In view of John Piper’s newest book, Desiring God has produced a short documentary cataloguing his growth from a full-fledged racist to the father of an African-American daughter. It is worth your time to watch because it very concretely details the implications of the gospel in all areas.
I’ve heard a lot of talk recently about the declining morals of modern American culture. It is basically assumed that the morals of the ’50s were vastly superior to whatever values still remain. Anecdotal evidence usually cites the terrible entertainment on television (think Jersey Shore instead of Leave it to Beaver) or changing sexual ethics (think premarital sex and homosexuality).
I would like to caution us not to be unnecessarily concerned. First of all, sin is trans-generational. Changing technology and access to information have made certain forms of sin more visible in the wider culture but sin has always existed. People in the ’50s had moral lapses. In fact, a view of morality that focuses merely on externals has to pick and choose what is and is not the essential determiner of right behavior. The ’50s mights seem more upright in regard to conservative views of sexual ethics. However, if the standard has anything to do with institutionalized racism then the ’50s might be seen as significantly worse than today. This all depends on whether external morality is the sole basis for which one wants to judge a culture. If the ’50s are a bad barometer of external morality then the Bible fares much worse (adultery, incest, homosexuality, murder, lying, stealing, etc).
I’ve seen a great deal of positive movement in my generation toward care for the environment, concern for the poor, economic equality. All the while, my friends have maintained a strong commitment to defending the unborn and other “traditional” causes of conservative evangelicalism. In addition, all of the focus on external behavior can easily devolve into outright hypocrisy. My generation is much more concerned with authenticity, humility, and honesty than any pretense of performance or righteous charade.
I suspect there is a bit of historical naïvity and unsubstantiated nostalgia when certain people discuss the past. Whatever the case, external morality misses the point. The gospel realizes that no amount of “good behavior” warrants salvation and that real life change only comes from Jesus Christ. People do not need behavior change, they need to go from spiritual death to spiritual life. Focusing on external behavior is like giving a dead man Tylenol. Standards of external morality will change based on cultural situation, we need a basis for behavior that is rooted in the character of God and not the fashions of the day.
I recently read the allegations regarding Eddie Long, Atlanta-area mega pastor. These allegations regarding sexual immorality are saddening though not much surprises me anymore. Long has been under investigation in the past for financial impropriety.
I am not interested in humiliating or insulting Long nor am I making a judgment regarding his innocence or guilt. However, I recently came across a thread on Facebook regarding this topic and wanted to provide a little bit of Biblical guidance. Read for yourself what some were saying:
I agree that we should examine ourselves and be slow to judge. God is the ultimate judge. However, this idea that we are NEVER to judge or never to make moral statements regarding the sin of other Christians is ridiculous (and unbiblical). Judgment is an integral part of being a Christian and being part of a faith community. Think about Paul, he spoke very clearly about how to deal with immorality within a church (see 1 Corinthians 5)! We are called to judge the Christian within the church! Furthermore, we must banish any nonsense that the “pastor” is God’s anointed and is beyond judgment. As a pastor, I pray that my brothers and sisters (my coworkers in the gospel) will be firm in holding me accountable.
I recently heard an analogy that caused me to seriously question (not deny but critically evaluate) if I am able to “support the troops but not the war.” As you may, or may not know, I am not in support of the military actions of America in Iraq or Afghanistan. Despite that fact, I have always considered myself a strong supporter of the military and the troops that are obeying orders and dutifully serving.
My ethical quandry is related to the morality of these particular conflicts and those “dutifully” serving. I heard it put this way:
Saying you support the troops but not the war is like saying, during the Civil Rights movement, you support the police who are using the German Shepherds and fire hoses to attack African-Americans but not the policies of discrimination.
What do you think? Is this consistent logic. Should I rethink my classic bifurcation of policy and persons? Is it possible to support the persons carrying out a policy and be morally opposed to the policy itself?
*Note: If I have not been clear, I am seriously trying to evaluate the critique that was leveled against my position. I am very supportive and thankful of those who serve in the armed forces but am trying to honestly, critically, and realistically evaluate my positions. No one should read into this post anything other than what is here. I am not critiquing the military or the troops but merely asking a simple question in regard to my logic.