• Tom Strode

As the redeemed, we received a reminder this week by way of the U.S. Supreme Court of a truth in Psalm 146:

“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry” (Psalm 146:3-7).

This country’s highest court issued a decision Monday (June 15) that was no less than a watershed, a landmark. In a 6-3 opinion, the justices ruled federal protection against sex discrimination in the workplace includes the classifications of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” This means people who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender have the same civil rights based on their status as ethnic minorities and women.

The fact four liberal justices voted in the majority is no surprise. But two of the justices in the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, came to the court with reputations as conservatives and with strong support from many evangelical Christians. The presidents who nominated them – President George W. Bush in Roberts’ case and President Donald Trump in Gorsuch’s case – gained the backing of many evangelicals because of their belief these men would select conservatives for the high court if they were elected. And there was reason to think Roberts and Gorsuch fit the bill.

Hence God’s reminder: “Put not your trust in princes.”

Certainly, we should participate in elections in an informed way and seek the enactment of God-honoring policies through our representative form of government. But we should also realize our knowledge is limited -- office-holders and judges can act in ways that undercut our beliefs and best intentions.

But this decision is more than a reminder of whom we should trust ultimately and of our finite nature. It also is a loud announcement – if we had not heard it before – that this is a new day. In the last five years, the Supreme Court has given us new definitions of marriage and sexuality. Its decision-making reflects the massive transformation that has taken place in our society in a short time. God’s created order regarding sexuality and marriage has been rejected in court and largely spurned in culture.

How should we respond? Here are some brief recommendations:

-- Mourn the distortion of God’s design in creating human beings as male and female but confidently trust in the One who has made us for this time.

-- Prepare for what could be a lengthy, legal battle over religious freedom for Christians, as well as for an increasing societal pressure to compromise biblical convictions.

-- Love, serve, and evangelize our neighbors, including those who are trapped in lifestyles that grieve a holy God and harm them.

-- Live and grow as part of a covenant community – a church – that is committed to following Jesus and becoming more like Him no matter the cost.

-- Photo by Claire Anderson on Unsplash

  • Tom Strode

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a back seat to other news, but we still live with its reality shaping our lives.

The killing of George Floyd -- as well as the protests and riots that have followed the viral video of that inhumane act by a Minneapolis policeman – has dominated the news and the national conversation approaching two weeks.

Both the effects of the disease and the death have served to remind us of the vast disagreements that exist in this country and sometimes in Christ’s church. Too often, those differences of opinion are expressed in demeaning, scathing terms – even by some followers of Jesus.

To make things clear, we might be free to disagree on policy decisions regarding what is the most effective way to respond to a deadly virus or to rioting, but we are not free as Christians to disagree on the inhumanity of the lethal treatment of a human being made in the image of God or the racism it might represent.

What we should demonstrate as followers of Jesus of Nazareth in our public discourse – including on social media -- is a civility that is based on the fact every person is created by God in His image. Every person, without exception, has a God-given dignity by virtue of his or her existence.

When we disagree, we should do so with grace and kindness, no matter with whom we differ. God’s Word tells God’s people to let our “speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6).

We don’t need to win an argument at all costs. We don’t need to vanquish those who oppose us. We don’t need to prove the superiority of our views at the expense of our witness.

We do need to follow the example of our humble Lord. We do need to love all of our neighbors. We do need to make room for others to see the grace of God in our lives.

May it be so during and after the pandemic.

-- Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

  • Tom Strode

Updated: May 22

As followers of Jesus, we may be nearing a post-pandemic test regarding whether we will heed an admonition in the apostle Paul’s letter to the saints in Ephesus:

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Christians are to give attention constantly to living lives of wisdom, Paul says in this text. This means “making the best use of the time.” As I said in last Sunday’s sermon, the English translation “making the best use” refers to buying up something, while “time” refers not to chronological time but to a strategic, opportune season. We can say this phrase means to buy up the opportunities afforded us.

We will have some opportunities when restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are lifted that we have not had for more than two months. Public health officials, however, have told us to expect a comeback of the virus in the fall or winter. Will we buy up these opportunities we may be afforded before we possibly are restricted to our homes again? Or will we squander this opportune season because we assume the constraints on our lifestyles we have experienced will not be repeated?

It is unlikely any of us would have predicted March 1 the massive societal change we have lived through since then. It has been a global reminder of God’s caution to us that we do not know what the next day will bring (James 4:13-16). It also should be a megaphone telling us to seize -- when it is once again safe -- the season we are given to:

-- Befriend the neighbors we have never met;

-- Share the gospel with those who have not heard it from us;

-- Meet the needs of those who are afflicted;

-- Serve the church family from whom we have been separated.

Undoubtedly, we each have additional ways in which we need to act in an opportune season.

The days are evil. Let’s seize these days.

-- Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash


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