The recent World Vision decision and then its remarkably quick reversal on the matter of supporting gay monogamous spouses as employees provides a good moment for all of us who are Christians to reflect. Particularly, those of us who are in leadership roles in Christian ministries ought to pause for a moment. Without speaking directly to that particular issue, it is helpful to think about the challenges and temptations that we all face in seeking to be part of an expanding influence for Christ in a world which is increasingly non-Christian or even, anti-Christian.
Specifically, it may be helpful for us to return to passages of Scripture that may lie neglected in the back pages of our Bibles. I commend to you the letter of Jude. In that epistle, the author reveals that his original intent what to write "about our common salvation." His goal was to focus on our "unity" in the gospel. However, his agenda has switched. He explains "I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" (Jude 3).
It is worthwhile noting several considerations from this passage of Scripture. First, that it continues to be the responsibility of Christians to "contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints." This is an ongoing leadership responsibility for those who are on mission. The complaint of those who are passionately "missional" and seeking to advance the cause of Christ in the world is that the church is often too inwardly focussed. The caution for all of us is that in our considerations on how we might build bridges to our community and redeem the culture and advance the
in the world is
that the pendulum may swing too far and we become negligent at home. There are
clear biblical warnings about this. We cannot do one at the expense of the
Contending for the faith is not defending our convictions from those outside the family of Christ. At least, it isn't in this context. It is making the case to God's people for faithfulness to the kingdom life delivered to us "once for all" through our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles against the inducements of those who have come inside and are pressuring the church to do otherwise. Faithfulness to Christ will always be put to the test.
Even in our God-honouring attempts to be relevant, we may find ourselves at risk of becoming gradually indistinct from the world around us. We must remember the words of Jesus about the value of salt that loses its saltiness. It is good for nothing but to be thrown on the road. We are the salt of earth and not merely the light of the world. Salt prevents decay. It is what we are as the people of God that gives us true and lasting relevance in our culture.
Likewise, faithfulness to "the faith once for all delivered to the saints" is an important phrase to keep in mind. Lest we think that this is mere cold dogmatism, consider the phrase "to the saints". It is crucial that we always keep in mind that Christian leadership is a stewardship not just of a body of truth but of "the body of Christ." When the apostle Peter was asked three times by Jesus if he loved Jesus and he agonizingly confessed that he did, Jesus said "Tend my sheep."
You and I do well to reflect at length about how much Christ loves His people. We need to ponder very carefully the passages of Scripture in which Christian leaders are to take seriously their stewardship over the welfare of God's children. Remember, for example, the apostle Paul's final words to the elders at
. In Acts 20:26, "Therefore, I testify to you this day
that I am innocent of the blood of all for I did not shrink from declaring to
you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all
the flock, in which the Holy Spirit, has made you overseers, to care for the Ephesus , which he obtained with his own
blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not
sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking
twisted things, to draw the disciples after them." church of God
We must remind ourselves that the people of God are "saints" in God's eyes. Calling them a saint isn't a statement about their spiritual strength and ability. They are incredibly vulnerable. Calling them a saint is a statement about how God views them through Jesus Christ. They are precious to Him. They are His treasured position. They are His people, His children. They are holy to God. They have been redeemed to live for Him.
To return to the urgent appeal by Jude to "contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints", let me add one last reflection. Jude speaks of a particular threat to the people of God. It comes from some on the inside "who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." Most people who use God's grace as an argument for broad acceptance of what Jude calls "sensuality" would not think that they are denying Jesus. They usually say that Jesus was accepting and we should do likewise. However, notice Jude's terminology regarding Jesus. He calls Jesus "our Master and Lord". That very language is intended to make this point: Jesus did not come to set us free to live as we please. He came to free us from captivity to sin and to Satan in order that we might enjoy the freedom of living under His Lordship. As the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, "For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." As good old Bobby Dylan once sang, "You're gonna hafta serve somebody. It might be the devil. It might be the Lord... but you're gonna hafta serve somebody." The argument of our Christian faith is that Jesus is the best Master and Lord that you could ever desire to serve. He is even a better Master than you could or would be if you ran your own life.
When Christ has shed His blood to trample down the gates of hell and set captives free, when our Lord Jesus has in the power of His Spirit broken the shackles of sin that have long held people, and when Christ has laid down a lighted path of freedom and peace and joy - a new, liberated life for those who have called upon His name - then it is our stewardship to ensure that no one leads them from light back to darkness, from freedom back to chains, from life into death. The truth of God, the people of God, the Son of God are all worthy of our best efforts at contending. We have a benevolent King, let us gladly serve Him.
Any of us who are genuine in our desire to engage the world in a winsome way for our Lord Jesus Christ must be aware that the church remains vulnerable. Each of us remains vulnerable. All of us want to be as kind and loving and broad as we can possibly be in our relationships in order to show how wide the love of Christ is. However, we have a stewardship. We are called to be faithful to God's Word, God's people, and God's Son. God help us.