An Easter Surprise

The disciples were expecting Jesus to conquer the Romans and install Himself as King. To their minds, the Messiah would be the conquering King. The predictions by Jesus of His death were not heeded. When He did die, they were totally unprepared.
—Don Stewart1

A condensed version of this article is available here.

As Pastor and author Don Stewart affirms in the above quote, the disciples saw Jesus as a conquering Messiah who would rescue Israel from the Romans. Their hopes were dashed after they saw Jesus arrested, tried, beaten, crucified, and buried. It was over. Jesus was dead.

No disrespect is intended here, I assure you. In describing the certainty of Jesus’ death, it seems appropriate to borrow from Charles Dickens. “Yes, Jesus was dead. Dead as a door-nail. There was no doubt whatever about that!”

Descent from the Cross by Peter Paul Rubens

Jesus’ followers, however, were in for a huge Easter surprise! Jesus had died on a Passover Friday. Following the Passover, early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene made her way to Jesus’ burial cave and found it empty. Right away she went to Peter and John and told them someone or a group of people — “they” — had removed Jesus body, and she didn’t know where they’d put it.

20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him” (John 20:1-2).

Doubtlessly curious, the two disciples went to the tomb themselves to see if they could figure out what had happened. What they would see would change their lives forever!

Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes (John 20:3-10).

John’s account rings with simplicity, and at the same time, authenticity. Here is an eyewitness simply relating what he actually had experienced. Peter and John started to make their way to the burial site. In their excitement and curiosity, they “ran together,” but soon John outran Peter, so he was the first to arrive. John, “stooping down and looking in,” saw Jesus’ grave clothes but didn’t venture in. Peter then arrived and went in. Inside, Peter “saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around his head.” The “handkerchief”—the “cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head” (NIV)—was separate from the rest of the linen cloths, “folded together in a place by itself.” At this point, John also entered, and “saw and believed.” Peter and John did not yet fully understand all that had occurred; verse 9 tells us that “as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” Even so, this was a pivotal moment for these two close followers of Jesus in terms of their understanding and in terms of their commitment to the One who had taught and mentored them for three years.

Knowing About Burial Preparations Helps Us Understand What Peter and John Saw

Let’s rewind in our minds the events of the previous few days to Friday afternoon when Jesus’ body was prepared for burial. John 19:38-42 says that after Jesus had died on the cross and had been confirmed dead,

Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. 39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.

According to Jewish custom of that day, no less than two persons were needed to prepare a body for burial. The body was washed thoroughly with lukewarm water. Those involved in the preparation made sure the mouth of the corpse was covered so that none of the water would get inside.2

After they had washed the body, those working on it prepared the burial spices. In Jesus’ case, probably 75 to 100 pounds of aromatic spices were used; we see in verse 39 that Nicodemus had brought with him “a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.” Myrrh, a gummy substance, was blended together with the spices and aloes—fragrant wood that had been pounded into dust particles. The preparers then wrapped the body in linen cloths that women had sewn together without using a knot a single time. A minimum of three linen garments had to be used.3

Beginning at the feet and moving toward the head, the preparers wrapped the body in the linen cloths, placing the myrrh and spices between the folds as they worked. They wrapped the body in this fashion from the feet to the armpits; then, with the deceased’s arms placed alongside the wrapped torso, preparers enveloped the arms in the linen and spices as well. They continued this process all the way up to the neck. For the head, they used an additional, separate cloth. What was the total weight of the encasement for an adult? Typically, about 117 to 120 pounds.4

Encasement is an appropriate word to use here, because that’s just what it was. The myrrh and spices placed between the linen cloths hardened. The grave clothes, therefore, did not consist of loose material but became a shell snugly surrounding the deceased individual.5

Back to the Tomb

Now, return to the tomb in your mind. Do you now see why Peter and John were blown away? What an Easter surprise this was! These disciples didn’t see the linen material that had enveloped Jesus’ body wadded up into a heap or otherwise loosely placed. Nor did they see the grave clothes neatly folded and resting where Jesus’ body had been situated after it was brought into the tomb; although, as the Scripture indicates, the headpiece was “folded together in a place by itself.” The “linen cloths lying there”—the grave clothes that had surrounded Jesus’ body—now were an empty shell made of linen and hardened myrrh.6

Here was proof positive that no one had taken Jesus’ body. Had anyone or any group of people stolen it, they would have had to carry out the grave clothes with it! Otherwise, they would have had to cut open the encasement and pry the body loose—something they would have had neither the time nor the resources to do.

The hollow encasement lay there, intact. No rips, tears, or cuts! Even though Peter and John didn’t yet understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead, they knew that something supernatural had happened.

John testified that he “saw and believed.” No wonder!

The Miraculous Catch of Fish by Duccio This portrays a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to His disciples. See John 21:1-14

And this was just the beginning. As Luke later would write, Jesus “also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them [the apostles] during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

Jesus is risen, indeed!

 

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Note: The content of this article is available in two separate articles (also written by B. Nathaniel Sullivan) at www.sundayschoolzone.com (here and here).

Notes:

1Don Stewart, You Be the Judge, (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1983), 71.

2Josh and Sean McDowell, Evidence for the Resurrection, (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2009), 174.

3,4,5McDowell and McDowell, 175

6McDowell and McDowell, 194.

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.

