Freedom, Slavery and Sin

Washed by the water
Peter Lounsbury
Water baptism

I really don't like to hear politics coming from the pulpit on Sunday mornings. It's not that many of the political issues being addressed by the church are unimportant, but because we come together as a body of believers to worship God as the primary reason and focus for the assembly. There is plenty of time during the other six and a half days in the week to address earthly matters, but let me begin by framing what I am about to say with crystal clarity about mixing politics with worship on the Lord's day.

Today however, is not Sunday morning.

I have read the same basic line of attack against churches that maintain biblical orthodoxy in regards to how the Bible treats homosexuality for the past few days, and wanted to take a moment to set the record straight regarding Christianity and slavery as it seems to be the favored response when folks try to equate one with the other.

From the very beginning of our nation, religious freedom and the support for a plurality of Christian beliefs has been the cornerstone by which the rest was built, and slavery was addressed by the Founding Fathers, albeit inadequately. The reason for their failure on this front was because of their inability to ratify the Constitution if slavery was to be abolished with ratification. In other words the Southern delegates compromised and held the entire nation hostage because they felt that they were too economically dependent on the practice to justify abolition being codified in the United Constitution.

This compromise of principle eventually became an extremely strong force driving North and South farther and farther apart in the chain of events that led to the Civil War, and it was religious idealists in the North that refused to remain silent on the issue that fueled the movement. It was not a secular movement, but a human rights movement that was based upon the core founding principle that all men were and are created equal by a Creator, with certain inalienable rights. It was the church that championed the freedom from oppression of African slaves in America, and the church who first demonstrated the moral courage needed to bring about the lasting changes that secular humanists today seem to feel was their victory.

Any serious student if Untied States history would concede that the principles espoused and articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were most certainly rooted in a belief that all of the natural rights of man were God given, and that mankind was already in possession of these rights bar the act of giving those rights by way of human compact [government]. It was a refutation of the prevailing belief in the divine rights of Kings, where the notion of human freedom was the result of a trickledown effect as God made and blessed Kings and Kings through their good graces gave rights to mankind.

In the year of our Lord 2011 nothing has changed since 1787 regarding where human rights come from, the nature and source of true authority by which they are granted or the positional relationship of government to mankind in regards to the suppression of human rights by the weight of law and the subsequent threat of force to enforce the same. Human rights are still God breathed and of course always will be, and most certainly are not objects that can be created by human consensus. Governments at the local, state and federal levels may be able to pass legislation that seem to create rights such as gay marriage, however it only appears to be the case and is not actually the truth.

It is argued by some that certain denominations have a stained history of being on the wrong side of history when the aforementioned rights of all human beings was being addressed by the church, but just as the Constitution failed to live up to its own principles by addressing the issue of human slavery in 1787, so have certain denomination failed in like manner. However it is incorrect to draw a conclusion that one error in another time equates to said denominations ability to get it right in this day and age.

It is argued that the denominations that held firm against the principles of freedom in the Declaration of Independence using the Bible as cover, cannot be trusted on the issue of homosexuality (specifically within the church) as well. And though that seems to make sense to some degree, it is simply not the actual truth. The position that the Bible is clear about sexual sin is one that does not require a decoder ring to understand, the Bible is both clear repetitive on these matters in particular, whereas the issue of human slavery was not.

The Bible does not condemn the practice of slavery, and the folks who originally took the position to kick against the founding principles of this nation used this fact to claim support for their position. It is a position that is however, deeply flawed as was argued by abolitionists from the drafting of the US Constitution to the final shot of the Civil War. The flaw was that although the Bible did not and does not condemn human slavery, it is quite clear about the treatment of human slaves by Christian Masters.

Like so many issues that Jesus addressed in his time as a man walking amongst us, he understood the difference between the Kingdom of God and the world in which we live in. They are parallel in that we live in this world and as believers are citizens of the Kingdom of God, but Jesus' disregard for human government was rooted in his contention that if one lives for God in principle and in deed, that this world is irrelevant to that spiritual relationship. The higher of the two authorities was the Kingdom of God, and Christians were commanded to treat one another with love and respect as he loved and respected mankind with racial disregard.

Born Again
Peter Lounsbury
Another name written in the Lamb's Book of Life

Jesus was not however indifferent to sin, and there is no example of him suggesting that he included a homosexual agenda in any of his teachings. He also was silent on the particular issue of the specific topic of homosexuality, but the reason was that it was not a prevalent concern within the Jewish community that needed to be addressed and not because he condoned what the Bible previously and clearly condemned as sin. As the church grew and began to grapple with believers who were not from Jewish cultural centers of social gravity, the issue was addressed by the Apostles who wrote the New Testament.

It suggested by many who support the notion that man has evolved and therefore God has relaxed his moral standards in light of recent scientific positions that homosexuality is a condition, a natural condition that men and women are born with. The real question here is not whether or not God has changed, but rather if the claim of scientific authority supersedes the stated morality of God in scripture. The question is fundamental, however at the core of every debate inside the church on this issue.

The last chapter of the Old Testament is the perfect bookend for this discussion as the prophet Malachi writes...

The Coming Day of Judgment

1 "Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies.

2 "But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. 3 He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the LORD. 4 Then once more the LORD will accept the offerings brought to him by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, as he did in the past.

5 "At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies.

A Call to Repentance

6 "I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed. 7 Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my decrees and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies.

"But you ask, 'How can we return when we have never gone away?'

8 "Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me!

"But you ask, 'What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?'

"You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. 9 You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies, "I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! 11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies. 12 "Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies.

13 "You have said terrible things about me," says the LORD.

"But you say, 'What do you mean? What have we said against you?'

14 "You have said, 'What's the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the LORD of Heaven's Armies that we are sorry for our sins? 15 From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.'"

The LORD's Promise of Mercy

16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with each other, and the LORD listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name.

17 "They will be my people," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies. "On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. 18 Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not."