It’s impossible for me to reflect upon an event like the American redefinition of marriage last Friday and not wonder: “What would the heroes of the faith have to say about this if they were still here?”
On the one hand, it’s patently obvious what the Apostle Paul or Martin Luther or Charles Spurgeon or John Wesley would have said about so-called “homosexual marriage.” They would have said what many of us are already saying: This is a moral abomination, a legal fiction, a sign of God’s judgment.
What I wonder, though, is what some of our more recent Christian heroes might have said about the American evangelical church’s response to all this. Over the weekend, I read a Christianity Today story about the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission issuing a joint statement on Obergefell v. Hodges. While the statement urged a firm stance on the biblical definition of marriage, a very commendable action, it also stated that “outrage and panic are not the responses of those confident in the promises of a reigning Christ Jesus.” Another Christian leader quoted in the story said she was “disappointed” by the court’s decision, but not “saddened or disheartened.”
It’s not Christlike to be outraged? Have they never read Matthew 21? Matthew 23?
Well, it seems many Christian leaders acknowledge that you’re allowed to be unhappy and everything, just not too intensely. That would make us look like uneducated and judgmental goofs, I guess. And this isn’t just a few Christian leaders saying these kinds of things, if you’re reading the many media stories out there.
It’s left me wondering: Exactly when did we become the Church of Little-to-No Emotion over Sin?
Perhaps if church leaders and pastors had expressed a bit more Eph. 4:26 righteous outrage about this encroaching sin movement several years ago, publicly and firmly, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Maybe if those who lead us had dared to be “saddened,” had wept openly over rebellion against God, expressed grief over the souls that are at stake, or cried out to God in despair as we watched our fellow Christians lose their businesses and suffer harassment and death threats at the hands of LGBT activists, a sleeping church might have been roused from its slumber to action — millions of Christians, who voted for marriage in their own states but inexplicably sat on their hands and zoned out when their self-government was lawlessly snatched from them, bit by little bit.
But open emotion seems to be out of fashion today among many of our Christian leaders across the denominational spectrum, doesn’t it? Who expresses righteous anger or weeps anymore? Stick with “dialogue,” “nuance,” “measured tones” and the like. Cultured, respectable people in charge don’t do embarrassing things like march outside the Supreme Court in defense of marriage or go to Gay Pride parades to risk an uncomfortable confrontation in order to share the gospel with those who desperately need to hear it. They don’t ever get mad. They never yell. They don’t weepingly plead for people to repent while there’s still time to repent. They don’t want to offend, repel, alienate. That wouldn’t be gospel-friendly. Sleek and always rational, they conference together and issue statements, serve on boards and accept speaking engagements where their influence is most likely to be revered and expanded. They tell you not to feel outrage when the most intelligent and rational and biblical thing you could do is to feel outrage! Meanwhile, the darkness grows and grows. And the church becomes more and more irrelevant.
When we lose our inclination to feel anger over injustice or grief over the sin of mankind, we become less like God — not more. If we are not to feel deeply the results of sin and rebellion toward our holy God, what are we then to make of Scripture’s description of Him as “a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day?” (Ps. 7:11) What are we to make of the many biblical descriptions of God’s wrath against sin? “Yet if in spite of this you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins.” (Lev. 26:27-28) What about Jesus weeping over Jerusalem in (Luke 19:41-42)? “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!‘”
Some Christians, praise the Lord, do feel anger and grief, emotions that are propelling them to a response. The Rev. Bill Owens, the president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, clearly felt enough outrage to tell Newsmax over the weekend that Christians must oppose the Supreme Court’s ruling through civil disobedience. “I was in the civil rights movement, so I know how to do it,” he said. “When we sat at the counters at restaurants, we knew we were going to be arrested. You do things to get arrested, to call attention to it.
“So many people were silent. The church people were absolutely silent on this issue. A few leaders spoke out, but the masses of the church people were silent.”
He’s right. They were. Because who was leading them to do anything else?
This is what I think Leonard Ravenhill was getting at years ago, when he noted that what the church really needs is prophets. Not prophets in the exact same sense as the Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah or Ezekiel, who heard directly from God and fulfilled their specific, God-ordained callings. Instead, Ravenhill spoke of “prophets” in our day who would be utterly “otherworldly” Christians, earnestly “calling into line those who are out of line!” The Christians who cannot rest until they see a sleeping church roused from its slumber in a passionate intensity for Jesus Christ, casting off sin and spiritual apathy. It’s why I wanted to reprint one of his very convicting essays on the topic (below).
Mind you, I am not at all against rational, intelligent responses to this opening of what was once an unthinkable Pandora’s Box. We definitely need rational responses, and we need to think very clearly!
But like Ravenhill, I also long to see among our leaders the biblical fire and intensity of the prophets. We need Christians who do feel this moment deeply, who are outraged at the overwhelming rebellion against our holy God! We need Christians who will not rest and will not be silent until they see the Lord Jesus Christ honored and His church revived, who cannot merely sit by and count the last days on their fingers, but who are compelled to rise up and call for repentance and holiness in our generation!
