Earlier this week, I wrote about a controversial topic, abortion. I argued we (as the church) and I as an individual were too silent by not advocating for the lives of the unborn. While this is completely true, I also think this attitude of silence has permeated too much in our world today. With the “Polar Vortex” essentially shutting down the Midwest for a couple of days, I find myself wanting to address the unspeakable sin of “doing nothing.”
Why is this “unspeakable?” Well, frankly it is unspeakable because we do not want to think of these as sins…we want to think of them as mistakes or choices. If you open the New Testament book of James, you will note one of the major themes of the book is the relationship between faith and works. James tells us, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). Good works do not “earn us a spot” in heaven. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Yet, when we have faith in Christ, our faith is not “alone.” For those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, we do good works, not to earn our salvation or to pay for it, but in response to the love demonstrated to us by our savior.
In general, we think of sin as the things we “do,” yet this is not the whole picture. For instance, we lie, we steal, we cheat or we gossip. Sin also occurs when we do not do the good we know we have been called to do. These are called sins of omission. James 4:17 says, “17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” One wonderful example of this type of sin is in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The first two, the priest and the Levite sinned because they failed to help their brother who was helpless along the road. Another example may be failing to correct or stop a rumor/gossip.(For those who are interested in learning more about sins of omission, a great synopsis of sins of omission can be found here.)
Friends, we are ALL guilty of sins of omission, but I would like to draw our attention to one glaring issue I see today with Christians. Many Christians quote the verse, “Judge not, lest ye be judged”. We should believe this. We should live this, but we do not always apply this correctly. Let me explain. Yes, we are all sinners. We all make mistakes. We are all in need of grace and Jesus provides the means for salvation. In this way, we are all equal. Yet, our fear of judging others does not excuse us from revealing sin in our lives and our world. Paul referred to himself as the “worst of all sinners” yet, he was willing to chastise the church at Corinth for an incestuous relationship, he was willing to call on Euodia and Syntyche to repent and be reconciled. We must be willing to point out sin and point out sin in love.
A wonderful example of calling out sins in love is the prophets. The prophets were not perfect people, yet, they were still the mouthpiece of God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Even when it is tough, we are called to speak truth and speak life.
Our desire to preach truth, however, must be done in love. As Dr. Preston Sprinkle says, “We can have our theology right, but when we get love wrong, we are wrong.” We must be salt and light. Too much salt may end up in a batch of bad cookies. This cannot be the only voice they hear from us, they need to hear love, but they must hear truth as well.
At Otley Church, we are in a denomination called the Reformed Church in America (RCA). Moreover, the Reformed Church in America has a taskforce called Vision 20/20. This taskforce has been charge to define the way forward for the denomination in light of our disagreements over homosexuality. The issues run deeper than this however, because fundamentally we disagree over how we interpret scripture. At Otley Church, we believe that that the Bible is God’s holy word. As God’s holy word, it is both inherent (without error) and infallible (not capable of error). Other groups within the denomination would not agree.
When we cannot agree on how to interpret scripture, we cannot agree on a definition of sin. Sin then becomes relative to whatever fits your paradigm. The problem is, we must not use our own paradigm, but God’s and I believe God is saying marriage is reserved for a lifelong covenant relationship between and man and a woman.
To be fair to those who are in favor of full inclusion of LBGTQ+ individuals, they fully believe they are following Jesus Christ. They fully believe this an essential part of their ministry. Both sides feel this is a GOSPEL issue.
I feel we must speak. We must speak out against sin. We must speak out against this interpretation of scripture and express this concern to our denomination.
The Vision 20/20 team is asking for your thoughts on our way forward. They are looking at three options: a radical renovation of the denomination, the formation of “Affinity” classes (meaning classes formed based on beliefs), or a parting of ways.
RCA Friends, I implore you to voice your thoughts, and to recommend that the denomination split. We cannot live with this any longer.
If you would be so kind to indulge me for a moment as I share a story.
One day a particular father was listening to his children, make their case for permission to watch a PG-13 that all their friends were going to see. It featured their favorite actor. Some of their friends from church were going to see it. It was rated PG-13 just because of the suggestion of sex, but they never really showed anything. The language was pretty good, and the Lord's name was only spoken in vain 3 times in the whole movie! The special effects were fantastic, and the plot was action-packed. There was some violence, but just the normal stuff, and it was not that bad. The father listened to all this but still his answer was "No". The children were not very happy.
Later in the evening, this same father came into the room where his children were watching TV with a plate of homemade brownies. The children perked up and eyed the dark, chocolatey squares with smiles. That is until their father explained that he had taken their favorite brownie recipe and added a new ingredient - dog poop. He had only added a tiny bit, and the rest of the ingredients were top quality. He had taken great care to measure carefully and bake at just the right temperature to ensure they would be moist and chewy, just the way they liked them. As the children recoiled in disgust, the father acted surprised. He assured them that they probably would not notice the dog poop at all. There was only one little bit in that big bowl of ingredients. He was sure they would taste just fine and not really harm them. Still, the children turned up their noses and even refused to touch the dog poop brownies!
The father then explained that the movie they wanted to see was just like the dog poop brownies. Satan tries to enter our minds and our homes by deceiving us into thinking that just a little bit of evil does not matter. Just as with the brownies, only a little dog poop made the difference between something great and something totally unacceptable.
We cannot let Room for All and their allies continue to muddy the waters. We must take action. We cannot stand silent anymore. No more sins of omission.
Let your voice be heard. Vote in the RCA Vision 20/20 survey by clicking here.
For those who are members of Otley Church or in the Pella Area, we are in the Heartland Synod and a part of the Central Iowa Classis