Unlike last semester, this semester has brought only few discussions concerning the lifestyle statement and statement of faith faculty and staff will be or has been asked to sign. Yet, now and then the topic comes back to the surface and as with all other relevant subjects, when it comes up, we discuss it. Both sides offer their thoughts, questions, and concerns. Thankfully, I’ve noted genuine regard for the feelings and beliefs of students on opposing sides of the debate. In my experience of 3 years, Shorter is a loving place and a peaceful place.
I continue to pray, to listen, and to speak with honesty from my own heart to these dear students who are entrusted to my care when I stand before them to teach. Each life, each one is precious. I often think of my own children as I’m driving to work and while I’m there teaching. I look into those young expectant faces and I see someone’s child, as dear to those parents as my own are to me, and I hold that knowing at the forefront of my mind as we navigate difficult terrain.
I am forever recognizing opposing worldviews clashing before me. That is what we are experiencing at Shorter. What was and is still surprising to me is that we have what appears to be conflict in “the body” and that ought not to be. If we, teachers, faculty and staff in a Baptist University are acting as one in the body of Christ out we not to “be of one mind, having compassion one of another, [loving] as brethren, [being] pitiful, [being] courteous…” (1 Peter 3:8)
Some students share that they are not Baptists, not Christians, while others say they are Christians “but…” I hear arguments for acceptance of any and all lifestyles touting “we are to love.” Indeed we are to love, but what does that mean? What does scripture say to us about love? 1 John 5:2 states, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous. ” If I truly love God and love others, I will speak truth of God’s love. Scripture clearly teaches us that Godly love is expressed in obedience to God’s commands and adherence to God’s truth. It is not loving to teach or uphold disobedience and dishonor to God. Indeed, it is the opposite.
Most recently I felt compelled to address the issue of truth with my students. I honored and acknowledged that differing belief systems exist. I then explained, however, that those of us who believe in the truth of scripture believe that we will one day stand before Holy God and give an account of our handling of the truth. If our belief is steadfast and unwavering, we will adhere to it in the presence of any and all opposition, otherwise, we fail to handle the truth with integrity. That is a weighty matter, one we must engage without compromise. This is where I believe Shorter is taking a stand and I wholeheartedly support them.
I offered to my students, for their consideration, the opposition and harsh criticism those in authority at the school foreknew they would encounter. Yet feeling so strongly, based on their deeply held convictions, a move forward was made. Then I posed the question, why do you think they did this?
I love the clarity found in scripture and I find myself sometimes with gaping mouth at the arguments made against sound doctrine. Romans 6:12-14a declares for us “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield your members as instrument of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you…” It goes on to say, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” (Romans 6:16-18) We find the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice for us was to free us from the bondage and penalty of sin so that we might live in the freedom of righteousness.
As we approach Easter in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice, I am humbled and sorrowful over the cost of my sin and yours’. Isaiah 53 accounts for us what Jesus suffered and why. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised and we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgement and who shall declare His generation; for He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was He stricken. And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death; because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:3-9)
As I review the year I’ve had with students grappling with the notions and claims of a sinful world up against the wisdom of the ages recorded in the Bible, my heart hurts. The vast majority of young folks have been led to believe that sexual sin of all kinds; heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual, are normal and natural expressions of human behavior when clearly God’s Word deems it NOT SO. We are told to abstain from all manner of sexual sin. If we are to embrace any sexual sin as “acceptable” we must then throw out the truth of the entire Bible because it is clear throughout from beginning to end that there is no place for it in the life of God’s people.
We are called out of sin when called to repentance. Repentance is by definition “a turning away” from sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21says, “For He (God) made Him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus became our sin and nailed it to the cross putting an end to it so that we might live outside and apart from its bondage in service to Him. We are not free TO sin. We are free FROM sin. We are to abstain. That does not mean that we do not have to contend with our sin nature for surely we do until we receive our glorified bodies and enter into eternity with our Lord, but we are not to serve our sin nature any longer! Praise the Lord, we don’t have to because His sacrifice and Holy Spirit has freed us from the bondage of sin and death.
I shared with my dear students as we struggled through a difficult discussion last week that I could have chosen to pursue teaching in a secular institution where I could fulfill my commitment to my employer by simply showing up and sharing from a cold and dry textbook without ever having to consider engaging the deeper, more meaningful spiritual matters that arise at Shorter. My heart longed to express to them the reason I chose instead to be at Shorter. No words could better express my own heart than those penned by the Apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians 3:14-21 and I shared the passage with them: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”