And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him,“Blessed be you to the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear? – I Samuel 15:13-14
I Samuel 15 is one of the saddest chapters in the Old Testament. Just a few chapters earlier, the Holy Spirit had come upon Saul and he became Israel’s first king. Now, he is rejected by God and cast aside for another. Though it would be several years yet before he’s officially replaced, in the eyes of God his reign is over.
What brought all this on? Saul did most of what God, through Samuel, told him to do. Did you get that? God rejected Saul because Saul did almost everything He told him to do. God said to completely destroy the Amalekites, every last one of them, including all their livestock. This was God’s righteous judgment on them as a people for having attacked the Israelites during the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 17:8-14). Saul, however, chose to spare Agag, the Amalekite king as well as to reserve the choicest of the livestock for himself and his men.
Saul was willing to follow God but only up until the point that it interfered with his personal agenda.
One of the most difficult issues for the church today is homosexuality. Not because it is a sin different from others in its nature, but because it is a sin different from others in how it is pursued. Unlike sins such as drunkenness or gluttony or adultery, there is a push within the visible church to move from welcoming people with same sex attractions (which we should do) to accepting, then blessing and affirming homosexual behavior, in short, to call that which God calls evil; good. To that end, whole churches and in one case a whole denomination exist, finding their identity in the particular proclivities of their membership rather than in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They’ve chosen to spare the bleating sheep of their pet sin while simultaneously claiming fellowship with Christ.
Let me say this as clearly as I can: there are many Christians who struggle with homosexual temptations, just as there are many who struggle with greed, heterosexual lust, pride, etc. They (those who struggle with homosexuality) are just as much believers as their brethren who do not so struggle. However, it is not possible to simultaneously be a follower of Christ and be proud of my sin. No one who celebrates their homosexuality has grounds to call themselves a Christian. And pastors who refuse to say that to people are speaking peace when there is no peace (Jeremiah 8:11) and are committing pastoral malpractice.
In every generation there are issues that mark off the church of the Lord Jesus Christ from the surrounding culture. In the early years of the church the emperor worship required to be a patriotic Roman was such an issue. No one was being asked to give up Christ, just to deny that He was the One true God, just to accommodate the culture a bit by burning some incense to the emperor. Men and women died in the arena rather than do that. In our day, homosexuality is a similar issue. Speaking of homosexuality Denny Burk says:
We are talking about what is fast becoming the watershed moral question of our day. Pastors, you will not be able to duck this issue. You will not be able to obfuscate indefinitely. The spirit of the age is moving definitively away from Biblical sexual norms, and Christian pastors are either going to take their stand with scripture or they are going to sell-out the authority of the Bible. At the end of the day, this is the bottom line. What does the Bible teach and are you willing to preach it and live it?
These questions are for all of us, pastors or not. Are we willing to speak the truth on this issue, lovingly yes, but the truth nonetheless, in the face of increasing opposition? Because the reality is, we can do nothing less and remain faithful to our Lord.