new social policy for the entire country. As the Chief Justice and Associate Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito eloquently and accurately demonstrate in their dissents, the majority opinion in Obergefell is an act of raw power with no ascertainable foundation in the Constitution itself. The majority presumed to legislate for the entire country under the guise of interpreting the Constitution.…

The opinion appeals more to emotion than law, reminding one of the 1974 song “Feelings” by Morris Albert, which begins: “Feelings, nothing more than feelings ….” The Court’s opinion speaks repeatedly of homosexuals being humiliated, demeaned, and denied “equal dignity” by a state’s refusal to issue them marriage licenses. The majority seeks to invoke the grief, sorrow, and compassion associated with a Greek tragedy. Riding a tidal wave of emotion, the ensuing tears and pathos then suffice to fertilize a new constitutional right nowhere mentioned in the Constitution itself.

Abandoning the role of interpreting the written Constitution, the majority has instead decided to become the supposed “voice” of the people, discerning the people’s sentiments and updating the document accordingly. The function of keeping the Constitution up with the times, however, has not been delegated to the Court—or to Congress or the President; that function is reserved to the states under Article V.

Justice Glenn Murdock:

Governments did not and do not create the institution of marriage. A civil government can choose to recognize that institution; it can choose to affirm it; and it can even take steps to encourage it. Governments throughout history have done so. But governments cannot change its essential nature. Marriage is what it is. No less so than any naturally occurring element on the periodic table.

Yet, here we are. The courts undertake to change—or at least declare a change in—the essential nature of the thing itself. It is not just that the existence of such an ability would make it impossible to communicate and maintain a rule of law (which it does) or even to communicate truths from one person or time to another (which it also does). To assume the ability to declare such a change presumes there is no objectively ascertainable, universally applicable and immutable— “unalienable” in the words of the Declaration of Independence—truth about the thing.

The postmodern philosophy of truth this represents is that each individual can decide for himself or herself what is true. In contrast, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution reflect, and the drafters of the one and framers and ratifiers of the other believed in, a philosophy of objectively ascertainable truth. Truth that is external to each of us. Truth that informs a common value system against which to consider one another’s ideas and conduct. Only out of such a universal truth can there arise “certain rights” that can themselves be universal—and unalienable.

So, in the end, perhaps the real question is this: Can the United States Supreme Court decide upon some philosophy of truth different from that assumed by the framers of the Constitution and by the Constitution itself—the same Constitution that gives that Court its very existence and its authority to make decisions? And impose this different philosophy of truth upon the people of this country? Where is the authority for that?

Justice Michael F. Bolin:

[T]he Obergefell majority pulled from thin (legal) air a redefinition of marriage that is based not on any fundamental right deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition, but rather on its self-declared beliefs that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry because “[t]he nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality”; “[m]arriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there”; “[t]heir hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions”; “[t]hey ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law”; and “[t]he Constitution grants them that right.” 570 U.S. at ___, 135 S.Ct. at 2599, 2600, and 2608. Yielding to current social mores and temporal societal policy to recognize a fundamental constitutional right in a way not intended for the judicial branch of government, the majority in Obergefell, in the last phrase quoted above, is better understood to be saying: “We simply think that the Constitution should, and hereby does, grant them that right.”

The above-stated beliefs and accompanying conclusion, properly excoriated by the four Obergefell dissenters, are legislative rather than judicial in tone and nature and, again, ignore Supreme Court precedent to reach a desired societal result, which, as noted by Justice Scalia, “diminish[es] [the] Court’s reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis.” 576 U.S. at ___, 135 S. Ct. at 2630 (Scalia, J., dissenting). Rather,

“[f]or today’s majority, it does not matter that the right to same-sex marriage lacks deep roots or even that it is contrary to long-established tradition. The Justices in the majority claim the authority to confer constitutional protection upon that right simply because they believe that it is fundamental.” 576 U.S. at ___, 135 S. Ct. at 2640-41. (Alito, J., dissenting) (emphasis added).…

I am further compelled to concur specially to express my concern, which remains to be determined in future cases, that the Obergefell decision may have emasculated this State’s entire statutory licensing scheme governing “marriage” to the point of rendering it incapable of being enforced prospectively.

