John Freeman Sets a Context for the Supreme Court Rulings and Offers a Response

June 28, 2013
John Freeman

The material immediately below is taken from the volume, REFORMED MEANS MISSIONAL: FOLLOWING JESUS INTO THE WORLD.  This volume was compiled by the WRF and will be published by New Growth Press in mid-August, 2013.  New Growth's website is here - http://www.newgrowthpress.com/

The chapter from which this excerpt was taken is entitled "A Missional Response to Homosexual Strugglers in the Church and the Gay Community," it was written by WRF member John Freeman (President of Harvest, USA), and it will also be published as a separate-mini-book for the benefit of the church.

We post this excerpt here because we believe the kinds of principles established in the full chapter set the appropriate context for responding to the U. S. Supreme Court rulings on June 26, 2013.

Below this excerpt is a blog which John Freeman has published in which he directly addresses the Supreme Court decisions.  This blog is used with John's written permission.

[NOTE: This item expresses the views of the individual to whom the item is ascribed and does not necessarily reflect the position of the WRF as a whole.]

 

From REFORMED MEANS MISSIONAL:

One of my former seminary professors, Harvie Conn, once taught in our missions class on 1 Corinthians 6: 9–11, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexual immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” He stressed the fact that living an unrepentant life regarding these things was something that could get you in much trouble, in this life—and the next. But he also stressed that this passage taught that you could get in trouble just as easily as a heterosexual sinner as a homosexual one—as well as for other more “acceptable,” non-sexual sins.

We need to take all sin seriously, not just that which we find personally offensive or distasteful---or that with which we can’t identify or see ourselves committing. All sin is an offence to God, whatever its nature, sexual or otherwise. Same-sex attractions are usually first felt and experienced at an early age by youth who don’t ask for them and who didn’t go around saying to themselves, “I think I’ll be gay when I grow up.” By placing same-sex attractions outside the realm of other “normal” sexual sin struggles, we’ve created a silent space which has fostered neglect, pastorally speaking. The culture, our own fallen hearts, and the strategies of the evil one have conspired to confuse, confound, and shipwreck our faith, and has led many of us to fail to understand and to respond to this specific sin as Scripture commands us. Of this neglect, we must repent. We are now reaping the fruit of many years of not discussing and addressing these things, pastorally and proactively, at all levels of church life.

Does this mean that we turn the other way and ignore sin and disobedience? Absolutely not. It does mean that the motives of our own hearts in addressing this sin must be ones of genuine love and compassion, showing the kind of love and compassion that Christ shows to others in the Scriptures who are caught in sins of a sexual nature. Any kind of response by God’s people must be redemptive in nature. We need to realize that those who struggle with and are captured by sexual sin are always among the brokenhearted. Whether recognized or admitted, emptiness and despair are often companions of not only homosexuality, but all sexual sin.

What are we, the church, doing to help reach, share the gospel with, and rescue those dealing with same-sex attractions and homosexuality? What might that look like?

 

To find out "what that might look like," be sure to get a copy of the book and of the mini-book as soon as they become available.


NOTE:  The material quoted above is reproduced from REFORMED MEANS MISSIONAL: FOLLOWING JESUS INTO THE WORLD, Copyright by the World Reformed Fellowship.  Used by permission of New Growth Press and may not be downloaded, reproduced, or distributed without prior written permission of New Growth Press.


John Freeman's blog of June 27, 2013:

Gay Marriage:  What the Church and God’s People Need to Do Now
President, Harvest USA
http://www.harvestusa.org/
 
As the Supreme Court struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and the referendum of Proposition 8 in California, it certainly seems that the tide of our culture will continue to steadily move in the direction of the acceptance of gay marriage. So, what now? How are followers of Jesus Christ, and the church, to think about and respond to the recent decision by the Supreme Court? It is crucial that the church as an institution, and individual believers, respond well. John Freeman, president of Harvest USA, a ministry devoted to those struggling with sexual sin, thinks that the best response of the church now is to do the following six things:

1. We should not lash out in anger or be afraid

A fight or flight response is normal when cataclysmic events occur. But both these instinctual responses are unhelpful and unproductive. My wife has often told me, “John, when you speak or react out of fear or anger . . . bad things come out of your mouth.” She is usually right. Admittedly, we may legitimately fear where this decision will next take our nation; and we may legitimately be angry over how God’s design for the institution and function of marriage as it has historically benefited society is being hijacked. But we need to keep this in mind: As believers, our true citizenship is in heaven. We must think and act like those whose world has been impacted but not devastated.

