The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith. Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.
Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors. I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.
Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today
“A Culturally Sensitive and Biblically Valid Response When They Say . . .”
Matthew 10:16 (ESV)
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
1 Peter 3:15b (NIV)
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect . . .”
Last year one of my children sent me the biographical information section in a Harvard application, thinking it would amuse me. It sure did, for the application states, “We understand that gender identity can be expressed in a variety of ways.” Each applicant is then given several choices for personal pronoun to identify one’s gender, some of which include: “his,” “hers,” “zim,” “they” and “theirs.” If language is indeed a representational system, then what these pronouns are made to signify fails to convey the right meaning. If grammar still counts for something, using third person singular or plural pronouns to stand for first person singular subject is incorrect, no matter how one feels inside.
So what would happen when the protocol of calling a student by his or her preferred gender is not complied, at least in public schools? A Virginia high school teacher was recently fired for not calling a transgender student by personal pronouns preferred by the latter. The principal who did the firing said, “I can’t think of a worse way to treat a child;” the fired teacher said his Christian faith kept him from addressing the student as a male who had been previously identified as female the year before.
Upon seeing these seismic sociocultural changes, I wonder what E. V. Hill, the late African-American pastor from Los Angeles who spoke at my college’s commencement ceremony in 1984, would say today. Whatever disturbing changes Hill witnessed 35 years ago prompted him to quote Psalms 11:3 in his speech: “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” In no uncertain terms, the changes back then pale in comparison to what’s going down today. Make no mistake: What we are witnessing today (e.g., redefining marriage and family, extreme tribalism that breaks with e pluribus unum, i.e., “out of many, one,” etc.) is the deconstruction of most fundamental building blocks of any society, let alone Western, established by God (Ps. 24:1).
So then, what do we say to our kids when they think that their parents are as unkind as this teacher for being concerned more about, among other things, repercussions from such a drastic cultural shift than transgender people’s feelings? What do we say to our coworkers or classmates who think that we are simply intolerant and hateful when we break with politically correctness? If there ever was a time for believers to heed Jesus’ words—“Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”—it’s now in what is already a post-Christian America in the academia, media and Hollywood. Truth be told, sociopolitical views of Christians who are enamored with social justice than the justice of God (Rom. 1:17), are affected more by the trifecta of these leading institutions, which disproportionately shape the public discourse, than the Bible, which they read selectively.
Here, Jesus underscores the importance of being tactful—“be wise in the way you act toward outsiders” (Col. 4:5a)—while not “distort[ing] the word of God . . . by setting forth the truth plainly” (2 Cor. 4:2). If our responses err on the side of being culturally tone-deaf and insensitive, then it would greatly diminish our credibility and relevancy when appealing to secular and post-Christian world with the gospel; in fact, they will turn hostile. However, if our responses misrepresent God’s eternal truth, which does not change with time, then we would end up with a flawed message that does more harm—both spiritual and social—than good to what is fast becoming a rudderless and anchorless America.
Therefore, plan to join me in January to think critically on several sociocultural matters, so that we are “always be prepared to give [culturally sensitive and biblically valid] answer” (1 Pet. 3:15) to those who undermine God’s established order. We must try for the sake of our children and those around us who are indifferent or hostile to Scripture and biblical worldview. We need to clear out these roadblocks so that they can clearly hear the gospel: “That [they] may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing [they] may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:31). Make 2019 a year of reaching out to the lost and confused.
Prayer: Father, perhaps every generation has felt this way, but I believe we are living in the most unhinged moment when everything You placed in order is being questioned and discarded. It concerns me and frightens me at the same time. Give me wisdom, knowledge and boldness to be a culturally sensitive, as well as being a biblically correct witness in a world that no longer fears You. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 1
Tomorrow’s Blog: “The Real Issue Looming over Sexual Identity and Gender Identity Roles”
Lunch Break Study
Read 1 Peter 3:15-16:
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
Questions to Consider
- In ancient Rome, people looking for anything to malign Christians slandered them as being immoral (e.g., incestuous on account of loving brothers and sisters; cannibals for eating the flesh of Jesus) and unpatriotic. In view of that, what are some unflattering things that are said to the Bible believing Christians today? What have you heard?
- What are we told to do in anticipation of being slandered by the world against our Christian faith?
- What does Paul assume that may happen when the person wondering about our faith hears our reasonable responses? What does that imply for us at the personal level?
- Typical charges are: “homophobic” for Christian’s dissenting view on same-sex marriage; “Islamophobic” for correlating terrorism to certain segments within global Islam; “xenophobic” or even “racist” for not supporting illegal immigration and an open border, “closed-minded” or “unenlightened” for upholding the exclusivity of Christ for salvation, etc.
- The apostle Paul commands the believers to preemptively prepare adequate responses in anticipation of questions raised by both earnest seekers and slanderers of the Christian faith. This command demands studying on our part. We are also told to respond in a gentle and respectful manner.
- In verse 17 Paul assumes that those asking questions will not be satisfied and therefore continue to slander. In response, we are told to “suck it up” for Christ, that is, suffer for Christ for having done what is right, not because we have done something criminal. Elsewhere Jesus says, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (Jn. 15:18).
A psalmist laments, saying, “Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’” (Ps. 79:10a); “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’” (Ps. 42:3).
As you look back to all that you heard or read today, do you recall anything that slanders the character of God the Father, Jesus the Son and Scripture itself. How does your typical response to these things say about your own faith? If you aren’t offended by this (not to suggest, therefore, you should do something extreme or violent in response), then, what does that mean?
While reflecting on this question, ask the Lord to reveal to you whether you are being wise? Commit yourself to equipping yourself with culturally sensitive and biblically correct responses to better represent God’s interest in the world.