Why 'We Must Obey God Rather Than Men'

Vice President Kamala Harris will be visiting El Paso, Texas, tomorrow to see the immigration crisis on the US–Mexico border firsthand. She was tasked by the White House with dealing with the root causes of migration from Central America and will be visiting alongside Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

That much seems objectively true. How you view the rest of the story depends on the perspective you bring to it.

As with so much of our politics these days, what you believe depends on who you believe.

Her visit will come days before former President Donald Trump also goes to the border on June 30. Moments after Harris’ trip was announced, Mr. Trump took credit for her visit to the border and criticized the administration for ending several of his immigration policies. However, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki denied that the trip was a political decision determined by the former president’s planned visit to the border.

In news of far less significance, a group of soccer fans accidentally traveled to Romania to watch their team play. The reason: they mixed up Budapest and Bucharest, going to the latter when the match they wanted to see was in the former. The two cities are 518 miles apart.

Until they got downtown in the Romanian capital and realized their mistake, they were certain they were in the right city. But sincerity is no substitute for truth.

One of them later said, “We have to learn more about Europe.”

NFL player reveals that he is gay

Another story making headlines is the announcement by Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib that he is gay. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s response caught my eye: “The NFL family is proud of Carl for courageously sharing his truth today” (my emphasis).

We’ve been discussing this week the importance and urgency of believing and sharing biblical truth in a day when so many believe “the” truth to be “my” truth. Today, let’s consider the courage it takes to tell people truth they don’t want to hear.

As our partisan divides continue to widen and deepen, it is becoming more and more difficult to disagree agreeably. Historian Niall Ferguson is right: political figures are increasingly being viewed from a religious context as their followers bestow on them a quality of infallibility. Some who support or oppose Mr. Trump do so with sentiments bordering on religious zeal, for example.

Ferguson warns that some are doing the same with what they call “the science.” He explains, “There is no such thing as ‘the science.’ Of course, there are scientists. My sister is a physicist at Yale. And they’ll tell you there are sciences, plural, and it’s a constantly shifting dynamic system in which ideas are tested and frequently found to be false.”

Nonetheless, he notes, “the science” has been used during the pandemic to claim near infallibility for a person’s beliefs.

"Peace with God means conflict with the world"

In a culture where so many are convinced that “their” truth is “the” truth, it takes genuine courage to speak truth that others don’t want to hear. But such courage is part of what it means to follow Jesus in a fallen world.

Theologian Jürgen Moltmann noted: “Faith, wherever it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience. It does not calm the unquiet heart but is itself this unquiet heart in man.

“Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it. Peace with God means conflict with the world, for the goad of the promised future stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present.”

In other words, when we know the truth of God, we feel a God-given imperative to share it with those who do not.

This is one of the points I wish I could help more people understand in the escalating debate over the Equality Act and LGBTQ rights. Those of us who proclaim and defend biblical morality do so not because we want to discriminate against LGBTQ people, but because we want them to know and experience God’s best for their lives.

I understand that many do not understand this and see my statement as justification for homophobia. But as I know my heart, it’s not. It would be far easier for us to go along to get along, to avoid all the rancor and vitriol that is rising against those who stand for God’s word. But we are compelled to help others experience the grace we have experienced.

"The final secret, I think, is this"

When the apostles were ordered by the authorities to stop preaching the gospel, it obviously would have been safer for them to comply. Instead, they responded, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). After Paul met Jesus, it would have been far safer for him to keep quiet about his new faith, but he was willing to undergo unspeakable suffering from the opponents of the gospel rather than cease preaching it to them (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23-33).

The reason was simple: they were so grateful for the love they had experienced that they had to offer others the grace that had changed their lives.

In A Room Called Remember, Frederick Buechner observes, “The final secret, I think, is this: that the words ‘You shall love the Lord your God’ become in the end less a command than a promise. And the promise is that, yes, on the weary feet of faith and the fragile wings of hope, we will come to love him at last as from the first he has loved us—loved us even in the wilderness, especially in the wilderness, because he has been in the wilderness with us. He has been in the wilderness for us. He has been acquainted with our grief.

“And, loving him, we will come at last to love each other, too.”

Your Father loves you right now, “even in the wilderness.” Will you pay forward such grace today?

Publication date: June 24, 2021

Photo courtesy: Thinkstock

For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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