A Matter of Love and therefore Division

A Matter of Love and therefore Division February 24, 2021

There’s a lot out there this morning–trying to choose between an embarrassment of riches. I’ve got some goop stuff in the cue, and two or three things from RNS, and that thing about that book being taken off of amazon. Oh! And the NYTimes (which I might break my embargo and read, just this once) contradicting Fauci. But I don’t have a lot of time, and so I’m just going to go with the continuing Anglican troubles because that’s upwards in my mind.

You might remember that a while ago the Bishops of the ACNA released a pastoral statement giving guidance on how they thought sexuality and gender identity issues should be addressed and talked about within the church. It took them a long time to produce this letter, and it was unanimously approved, and then, of course, in the weeks after it came out, there was the usual devolution, the releasing of other letters by dioceses and others to distance themselves from the report. And then, was it Monday? I can’t remember, another person produced a letter called Dear Gay Anglican, in which he (and the signatories underneath) thought they would get around the admonition not to qualify the word “Christian” with “Gay” or “Same-Sex Attracted” by replacing the word “Christian” with “Anglican” and, at the same time, purporting to be obedient to the spirit of the Bishop’s Admonition, claiming that celibacy, or a “biblical sexual ethic” is all that is required, rather than radically, though painfully, unbinding oneself from the thing that threatens to bring one’s head in sorrow to an eternal death.

So anyway, the Dear Gay Anglican letter has been taken down. And the Archbishop of the ACNA has weighed in. And if you want to sign the statement that we got up on Stand Firm yesterday in support of the Bishop’s Pastoral Letter, that would be so lovely.

And I just have one other thing to say. Or maybe two.

First of all, love is the matter that we must each–every single Christian–consider. If you do not believe in a literal hell from which Jesus is your only salvation, you are, of course, free to “love” anyone any which way. You will affirm all the choices of everyone, under the guise of love. This is a vast and terrible mistake, of course, because–and every single human person knows this as we learn from Romans 1 and all kinds of other texts and also a little self-examination–it is possible to be separated from God forever and the only way to be rescued from that terrible fate is by Jesus himself. Christians, therefore, don’t actually have the freedom to “love” people as we so often would wish. We have to love people in the way that God has given us, by his own character and nature. We are bound to Christ as his servants and we have to love as he loved. And his love is often very painful because it strips us down all the way to the spiritual bone, cutting out not only the sin, but the inclination to sin, and all the desires that go with it. So this issue is a matter of love. And thus, it is a matter of division.

Which is my second point. This is a dividing issue for the church. If you don’t accept the church’s historic teaching on sexuality (and hell for that matter, and so many others) you should not call yourself a Christian. In the era of religious pluralism, there are a lot of options out there, but Christianity is not one of them. This is painful, of course, but because it is a matter of love, and of eternity, Christians cannot compromise on this issue. I’m so grateful that the ACNA Bishops–many of whom gave up everything only a decade ago, out of faithfulness to the gospel–are persisting in their clear and kind leadership in this dark time.

We worship a holy and good God who has the power to save us out of our grievous sin. There is no reason to fear the world, but there is every reason to fear him and his justice and wrath against sinners. The amazing thing is that he is not only just, he is also merciful, and so there is a way to be brought back into his light, and that is by repentance–turning around and away from yourself and going towards him–and by full-throated, delighted obedience.

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