Reflections and Blog

A Different Kind of Shock

My wife and I recently went on a vacation to Italy. It was a great time, and one subject she and I have found ourselves discussing are the differences between Italy and America. There are many, of course, but one difference very much surprised us. While in Italy, we traveled through several major cities, small towns, and bits of countryside, but we cannot remember seeing any public LGBTQ+ pride displays. The one exception was a person we saw wearing a rainbow insignia on the return flight to America. It dawned on us just how much we are bombarded in America with the normalization and celebration of homosexual lifestyles, to the point that we American Christians might be more shocked not to see gay pride than to see it.

I felt another strange phenomenon listening to Pastor Babij’s Sunday sermon. Jude 5-7 reminds us that God judged both angels and men in the past who went after “gross immorality” and “strange flesh,” including the homosexual rapists of Sodom. Pastor Babij explained afresh that though all sins are offensive to God (James 2:10), homosexuality represents particularly heinous rebellion against God and his design for marriage (Gen 2:24, Lev 18:22, Rom 1:26-27, see more here). All of this is plain from the Bible. Yet it almost feels odd to hear such because of the society in which we live. Is a sermon calling out the sin of homosexuality more shocking today than the sin of homosexuality itself?

I remember one of my theology teachers in seminary warning us that we must remain constantly critical of the world’s thinking, especially what is asserted as unquestionable fact. Such thinking, he told us, is like an acid that is always working to eat away at biblical convictions. There may be many areas in our Christian lives in which it seems like we are not being affected by the world’s thinking when we actually are, even if the effect is simply to make us feel more hesitant and ashamed in our biblical convictions. Sexuality is clearly one of those areas.

So how should we respond to the corrosive impact of worldly thinking and ideas? Romans 12:1-2 gives a good answer:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Since our minds are constantly being attacked with the deceits and discouragements of the world, we need to have our minds constantly renewed by God and his word. This happens as we diligently pursue those simple “means of grace” God gave us: prayer, Bible reading and meditation, Bible teaching and preaching, fellowship, communion, service, and evangelism. Really, we all face a choice regarding to which image we will be conformed: we can do nothing and let the world conform us more and more into its image, or we can pursue God by the hard work of sanctification and obedience and be more and more conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29, 2 Cor 3:18), to God’s glory and to our eternal reward (Rev 21:5-8). To which image are you being conformed?

Questions to Consider:
1. Besides sexuality, what other areas of worldly thinking have subtly affected American Christians?
2. In what ways should sin always remain shocking to us? In what ways should sin never be shocking to us?
3. How should a knowledge of your own sinfulness and God’s grace affect the way you address shocking sins in others?