The Scripture passage marked NIV has been taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Myths that Led to the Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States, Part 8

A Call to Return to Bedrock Principles

The act of uniting a man and a woman for life; wedlock; the legal union of a man and woman for life. Marriage is a contract both civil and religious, by which the parties engage to live together in mutual affection and fidelity, till death shall separate them. Marriage was instituted by God himself for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children.
Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled. Heb 13
Founding Father Noah Webster, defining the word marriage in his classic and comprehensive dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828 edition—

Key point: Marriage as it has been redefined by the Supreme Court positions the state against the God-ordained institutions of marriage and the family, and consequently, against God Himself. In such a conflict, Christians must choose whether they will follow the state’s definition of marriage or God’s.

  • A condensed version of this article is available here.
  • Go here for summaries of all the articles in this series.

Myth #14: Same-sex marriage has implications for the same-sex couple only, and not for others. “If don’t agree with same-sex marriage,” we were told, “don’t worry. “Changing the definition of marriage won’t affect you!”

Fact: Changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex as well as opposite-sex couples totally alters the nature of marriage in the eyes of government and in the eyes of society. The implications for families are ominous—even those who, for all the right reasons, firmly hold that marriage is what God and nature have declared it to be.

Many scholars contend that Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language is “the finest English dictionary ever published.” It’s definition of marriage, which is printed above, is enlightening not only with regard to the definition itself—what marriage really is—but also with regard to the perspective on marriage held in the days and years when the United States of America still was putting down its roots as a nation.

Also very telling are the dictionary’s definitions of the words masculine and feminine.

Masculine:
1. Having the qualities of a man; strong; robust; as a masculine body.
2. Resembling man; coarse; opposed to delicate or soft; as masculine features.
3. Bold; brave; as a masculine spirit or courage.

Feminine:
The first syllable may be and probably is from wemb or womb, by use of the for w; the not being radical [not belonging to the root of the word]. The last part of the word is probably from man, quasi, femman, [hence] womb-man.
1. Pertaining to a woman, or to women, or to females; as the female sex.
2. Soft; tender; delicate. Her heavenly form angelic, but more soft and feminine
3. Effeminate; destitute of manly qualities.

Portrait of Noah Webster (1758-1843) by Samuel F. B. Morse

These definitions undoubtedly will sound outdated to many today, but hopefully they will sound refreshing to many others. Founding Father Noah Webster was in touch with reality!

Do not misunderstand. I’m not saying that a man can’t ever be tender or that a woman can’t ever be strong. Yet, even with all the cultural confusion surrounding gender issues today, when we contrast the two sexes in a general way, noting their characteristics and their differences, we see that Noah Webster was right on target. He knew what masculinity, femininity, and marriage were, and are.

Again, the definition of marriage in Webster’s 1828 dictionary is as follows.

The act of uniting a man and a woman for life; wedlock; the legal union of a man and woman for life. Marriage is a contract both civil and religious, by which the parties engage to live together in mutual affection and fidelity, till death shall separate them. Marriage was instituted by God himself for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children.
Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled. Heb 13

Definitions Matter

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States changed the definition of marriage nationwide to include same-sex couples. From a legal perspective, a scant majority of Supreme Court justices didn’t change marriage a little bit or even a lot. Instead, they reshaped it completely, altering the very nature of the institution from the inside out. In other words, the Supreme Court recreated marriage to make it mean something diametrically opposed to what it always has meant, and what it means inherently when one man and one woman—one, and only one, of each sex—come together to be united for life and to form a new family. Thus, the change wasn’t one of degree, but of kind.

The Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage didn’t change marriage in terms of degree; rather it established a new kind of institution we still call marriage. But it isn’t marriage at all.

In a previous post, I wrote that the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage actually denies what it means

to be a human being. Natural man-woman marriage, you see, affirms what being a human being is all about. This is not to say that single people or homosexual individuals aren’t human; of course they are! It is to say that natural marriage affirms what being human means. Same-sex “marriage” doesn’t just distort that affirmation; it eliminates it—because if two men or two women can marry each other and have exactly what one man and one woman married to each other have (this notion obviously is a lie), marriage has nothing to do with sex, procreation, children, fatherhood, motherhood, male-female dynamics in a relationship, or anything else that truly makes marriage what it is, and that makes being a human being what he or she is.

David Fowler

Well, does the revised definition of marriage really eliminate the dynamic of male-female differences from the institution of marriage? In the eyes of the government, the answer is yes. Christians desperately need to understand the implications of this for the family and for society as a whole.

Former Tennessee state senator and Family Action Council of Tennessee President David Fowler has seriously considered this matter. In a series of five short articles he articulates the problem, the need, and the challenge that lies before supporters of man-woman marriage. Here are links to those articles and a brief summary of the issues he highlights.

  • Are Tennessee’s Evangelical Pastors Licensing Same-Sex ‘Marriages’? (Feb. 16, 2018) Pastors, and many Christians as well, have tended to think that post-Obergefell, opposite-sex marriages and same-sex marriages remain very different. In a practical sense they are correct, because no same-sex couple—married or not—ever can have what an opposite sex couple has. Yet in a legal sense they are wrong: a heterosexual marriage in the eyes of the government is a relationship identical to a same-sex marriage! Are pastors who are performing wedding ceremonies for heterosexual couples tacitly lending their support to marriage redefined? They need to consider this issue very carefully.
  • Should Christian Couples Get Legally Married? (Feb. 22, 2018) Just as pastors who officiate wedding ceremonies need to think long and hard about whether they should perform state-recognized marriages, so should a heterosexual Christian couple considering marriage also ask if they really want their marriage to be defined by the state.
  • How Long Before Parents Have to be Licensed by the State? (March 1, 2018) If marriage no longer is at all about male-female differences in the eyes of the state, then biological parents no longer can make the point that their genetic ties to their children give them any special rights as parents. Just ask a couple in Ohio who, in late February, lost custody of their 17-year-old daughter who desires to become a male through hormone treatment. How can a judge make such a ruling? According to Fowler, what happened “shouldn’t really shock anyone, given that the following was the very first sentence in the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex ‘marriage,’ Obergefell v. Hodges: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.'” Do you now see how marriage redefined can mean parental rights obliterated? In the eyes of the government, heterosexual couples—even those who are biological parents—are identical to same-sex couples who have no innate ability to reproduce.

