I updated my Facebook status a couple of times last week with something for Christians to consider. One was about modesty—specifically formal wear, and the other was about entertainment—specifically the new Avengers movie that many of my Christian friends have gone to see in theaters. I simply tried to get Christians to take a step back and look at things the world calls innocent and good, and just ask ourselves if we’re truly representing Christ when we dive in without first examining what it is we’re actually doing/endorsing. I knew that both statements might receive some criticism and/or mockery from non-believers. I’ve been warned to expect that (II Tim. 3:12, I Pet. 4:14, Luke 6:22, I John 3:13, etc.).
What broke my heart, however, was the backlash from those who wear the name of Christ. Several Christians responded harshly or mockingly. This was disheartening because, even if a Christian disagrees with someone’s scruples, he should never mock or belittle or discourage another Christian who is striving to walk in the light (I John 1:7).
I heard a sermon recently that really made me stop and think about what it means to be truly sanctified (i.e. “separate” or “set apart”). You can listen to it here: https://livestream.com/whcoc/worship/videos/174132212
One of the points made was taken from Genesis 14. Let me set it up for you:
Abraham and his nephew, Lot, separated and divided up land. Lot chose to pitch his tent by Sodom. Abraham dwelled in Canaan.
Lot, because of his own foolishness and immaturity, placed his impressionable family in the hotbed of wickedness—it had a reputation so foul that its legacy of moral decay and rejection of holiness lives on to this day. Lot would live to regret this poor decision. Well, in Genesis 14, we find that a war was raging between a bunch of kings—nine, to be exact. Four kings rallied together to war against the five other kings. The reason doesn’t matter, but it is important to note that both the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah were on the losing side. The four kings who were on the winning side plundered the losing kingdoms and were claiming the spoils (vs. 11-12). They took all the goods and provisions from Sodom and Gomorrah and went on their way.
Here’s where it gets messy. In their raid of the cities, they also captured Lot and all his goods. Abraham, because of his choice to pitch his tent far away from Sodom, could have easily avoided this entire mess and hardly be affected by it at all. But now his nephew had been thrown into the thick of it, obligating Abraham to do something about it. Abraham, a man of integrity, gathered 318 servants and marched to rescue Lot, and in so doing, inadvertently handed the victory to the five kings who were, just days before, losing the war.
Here comes the part that I want you to see—the part that shook me to the core with its conviction and confidence. In verse 21, the king of Sodom told Abraham to take the goods plundered from this war he’s won for the five wicked kings. Abraham didn’t need to ponder this. He boldly responded, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, “I have made Abram rich’— except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”
Basically, he said, “I don’t want anything from you—not even a shoelace. I don’t want it to ever be said that I have any ties to the wickedness of Sodom, or that I benefited somehow from an alliance with it.”
Why would Abraham do this? Why was he so repulsed by the thought of any kind of agreement with Sodom? He earned the reward offered, of course.
Here’s why: By now, the city of Sodom was already engulfed in a major gay-rights movement. They were famous for it. God clearly forbade this kind of sinful lifestyle in the Law of Moses, specifically in Leviticus 18:22-24 where God put homosexuality in the same category as bestiality. God gave us the record of the fate of Sodom in Genesis to make us remember how God feels when we pervert His perfect plan for sexuality (II Peter 2:6).
When Jesus wanted to express how wicked the city of Capernaum was, he likened it to these ancient cities, Sodom and Gomorrah (Mt. 10:15). In Jude 7, it says, “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”
God feels the same way about homosexuality as He did then. Romans 1 simply could not make that any clearer. In Romans 1:32, God condemns not only those who practice homosexuality (and other sins, including gossip, murder, and envy), but those who show approval of those who willingly sin.
Just like Abraham staunchly avoided any kind of apparent endorsement of the sin of Sodom, we, as Christians, HAVE to avoid implied endorsement of the sin in the world around us.
Psalm 22:1 says, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”
If I am a Christian, I will never want to allow my name to be associated with evil.
In the Great Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, Pharaoh tried to compromise with Moses in Exodus 10. He attempted to talk Moses into going ahead taking the Israelites, but leaving behind their flocks and herds. Moses wasn’t interested in compromising with idolatrous Egypt. In Exodus 10:26, Moses said, “Our livestock shall go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind.” Moses wasn’t interested in a happy agreement with Pharaoh. There would be no trace of an alliance. This was all-or-nothing.
Sometimes well-meaning Christians mess up and sin because we don’t hate sin badly enough. Sometimes Christians fall into sinful situations, not because we meant to do it, but because we didn’t mean to not do it badly enough.
Consider how strongly God warns us against implied endorsement of sin, even just in this one passage about Abraham (Genesis 14). Abraham inadvertently delivered the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah from the clutches of their enemies, but he didn’t want the king of Sodom to reward him because he knew people might say, “Abraham is living well because of his friendship with the king of Sodom!”
As Christians, we should never want people to look at us and our lives and have to wonder whose side we’re on. There are so many areas in which we’re tempted to compromise.
Can I play the lottery or go gamble in Vegas if I decide ahead of time to give 50% of my winnings to the Lord? Abraham would say no.
Can I allow myself to be seen walking into or out of a bar where it will naturally be assumed that I drank alcohol? What would Abraham say?
Am I implying endorsement by publically supporting businesses that position themselves to become the center of national news for promoting a LBGTQ agenda?
Can our teenagers involve themselves in culturally accepted events like the prom, even if they plan on not participating in any sinful activities that might go on during or after the prom? That’s better than participating in the sin, of course, but what about your influence and implied endorsement? Abraham said, “Not one shoelace.” Moses said, “Not one hoof.” If we care about the implied endorsement God warns us about, we should want no part of it.
Sensitivity to the perception others have of our involvement with the world is so often taught in the New Testament. Jude 22-23 says, “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.”
II Cor. 6:17-18 says, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.”
Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
1 Timothy 5:22 says, “Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure.”
Christianity isn’t just something you do. It’s who you are. It’s not a part of you, it’s all of you, or it’s none of you. If you choose to follow Him, choose to follow Him fully. If Christ is truly your Lord and Savior, you’ll want none of what the world tells you is worth distancing yourself from Him—not one shoelace.