Yet as the foregoing also clearly shows, the policy and legal debates surrounding homosexuality involve fundamental issues of morality and justice. Perhaps most centrally of all, they cut to issues of personal identity and self-definition. Hence there is another, and even deeper, set of reasons for the polarization that marks these debates.”
There is a reason that conservatives are mooring their dinghies on the shores of pro-homosexuality. They’re conservatives. But, as the article concludes, the debates actually have a genesis rooted much more deeply. Though at other times it was one form of cultural morality versus another, as Christians we can see that it is Christian morality versus all other moralities that is at the heart of the current controversy. Historically not much has changed. The social milieu depends upon who is ruling. As long as there is a civil magistrate, civil religion will prevail. It can be asked, then, what is morality? Or better, which morality is the best paradigm to address is the question, since it has always been a struggle for the religious control of the civil state. It can also be stated, what is justice in the civil state since it is ideologically driven, and not by any historical measure a question of absolutes?
For Christians there can be only one response. But, let me be as blunt as possible by contemplating Paul’s response to Peter: “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” The church must confront its own when errors creep seeking to take captive the weak. And we are all weak. It does no good for anyone for ministers of the Gospel to remain chained to their pulpits, unwilling out of a faux respect for boundaries, as ashamed, or afraid, to not confront their cross-town rivals in the faith. The great Peter was not beyond the reach of the perfection demanded by Scripture. He was not beyond the reach of his fellow elder. What Scripture demands, it demands of all mankind everywhere- nothing less than perfect righteousness, as Peter would say later, “Be holy.” Scripture demands a perfect knowledge of doctrine, the mature stature of the Son of God, Ephesians 4. Peter’s actions, not even his verbal teaching, was blurring sound doctrine, and Paul condemned him for it. Perfection is impossible for any, and yet, to that standard even the “hypocritical” elder, Peter, had to be held accountable. In today’s church, we barely tolerate in-church discipline, let alone nailing a condemnation order to the backside of other churches elders. In many ways, we have become nothing more than a civic organization.
The issue of civil acceptance or rejection of Biblical morality is not the cause celeb of the Christian faith, any more than a restoration of an Edenic society is. The church is charged with the faithful preaching of the Gospel of repentance regardless of the outcome, regardless of the civil magistrates’ moral orientations. What kind of repentance is it which allows for sin in the church hierarchy by silent neutrality, but calls laymen and those outside to reject sin and confess the truth? Peter, by his actions, endangered even the highest of servants of the ministry: ‘For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all…” Even Barnabas, who stood with the apostle Paul as a co-worker, proved weak. So what should we say? Word, words, words… and actions, actions, actions, are the weapons of our spiritual warfare. They must be consistent with one another. Peter had laid down the sword, and Paul slapped him with it.
Here is the gist: Though no one is perfect, all are expected to be so.
Barnabas, Peter, even James’ men ran afoul of the ideal and stood condemned. As the historical review reveals, society has remained fickle in its moralities, always in flux, subject to the changes of the civil wind, no matter the influence of the church. What does change is the church, unfortunately. And once the church begins to embrace civilian moralities and doctrines by not confronting its Peter’s, Jame’s, Barnabas’, Hymenaeus’, Philetus’, Diotrephes’, Phygelus’, Hermogenes’, or the believer in the pew living in open defiance of the morality of Scripture, it soon becomes the leader of the crowd by default.
What separates the church from the world is not its “saltiness”. That is the common attribute of all men. Scripture has concluded all men sinful.When once the church begins to think of leaders as better than the world and not worth the same condemnation of sin, is when it loses its flavor. When it once begins to think it can give a pass to those claiming its name, is when it loses it flavor. When it covers the light of truth so that not all are held to the accountability of the light, elder and layman alike, is when its light becomes darkness. No one lighting a lamp shelters any from the message that of Lot’s wife, or that of wicked Lot. What matters is the direction we are facing and whether we will come into the light or not. What separates the church is it love of truth and its love for one another in that truth. In that, we at once recognize our weakness as having come out of the salty world. What separates us is that we do not deny it. The world tries to justify itself as just another morality. Scripture holds mankind all alike accountable to perfection. We condemn our weaknesses as a rejection of the moral perfection which is defined by Scripture, and by that condemn all others who reject it, also. What we offer is repentance and faith in the One True Light.
Where we are found to be loving one another is in our willingness to call one another to accountability through repentance, and our willingness to stand near to help one another despite the moral failings of our flesh. By this, the common salt of the earth knows that we are disciples. We are mankind, just as they are, calling them to join us in the new life offered. It is not by our perfections that we receive. That is, our good works merit us no favor with God. That was Peter’s and circumcision’s problem. It is by grace through faith, a faith grounded in the Truth. It is not by compromise, not by permissions, either, but through discipline, each part doing its part until we all come the unity of the faith, to maturity of the knowledge of the Son of God, reforming our minds day by day, that makes us different. That is the big part that is missing is the leadership in the church and why they have unwittingly become the leaders of civil rather than Biblical morality. We don’t, for the most part have men like Paul, who are willing to execute the office of ministers of the Gospel, and confront equals who by word or action teach false doctrine. What is missing today are faithful ministers of the word, as in Paul’s charge to Timothy, willing stand in public and denounce, the public embarrassment that some show forth for the Gospel of Jesus Christ while they blasphemously take upon themselves the name. The former make themselves partakers with the latter if they do not confront the error within. It is the least loving of all to leave a brother, yes, even a fellow elder, dying in the ditch, beaten and bloody, and do nothing.
We cannot cleanse the world, we cannot preserve it, but we can point it toward the Perfection which is coming to judge the world. To those being saved He is the sweet savor of life, to others, the stench of death. To one he is coming in respect to salvation, the other to the judgement of eternal damnation. There is only one answer we can give to the world, only one response to falsehood and every lofty argument which exalts itself against the knowledge of God: Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!
If judgement is to begin, let it begin with the household of God. Paul’s love for Peter could not have been expressed better than his publicly humiliating his brother in the presence of all so that all would fear the demands of a righteous Savior from heaven. And, so that all might wonder at the grace provided through Him alone. Peter obviously learned his woodshed lessons in holiness and the necessity of the blood of Christ and His resurrection to attain the holiness we all woefully lack. He learned it well enough that it became his theme of warning to the church and to those beyond of the coming destruction of all who oppose God.