And so, as I pray for God to grant us such Christians again, I end this post by handing the reins to Leonard Ravenhill. Few could say it better. And feel free to weep.
Picture of a Prophet
By Leonard Ravenhill
The prophet in his day is fully accepted of God and totally rejected by men.
Years back, Dr. Gregory Mantle was right when he said, “No man can be fully accepted until he is totally rejected.” The prophet of the Lord is aware of both these experiences. They are his “brand name.”
The group, challenged by the prophet because they are smug and comfortably insulated from a perishing world in their warm but untested theology, is not likely to vote him “Man of the year” when he refers to them as habituates of the synagogue of Satan!
The prophet comes to set up that which is upset. His work is to call into line those who are out of line! He is unpopular because he opposes the popular in morality and spirituality. In a day of faceless politicians and voiceless preachers, there is not a more urgent national need than that we cry to God for a prophet! The function of the prophet, as Austin-Sparks once said, “has almost always been that of recovery.”
The prophet is God’s detective seeking for a lost treasure. The degree of his effectiveness is determined by his measure of unpopularity. Compromise is not known to him.
He has no price tags.
He is totally “otherworldly.”
He is unquestionably controversial and unpardonably hostile.
He marches to another drummer!
He breathes the rarefied air of inspiration.
He is a “seer” who comes to lead the blind.
He lives in the heights of God and comes into the valley with a “thus saith
He shares some of the foreknowledge of God and so is aware of
He lives in “splendid isolation.”
He is forthright and outright, but he claims no birthright.
His message is “repent, be reconciled to God or else…!”
His prophecies are parried.
His truth brings torment, but his voice is never void.
He is the villain of today and the hero of tomorrow.
He is excommunicated while alive and exalted when dead!
He is dishonored with epithets when breathing and honored with
epitaphs when dead.
He is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, but few “make the grade” in his class.
He is friendless while living and famous when dead.
He is against the establishment in ministry; then he is established as a saint
He eats daily the bread of affliction while he ministers, but he feeds the Bread of
Life to those who listen.
He walks before men for days but has walked before God for years.
He is a scourge to the nation before he is scourged by the nation.
He announces, pronounces, and denounces!
He has a heart like a volcano and his words are as fire.
He talks to men about God.
He carries the lamp of truth amongst heretics while he is lampooned by men.
He faces God before he faces men, but he is self-effacing.
He hides with God in the secret place, but he has nothing to hide in
He is naturally sensitive but supernaturally spiritual.
He has passion, purpose and pugnacity.
He is ordained of God but disdained by men.
Our national need at this hour is not that the dollar recover its strength, or that we save face over the Watergate affair, or that we find the answer to the ecology problem. We need a God-sent prophet!
I am bombarded with talk or letters about the coming shortages in our national life: bread, fuel, energy. I read between the lines from people not practiced in scaring folk. They feel that the “seven years of plenty” are over for us. The “seven years of famine” are ahead. But the greatest famine of all in this nation at this given moment is a FAMINE OF THE HEARING OF THE WORDS OF GOD (Amos 8:11).
Millions have been spent on evangelism in the last twenty-five years. Hundreds of gospel messages streak through the air over the nation every day. Crusades have been held; healing meetings have made a vital contribution. “Come-outers” have “come out” and settled, too, without a nation-shaking revival. Organizers we have. Skilled preachers abound. Multi-million dollar Christian organizations straddle the nation. BUT where, oh where, is the prophet? Where are the incandescent men fresh from the holy place? Where is the Moses to plead in fasting before the holiness of the Lord for our moldy morality, our political perfidy, and sour and sick spirituality?
GOD’S MEN ARE IN HIDING UNTIL THE DAY OF THEIR SHOWING FORTH. They will come. The prophet is violated during his ministry, but he is vindicated by history.
There is a terrible vacuum in evangelical Christianity today. The missing person in our ranks is the prophet. The man with a terrible earnestness. The man totally otherworldly. The man rejected by other men, even other good men, because they consider him too austere, too severely committed, too negative and unsociable.
Let him be as plain as John the Baptist.
Let him for a season be a voice crying in the wilderness of modern theology and
Let him be as selfless as Paul the apostle.
Let him, too, say and live, “This ONE thing I do.”
Let him reject ecclesiastical favors.
Let him be self-abasing, nonself-seeking, nonself-projecting, nonself- righteous,
Let him say nothing that will draw men to himself but only that which will move
men to God.
Let him come daily from the throne room of a holy God, the place where he has
received the order of the day.
Let him, under God, unstop the ears of the millions who are deaf through the
clatter of shekels milked from this hour of material mesmerism.
Let him cry with a voice this century has not heard because he has seen a vision
no man in this century has seen. God send us this Moses to lead us from the
wilderness of crass materialism, where the rattlesnakes of lust bite us and where
enlightened men, totally blind spiritually, lead us to an ever-nearing Armageddon.
God have mercy! Send us PROPHETS!
Copyright (C) 1994 by Leonard Ravenhill, Lindale Texas – http://www.ravenhill.org/