SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 66:10-14; Galatians 6:1-18; Luke 10:1-20; Psalm 33
The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go… And He said to them, “Behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Luke 10
How excited those 72 close followers of Jesus must have been when He chose them and sent them out before Him. They would be representatives of a great, good, and might Savior! He even gave them His power and authority! I imagine they were rather shocked to hear Him say to them, “Behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” After all, they were not being sent to foreign lands and people who were unknown to them but to their fellow Jews: to people whose history and culture they shared; whose language they spoke; whose towns they had perhaps been in before; whose religion they shared and practiced together. Surely they would be well received! But, no; because of Jesus many of their own people would reject and oppose them!
We who follow Jesus Christ today are going to increasingly find ourselves to also be “lambs in the midst of wolves.” This was brought home to me last week by the recent ruling of the Supreme Court on the United States vs. Windsor. By a 5-4 majority, the Court declared unconstitutional and so invalid the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA was a federal law that defined marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” It was passed in 1996 with overwhelming Republican and Democrat support, by a vote of 85–14 in the Senate and 342–67 in the House, and was signed into law by Pres. Clinton. Five judges have now struck it down.
Why? As the reason for their ruling, the five majority justices stated:
“the principal purpose and the necessary effect of this law [the Defense of Marriage Act] are to demean those persons who are in a lawful same-sex marriage. This requires the Court to hold, as it now does, that DOMA is unconstitutional...”
They also said the law was “motivated by an improper animus [hatred] or purpose.” In response, Justice Scalia in his dissent pointed out:
“to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” ”injure,” “degrade,” ”demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.”
Now, I want you to understand something very clearly. This sermon is not about homosexual marriage and whether it is God-pleasing or not.
It is not, by the way. If you have any question on this, just look up and read what it says in Rom. 1:18-32 and 1 Cor. 6:9-11.
“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[a] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Rom. 1:18-32)
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
(1 Cor. 6:9-11)
If what these verses say is difficult for you, remember two things: 1) God does indeed love all people and sent His Son to die for every sinner; and, 2) His words are good and are for our good, even when they condemn. He desires what is best for us all!
But, again, this sermon is not about homosexual marriage. It is about our country, and how we who accept that the Bible is not only true but is a good guide for living moral and holy lives are viewed. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are increasingly going to be like those 72 disciples whom Jesus sent out “as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Expect to increasingly face opposition to Christ’s good faith. If five very well-read and intelligent justices of the Supreme Court can declare that if you oppose gay marriage it is because you are animated by hatred and want to demean people, then you can bet that you will be opposed and rejected and considered offensive by other people for doing so, as well as for holding to and speaking about other moral and religious teachings they do not accept.
Sadly, we have contributed to this ourselves. How clearly do we show the marriage of a man and a woman to be good and God-pleasing?
- While dating we quickly move in together and live together without it.
- We Christians divorce about as quickly, and as often, as do non-Christians.
- Too many Christian couples endure marriage, and do not serve one another in love and so reflect the joy of marriage.
It is just such things that are brought up those who favor homosexual marriage as reasons to welcome it. It will bring about a good change!
So, what should we, Christ’s lambs, do? Let us begin by repenting of our own sins and looking to Christ’s death for us. His death for us is our forgiveness, and His resurrection is our healing and new life. In Him we are new creations – thanks be to God!
How should we deal with being rejected and even called evil for our faith? Should we throw up our hands and say, “Woe is me!” Far better is to remember and hold onto the words of Jesus, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” You are Christ’s people, and He will hold and work His salvation in and through you! Jesus sent out His disciples to bring the message of His good will for our lives and the peace of His love and presence forever. Learn them, rejoice in them, and speak them!
What about things like this Supreme Court ruling: should we get angry at the Supreme Court justices? The President? The members of Congress? Etc.? Should we refuse to pray for them? Jesus commands the opposite: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Mt. 5:44-45) Let us pray for our country and its leaders, and especially that He might raise up legislators and judges who know and will promote His good. With our prayers we who have received His good are His good and blessed presence in this sinful world.
Finally, be glad that the kingdom of the eternal God Himself comes to us in the words and preaching of Jesus. Draw near to it and hold onto your Savior Jesus! We will need to do so even more as the howls of the wolves increase and we bear the marks of Jesus, the pain of rejection and scorn for following Him. Do not be afraid, for to bear the marks of Jesus is to also have His Spirit and His life. And, remember: even the demons are subject to us in His name! "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." God’s kingdom, which is eternal and which no one can take away, is ours in Christ! Rejoice and be glad, and, as St. Paul says (Gal. 6), “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” To the glory and praise of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ! Amen.