Last week I received an email from a prominent evangelical Christian organization with the subject line, “A Win!” The email began: “A few days ago, President Trump announced that he has banned transgendered individuals from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. President Trump demonstrated courage and rescinded President Obama’s transgender policy in the military. What a relief!”
I’m not a liberal, pro-LGBT advocate. I’m a conservative, evangelical Christian who is actually the senior pastor of a fairly large church in Pennsylvania. But I’m still reeling from last week, peeved and grieved about two things: how the president is handling the transgender military issue, and how many conservative, evangelical Christians are celebrating. I know there are many English translations of the Bible available today, including the KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV and more – but it seems that the hands-down favorite of many of too many conservative, evangelical Christians has become the RSV – the Reversed Standard Version. I’m afraid many of us have reversed what the Bible teaches, and someone on the inside needs to say so loud and clear.
There is nothing courageous, humble or gracious about the behavior of our president or many conservative, evangelicals these days – and it frightens me big time. If it were possible, I think it would frighten Jesus.
Many Christians are preaching grace and mercy and we’re very good at saying folks don’t need to get their acts together before coming to Christ as Savior – but our treatment of the lost contradicts our confession.
Many Christians are preaching grace and mercy and we’re very good at saying folks don’t need to get their acts together before coming to Christ as Savior – but our treatment of the lost contradicts our confession. We don’t own the message we’re preaching. Compassion? Love? Are you kidding me? We’re very angry at sinners. It’s obvious – and it’s twisted.
We wonder why people are turned off by Christianity. I have news for us: it’s not Jesus who is offending people much these days. It’s us, his followers. I fear that a large sector of Christianity in America needs to get saved all over again, and I say that with tears, fear and a good deal of trembling.
In the past four years, five well-known American pastors from mega-churches either fell from grace or were disgraced by unethical practices that should have had conservative evangelicals up in arms (and I’m not talking about worshipping on a Sunday morning).
One pastor bought his own books in an attempt to become a New York Times bestselling author.
Another built a 16,000 square foot home (don’t worry, only 8,000sf was “livable space,” he explained), while his church promoted “spontaneous” baptisms that turned out to involve a good deal of planned psychological manipulation to solicit audience participation.
Drinking and anger issues cost another his church and marriage.
The fifth resigned suddenly and walked away – and within six months, his wife filed for divorce. His pièce de résistance was that he assumed leadership of a church consulting company within weeks of resigning. In other words, he wants other church leaders to follow his example. Lord, save us.
Where were the conservative evangelical Christians during these high-profile meltdowns? I don’t know, but one thing is certain: we didn’t hear nearly as much from them as we did about the president’s transgender military move.
The recent release of a photo showing a select group of Christian leaders praying for and laying hands on President Trump is something I would expect to see from Pharisees, not pastors – unless, of course, there is a parallel. (Remember, the Pharisees were among Jesus’ staunchest enemies).
I’m a huge advocate for praying for our president. Love him or hate him, he and our nation need a lot of prayer. But we’re supposed to be doing our acts of righteousness in private, not use them as a public relations tool to garner more name recognition.
I get it: the military exists to destroy the enemy. Accordingly, it must have standards that potential recruits must meet in order to achieve its objectives. That’s common sense. And, I agree that the military should not pay for gender reassignment surgeries. But, can we learn how to express ourselves with compassion for people who, in many instances, would love to have their sexuality as settled as the majority of Americans? Must we bludgeon people in our disagreement? Is that what Jesus did?
Sin is bad, and people definitely need to repent before they can follow Jesus. I’m not disregarding that essential part of the gospel. What concerns me is that many conservative evangelicals have perverted the gospel and don’t seem to realize it. We want people to be perfect before they come to know Christ, and neither Jesus nor the gospel work that way.
At the very time when America needs humble courage, aloof arrogance is running amok.
I think it’s time we put down the false RSV Bible and start reading one of the real translations.
It’s not possible to follow Jesus otherwise.
Michael Anthony is lead pastor of Grace Fellowship of York, Pa (www.GraceYork.com), founder of www.Godfactor.com and the National Week of Repentance (www.WeekOfRepentance.com), and author of the forthcoming book, A Call For Courage (www.CourageMatters.com).