Justice Tom Parker:

I concur in the issuance of the certificate of judgment and in the dismissal of the pending motions and petitions. Dismissal, as distinct from denial, is not a decision on the merits. Thus, this Court is not denying on the merits matters of vital importance concerning the effect—or lack thereof—of Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015), on such issues as the issue of religious-liberty rights of individuals.

I concur specially to state that Obergefell conclusively demonstrates that the rule of law is dead. “Five lawyers”*—appointed to judgeships for life** and practically unaccountable***  to the more than 320 million Americans they now arbitrarily govern—enlightened by “new insights” into the true meaning of the word “liberty,” determined that “liberty” means that Americans have a new fundamental right only now discovered over 225 years since the Constitution was adopted. “Five lawyers,” who have treated the Constitution as “a mere thing of wax … which they may twist, and shape into any form they please,”**** determined to impose their enlightenment on this nation in spite of the vast majority of the states having democratically refused again and again to redefine the divinely initiated institution of marriage. In marching this country “forward” to their moral ideal, the “five lawyers” composing the majority in Obergefell have trampled into the dust the last vestiges of the legitimacy of the United States Supreme Court.

Obergefell is not based on legal reasoning, history, tradition, the Court’s own rules, or the rule of law, but upon the empathetic feelings of the “five lawyers” in the majority. What the late John Hart Ely said of another decision can be said of Obergefell: “It is bad because it is bad constitutional law, or rather because it is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.” John Hart Ely, The Wages of Crying Wolf: A Comment on Roe v. Wade, 82 Yale L.J. 920, 947 (1973). The majority in Obergefell does not set forth authorities that lead to its conclusion; it sets forth only sentiments that support its whim in this case to create a fundamental constitutional right. In order to reach this conclusion, the majority in Obergefell, having ascended to a new understanding of human liberty, threw off the restraints of the rule of law and history. Having by judicial will set themselves free from those “shackles,” the majority then ushered in a new era of “liberty”: court-pronounced dignity. Justice Hugo Black, an Alabamian, provided an apt description of what the United States Supreme Court has done in Obergefell in his dissent in In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 384 (1970):

“When this Court assumes for itself the power to declare any law—state or federal—unconstitutional because it offends the majority’s own views of what is fundamental and decent in our society, our Nation ceases to be governed according to the ‘law of the land’ and instead becomes one governed ultimately by the ‘law of the judges.’”

*Chief Justice Roberts referred to the Obergefell majority three times as “five lawyers,” 576 U.S. at ___, 135 S. Ct. at 2612, 2624 (Roberts, C.J., dissenting), instead of Justices, thus caustically pointing out that the five were not acting in a judicial role.
**The dissents in Obergefell refer eight times to “unelected” judges.
***The dissents in Obergefell refer twice to the “unaccountable” judges.
****Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Judge Spencer Roane, Sept. 6, 1819, 12 The Works of Thomas Jefferson 137 (Paul Leicester Ford ed., G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905).

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

As these justices demonstrate in their statements, the debate is far from over. Much is yet to be resolved—and for resolution to occur, much needs to be reasserted and reestablished. Among other things, we need bring our country back to the ideals of its Founders, and this will be no small or easy task. Yet it is our duty, our calling.

Therefore, let us all, to the degree that we can, lend our support to the effort to restore natural marriage in the United States.

The Alabama Supreme Court has laid the foundation for this critical work.

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

 

Bold Declarations Needed

Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying,…“So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?”’ Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’”
Ezekiel 33:1,7-11

Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, has locker room facilities it shares with two high schools—Olympia High and Capital High. The Evergreen Swim Club and Aquatics Academy also use the facilities. Keep in mind that Aquatics Academy has students who are six years old.

On September 26, 2012, a girls’ swim team was using the locker room. A biological male identifying as a female also was present, and he exposed himself to the girls through a window in the sauna. The girls’ coach, as well as the mother of one of the team’s members, reported the incident to the police, but they were told that the school would not act to prevent a man from using the women’s locker facilities. According to an eyewitness, the girls subjected to the incident were 6 to 18 years old.

