I remember a few years back how our nation expressed so much impatience with gridlock in congress. We heard how people just wanted something to get done. We were tired of going nowhere. It made me think of a couple of women in a car at the edge of the Grand Canyon. With the image of Thelma and Louise in my mind, it occurred to me that there are times when a foot on the brake is better than a foot on the gas pedal!
At the Southern District Convention last week, I heard the tension between those who wanted to step on the gas and those who wanted to hit the brakes. I don’t believe that either one was trying to be reckless. No one wants to drive the Synodical bus over the cliff. However, it occurs to me that we’ve got our Thelma and Louise moments!
For instance, our Southern District was considering a resolution for a partnering relationship with the five million member Ethiopian Evangelical Church, Mekane Yesus. We heard from their President. We heard from people who had been there. We heard how it’s time for us to tell the world about Jesus. Well, who can argue with that? And who doesn’t want to be a positive influence on other church bodies? When there are so many other directions possible, and so many other influences, it is nothing but fraternal for us to want to reach out a helping hand, provide resources and positive, confessional encouragement. However . . .
When brothers came to the microphone to express concerns over that church body’s ordination of women (which appears from their website to be something they consider a positive thing), I heard from some that familiar sentiment: We’re tired of gridlock! I can appreciate that, especially when people have gotten excited about something and want to move forward.
However, when you’re edging toward the cliff, depressing the brake pedal is a good thing! In our Synod today, there are strong sentiments in favor of ordaining women. Others are doing it, why shouldn’t we? More to the point of last week’s convention, I seemed to detect in a few remarks the idea that “We in the LCMS don’t ordain women, but others do. It’s part of their culture,” as if that makes it okay.
During floor discussion, the EECMY was commended for its stand against homosexuality. But, isn’t that something many in our own country are comfortable with? We don’t do it, but many do. With logic like that, it’s only a matter of time before our own Synod goes the way of others, since we live in a world that continues to influence us, and the more it does, the more people will consider it acceptable, whatever “it” happens to be.
We’re tired of gridlock! We want to tell people about Jesus! We want to lend a helping hand! Fine, but let’s be sure what the Scriptures say, and not simply what a culture – ours or any other – happens to deem permissible. What does God say? And so, what Jesus are we talking about? The one who does ordain women or the one who does not?
The Christ of Holy Scripture is the One Who died for sins. The Christ we are called to speak about is the One Who has real forgiveness for real sins – sins which sinners recognize and confess to be sins. If that doesn’t include same-sex orientation, then it doesn’t need Jesus and His forgiveness. If it doesn’t include Johnny having two daddies or Madeline having two moms, then it probably doesn’t include the Bridegroom being represented by women pastors so that the Bride is effectively served by a bridesmaid rather than by a man who stands, like a groomsman should, in the stead of Christ. But if it does, then it’s time we stopped relegating such things to whatever a community or culture allows and start addressing them according to God’s Word, because sinners need repentance and forgiveness, and that’s the reason to speak of Jesus!
I don’t think anyone wanted to run the bus over a cliff last week, and I know those who were giving taps to the brake pedal were not trying to slow down the genuine work of reaching the lost with the saving Gospel of Christ Jesus. Quite the contrary! However, if we want the world to not just hear the name “Jesus” repeated, without really getting to the Gospel; if we want them to actually benefit from His mercy, we need to clearly diagnose the nations’ ills according to God’s Word. We need to lovingly call sin what it is, so that Christ may be applied as the Cure! If we just want to end gridlock and move forward without being clear what constitutes sin, I’m not sure how we’ll ever get talk about Jesus where it needs to be, namely, by applying His death and resurrection, His Baptism, Absolution and Holy Supper, to the very things people and a culture may accept and approve, but which God calls sin and for which He has provided a Savior.
Pr. Rick Sawyer