In the eyes of the government, heterosexual couples—even those who are biological parents—are identical to same-sex couples who have no innate ability to reproduce.

  • A Really Hard Question: What Is Marriage Worth to You? (March 9, 2018) What should Christians and other supporters of natural marriage do when the state says marriage is something that it absolutely is not? Do couples have the right to marry without state approval? Yes. These marriages are called common law marriages, and they have been deemed legitimate by the Supreme Court. Common law entails the principle that there is a form of law that predates civil government and that civil government merely acknowledges. So a common law marriage is one not grounded in a statute by which civil government gives its “permission” for a marriage. According to the Supreme Court, most of the early marriage laws in America were not conferring on a couple the right to marry, but allowing them to register marriage and provide evidence to third parties of the marriage. The common law does not recognize any same-sex relationship as a marriage; it sees marriage as solely a heterosexual, 2-person union. Be forewarned! Were a state to adopt common law with regard to marriage, get ready for intense LGBT pressure, including severe economic blackmail, against that state. Were this to happen in your state, where would you stand?
  • What Are Inalienable Rights and Liberty Worth to You?  (March 16, 2018) Our form of government rests upon a foundation that includes the principle “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Is the right to marry also one of those rights, or is it a right that comes from and can be adjusted and changed by government and government alone? When the Supreme Court insisted that states cannot deny same-sex couples the “right” to marry, it essentially said to them they are beholden to the Court’s interpretation of the Constitution and that no law is higher. Marriage, however, was instituted by God and predates the Supreme Court, Congress, the US Presidency, and, for that matter, the United States of America itself! As a matter of fact, the institution of marriage predates any and all governments. Are we willing to push back against the Supreme Court on this matter? If we’re not willing to push back on the issue of marriage, will we be willing to push back on any issue? Where do you stand?

So, anyone who says, Hey, if you don’t agree with same-sex marriage, make sure you don’t have one! is sorely misled—and misleading others. Same-sex marriage affects us all! Let’s make sure we’re ready to resist in the most Christlike and effective of ways.

The future of liberty depends on it!

 

Part 9 is available here.

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Listen to the latest (March 21, 2018) FACT Report — “Are Inalienable Rights Dead?” — from the Family Action Council of Tennessee.

top image credit: www.lightstock.com
image credit: David Fowler

Myths that Led to the Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States, Part 7

This is all coming from a tolerant loving community? An open-minded community that seeks to be understood and wants to understand others?

We’re not going anywhere…. We will love anybody who walks through our doors. We will not condemn anybody—but we will not back down from what Jesus tells us.

Pastor Jeremy Schossau of Metro City Church outside Detroit, Michigan—


A Plea to the Church


Key point: The debate over marriage, sexuality, and gender issues represents the front lines of spiritual warfare today.


Go here for summaries of all the articles in this series.

Myth #14: Same-sex marriage has implications for the same-sex couple only, and not for others. “If don’t agree with same-sex marriage,” we were told, “don’t worry. “Changing the definition of marriage won’t affect you!”

Fact: Same-sex marriage and all the “rights” that flow from it relating to gender and gender identity issues will affect everyone and every institution—perhaps especially the church. The good news, however, is that the church can help people find the truth about matters related to gender and sexuality. Everyone needs a compass in his or her life. Today is a day of opportunity, and the church must seize it!

Lake Ingle is a senior at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he is a religious studies major. At this point, however, his planned graduation, scheduled for May, is in doubt. Why? Because he challenged his professor in the classroom, pointing out that officially, biologists say only two genders—male and female—exist. You can learn the details of what is happening to him here.

Sadly, this is the kind of day and world in which we live! It is undeniable that confusion over gender and gender identity issues has intensified since June of 2015 when the Supreme Court struck down laws limiting marriage to one man and one woman in all fifty states. Moreover, the confusion will grow even more widespread and intense. Everyone, and every institution, will be affected.

Indoctrinating the Young

It is well known that in education, the militant LGBT movement doesn’t focus just on young adults in colleges and universities. They hone in on children, even kindergarteners! Statement #93 of our “95 Theses for the Protestant Evangelical Church in the 21st Century” reads as follows:

[T]he militant LGBT movement is targeting America’s children and is succeeding in indoctrinating them. The movement is using America’s institutions, including the public schools, in their quest. The church has failed to educate itself regarding this specific threat, has failed to warn parents, and has failed to equip them to protect their children from the onslaught. Again, for more information go herehere, and here.

To this group of three articles, we can add this one as well.

Even something seemingly as innocuous as a picture of a teacher’s spouse on his or her desk can make a profound impression on a child. A male teacher may have a photo of his “husband” on his desk, or a woman teacher a photo of her “wife.” “Who is that?” a student may ask, and the answer communicates a great deal more than the idea that the individual pictured is a member of the teacher’s family. Parents’ objections will have no effect, because the government, after all, has said that two men or two women can “marry” — and that by itself is essentially a verdict that the relationship is normal.1

Five Audio Clips and a Video Tell an Important Story

Returning to the responsibility of the church with regard the LGBT agenda and it’s impact on children, families, and society, it is good news indeed that not every church has remained silent against the backdrop of the militant LGBT effort to indoctrinate kids. Yet too few have, and those that do are vilified. Recently, one church simply moved to offer a listening ear and loving guidance to young women with questions and concerns about sexuality and gender identity issues. Here’s what happened.