I think a more productive response would be that of grief. We need to be grieved at what happened, grieved at the state of the culture, and grieved at how blind people are to the truth. Jesus wept over Jerusalem and her refusal to turn to him as their shepherd, and the Old Testament displayed a similar common response to tragic national events, where the people grieved in sackcloth and ashes.
Just grieve? Doesn’t seem very productive or helpful. It feels so powerless! Yes, but we need to remind ourselves that the “weakness” of the church is how the power of God is best displayed. The reason we don’t have to be angry or afraid is because . . .

2. We need to remind ourselves that God is still on the throne . . . neither slumbering nor sleeping

Although decided in the private chambers of the Supreme Court, this has not happened out of God’s sight. He is the God who knows all and sees all. This is beyond our rational understanding, but by faith we believe that God remains in control over all things, even over the decisions made by man and society that veer away from his wisdom. To respond with anger or abject fear is to forget this

Why God has allowed the acceptance of homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage to be so prominent today will remain a mystery at some level. Why he has allowed it to split churches, denominations and families must also be trusted to his providence. We only know what Scripture does tell us: that this is a broken world, a world where his image-bearers are in rebellion against him and his intentional design for creation. Nothing really new here.

We must, as his followers, trust in Him at all times, especially when it seems that ungodliness has the upper hand. This is the courage of faith, and that courage must also move us to . . .

3. Boldly and gently proclaim the ultimate destructiveness of ungodly actions

While many will celebrate this decision as the advancement of an enlightened society and a triumph of inclusiveness and tolerance, the reality is that actions made in opposition to God’s design carry with them significant consequences. Several years ago noted pastor, teacher and author, James Boice, said, “It’s God’s world, not our world. Although we may want to rewrite the rules, we can’t, because it’s God’s world. And sin is destructive, whether or not we admit or agree, it’s still destructive.” By removing the definition of marriage from its historical and God-designed nature as being between one man and one woman, how long will it be before other forms of “marriage” will be legal (such as polygamy and polyamory)? What will be the effect on children and families as we move into territory that is completely new to human society?

These kind of ungodly decisions serve to remind us that the world in which we live is hostile to things of God. It reminds us that we live here as “aliens and strangers,” that we’re temporary residents of a foreign land. But it still remains a world that God so loved that he sent his only Son, so . . .

4. We must not avoid our calling: to engage the culture and all people with the truth and mercy of the gospel.

Even as culture goes off the rails, and we may seem powerless to stop it, we’re not off the hook from engaging the culture and actively loving people. Although we may want to retreat and go into self-protective mode, we must not.

The church did not do so as the Roman culture descended into greater ungodliness and injustice. The downward spiral of our society and the increasing celebration of what is explicitly forbidden in God’s word make our sharing the gospel more important than ever! The gospel is the only hope for a broken world and fallen hearts. For this reason the church must not attack and demean gays and lesbians because of this issue. The gospel is a message of hope for everyone; not a platform for condemnation and ridicule. The gospel is heard through the words and deeds of His people. Another way to put this is our need too . . . .

5. “Keep calm and carry on” as God’s people and his church.

During World War II, people in Britain, during the bombing, felt that the world was falling apart. “Keep calm and carry on,” became a common phrase on billboards and posters as a way to encourage the British people. We need to follow this advice as well. How do we “keep calm and carry on” when we see everything around us in a downward spiral and decay? We lean on and trust in the Rock of our salvation, who is still with his people while we continue to carry out his Kingdom work.

We must not let these things have more power over us than they really do. And, thankfully, we still live in a country that allows our views to be heard and we should make our concerns known, about the reality of unintended consequences making further trouble and about the future of religious liberty, two major issues embedded in this controversy. But, again, we should not place our faith in any human political or legal structure as our ultimate protector or savior. Jesus said that his kingdom was “not of this world”—neither is ours. The mission of the church continues. The church cannot be either dismissed or destroyed. It remains God’s vehicle of redemption, worked out through his people. That mission will endure until he returns. And in the meantime, the church—and especially the next generation inside her doors— needs to be strengthened by. . .

6. Relevant and effective preaching and teaching about sex.

The silence of the church on many issues has contributed to the emergence of movements that have been detrimental to mankind (see Germany and the rise of Nazism). It can be argued that the church’s failure to preach and teach about why God’s design for sexuality is good, relevant and functional (even in a broken world) has created a vacuum for the acceptance of same-sex relationships. The church has said “No!” for too long as its main message on sexuality and now needs to say “Here’s how,” or here’s how God’s design for sexuality remains the best venue for people and society to flourish.