Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Understanding our Jerusalem

"...you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
Been meaning to make this observation since the November election. Though the marriage ammendment passed by a margin of 58% to 42% in Virginia, it is interesting to note the figures for our county and city. In Albemarle County the Marriage Ammendment failed with 14,549 voting yes and 20,741 voting no. In the city of Charlottesville, it failed with 2,670 yes and 8,942 no. In the Jefferson Park voting precinct, where our church's meeting house is located, the count was 532 yes and 1,352 no.
Observations: First, our church has a wonderful opportunity to stand for gospel and Biblical truth in this Jerusalem. Second, what would these figures mean if we wanted to go with a "felt needs" approach to ministry? Would we avoid talking about the Biblical standards for marriage as one man and one woman? Would we avoid denunciation of cohabitation since "everybody's doing it" and folk would not likely come to our church if we were overt in our opposition to such?
JTR

3 comments:

Cameron Cloud said...

Strong point. Imagine how the church of Jerusalem would have had to tailor their message to reach the "felt needs" of their community! The very mention of Jesus Himself would have been political, socially, and religiously incorrect.

Kevin said...

There is an assumption here that this particular issue requires special attention. As I recall, all sins are the same in the eyes of God. In addition, in terms of space and time given to issues in the bible far more time in the New Testiment was given to other issues, like our responsibility to our neighbors and especially the poor.

If one is to productively engage Charlottesville from your perspective perhaps it could start with issues like affordable housing, urban sprawl, poverty, domestic violence and other pressing needs of the community. If like Jesus, you can show how your faith addresses these issues in a real way, then citizens will be more wiling to listen to your whole message, including your biblical views on marriage and cohabitation.

Also, a vote can mean many different things. Ultimately, politics is in the realm of Caesar, and for many people this amendment was more complex than just gay marriage (which is already illegal in Virgina). It could also prohibit shared bank accounts and legal agreements between unmarried people. In addition, there was a strong feeling among many Virginians that a constitution is inherently a document that should grant rights, not take them away. Even for Charlottesville citizens who may agree with you ethically and religiously, many have strongly disagreed that this was the right political solution. This would be especially true for many Libertarians.

Pastor Jeff said...

Kevin,

Thanks for your post. A few responses:

Yes, my assumption is that the issue of marriage and family (and sexuality) does require special attention. Why? Because family is the foundational institution of society created by God for our good. We are on the verge of a mass social experiment (with redefinition of marriage as other than one man and one woman) that has no promise of yielding something better for humanity than God's good original design.

According the Scripture, sexual sin produces particularly grievous consequences. As Paul said, "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body" (1 Corinthians 6:18). Any Pastor who has given counsel to people who struggle with guilt from previous sexual experiences, STDs, sexual addiction (pornography), adultery, etc, knows exactly what Paul is talking about. Christians are not sexual kill joys. Sexuality is God's gift for a man and a woman who are married. We know and respect its power, because of Scripture.

Why don't we focus on social justice? First, you should know that our church has a weekly food closet, a Benevolence fund that helps the needy, and we run Rainbow House in Southwood Mobile Home Park (the largest trailer park in Albemarle County and one of the poorest neighborhoods in our area), where, in addition to weekly Bible Classes, we also offer academic tutoring for children, health and nutrition classes, ESL, etc.

But what does the most social good for folk? Preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible way of living. How do you help a child in poverty? The best way to help him is to tell his Daddy to marry his Mommy and then tell his Daddy to work to provide for his family's needs so his Mommy can stay home and take care of him. Also tell him to take his family to church to learn God's word. It is a very simple plan, but it works!

Our church is apolitical. We are not Democratic or Republican or Libertarian. I offered the voting stats on the marriage amendment just as a cultural snapshot of our community. Despite all the subterfuge, the amendment was not about "rights" or violating contracts, but about affirming the basic definition of marriage and protecting it in Virginia from activist judges (as in New Jersey).

Though Christians should hope that civil government might affirm God's Word and restrain evil(see Romans 13), we do not expect/want Caesar to do our job. The church is guilty of not preaching and teaching a clear word about marriage and family, and we are paying the price. We repent of our lethargy and hope to do better.

JTR