Metro City Church is a Christ-centered, outreach-oriented, multi-campus church outside of Detroit, Michigan. Jeremy Schossau [pronounced SHAW-so] is the founder and lead pastor of the church. Pastor Jeremy

Pastor Jeremy Schossau
  • understands the desperate need teens have for clarity on gender and gender related issues,
  • realizes how the Bible and a biblical worldview provide answers to pressing questions, even about that, and
  • seeks to address those pressing questions not only with biblical truth but also with compassion and love.

The Workshop

Moreover, he leads his church to do the same in all three of these areas. Accordingly, earlier this year, Metro City Church offered a workshop for girls ages 12-16. The “Unashamed Identity Workshop” is designed to help girls with questions about gender identity or who are struggling with uncertainty about their sexual orientation. At the sessions, participants find caring adults who listen. Then, through conversation and biblical counsel, leaders answer questions and provide loving guidance. No one is condemned or coerced. Among other things, the young women learn that at their age, asking questions is normal, and having concerns about one’s sexual orientation does not mean an individual is gay, lesbian, or bisexual (also go here). The church launched the program and advertised it through its website and Facebook page.

Kudos to Pastor Jeremy and his church! They have done exactly the kind of thing that Jesus would do were He still on the earth. He would be unafraid of any issue and willing to speak both compassionately and truthfully in order to meet people’s needs. Although He never intentionally would try to be controversial, He would not shy away from any topic just because it might be controversial.

And consider this. People in the church who are struggling with these kinds of issues often feel they’ll be misunderstood or condemned if they ask questions or share concerns. Just offering such a workshop sends an important message: Here is a safe place to ask questions and find answers. Of course, the church must to an excellent job leading the group; but when it does, the sessions themselves reinforce the initial invitation to come and ask questions. 

Despite all these benefits, a backlash erupted—from outside the church walls.

The Backlash

Quite likely, many people objected to what the church was doing because they didn’t fully understand the nature of the workshop sessions and just how the girls involved were being counseled. At least some others—perhaps even many—either didn’t care how the church was doing what it was doing or they knew and engaged in a deliberate misinformation campaign. Add political pressure to the mix as well. It didn’t take long for some Michigan state legislators to urge the state’s attorney general to investigate the church.

Metro City Church was thrust onto the national stage, and Pastor Jeremy made every effort to clarify what his church was doing, why, and how he and his church saw the people in the larger community.

Many churches refuse to address anything related to homosexuality or gender issues because it is “too controversial.” They fear they might become targets of militant gay activists, just as Metro City Church has become. While I understand their fears, they need to realize that even if they “stay on the sidelines” of this issue, they still will not be spared the effects of militant gay activists’ efforts to silence the church.

There’s something else—something I don’t understand. I don’t understand a church’s unwillingness to help people in the areas where they are questioning and hurting the most. If we do not help our young people sort out issues relating to homosexuality and gender identity, then others will “help” them in ways we don’t want them to, and we will have lost our opportunity set their feet on the path God wants them to walk! I’m not talking about coercion, but loving guidance. This is a spiritual battle, and pastor Jeremy and his church, to their eternal credit, are on the front lines!

The Lies Teens Hear and Are Tempted to Believe

On the February 13th edition of Family Research Council’s radio program Washington Watch, FRC President Tony Perkins talked with Pastor Jeremy about the workshop.

Take a moment and reflect on what Pastor Jeremy just said. Members of the gay community—or at least some members of the gay community—are telling young people that if they are questioning their sexuality or sexual orientation, it’s an indication that they must be gay! Yet having questions about one’s sexuality in the teen years is quite normal, and it categorically does not indicate he or she is a homosexual or will become one. Significantly, nor do feelings of attraction to the same sex! In the vast, vast majority of cases, these feelings will naturally disappear! Young people are being deceived—and if the church will not counter these lies, who will?

Young people are being deceived about gender identity issues, and if the church will not counter these lies, who will?

Bringing Parents and Teens Together

There’s something else Metro City Church is doing right. It is involving parents in the workshop. Parental participation is encouraged, but not mandatory if the teen feels uncomfortable with her parents being present at all the sessions. This ought to be a no-brainer to people, but apparently parental involvement frightens militant gay activists.

A Platform to Declare the Gospel

Finally, it is noteworthy that God has used this “firestorm” to give Metro City Church and Pastor Jeremy Schossau a national platform to present the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have discussed at length the relationship between God’s design for marriage and the gospel, and considered how upholding marriage is one of the most effective ways to uphold the gospel. Metro City Church and its pastor are remaining faithful, and they are not backing down. Consistently, they are telling the truth in love!

The Challenge for the Rest of Us

Metro City Church has become a target of militant gay activists, but one reason this church has been so hard hit is because so few other churches have stood alongside it, doing the same kind of thing Metro City Church is doing. The more “targets” gay activists believe they must hit, the more difficult it will be for them to hit all of them effectively. Remember what we said earlier: Even if you try to sit on the sidelines of the spiritual battles occurring over gender and gender identity, you still will not escape the effects of militant gay activists’ efforts to silence the church. Are you going to cooperate with them when they go after your church and maneuver to keep you and your faith community from sharing the gospel? Are you going to cooperate with them now by never addressing sexuality and gender identity issues in any context? Young people are struggling and looking for solid answers. What would God have you and your church do? You can begin to learn about these issues by reading this article, and this one. Reading these articles represents a modest start, but it’s a step in the right direction. Check back here periodically for additional links. We’ll try to give you more help as you plan steps your church can take in this area of ministry.

