Sunday, October 21, 2012

What We Endorse

Something that's been on my mind of late is how I represent Christ in the things in which I show respect, admiration, or approval. As someone who has grown up watching a lot of TV and movies and listening to a lot of secular music, I often want to share my appreciation for such things. However, sometimes those things aren't entirely endorsement-worthy in content, and could send the wrong message to my friends or other observers. I Corinthians 8:9-10 says, "But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols?" In other words, as Christians we are responsible to promote the right things to encourage others to walk in righteousness, whether they are fellow believers or not. Likewise, we should stand in opposition to sin, and be careful not to be perceived as endorsing sin. But where do we draw the line in a secular world?

One of the best summaries of the fallen world we live in is found in Romans 1:18-32. The Apostle Paul describes a world where the truth of God is rejected, and men and women are given over to the whole range of evil pursuits. As a believer, the final verse can be quite convicting. Verse 32 reads, "who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them." I have to ask myself, am I lending my approval to sin? The truth is, if we live in this fallen world, it is practically impossible to not contribute in some way to the work of evil. I'll admit, I like to get myself a frappuccino at Starbucks. Now it's a well-known fact that Starbucks gives money to gay-rights causes. Am I approving of their choices when I give them my money? I don't see it that way. I'm giving my approval to their product. If we were to apply that standard to boycott any business that promotes sin in some way not related to their actual product, we'd be left with Chick-fil-A and not a whole lot else. That being said, there may be extreme situations when a boycott is appropriate. If Starbucks were to announce that they will be donating $1 of each purchase to Al Qaeda, I'd guess that most of us would probably take our business elsewhere, regardless of how tasty their drinks may be. The same standard could be applied to movies. Do we avoid a movie that may be perfectly acceptable on its own merit, but one of the actors lives and promotes a sinful lifestyle? Or what if that movie has an overall positive message, but contains a few profanities sprinkled here and there? If I know this ahead of time and still see the movie, am I lending approval to sin? Some of these things are blurry, others are clear. I imagine we all have slightly differing standards. Sometimes I find myself disappointed by fellow Christians who don't have the same standards I do. But then again, others may be disappointed by me. My dad often says, "someday everyone will give an account..." That begs the question: when you stand before the Lord on the day of judgment, will you be able to defend your standards?

Sometimes we give direct approval or disapproval with our actions. As November 6 approaches, most of us are probably thinking a lot about politics. If ever there were a case of us giving a clear endorsement, how we vote is it. I would like to remind my fellow Christians of the Romans 1:32 standard. As I look back on history, I often wonder how people in certain situations of great injustice were complacent. The most obvious example is Nazi Germany. How did the people of Germany vote the Nazis into power when they clearly held such hatred for the Jews, and desired to rid them from their society? Or how did so many Americans support and even die for the cause of slavery in the Civil War days? Couldn't they clearly see how they were giving approval to evil? The truth is, it's easy to judge from a distance, but in the moment, people are easily confused. The German people were prospering under the Nazis after having gone through enormous economic hardship following the first World War. The American South was also benefiting greatly from the system of slavery that was the cultural norm at the time. Long story short, in both cases, people were taking the easy path and looking out for their own self interests at the cost of others.

Forgive me if I come across as preachy, but I feel that our culture is just as guilty today. There are many ways we have given approval to sin, but none more egregious than the legalization and acceptance of abortion. To date, the lives of over 50 million children have been taken. That's roughly five times as many lives as the Holocaust. I believe, just as in the cases above, morality has been blinded by self-interest. In his hit song, "What it's Like," the rapper/singer Everlast describes a woman facing abusive (straw man) protesters at an abortion clinic: "God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes, 'cause then you really might know what it's like to have to choose." Abortion thrives on fear, and fear is an emotion that blurs clear thinking on issues of morality. I wonder how Americans at the time of slavery would view us and our cultural acceptance of abortion if they could see into the future? They, being distanced from the emotions of it, would no doubt recognize it for the evil it is, just as we easily recognize the evil of slavery. It sickens me to see opposition to abortion painted as evil by the other side, as if it is hatred of women. Statistically, at least half of the victims of abortion are female. Those women born since 1973 should consider themselves fortunate.

As Christians in a secular society, we may feel powerless to do anything about abortion. Not being personally threatened, survivors that we are, we may silently condemn it, but still become complacent about it, accepting it as a matter of fact and here to stay. But that doesn't have to be the case. We, like all other American citizens 18 years and older, have the right to vote. Every time we vote, we give approval or disapproval to someone or something, depending on the issues at stake. What standard are we using to make our decisions? Do we vote what is best for our pocketbooks, our employer, our culture, our race, our friends, or those in our immediate surroundings? As followers of Christ, we are to identify ourselves first and foremost with Him. What this means in application is that we do not look for any interest but for what is beneficial to the growth of the knowledge and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord, which re-directs us away from the characteristics of the fallen world. We should love what He loves, and hate what He hates. We know He hates sin, and we should never give our approval of it. While there may not be any perfect candidates, we are morally responsible to vote for the ones who will do more to promote good and less to promote evil. I happen to think that one political party is routinely on the side of approving and enabling the sinful and destructive behaviors described in Romans 1. Others may disagree, and if they can stand confidently before the Lord and defend their choices in good conscience, then who am I to tell them otherwise.

(Recommended link: "180" movie)

We are representatives of Christ. The secular world will put us under the spotlight to expose any hypocrisy. While we won't always demonstrate love the way we should, and we will continue to struggle with sin, we can make choices to promote good and oppose evil. Let us not compromise, as many have. Remember Romans 1:32. My name is Steve, and I approve this message.