If there ever were a clear case of indecent exposure, you’d think this would be it. Yet the county prosecutor indicated he would not pursue the matter in court to prevent it from occurring again. For its part, Evergreen College provided curtains and directed that the girls change behind those. A spokesman for the school, Jason Wettstein, declared, “The college has to follow state law.…[It] cannot discriminate based on the basis of gender identity. Gender identity is one of the protected things in discrimination law in this state.”

The offender was a student who was 45 years old! He dresses as a woman and calls himself Colleen Francis. He chose to live as a woman beginning in 2009—and this is not the first time he’s behaved this way at Evergreen. He said of the incident, “This is not 1959 Alabama. We don’t call police for drinking from the wrong water fountain.”

David Hacker, Alliance Defending Freedom’s Senior Legal Counsel, came to the aid of the girls and others who were outraged by the incident, declaring that the school’s giving preference to the whims and desires of an adult man over the clear need to protect young girls is “beyond unacceptable.”

DavidHacker

He also said, “Little girls should not be exposed to naked men, period. A college’s notions about ‘non-discrimination’ don’t change that. The idea that the college and the local district attorney will not act to protect young girls is appalling. What Americans are seeing here is the poisoned fruit of so-called ‘non-discrimination’ laws and policies.”

“Poisoned fruit” is absolutely correct. At the time, in a BreakPoint commentary, John Stonestreet described just how far and how fast society had fallen. Two factors have been strongly influential: first, an emphasis on individual rights (including sexual rights) as absolute, and second, a cultural shift that stresses gender over one’s biological sex.

John_Stonestreet_photo

Until very recently a person was either male or female and the determination was based on objective physical criteria. While it isn’t always as simple as I just made it sound, the rule generally held.

Today, we speak in terms of “gender identity,” which “refers to a person’s private sense…and subjective experience.” It doesn’t matter if Francis has had sex-reassignment surgery or not—all that matters is his self-identification as “transsexual.”

It’s not an exaggeration to say that there are potentially as many gender identities as there are people. And under Washington law, each of these is protected from “discrimination” by state agencies such as Evergreen College.

When Francis walked into the women’s locker room, he was a rights-bearing individual whose “right” to use the facility trumped any other interest. Even the mental and sexual health interest of six-year-old girls.

Obviously this is absurd, but it didn’t come out of nowhere—it is where American law and culture have been headed for some time. And there aren’t enough screens to cover this damage.

Unfortunately, the legal situation has worsened in the state of Washington since 2012, further subjecting the general public to the whims of a miniscule few who have certain issues. Certainly we must not minimize these issues, but there are better ways to address them than trouncing on the privacy rights of the public at large. In the name of being sensitive to the tiniest of minorities, the doors have been thrown open to outright predators who will think nothing of feigning transgender experiences to gain access to vulnerable members of the opposite sex. Whatever happened to protecting the majority—especially innocent children? This noble principle is being increasingly ignored.

Apparently some city leaders are all too willing to throw the majority, including young, impressionable children, under the bus. Recently, in February of 2016, Dr. Michael Brown cited the incident at Evergreen State College in a speech warning the leaders of Charlotte, North Carolina, not to adopt a non-discrimination policy that, among other things, would allow a biological male to use a women’s bathroom or locker room facility, and vice-versa. City leaders, wisely, had rejected it in 2015. The text of the speech is available here.  Unfortunately, even against the backdrop of overwhelming opposition to the policy, Brown’s speech and other pleas against the proposal fell on deaf ears. The bill was adopted 7-4.

Billy Graham, the widely known and widely respected evangelist, grew up near Charlotte, which now is home to the Billy Graham Library and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). Graham’s son, Franklin, BGEA’s CEO, was bold in his response to the proposal both before and after it was adopted.

There is much more to discuss here than we will be able to consider in this one post. For now, I would like to highlight some of the words Brown and Graham used in expressing their opposition to the the non-discrimination bill. Note that Brown used the word warning in the title of his public remarks. He called the policy madness. Note as well the underlined words in these quotations from Graham’s Facebook page. Before the vote, Graham said,

Franklin-Graham-Featured2

It’s really hard to believe that such a ludicrous law would even be seriously considered…! Are people just not thinking clearly? This law would allow pedophiles, perverts, and predators into women’s bathrooms. This is wicked and it’s filthy.…It should be inconceivable that Charlotte’s mayor and the supporting City Council members have succumbed to the pressures from depraved sexual activists and are willing to put women and girls at risk like this. The ordinance was defeated last year, and the mayor shouldn’t have allowed it back on the table. Shame on her.

