As I continue to read the criticisms and divisive statements against Shorter University’s recent request of faculty and staff to sign a statement of faith and lifestyle, I continue to turn to God’s Word.
All the way back in 1 Samuel 8:7, “…the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” I believe the fundamental issue that has been brought to light in this recent upheaval over Shorter’s stance can be traced to the very same spirit that was at work in Israel when the Lord spoke these poignant words to Samuel. The people did not want the Lord to reign over them.
Regardless of what we may claim concerning anything designated as sin in God’s Word, the truth is not subject to persuasion, to change, to manipulation or to transformation as a result of time or place. What was sin continues to be sin. Now, that is not always pleasant for me because as I’ve stated again and again in previous blogs, I am guilty of much sin. Nevertheless, sin remains regardless of our relationship to it. Thankfully, there is mercy, grace and forgiveness.
I become frazzled with the argument which states and asks, “we all sin so why call out certain ones to ask us to sign that we won’t engage or uphold?” I believe I have a reasoned response, one I will briefly restate here. Indeed we all sin. Yet, there is a fundamental difference between contending with sin nature that plagues us all and living in premeditated, habitual sin against God. Scripture tells us to resist sin, to flee from it, to abstain. So, acts/sin that we know are against God, we are to shun, period. The statement of faith seems to cover everything and the lifestyle statement seems to detail particular things. The most plausible reason I can surmise for the detailing of the particulars in the lifestyle statement is that they are being practiced instead of resisted by some employed by the school in spite of them being in conflict with the statement of faith.
Scripture also tells us that man’s righteousness is as filthy rags before the Lord. BUT, we may attain unto righteousness through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we obtain when we surrender fully to the Lordship, His Kingship, over our lives. The Lord is always with us, strengthening us and giving us grace so that we can walk according to the Spirit and not the flesh.
Do we then make allowance for premeditated, habitual sin simply because we know Christ died in order to provide a way for us to be forgiven? As the Apostle Paul would say, “God forbid.” Paul referred to this as “licentiousness.” Truly what he warned against is occurring to epidemic proportion in our day. For every scriptural message we find or offer, there are many messages of error to answer and attempt to persuade people away from truth. Oh my heart grieves again and again as I see so many being led astray and many as a result of not knowing for themselves what scripture teaches.
Just this week a precious student said she did not know the Bible clearly spoke against homosexuality. A fellow classmate told her it does in both old testament and new. She looked to me with questioning eyes and I assured her it does and encouraged her to read it for herself, pointing her to the different books in the Bible that speak to the matter.
Now, I want to take a moment to say that one of the great reasons for my heartache over the intense criticism of Shorter is due to my immensely positive experiences there with faculty, staff, and students. I’ve been blessed to be part of the adjunct faculty for more than 2 years and it is truly a precious place. I have never once been treated with anything less than respect, encouragement, and support from all those who are in administration, on staff, or part of faculty. The students are bright, engaging, lively, and respectful. I’m greeted every single time I step onto the beautiful, old campus with many smiles and kind words. To see the staunch criticism and accusations of “bigotry” and “small-mindedness” is so hurtful because it is so far from anything I’ve experienced. There are many dedicated and highly qualified faculty members who work hard and invest their lives for the enrichment of others and have done so for many, many years. I, for one, applaud these individuals who quietly go about their daily lives receiving little if any recognition for the meaningful contributions they are making to our world only to find themselves now in the midst of an uncomfortable debate casting an undeserving negative shadow over them.
Jesus offered so many words to give us understanding and strength for times that He knew would come and surely this is such a time. In Luke 10:16 we find, “He that hears you hears Me; and he that despises you despises Me; and he that despises Me despises Him that sent Me.” Anytime we find vitriolic rhetoric being thrown out against those who are attempting to honor God, we can know it is not coming from those who love and abide in Him. Disagreement is one thing, hatred and despise is quite another. Just as we know a tree by the fruit it bears, we know a heart by the words that overflow from it.
1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 also makes me think of the very issues we are facing today, “For God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despises, despises not man, but God, who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit.”
I want to encourage all of those who are embattled in this heated controversy to consider the motivation for the move made by Shorter. I haven’t asked questions. I am not “in the know” when it comes to how this all came to be. However, in good faith I believe issues must surely exist making those in positions of governing authority feel compelled to act in a clear and direct manner to bring about positive and necessary change. In good faith, I believe their motives are pure. Do I know these individuals personally? No. I’m simply doing what I believe I’m supposed to do and that is to measure their words and actions against scripture. When I do that, a reasoned response from me requires consideration of what has been done along with the ramifications the school is facing, also recognizing that they knew this would be the reaction from the majority. Yet they followed through. Seems to me weighty matters must surely have demanded address.
Shorter could go along with world indoctrination and receive kudos from all those who go the way of the world. Yet scripture admonishes us against such, telling us that a friend to the world is an enemy of God (James 4:4).
1 Peter 4:12 states, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ’s suffering; that, when His glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy. If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you; for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified.”
To all who are truly trying to honor God and who have a pure conscience, don’t back up! Don’t be tempted to go along with the world that stands aligned against God and His Word. Don’t allow accusations against you for what you are doing for the sake of righteousness to cause you to waver. Remember the words of James 1:12, “Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.”
I want to close with these words that press in on my mind now in hopes of encouraging us all… “Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, …stand.”