One of the most amazing events in my life was that moment in time when I “became” a born-again believer. I was in a friends living room and had just asked for prayer in order to help me keep my nicotine habit at bay. The guy leading the meeting that evening asked me a few questions before he began his prayer. One of the questions was asked to determine whether or not I was, indeed, a Christian. Since I had been raised in church, I certainly thought the answer was yes, but after a few more questions, we both agreed that I had never, fully, been “born-again”.
I had moved to the southern appalachian mountains several months before this with my girl friend, who, within a few weeks after we arrived, became my wife. God was working in both of us underneath the surface of our lives—but that is a story for another time.
Suffice it to say, without going into any more detail, I left my friends house that night a different person. Everyone that I knew noticed the change in me and I would like to say that my early days as a Christian were all positive and without serious repercussions. When I began telling a couple of my pre-conversion buddies that I was having a dialogue with God rather than a monologue, eyes began to roll and I quickly found myself on the outside of our friendship looking in. Maybe I was a little scary at the time, but I was truly excited about the adventure that I had begun.
How can I sum up the next 34 years quickly in order to create a launching pad for what I would like to say today. Sandi and I went on to have four children, a blessed life by most standards, and now enjoy our grandkids and the life that we have been allowed to grow into.
Becoming a Christian brings with it a desire to read the bible and fellowship with other believers. As we grow in the faith, our understanding of the bible’s teaching becomes clearer and more personal. In turn, we develop belief systems based on what we, sometimes communally, agree upon. This then becomes “our doctrine”. There are many beliefs that are shared among the many diverse denominational church expressions. The most central belief is that Christ died for our sins and that after being crucified, rose on the third day and now sits at the right hand of the Father (in heaven, wherever that may be in your understanding of things).
Many doctrines have risen up over the years since that time in history. However in scripture, we are given the strong impression that “sound” or good doctrine will not always be followed.
Paul tells us in 2nd Timothy 4:3-4 that: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
We currently live in a culture that seems to think that Christians are behind the times and are hopelessly mired in superstition and fables.
While I don’t believe the church has handled some of the more controversial issues it has faced in a biblical fashion, I firmly believe the church is currently facing some decisions that will affect it for a long time to come.
One of the hot topics during the past several years has been the issue of same sex marriage and/or homosexuality as it relates to historical doctrinal understanding. I know those are somewhat separate but trend toward being a package issue.
Recently, Rob Bell, a controversial Christian author and former paster, has suggested to Oprah Winfrey that he believes the church is close to the point of accepting same sex marriage. In a Charisma news article he is quoted as saying, “I am for marriage,” the best-selling author said. “I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think that the church needs to just … this is the world that we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”
As a Christian, I would have to question whether Bell is fostering “unsound” doctrine with his belief that the church, in order to address the culture and indeed, in Bell’s words, become more relevant, needs to change its thinking as it relates to same sex marriage.
Technically, I am not saying that I oppose same sex marriage. From a biblical standpoint I can’t endorse it but from a legal standpoint, it is only a contract between two people intended to protect each other’s rights. If a business wants to provide insurance to a same sex couple, that is their prerogative. But for the church to endorse it, that is another issue entirely.
If your doctrine/belief system, as protected by the US constitution, leads you to conclude that same sex marriage is not biblical, I am OK with that. I am not OK with the way many groups calling themselves the church have handled this topic. I am also not OK with the venom and hate which has been thrown at this group.
Romans 12:18 reads: If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
To the best of my memory, I was still a smoker and had a stack of men’s magazines when I was “saved”. Because salvation is a gift, I didn’t have to clean up my act before I accepted this gift. I got prayer for the smoking and it wasn’t long before the magazines made their way to the green dumpster.
I don’t live a perfect life and I am still trying to understand the many events I find myself surrounded with as I move through this life. I don’t speak for the “church” and am not saying that I am a biblical scholar either. I do think there is a higher path than the one that many of us find ourselves traveling. Let’s agree to walk in one another’s shoes for a day or two before we find ourselves on one side or the other of a wall that can’t be moved.
Life is very rarely like a box of chocolates….!