The next day, Graham stressed once more, “Shame on Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and the City Council members who voted last night to pass an ordinance that would allow people to use the bathroom of their choice, not based on their biological sex.”

Especially taken together, these words reflect a rich prophetic tradition of confronting evil directly and forthrightly. Brown and Graham are to be commended for their boldness and candor. Neither man lacks compassion for those struggling with gender identity issues; however, to his credit, neither allowed compassion to overshadow the truth about the bill and the destination to which it certainly will lead. All too often today, out of fear of offending people, ministers fail to present the whole truth about the seriousness of sin and the severity of sin’s consequences. Without abandoning compassion or love, we need to warn people about the road down which society is heading. If we fail to do so, we are complicit in the moral degradation that occurs (see Ezek. 33:7-11). Mark it down! As believers, we don’t just have this responsibility to individuals, but also at the corporate level, in the society in which we live! We’ve been told that we don’t have the right to yell “fire!” in a crowded theatre, but we actually have a duty to do so if there really is a fire! We cannot let a packed theatre burn to the ground simply because we didn’t want to offend anyone!

“But wait!” someone will say. “Society abandoned absolute truth a long time ago, so people don’t have a set of standards by which to understand right and wrong. How can we speak of evil and wickedness and expect people to understand?” This person has a point. As Francis Schaeffer declared in the late 1960s,

Absolutes imply antithesis. The non-Christian went on romantically operating on this basis without a sufficient cause, an adequate base, for doing so. Thus it was still possible to discuss what was right and wrong, what was true and false. One could tell a non-Christian to “be a good girl” and, while she might not have followed your advice, at least she would have understood what you were talking about. To say the same thing to a truly modern girl today would be to make a “nonsense” statement. The blank look you might receive would not mean that your standards had been rejected, but that your message was meaningless.

Francis-Schaeffer

Schaeffer was right in saying that the abandonment of absolute truth has led to a generation—to generations now—who have no familiarity with truth (moral and ethical standards of right and wrong) as far as a societal consensus is concerned. Yet this vividly underscores the critical need to help people see the benefits of such a consensus, and to uphold it and point them to it. Now more than ever, we are witnessing the devastation to which an abandonment of absolute truth in society has led. Do we really want to continue down this path? After struggling in quicksand, surely some relief comes from making one’s way to solid ground. Not all will escape the quicksand, but some will—and with each one that does, society moves closer to a return to truth. Jonah’s preaching provides a wonderful example of how God can use a strong and even harsh message to bring people to repentance. So does the ministry of John the Baptist.

As the Bible indicates, a lack of experiential familiarity with a societal consensus on absolute truth does not mean a person has no reference point at all for fairness and decency. In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis astutely observed, “Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining ‘It’s not fair’ before you can say Jack Robinson.” Hear Romans 2:12-15 in the New Living Translation (NLT):

12 When the Gentiles sin, they will be destroyed, even though they never had God’s written law. And the Jews, who do have God’s law, will be judged by that law when they fail to obey it. 13 For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight. 14 Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.

Of course, we know that people are more confused about some sins than others. There is a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding in society today about homosexuality and about gender identity. The Bible has answers for the questions that arise from this confusion. These answers include the truths that homosexual activity is sinful and wrong (a violation of God’s plan; see Rom. 1:18-27) and that God created men and women, boys and girls, in His image (see Gen. 1:27). We find fulfillment in God’s design, not apart from it. That said, let’s set these issues aside for a moment and consider how Charlotte’s non-discrimination bill exponentially intensifies the vulnerability of women and young girls. Supporters of the bill may not admit it, but they innately know it is wrong to give male perverts unfettered access to women’s public restrooms.

Thus, the strong language from Michael Brown and Franklin Graham is entirely appropriate—and even necessary. As believers, we need to add our voices to theirs if we haven’t already. We cannot effectively oppose evil or even begin to address it if we fail to call it what it really is.

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Check out the two-minute Bible studies on Easter!