Sitting on the sidelines with regard to these issues is not a viable option for a Bible-believing, Christ-centered church that truly cares about and loves people.

The lesson for the church at large is clear. Hebrews 13:4 states in unambiguous terms, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

First Corinthians 6:9-11 is instructive for us as well.

[D]o you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (emphasis added).

Who will show sinners the way to freedom—the way we also didn’t deserve but found by God’s grace?

Will your church do its part?

Will you do yours?

 

Part 8 is available here.

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

1David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee gets credit for this illustration.

top image: www.lightstock.com

Note: With the exception of the clip from FRC’s Washington Watch, the audio clips featured in this article were lifted from this sermon.

Unless otherwise designated, all Scriptures have been taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Myths that Led to the Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States, Part 6

These activists aren’t after a “live-and-let-live” policy. They’re on a march to force all Americans to celebrate and affirm what they do under the penalty of law.
Tony Perkins


Key point: Same-sex marriage never was the ultimate goal of LGBT activists. Rather, “marriage equality” is a means to even more destructive ends. In the process, advocates of man-woman marriage are being punished severely for their views. Yet, even those who stay silent cannot remain unaffected by the societal upheaval that is taking place.


You can view brief summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Myth #14: Same-sex marriage has implications for the same-sex couple only, and not for others. “If don’t agree with same-sex marriage,” we were told, “don’t worry. “Changing the definition of marriage won’t affect you!”

Fact: Same-sex marriage affects everyone because it influences the culture with regard to everything from perceptions about what marriage is to attitudes about how to deal with those who dare to express support for the natural family. Those who dissent, even politely, are severely punished—under the banners of “diversity” and “tolerance.” These ideals are misleading, because genuine diversity isn’t pursued, nor is tolerance practiced.

Barronelle Stutzman

Let’s begin by highlighting briefly how advocates of man-woman marriage often are treated. Here we see some of the clearest evidence that same-sex marriage adversely affects people who oppose it and act on their convictions. We aren’t talking here about people who treat homosexuals rudely, but individuals who, based on their deeply held religious beliefs, politely turn down opportunities use their talent and their goods and services in same-sex weddings.

Jack Phillips

On December 5, 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In that case, Masterpiece Cakeshop owner and operator Jack Phillips has been told by the state of Colorado that he must provide custom-made wedding cakes for same-sex couples. Keep in mind he gladly does business with homosexuals in all other contexts—but believing that marriage is between one man and one woman, he could not, in good conscience, participate in a same-sex wedding. He was sued, and his case has gone all the way to the Supreme Court.

In commenting on Jack’s case and where we as a nation now have arrived in the debate over what rights flow from government recognition of same-sex marriage, Gary Bauer of the Campaign for Working Families observes that years ago,

Gary Bauer

the left and the radical gay rights movement made a version of a libertarian, live-and-let-live argument: You can marry who you want, I just want to marry who I want. And a lot of Christians, particularly young Christians, bought that argument. It was, we were told, a matter of love to accept it.

But as is almost always the case with radical social change, what started out as a libertarian appeal inevitably turned into a movement to use of the full power of the federal government to threaten and browbeat everyone into kneeling in submission to the new normal.

It’s a variation of what has happened in the abortion debate. The pro-abortion movement started out arguing that women should have “the right to choose” to control their own bodies, but recently has focused its efforts on forcing nuns to subsidize abortions.

Jack Phillips isn’t the only wedding service provider who believes in natural, man-woman marriage (also go here). Yet these attempt to coerce those who do not wish to celebrate same-sex weddings into actively participating in them isn’t the only way the new definition of marriage is affecting more than just gay and lesbian couples.

A Means to Many Different Radical Ends

It is now clear that “marriage equality” has not been the only goal of militant homosexual activists—and probably this has not even been the primary goal. Now that the government recognizes same-sex unions as marriage, activists can use that very fact as a crowbar to pry open a great many other “opportunities,”—legal and otherwise—for themselves and for other LGBT individuals. In other words, as important as marriage is, we are wise to see the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling as about a great deal more than marriage alone. It is about marriage—but it’s also about everything else! If you don’t realize this, you have been hibernating during the last two-and-a-half years as marriage debate has given way to debates over whether biological males can use women’s restrooms and whether children who express discontent with their biological sex should be given puberty-blocking drugs or other hormone therapy.


The Supreme Court ruling redefining marriage is about marriage—but it also is about everything else!


Dr. James Dobson made some dire predictions just weeks before the Supreme Court issued its decision about marriageHe wrote of a torrent of lawsuits that would be coming against Christians and others who believe in man-woman marriage. He also said,

Pastors may have to officiate at same-sex marriages, and they could be prohibited from preaching certain passages of Scripture. Those who refuse to comply will not only be threatened legally, but many will be protested and picketed by activists. Perhaps this is a worst-case scenario, but maybe not. Prison is also a possibility.

Moreover, it isn’t far-fetched at all, Dobson contended, to envision that Christian wedding service providers will have to choose between serving at same-sex weddings and going out of business. And Christian colleges, especially those that receive federal money through any avenue at all—even individual student grants and loans—could be prohibited by law from teaching the biblical view of marriage. Dobson went on to cite a then-recent piece from liberal newspaper columnist Frank Bruni, who had written that church leaders ought to be forced to remove homosexuality from their list of sins.

