/ James Faris

Indiana's Opportunity

Those of us living in Indiana live at a rare juncture in history. We made big news a month ago with our Religious Freedom and Restoration Act in the statehouse. The waters have calmed for now, and many people wish the whole episode would just disappear. Maybe the whole attempt to pass the RFRA was unwise on the part of the Christians who authored the bill. Whether it was or was not, proponents of LBGT rights have promised to press for more comprehensive protections in next year’s general assembly. Rare is the occasion when a people have the promise of a spotlight and the opportunity to prepare for eight months before taking the stage.

Fellow Hoosiers of various persuasions should take time to serious think through the possibilities and implications that are before us. Whether you are convinced that your side will win or lose the political contest, you will have many open doors for discussion if you live here that could powerfully impact our lives and the lives of those around us. Rather than run from the discussion, let’s embrace the opportunity set before us.

Marvin Olasky has long argued that Bible-believing Christians today are less like the ancient Jews in the Promised Land and are more like the Jews in their years of Babylonian captivity. Though the parallels are certainly not perfect, one might compare the recent RFRA bill sponsored by dedicated Christians to a request made by the prophet Daniel and his friends as they entered the service of the king of Babylon. Daniel and his companions asked, in essence, that their conscientious objections be honored and that they not be forced to eat the meat served at the king’s table and thereby be defiled (Daniel 1:8). Their request was honored by their overseer, they ate vegetables, and God blessed their stand to his glory. In our case, Christian legislators asked for a legal framework to be established in order to consider conscientious concerns of religious people when conflicts arise. The answer in this case was a resounding “NO!” at least with regard to certain matters of conscience.

Will Christians in our state actually be required to act contrary to their convictions? We seem to be moving quickly in that direction. However, we know that back in Babylon, after Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were granted a conscientious exception with regard to meats and veggies, they were soon required to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. They refused to bow because they could not serve a false God, disobey the living God, and violate their consciences. They spoke these famous words to Nebuchadnezzar, “Our God whom we serve in able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18). They stood for truth again, only this time, they were thrown into a fiery furnace, and God was glorified through that experience too.

Living in Babylon can be hard for Christians. Answers to pressing matters are not always easy. Demonstrating that we hold our convictions because we want to see even those who disagree with us prosper in God's design is a great challenge. Still, opportunities abound for personal growth, to speak the truth in love, and to love our neighbors and contribute to human flourishing in the land.

In Indiana next year, it seems likely that whatever bill or bills are submitted to advance the LBGT cause will be designed to put Christian legislators on the spot. Vote one way and go along, vote the other way and be labeled a bigot – and perhaps lose your seat in office, or maybe even your business. The pressure will be very real, and sometimes the answers are not always as simple as “yes” or “no.” You should pray for brothers and sisters in the Lord who find themselves in such positions of leadership.

But, let us not overlook the fact that as the LGBT movement seeks to extend its reach, there will be hard questions that supporters should be and may be asking as well. Many Christians will probably support the bill. You should pray for these as well and help them ask the appropriate questions.

Those of us who take the Bible seriously recognize that our culture is probably not going to rapidly embrace biblical views of homosexuality. The political tides will not likely change next year. Yet, even if God does not transform our culture with wholesale revival, we know that he will transform us as we seek his face. When he puts his people in a place where they have opportunity to speak, they must ask the question Mordecai asked Esther as she had opportunity to speak to the king of Persia with little hope of being heard “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). As she prepared to speak and went to speak to the king, God’s people prepared through fasting and prayer. That seems like a good model for us, especially in a time when we do not have all the answers, nor can we pretend to have all of the right words to speak.

Within our state, people will have many opportunities to speak to friends and neighbors, and some will have opportunities to speak in places of greater influence. Christians have a remarkable opportunity to show the love of Christ and to see grace abound. We would all be wise to pray fervently and to be ready with good questions and answers in order to serve the Lord well and seek the good of the land in which we live. So let's humbly get ready.

As Kevin DeYoung has recently written in What Does The Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?:

Now is not the time for fuzzy thinking. Now is not the time to shy away from careful definitions. Now is not the time to let moods substitute for logic. These are difficult issues. These are personal issues. We cannot chart our ethical course by what feels better. We cannot build our theology based on what makes us look nicer. We can’t abdicate intellectual responsibility because smart people disagree. And we certainly cannot keep our Bibles closed.

James Faris

James Faris

Child of God. Husband to Elizabeth. Father of six. Pastor of Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. Ordained as a pastor in 2003.

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