There has been a consistent theme to what God has been doing in my heart this past year. It surfaces over and over. It surfaces when Christianity is cool, and when it is under attack. It surfaces when I see the commands of Christ being carried out but I can't help but feel something is wrong. Something is missing. Orphans are being adopted, childrens' lives are being saved, but too often I see a trend in the families and churches involved. Something is lacking and I believe it is a desire for personal holiness.
What does that mean?
I sound awfully judgmental and I hope to explain my point while reminding you that this is a battle I am still fighting. I speak this truth in love and in the full knowledge and confession of my own faults and failures.
We are called to be holy. We will not perfect that calling in this life. But, still, we are called. God has set boundaries in place for us, for our protection, and if we are going to be followers of Christ we must acknowledge and do our best to live within those boundaries.
Romans 6:13 (NKJV)
13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
Romans 6:16 (NKJV)
16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
If we scream on the street corners and demand justice for the orphan and the widow, but sit back quietly as 3000 babies each day are murdered in their mothers' wombs, we are stepping outside of those boundaries.
If we, out of a desire to draw others to Jesus, refuse to address sin...refuse to call our brothers and sisters out of the way of the head on collision with sexual sin (whether hetero or homosexual) then we are stepping outside of those boundaries.
The ramifications of sin, ALL sin, is death. Period. If we allow the institutions God created to be corrupted the result will be spiritual death for generations to come. If the gospel of Jesus Christ is compromised, then a false gospel will be shared and the victims of that false gospel will be buying into false religion that is legalistic, enslaving, and sinful. I have seen Christians who take a stand for sexual purity and the Biblical definition of marriage attacked by their brothers and sisters in Christ because they should supposedly be directing that energy and/or money to orphans, widows, or the poor.
God calls us to stand for Truth. ALL of it. We are the body of Christ and we are each given tasks within the Kingdom. It does not take away from one cause to stand for another. If we are given the opportunity to rescue someone from death and hell, it doesn't matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they do or don't have...we must reach out to them and share the truth of God...the reality that Jesus calls us to a better life, eternal life, a holy and set apart life that DOES NOT LOOK LIKE THE WORLD. We cannot nitpick who we love and with whom we share the gospel!
James 1:27 is a favorite scriptures of mine. It is God's call to care for the widow and orphan. But verse 27 does not end there...
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
...to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
It is listed on equal footing with caring for orphans and widows. If we look like the world, live like the world, and do things to please the world, then we are stained by the world. If we adopt a child into a worldy home where Jesus is not welcome unless He is warm and fuzzy, then that child is still at risk. Oh, they may have a full belly and a mom and dad, but without parents willing to train them up in the things of God they are at risk.
Jesus is not just warm and fuzzy. He is our King. He is a warrior. He is a jealous lover. He calls us to be faithful to Him completely and to do everything...everything for him.
So here is a larger passage from James chapter 1. Read this and see if you notice a pattern:
19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Holiness...personal holiness is priority. If we desire personal holiness and strive for it by establishing habits that set us apart from the world then the result will be a natural, God-given drive to care for the orphan and widow. In caring for them, we will be sharing abundant life...eternal life. But we have to have it to give it. If we live immoral lives, or stand by and watch while others do, we are no different than the prostitute or the drug addict on the street corner. They desperately need someone to tell them about what it means to be pure. They are desperate for boundaries that verify God's love and protection over them. A child without boundaries is essentially parentless. An orphan. If we, the children of God, are acting like orphans...letting "anything go" and ignoring the clear teachings of the Word of God, than what do we have to offer them?
Nothing. We have nothing.
An untended garden grows wild and the fruit falls to the ground and rots. We must tend our gardens. We must allow the Lord to prune us and accept his fences around our lives...admit that He is God and we are not and, even though we would love to tell the young, unmarried couple who is living together or our cousin who just "came out" that it is OK because God wants them to be "who they are," we have to accept the boundaries God has established and offer a better way. Never condemning, never in anger...but out of love and concern for them. Compassionately speaking truth is not being judgmental, it is willingness to act as a spiritual life guard and throw out the life preserver...even though they may choose not to take hold of it.
And let me end this by saying I am forever grateful to the godly woman who lovingly brought my sin to light in my early days as a Christian. She spoke the truth and walked me through the process of healing and learning to live according to God's rules. I am thankful that she did not tell me how I was living was"ok" or "no big deal." She encouraged me to walk higher, with my face turned away from the past and toward the Son of God. She gently told me it could be done and that it must be done.
And she was right.
Colossians 1:21-23 (NKJV)
21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.