A few years ago, I had the privilege of attending a pastor's luncheon at Focus On The Family with guest speaker, Alistair Begg. I jumped at this opportunity and thoroughly enjoyed my time listening to Pastor Begg rightly divide the Word of God and encourage us pastors with the importance of faithfulness to God and to His Word.
Recently Pastor Begg has fallen under criticism for his latest comments and the American Family Association has chosen to remove his programme, "Truth For Life" from their programming due to Pastor Begg's advice regarding the attendance of a Christian at a same-sex ceremony.
Pastor Begg believes that if the person you are supporting knows you don't approve, it is okay to attend and "bring a gift". Here is an excerpt from the embroiled issue from Pastor Begg:
"We field questions all the time that go along the lines of, 'My grandson is about to be married to a transgender person, and I don't know what to do' which is a huge responsibility," Begg said.
"And in a conversation like that just a few days ago — and people may not like this answer — but I asked the grandmother, 'Does your grandson understand your belief in Jesus?' 'Yes.' 'Does your grandson understand that your belief in Jesus makes it such that you can't countenance in any affirming way the choices that he has made in life?' 'Yes.'
"I said, 'Well then, OK. As long as he knows that, then I suggest that you do go to the ceremony. And I suggest that you buy them a gift.'"
Begg went on to explain that Christians not attending such a ceremony could reinforce "judgmental" stereotypes the culture holds about the Church.
"I said, 'Well, here's the thing: your love for them may catch them off guard, but your absence will simply reinforce the fact that they said, 'These people are what I always thought: judgmental, critical, unprepared to countenance anything.'
"And it is a fine line, isn't it? It really is."
Well, let's break down Pastor Begg's comments from a definition of countenance point of view and then a biblical point of view.
The internet's universal definition of countenance is: "If someone will not countenance something, they do not agree with it and will not allow it to happen."
It appears Begg's advice goes against the universal definition of "countenance." If you disagree with something you are to not only disagree with it, but not allow it to happen, meaning in this case at the least, don't attend and certainly don't take a gift!
As Christians, when we engage in a formal ceremony with our faces turned toward the "altar" of this ceremony, we are giving credence and approval to the ceremony we are attending and anything beyond this is a representation of approval.
Marriage is primarily a symbol of Jesus' relationship to us the church (Ephesians 5). Jesus' first miracle was at a wedding. Marriage is the centerpiece relationship of God's created world. Adam and Eve were not just the first humans, they were also the first male and female to be married, and the first two to give us the example we are to follow as a society.
Outside of your relationship with Jesus Christ, there is no more important relationship in human society. Once it is removed, tampered with, or redefined, as Romans 1 tells us, this is the beginning of the end. Once this occurs God eventually turns us over to a series of unfortunate realities that produce greater and greater self-destruction.
Now I understand the reality that we don't want to be "perceived" as judgemental and we want to show "love" to our loved ones, me too. Yet the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13, the great chapter on love, that love in verse 6 "does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth." In other words, God's love has its limits. A same-sex or transgender ceremony is not God's design, meaning it is evil. It is sin.
God's love requires us not to go to a same-sex or transgender ceremony. And if we go, we are functioning outside of God's love and delighting in evil and the "taking of a gift" becomes the celebration or rejoicing against truth. God requires our love not to delight in evil and not to rejoice in untruth. We have a responsibility to our loved ones to turn our countenance from them because we love them.
It is shocking to me that Pastor Begg would give such advice with no biblical backing when his own life and ministry has been centered around this approach. The moment Scripture is not our primary means of informing how we engage the relationships of our lives, it is the moment when everything becomes grey.
If I apply Pastor Begg's approach to my life then I am obliged to engage all relationships of my life this way, thus if someone needs an abortion I don't agree with, but a ride to the clinic, then I drive them and show "love" to them. If someone wants to destroy their life through drug usage, but I don't agree, I give them a place to live while they use their resources to destroy their life, but I "love" them regardless.
Sometimes love requires you to choose Jesus over the human relationships of your life when their choices go against the life Jesus has called us to live. Jesus spoke of this in Luke 14:26, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."
The choice is yours: do you want to be 'perceived' as non-judgemental by the human relationships of your life or do you want to be known as a disciple of Jesus? The choice is yours in this. Pastor Begg was right when he said, "we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling."
God's love requires we choose wisely!