I grew up in Fulton, Il, which you can see is at least an hour away from anything resembling population. We would joke around that something that hit the culture took about 20 years to come to Fulton. When people in Chicago were doing the electric slide, Fulton was doing the Hustle. Hence as a child growing up in the late 70’s and 80’s the vast majority of my classmates were from what is now quaintly called traditional homes – mom & dad were present. Although in an interesting twist my best friend from those years was not. The ’60’s would eventually come to Fulton as well. And while I’m sure there was a short lived liberating thrill, the hippies and the hope were gone by the time it came to Fulton. The only thing it brought was the sudden revelation that what had been solid ground no longer was. Marriages, covenants, became just a piece of paper.
In going through seminary I inherited parts of the libraries of some pastors. It was always interesting going through the old books. Some of them were timeless treasures that are now on my shelves, a couple pulled down almost weekly. Others were “of their time”. One of the pastors I inherited from had retired from the ministry a little early. He went into real estate. Looking through some of the books I think I got a deeper sense why. He was a deeply good and honest man. And societal changes had just hit him like a tsunami wave. He wasn’t trained either to be a counselor or to deal with a flock that didn’t respect the Bible. The books were either deep theology or hastily written how-to’s: How to deal with divorce, How to deal with unruly children, etc. Being good and honest, he rebuilt his life instead of trying to fake it when he no longer felt he could handle the “how-to’s”.
I’m writing on this because of a couple of articles. This is a heartfelt and poignant piece. I’m sure the author will have pictures with goats appear soon because he gets too close to an argument that might cause reflection. And if there is one thing our society won’t allow is a real reflection upon the sexual revolution. This is a New York Times Pulitzer trolling long article that spurred the first as well as some backlash.
All those How-To’s and the initial response of society to the sexual revolution were the law. That law – which I’m speaking now about God’s law, things like the 10 Commandments – is clear and bright. Do not commit adultery. (Exo 20:14) Which Luther would explain succinctly: “We should fear and love God that we may lead a chaste and decent life in words and deeds, and each love and honor his spouse.” The calling of all Christians is to chastity, some within the bonds of marriage. If Moses wasn’t enough there are all kinds of New Testament places: Mark 10:2-12, 1 Cor 7:7-17, 1 Pet 1:14-16, Eph 4:17-20 are just a few. The law convicts. But what the law doesn’t do is save. The law is powerless.
So why did we turn to the law? Is the truth because we had either forgotten the gospel or just no longer believed its power? It is not that the church’s reaction was not correct. The law is good and wise. It is always appropriate to read, study, learn and inwardly digest as the prayer this week has it. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Prov 1:7) It is just that the church’s reaction was impotent. In the face of law we can choose to be fools. In fact we might prefer it. We are a rebellious and stiff necked people – and darn proud of it too – an almost chosen nation. But the law will exact its own payment. It visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the third and fourth generations (Exo 20:5). Social Security trust funds empty, medicare unfordable without bankrupting the country, the emergence of “two classes” as per the NYT article, and any number of other problems, the fruits of trespassing the law.
But the church has this mustard seed. Actually the church doesn’t have it. The seed has already been planted. The leaven is already mixed in the dough. (Matt 13) The church has been given the eyes to see and the ears to hear and the mouth to proclaim. While we were trespassers, while we were sinners, Christ died for us. You have a free pass. It requires absolutely nothing. I guarantee that whoever you are, when you are placed before the throne, Jesus will try and give you a wedding garment. You will all have a resurrection body. How many of us will demand that no, I want to judged by the law. And if I can’t get my kingdom, than I don’t want any kingdom. Fine, to the outer darkness. Did we lose that? Do we believe it today? That is the powerful stuff.
The law is still good and wise. We can learn from it. There are definitely times when we should just do it, even though we might not want to. But if it really takes the law, there is something missing at the core. As Jesus said to the woman at the well who had 5 husbands, “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth (Joh 4:23 ESV)” The law is part of that truth, but the Spirit testifies to THE TRUTH – Jesus Christ is sufficient. Anything good that will stand is built on that foundation and cornerstone. So we who live among the ruins build on that love, His love for us which was faithful to the cross. That is not just a piece of paper. That is a marriage covenant.