Breaking Bread: Easter

 

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Note:

1 Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, in Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy, (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1990, [The God Who Is There was originally published in 1968]), 7.

 

 

 

Facing the Future with Confidence

The other day I heard a man say, “I owe it to Jesus Christ that I can walk down the street with my head held erect and my shoulders squared to the world. I owe it to Him that I can look a pure woman in the face and grip an honest man by the hand.”
Robert A. Laidlaw (1885-1971)—

At the close of the Book of Acts, we see that Paul was under house arrest: He “dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him” (Acts 28:30-31). The year was approximately AD 61. Because of insufficient historical information, scholars have difficulty reconstructing events in Paul’s life beyond this point. Still, many believe the apostle subsequently was released from confinement, that he traveled and continued his preaching ministry, and that he later was rearrested and imprisoned once more in Rome. Between these separate Roman imprisonments, Paul wrote two of what we now know as the three Pastoral Epistles: 1 Timothy (written around AD 64) and Titus (around AD 65). He wrote the third, 2 Timothy around AD 67 during his second imprisonment, just before being executed under Nero.1,2,3

Both Timothy and Titus (see 2 Cor. 8:23) were Paul’s companions at various times on his missionary endeavors. At the time Paul wrote his letter to Titus, Titus was a pastor in Crete (see Titus 1:5).

Timothy was a pastor in Ephesus (see 1 Tim. 1:3). In his first letter to Timothy, knowing the pressures his “true son in the faith” (v. 2) was facing as a young pastor (see 5:23), Paul encouraged his protégé with regard to several matters, including the critical importance of combatting false teachings (see vv. 1:3-11; 4:1-10), spiritual warfare (see 1:18-20), corporate worship (see 2:1-15), church leadership (see 3:1-16; 4:11-16; 6:1-21), and the treatment of the church’s widows and elders (see 5:1-25).

When he wrote 2 Timothy, Paul knew his time was short: “Because Paul was at the end of his life, he thought of the kingdom of God as a present heavenly reality, a destination at which he was about to arrive (4:18). Even so, he looked forward to the future glorious from of the kingdom that would be revealed in connection with Jesus’ ‘appearing’ on earth again (4:1).”4 Keep in mind the observation that for Paul, God’s kingdom is a “present heavenly reality.” We will recall it in just a few moments.

It is in 2 Timothy that we look today for a strong word of admonition and encouragement. Paul told Timothy right off the bat that he was praying for him, that he missed him, and that he was appreciative of the spiritual heritage that had set the stage for Timothy to genuinely commit his life to Christ:

2 Timothy 1:3 I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, 4 greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, 5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.

Then the apostle encouraged Timothy with these important words:

6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

What does stirring up or kindling one’s spiritual gift have to do with the confidence that comes through God’s powerful, loving, and discerning Spirit? Plenty—and to Timothy as well as the thousands upon thousands of pastors who have served in churches since the 1st century, the connection was—and is—self evident. Effective church leadership relies not only on a repudiation of fear, but also on all three of the qualities Paul highlighted in verse 7 as characteristic of the Spirit God gives. One writer observes that power “works,” love “cares,” and self-discipline (another meaning of the word translated “sound mind”), “controls.”5

This isn’t just about pastors, however. All believers need courage, power, love, and self-discipline to exercise their gifts. Even so, the next verses establish with bedrock certainty that Paul’s encouragement to Timothy has application for every Christian. Continuing, Timothy’s mentor and spiritual guide wrote,

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

13 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

Are you ever tempted to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ? Are you ever tempted to shy away from defending life, marriage, and the principles and values that God ordained and graciously gave to humanity through His Word and affirmed through His Son? It’s true that these are difficult days for Christians. Evil surrounds us, and it seems to be multiplying exponentially. Yet, even in the midst of this darkness, the confidence we need to point people to the divine light of Christ comes from God. It’s this simple and straightforward: The Lord “has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (v. 7).

Just ask Corrie ten Boom. In the throes of German’s occupation of Holland during World War 2, Corrie and her family defied the German government to save hundreds of Jews from extermination. Eventually they were arrested. Many members of Corrie’s family, including her father Casper, her brother Willem, and her sister Betsy, died in confinement or as a result of the conditions of their imprisonment.