In the same opinion piece, Bruni also said that the

debate about religious freedom should include a conversation about freeing religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can indeed jettison, much as they’ve jettisoned other aspects of their faith’s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.

Professional counselors, added Dr. Dobson, would become yet another target of the state, which would issue regulations mandating their practices adhere to the government’s definitions of marriage and morality. School textbooks, too, would be rewritten to advance the gay agenda even further. After all, if marriage is not just for a man and a woman but also for two men or two women, then homosexuality is on par with heterosexuality—and all government entities, including schools, should treat them the same way.

Right Before Our Eyes

Do any of Dr. Dobson’s warnings sound extreme today, nearly three years after same-sex marriage was made legal nationwide by judicial fiat? There is no question that the push for everything LGBT activists want has accelerated—and a great deal of what Dr. Dobson predicted is happening right before our eyes! Mark it down! If Jack Phillips loses his case before the Supreme Court, the dam will burst and a flood of litigation will come crashing down on those who believe in man-woman marriage. These lawsuits will relate to every context in which dissent can be expressed. Current trends portend that this is precisely what will happen.


If Jack Phillips loses his case before the Supreme Court, the dam will burst and a flood of litigation will come crashing down on those who believe in man-woman marriage. These lawsuits will relate to every context in which dissent can be expressed.


The assault on counseling and counselors currently is ongoing. Keep in mind that with regard to counseling and therapy, gay activists’ goal is to prohibit clients from getting help to overcome unwanted same-sex attraction and help to grapple with other related issues. Not surprisingly, part of the strategy is to misrepresent and demonize this type of professional help. You can watch one professional counselor set the record straight here. If anyone is struggling with same-sex attraction and/or gender identity issues and wants help, shouldn’t he or she be able to get it? Not if militant gay activists have their way!


If anyone is struggling with same-sex attraction and/or gender identity issues and wants help, shouldn’t he or she be able to get it?


The push to promote the LGBT agenda in schools started long before the Obergefell decision was released (go here, here,  hereherehere, and here.). This article shows how the marriage ruling makes the problem much, much worse—and harder to fight.

A Total Makeover of Society

So, why can’t two people who love each other marry? This was the question we repeatedly were asked. It sounds innocent enough, but homosexuals have not been singled out for mistreatment at this point. For millennia, there have been a good many loving relationships that governments have not recognized as marriages or potential marriages. A father cannot marry his daughter; nor can an individual marry his or her pet cat or dog; and two men or two women couldn’t marry because their relationship also did not and cannot qualify as a marriage. Now, however, the government says it does.

Quite tellingly, a lesbian activist admitted five years ago that the real goal of her movement is destroying marriage altogether. Masha Gessen said,

It’s a no-brainer that (homosexual activists) should have the right to marry, but I also think equally that it’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist. …(F)ighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there—because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie.

The institution of marriage is going to change, and it should change. And again, I don’t think it should exist.


(F)ighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there — because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie.
—Masha Gessen, lesbian journalist and activist—


Tim Huelskamp

Tim Huelskamp, a three-term congressman from Kansas’s first district, understood this. CNSnews reporter Lauretta Brown summarized Huelskamp’s statements at the 2014 March for Marriage this way.

Congressional Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) said he agreed that the ultimate goal of homosexual “marriage” is to destroy the institution of marriage altogether by diminishing it to whatever type of contract people sign on to and, at the same time, denying the natural right of children to be raised by a mother and a father.

Author and political science professor Paul Kengor also sees the goal as the total destruction of marriage and the family. The radical left, he says, has been trying to obliterate the family for two hundred years. Now, in and through same-sex marriage, militant LGBT activists have found the perfect means by which they can fulfill their cherished dream.

Societal Chaos

Just how radical will it get? Fasten your seatbelt! Among other things, LBGT activists are “now encouraging society to view children as ‘genderless.'” Canada issued the first gender-neutral government ID card for an infant in April of last year, and not long after that, the state of Oregon began issuing state ID cards and driver’s licenses that also are “gender-neutral.” The designation for the individual’s sex can be M, F, or X. Ponder this for a moment: What would it be like to grow up from infancy in a setting where the adults taking care of you refuse to acknowledge that you are a boy or a girl?


What would it be like to grow up from infancy in a setting where the adults taking care of you refuse to acknowledge that you are a boy or a girl?


Leftists, including LGBT activists, will continue to advocate this type of approach to reality, even as they also attack everyone who dares to publicly make the case for a biology-based gender identity framework and the traditional family. If allowed to continue unchecked, activists’ efforts will lead to societal chaos. Note carefully that radicals wouldn’t be able to accomplish all this, certainly not nearly as effectively, without same-sex marriage.

Ben Shapiro

Within a few days after the Supreme Court released its decision redefining marriage, Ben Shapiro expressed concerns similar to those of Dr. Dobson. He wrote,

Leftists have already moved to ban nonprofit status for religious institutions that refuse to acknowledge same-sex marriages; leftists have already sued into oblivion religious business owners who refuse to participate in same-sex weddings. It will not stop there. Religious schools will be targeted. Then, so will homeschooling programs. The secular religion of the left has been set free to pursue its own crusade against the infidel.

And who is “the infidel” in this case? Anyone who does not share, and yes, celebrate, everything about LGBT agendas and lifestyles. Or it might just be someone who wants a semblance of order in society.

The Grieving Don’t Even Get a Break!

In Cincinnati, Ohio on March 7, 2018, a male employee at a funeral home won the legal right to dress as a woman when he performs his duties for his employer. It was a three-judge panel from the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit that ruled in the employee’s favor. Alliance Defending Freedom represented the Michigan funeral home and its majority owner in this case. ADF’s report on the ruling read in part,

The company’s sole corporate officer and majority owner, Thomas Rost, is a devout Christian whose faith informs the way he serves customers with compassion during one of life’s most challenging moments.

