Picketing in the Name of…

As many of you know there is a group coming to Pasadena and Deer Park to picket several churches in the area on June 25th. This group claims to be a Baptist Church, although I find it ironic that the members are forsaking their own assembling together (Hebrews 10:25) and are neglecting to sit under the teaching of the Word and to receive God’s intended means of grace on the Lord’s Day. While some argue that this group is not a church at all, my point in writing this blog is not to argue whether they are a church but to offer some thoughts on the upcoming protest. As I ponder these approaching events I find myself in conflict of thought: On one hand, I support this group’s freedom of religion and freedom of speech; I stand behind the liberties which allow them to voice their message. On the other hand, however, I perceive their message as being utterly wrong and a distortion of God’s Gospel of Grace.

To deny this group the freedom to express its opinions would violate the 1st amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and unless this amendment is revised or rewritten, the group has every right to express its message so long as it does so peaceably, without threat, and without personal insults. Therefore, I support their rights even though I find many of their signs and protests exceedingly offensive.

For this very reason I have written elsewhere that I truly believe we should defend the rights of any religious group to freely worship, to freely proselytize, and to peaceably gather, but this is by no means an affirmation of their protest. I am simply confident in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and am persuaded that His truth will prevail. After all, the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe.

As an advocate of free speech and freedom of religion I also have the right to engage in the public square and to explain why the views expressed by this group and others like them are a partial truth at best, not to mention a misrepresentation of the beauty of God’s glorious gospel.

Some readers might be surprised that I use the words “partial truth” when referring to a group such as this one. I use those words carefully and thoughtfully. We must not forget that God’s wrath abides over sin and sinners; His judgment is real and it is coming upon sinners just as this group proclaims in its picketing (See Romans 1:18, 2:5, Ephesians 5:6, Revelation 19:15). And yes, homosexuality, the sin to which this group refers most frequently, is one manifestation of sin, but it is not the only manifestation of our wicked, sinful, unbelieving hearts.

This is where the partial truth they proclaim becomes false truth. The root issue is the heart, not how the heart expresses itself; therefore, to elevate one sin over all the others runs the risk of missing the heart of the problem. Jesus says, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23). The real danger does not stem from any one sin from this list; the problem lies with our wicked, unbelieving hearts. For it is out of our hearts that all these evils come.

If we miss this truth regarding our wickedness then we run the risk of searching for the wrong solution. Focusing only upon the external manifestations of our sin tempts us to simply change our behavior, but changing our behavior is not the solution to our problem.

The solution to our problem is the same tried and true Gospel of grace that God proclaimed to depraved sinners long ago. God promised to send a Savior who would free us from our wicked, unbelieving hearts, a redeemer who would pay the price that our sins deserve, an atoning sacrifice who would die on our behalf. The solution is the message of Jesus Christ, who has come to us as the good news. For in Him there is hope, in Him the wrath of God has been satisfied, and now for all who turn to Him and trust in Him, there is forgiveness of sins. Therefore, if you are in Christ you need not worry or despair; for there is therefore now no condemnation for you (Romans 8:1). You are a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). Your sins, once scarlet, are now washed as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). Indeed, you are redeemed if you belong to Him.

It is this message of redemption that allows me to defend the rights of groups who proclaim a message that is utterly wrong and offensive. After all, I too have the opportunity to proclaim a message… a different message: one of hope and grace. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who should be exalted on high. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who is the solution to the bad news this group proclaims. For the Holy God cannot overlook wickedness, even if our country redefines evil as good. Scripture is clear in its call for sinners to look to Christ and to trust in Him who endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). Christ is our sin-bearer and our hope. And while the Bible is not “soft” on sin, God does tell believers to be salt and light to this dying world (Matthew 5:13-16). Our speech should taste good and our words of truth should light up the world for all to see. The message our nation needs to hear is this: While we are all under the condemnation and wrath of God, God Himself has provided a way of escape in Jesus Christ, who took on human flesh to bear the punishment that we deserve, so that those who trust in Him will have eternal life with Him and will be saved from God’s righteous vindication against sin and sinners.

For this reason, we need to trumpet Christ in all His majesty and glory rather than stand to condemn sinners or rejoice in the suffering and death of the ungodly. Apart from Jesus Christ we are all condemned, “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20b-21).

~Corey

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