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In the latter part of 1944, Corrie and Betsy were imprisoned at Ravensbruck, a German concentration camp. Ravensbruck’s horrors truly were unspeakable. Cruelty, hunger, sickness, and death were overwhelming—but despite the barbarism and brutality, Corrie and Betsy held out the light of God’s love and God’s truth to the women in their spheres of influence. God miraculously had arranged for the ten Boom sisters to have a Bible, and with it they pointed others to divine strength, courage, warmth, comfort, and love. I quote Corrie at length to convey as much as possible the full extent of her experience.

It grew harder and harder. Even within these four walls [of Barracks 8, where the women were assigned,] there was too much misery, too much seemingly pointless suffering. Every day something else failed to make sense, something else grew too heavy. Will You carry this too, Lord Jesus?

Ravensbruck_camp_barracks

Barracks at Ravensbruck

But as the rest of the world grew stranger, one thing became increasingly clear. And that was the reason the two of us were here. Why others should suffer we were not shown. As for us, from morning until lights-out, whenever we were not in ranks for roll call, our Bible was the center of and ever-widening circle of help and hope. Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light. The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”

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I would look about us as Betsie read, watching the light leap from face to face. More than conquerors.…It was not a wish. It was a fact. We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute—poor, hated, hungry. We are more than conquerors. Not “we shall be.” We are! Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible, The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory. 6

Now, recall at this point what we noted earlier about Paul’s perspective when he wrote 2 Timothy. The apostle, who was close to the end of his life, “thought of the kingdom of God as a present heavenly reality.”7 This was Corrie and Betsy’s experience as well. Betsy would enter God’s presence before year’s end, but Corrie would not pass from her earthly life until several decades later. She died in 1983 on her 91st birthday.8 Corrie and her sister were experiencing the reality of God’s kingdom in one of the worst places on earth. God’s Word had given them and the other women of Barracks 8 a window into His world. As they availed themselves to the Lord, they knew and experienced this world, despite the evil and darkness that surrounded them. Corrie continued,

Sometimes I would slip the Bible from its little sack with hands that shook, so mysterious had it become to me. It was new; it had just been written. I marveled sometimes that the ink was dry. I had believed the Bible always, but reading it now had nothing to do with belief. It was simply a description of the way things were—of hell and heaven, of how men act and how God acts.9

Corrie-Ten-Boom

Corrie ten Boom

There is more. Although she didn’t speak of it directly in the above quoted statements, it is clear Corrie ten Boom and her sister knew the courage of which Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:7 (see also Rom. 8:12-15). They experienced the power, the love, and the discernment and discipline God’s Spirit supplies. You see, fear is incompatible with the kind of faith the ten Boom sisters exercised. Fear simply cannot coexist with God’s Spirit.

What does all this have to do with us? Well, as we have said, Paul’s admonition to Timothy wasn’t just for Timothy; it is for us as well. Are we letting God’s Spirit, along with His Word, remind us of heavenly realities? I am not trying to say that we in America necessarily will experience horrors like those that took place at Ravensbruck; yet it is becoming quite clear that even in this country, it is costing more every day to live as a faithful Christian. Despite the cost, we need not be ashamed of the gospel or of any of the values and principles the Bible upholds. We can face the future with confidence because God’s Spirit, who resides within us, is a Spirit “of power and of love and of a sound mind.” He will enable us to see and uphold the reality of God’s kingdom, even before we arrive!

 

Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Notes:

1Holy Bible, ESV, Scofield Study System, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 1579, 1590, 1585.

2https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/paul/timeline.cfm

3“Timothy, Second Letter to” in the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2003), 1599.

4Kendall H. Easley, Holman QuickSourceTM Guide to Understanding the Bible, (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2002), 335.

5Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989), 1110.

6Corrie ten Boom with Elizabeth and John Sherrill, The Hiding Place, 35th Anniversary Edition, (Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 1971, 1984, 2006), 206.

7Easley.

8Guideposts magazine, source for Ten Boom Family Timeline, in Corrie ten Boom with Elizabeth and John Sherrill, The Hiding Place, 35th Anniversary Edition, (Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 1971, 1984, 2006), 267.

9Corrie ten Boom with Elizabeth and John Sherrill, 207.