The male employee served as a funeral director, regularly interacting with the public and grieving family members and friends. After informing the funeral home of his intention to begin dressing as a female at work, the employee was dismissed for refusing to comply with the same company dress code that all other men are required to follow while on the job.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) took the matter to court on behalf of the dismissed worker. Note that the EEOC, a government entity, contended for the LGBT position. On the first round, a lower court ruled in favor of the funeral home. In its ruling, the federal district court cited the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and stated that it protected a business owner’s right to enforce a dress code rooted in genuine religious convictions. The EEOC appealed that decision and won.

Gary McCaleb, ADF Senior Counsel, had this to say after the 6th Circuit panel overturned the lower court’s ruling:

American business owners, especially those serving the grieving and the vulnerable, should be free to live and work consistently with their faith. The funeral home’s dress code is tailored to serve those mourning the loss of a loved one. Today’s decision misreads court precedents that have long protected businesses which properly differentiate between men and women in their dress and grooming code policies.

The multi-location funeral home has won more than one award for the services it has rendered in the three communities where it is located in and near Detroit. Now, according to the court, it must allow a man in women’s clothing  to serve as a funeral director. This means he must be allowed to wear women’s clothing while he performs his work with grieving families! Would you want a man in women’s clothing to coordinate the arrangements for the memorial service and burial of one of your loved ones? Might this court ruling set the stage for the eventual closure of the funeral home? One doesn’t have to have a wild imagination to envision this scenario.

Yes, it is a myth that same-sex marriage affects only same-sex couples. There are even more incidents to highlight as we seek to expose this important myth. Tune in next time to read about at least two more events.

You will see evidence, not only of the marriage ruling’s severity, but also of its pervasiveness.

And you’ll understand even more thoroughly why we must contend for natural marriage in robust and compelling ways.

 

Part 7 is available here.

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

image credit, top image: rainbow flag flying in the Castro District of San Francisco, California

image credit: Gary Bauer at the 2007 Washington DC Values Voters conference

image credit: Ben Shapiro at the University of Missouri in 2015

 

 

 

Myths that Led to the Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States, Part 5

At the most basic level, marriage and its offshoot, the family, are based on the sexual complementarity of a man and a woman. It is a union in fact, not just in form, based on a conjugal sexual act that unites the man and wife in a bond that includes every level of their being: biological, physical, emotional, mental, mystical, and spiritual. It is the primary reason we maintain that homosexual relationships, even if granted marital status by secular law, can never be legitimate marriages, or even unions, in concept or in fact.
Illinois Family Institute


Key point: Nature clearly defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. Refusing to recognize same-sex relationships as marriages, therefore, isn’t arbitrarily discriminating against gays or denying them equality; rather, it is upholding reality and rejecting a lie.


You can view summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Recently we’ve been highlighting a number of myths that led to the imposition of same-sex marriage in the United States by the Supreme Court on June 26, 2015. Remember that a myth is a falsehood that is widely believed and accepted as true. To see what myths we’ve discussed thus far, go here. In this article, we will highlight two more.


A myth is a falsehood that is widely believed and accepted as true.


Myth #12: All discrimination is bad and must be criminalized.

Fact: Discrimination based on prejudicial factors such as race with the clear intent of mistreating certain individuals or groups has no place in a civilized society. Accordingly, such discrimination should be, and in many cases has been, outlawed. However, not all discrimination is wrong or harmful. Some discriminatory actions are appropriate and even needed. Indeed, these actions are based on rational, clear-headed, and constructive thinking.

People and societies discriminate all the time, and they do so legitimately. Truck drivers are required to have commercial drivers’ licenses, and rightly so. If you don’t have one, don’t expect a trucking company to consider hiring you. Editors, writers, and journalists also must be skilled in their lines of work; you wouldn’t expect a news organization to hire as a journalist someone who couldn’t write. Furthermore, patients waiting to see a doctor in an emergency room have a right to assume the hospital discriminated against unqualified applicants to fill ER positions! All of this is discrimination. But—and here’s the important point—it isn’t arbitrary discrimination.

Consider one more example. Should a white actor have been considered for the main role in 42, the 2013 film about the life, challenges, and accomplishments of baseball superstar Jackie Robinson, the first African-American player to play on a Major League team? Of course not! It was right and even expected that Robinson would be portrayed by a black actor, and no one was wrong to discriminate against white actors when casting the part.1 Chadwick Boseman, who currently can be seen in the Marvel superhero film Black Pantherlanded the role.

Why Limiting Marriage to One Man and One Woman Isn’t Wrong or Bigoted

In their book Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage, authors Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet affirm the legitimacy of discrimination with regard to the meaning of natural marriage:

John Stonestreet

Societies always privilege some relationships to qualify as marriage, while they discriminate against others. The distinctions made between relationships can either be based on essential qualities or on arbitrary qualities. Distinctions based on essential qualities are not made in order to insult or trivialize the quality or sincerity of a couple’s love and devotion for one another. Rather, distinctions based on essential qualities are those that are made between certain relationships that qualify as marriage and other that don’t. They are based on the sort of unique relationship marriage is and the purpose it alone serves.2

Sean McDowell

McDowell and Stonestreet go on to contrast this kind of discrimination to the Jim Crow laws that prohibited interracial marriage. We had our own discussion about this in a previous article. These distinctions were arbitrary because they were racist. In other words, they were based on the subjective assumption that certain people, because of the color of their skin (an irrefutably immutable trait with which they had been born), were less valuable than others.

