In the wake of the World Vision dispute, there is shame on both sides, though I doubt either feels it.
On the one side are people who threatened to walk away from children who depend not only on their money, but their letters of encouragement and friendship. On the other are people who imagine, with neither humility nor understanding, that their novel interpretation of the Bible is grounds for forcing the rest of Christendom to come along with them on their journey into apostasy. As the dust settles, both trumpet their righteousness.
Those of you who threatened to end your relationships with these children after World Vision’s recognition of same-sex marriages, would you turn your backs on the little girl in danger of being sold into sex slavery in Thailand, the little boy in Haiti whose mother cannot feed him, for a point of dogmatic purity in an organization that is not the Church? Many of you claim this was a revenue-neutral threat, because you can find a charity more suited to your creed. But what of the children who have come to know you by name? Are they necessary casualties?
Surely you agree that World Vision is a service provider, not a church. Do you demand the same dogmatic purity from the stores where you buy your comfortable clothes, the groceries where you buy your steaks? No, comes the reply, but World Vision represents itself as a Christian organization.By accepting same-sex marriage, it defames the meaning of that word.
If integrity in those claiming the mantle of Christ is what you’re after, how many of you refrain from watching teams whose athletes and coaches thank Jesus for their wins, yet also curse with abandon, frequent strip clubs, and father children out of wedlock? How many of you boycott companies whose CEOs profess Christianity, yet whose products lend themselves to immodesty, or exploitation, or gluttony and disease?
Do you demand the same dogmatic purity from the stores where you buy your comfortable clothes, the groceries where you buy your steaks?
World Vision operates in a state that recently criminalized the very discrimination written into its employee code of ethics. Would you rather it spend your money on an expensive legal battle? Do you think the Church so weak that it needs affirmation from the human resources department of World Vision — or the citizenry of Washington state, for that matter — to maintain what was instituted by God?
The world heads deeper into sickness, and sometimes people who call themselves Christians are leading the way. For them we pray, not because the Church is endangered, not because marriage is endangered, but because their souls are endangered. Cutting off funds to impoverished children will not save one soul. So, on what grounds will you justify it, when your own day of judgment comes?
And to those of you who bathe yourselves in righteous indignation at World Vision’s reversal, who believe that your personal revelations outweigh centuries of Church tradition and teaching, who haven’t the slightest charity towards your brothers and sisters, casting our refusal to embrace your beliefs as evidence of hatred in our hearts — and thereby, conveniently and cheaply, a superior love within your own — shame on you.
The world heads deeper into sickness, and sometimes people who call themselves Christians are leading the way.
You lay down stumbling blocks at every turn. You do it despite believing that any building with a cross and a preacher is a church, which means that you have the freedom to start whatever churches you like, and establish whatever ceremonies you choose, and call these marriages, and declare that God smiles on them. Your beliefs give you the freedom to worship God however you see fit, but this does not content you, because you need the rest of Christendom to agree with you. You would make your brother choke down the idol’s food, and call him unchristian if he does not. You derive your righteousness from pointing out the mote in his eye.
Some would defund poor children to make a dogmatic point; you would risk that funding to make your own. You decry the actions of your brethren when you are no better.
The Church has withstood apostates from the beginning. It has withstood politics, Muslim invasions, totalitarian oppression, even the malaise and indifference of Western modernism. It will endure, long after the current heretics have been replaced by more outrageous heretics. It will endure even as a thousand counterfeits spring up, ten thousand false teachings, a hundred thousand false prophets, and a million impersonators of Christ. The Church does not veer into apostasy apostates veer away from the Church.
And for them we should pray. We should pray for them, and perhaps they can pray for us, and maybe we can even talk about our differences — with each other, rather than to outsiders who look on our strife with pleasure. Maybe, even, we can speak truth to one another in love.
Tell me, are any of us doing this very well? I’m certainly not. I could spend the remainder of my life trying to get this right. How about you?
Image courtesy of Fihliwe.