For those of us who are over 50, we are living in unusual times. In the 80’s, who would have anticipated the direction social debate would have taken in these days? Graduating from Clarkston High School in 1972, I spent the majority of my time attending school in the 1960’s. Since that time, the pendulum of social order has swung widely in the opposite direction. In junior high, we were “allowed” to wear jeans to school on special days, but for most of the time, there was a strict protocol for what to wear to school and how we were expected to behave. Personal expression certainly wasn’t something the greater society considered a right, or something necessary to consider.
Today, personal expression and fulfillment has become the general rule of society. Self-actualization, or fulfillment of self, is now considered as a valid expectation…even if it makes the people around you uncomfortable. A good example of this is gender identification. The general movement of popular society is to say, “If someone feels their physical gender does not match their physical person, they should be able to choose what gender they want to be.” This becomes an issue when that person wants to go into a bathroom, or shower, used by people of the opposite sex. Everyone who feels uncomfortable with the actions of the person in gender conflict is expected to “deal with it,” so the person who wants our acceptance can feel good about their choices. This debate is on the forefront of the news, and is certainly the social conflict of our time.
How Did Paul Reach his Contemporaries?
As many know, the Apostle Paul extended his reach to the religious people of his time, as well as to the non-religious. In the book of Acts chapter 17, we see his ministry to the city of Athens. While ministering to the religious people, Paul gave a scriptural argument for his message to get the religious people to see his way. But the Apostle was now ministering to a city that was mostly without great religious moorings. The Greeks loved philosophy. There was a religious component to their thinking, but it was not the foundation of their philosophy. The Greeks were into human reasoning; not religious persuasion. In his attempt to reach the Greeks, Paul used reasoning to win them over. Certainly, not everyone found his arguments as “reasonable,” but many did. I believe it is very important that we enter the present debate from a standpoint of reason. As Christians, we must believe the Word of God is the basis of true wisdom; then enter the greater society with an offer of reason, based on our desire to help people find the best life has to offer. As a minister of God, I don’t want to impose rules on people; I want to share with them what I have found about the Word of God. God’s Word provides the fulfilled life. Who would know more about mankind than the One who created us?
We are establishing a college at our church called Beecher Institute. It is named after Lyman Beecher, a man who had a great impact on America. A major issue for our country during that time was the abuse of alcohol. Drunkenness was a scourge destroying our nation. Beecher founded the temperance movement. One didn’t need to be a Christian to see the wisdom of this movement, nor the positive impact it would have on our society. The temperance movement, although controversial, is credited with lowering alcohol consumption by 50%. American society certainly benefited from this movement. Some would argue the ultimate impact of prohibition, but it certainly was a powerfully positive force initially. Beecher’s children, one being Harriet Beecher Stowe, had a great influence in abolitionist movement. Her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, influenced many people by giving them a compassion for the slaves. The problem with the movement to free the slaves was that a lot of Christians used the Bible to enforce their beliefs in favor of society. Certainly, even Christians can have a wide range of opinions on their place in society as a whole. What I am advocating for the Church is that we follow the advice of Jesus Christ.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16