Not all discrimination based on sex is wrong, either. The two male authors aren’t offended that they can’t become official members of MOPS—an organization for mothers of preschoolers. And they’re also perfectly OK with not being given a senior citizen discount at McDonalds when they purchase coffee. Why? Because they haven’t yet reached the age to qualify for it. These distinctions, they point out, are not arbitrary; nor are they arbitrarily applied. If senior discounts were given to everyone, they wouldn’t be senior discounts at all!3

This is the point about marriage. A “marriage” isn’t really a marriage unless it involves a man and a woman—one member of each of the two sexes. If two men or two women are involved, the relationship can’t be a marriage, no matter how many times it is called one and no matter how long government and society pretend it is one. The longer a society pretends, the greater the price it will have to pay.

Myth #13: Equality for gays with regard to marriage will be achieved only when discrimination preventing gays from marrying each other is eliminated.

Fact: Natural marriage itself treats everyone equally. Allowing two men or two women to “marry” creates, not equality, but a lie that will exact a heavy cost from society, especially its children.

In June of 2013 after the Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional, Pastor Wes McAdams wrote,

Wes McAdams

If a man is a homosexual, either in the sense of having homosexual attractions or in the sense of having had practiced homosexuality, there are no laws against him getting married—to a woman. A homosexual man has the exact same rights as a heterosexual man; they both have the right to marry a woman. Likewise for women, there is total equality. All women have the right to marry a man. I am not being flippant about this issue. Like it or not, that is the definition of equality.…

McAdams goes on to name some relationships that don’t qualify as a marriage—a person and an animal, a person and an inanimate object, and, yes, two men or two women. He continues,

But why? Why can’t our government call the union of any two (or more) entities a “marriage”? Because the government didn’t create the institution of marriage; God did. God has simply given the government—for the good of society—the authority to regulate marriage (Romans 13:1-7). So, because the government did not create marriage, it has no right to define it; God has already defined it.

As we said in a previous post, natural, man-woman marriage affirms everything about what it means to be a human being. Same-sex “marriage,” however,

doesn’t just distort that affirmation; it eliminates it—because if two men or two women can marry each other and have exactly what one man and one woman married to each other have (this notion obviously is a lie), marriage has nothing to do with sex, procreation, children, fatherhood, motherhood, male-female dynamics in a relationship, or anything else that truly makes marriage what it is, and that makes being a human being what he or she is. Marriage, after all, is is unique among human beings. It is unknown in the animal kingdom!

My next statement will offend some people. I mean no offense, only to convey the truth. State laws limiting marriage to one man and one woman didn’t keep legitimate marriages from occurring; they kept counterfeit marriages from taking place.


State laws limiting marriage to one man and one woman didn’t keep legitimate marriages from occurring; they kept counterfeit ones from taking place. 


The Obergefell ruling equates counterfeit marriages with the real thing.

Obergefell essentially says that
1 man + 1 woman
=
1 man + 1 man
or
1 woman + 1 woman.

This absolutely cannot be true. This article highlights ten ways the assertions and implications of Obergefell deny reality. Just as treating counterfeit money as real money exacts a price—even when this happens out of ignorance—so too does treating counterfeit marriages as real. Mark it down! Sometimes the most innocent among us are the hardest hit. It’s especially hard on the children of same-sex couples. Through no fault of their own, they are out either a mother or a father as a result of the very nature of their parents’ “marriages.”

An Illustration from Science

An instructive example comes from the field of chemistry.  I readily acknowledge that other examples from chemistry could be used to argue against my point, so the illustration has some limitations. Even so, it is extremely helpful for us, because it so clearly illustrates what marriage is and what it cannot be. This presentation begins with the words, “Another type of bond—” but remember that this chemical reaction is demonstrating “one type of bond” among human beings that has no equal.

You also need to know this, if you don’t already: The ionic bond between an atom of sodium, a metal, and an atom of chlorine, a gas, creates a molecule of salt.


The ionic bond between an atom of sodium and an atom of chlorine creates a molecule of salt.


Therefore:

  • We don’t call two atoms of sodium salt, because they’re not!
  • Nor do we call two atoms of chlorine salt. They’re not, either!
  • Yet, when an atom of sodium and an atom of chlorine come together, their innate chemical properties create a reaction that gives sodium a charge of + 1, and chlorine a charge of – 1. These opposite charges bring the two atoms together to form a compound that is an altogether different substance than either sodium or chlorine. Sodium chloride is salt.
image of a grain of table salt as seen by a scanning electron microscope

Do you see the point? Of course, not just any man and any woman will marry—but when a man and a woman come together in marriage, their inherent differences serve to establish a bond that is altogether different from any relationship that two men or two women can have between themselves. A new kind of relationship is created; a new family begins.

This video comes even closer to presenting our analogy. It highlights a few aspects of this chemical bond that don’t parallel marriage, but overall, in the most basic of ways, it shows how it does.

So you see, marriage is what it is because it is what it is inherently. Discriminating  against same-sex couples by saying their relationships don’t qualify as marriages is not discriminating arbitrarily, but purposefully, in accord with what nature teaches.

What are some things that can happen when government seeks to overrule nature’s definition of marriage? How bad can it get? The myth we will consider next time will give us an opportunity to address these questions.

Be sure to return.

 

Part 6 is available here.

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Notes:

1David Fowler, President of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, gets credit for this example.

2,3Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet, Same-Sex Marriage: Athoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage, (Grand Rapids, Baker Publishing Group, 2014), 26.