We were recently in Hawaii and revisited the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. To this day, oil seeps from the wreckage of the USS Arizona and floats on the water above. It is profoundly moving because so many American soldiers remain buried below.
It’s important to honor those who sacrificed their lives for this nation. We should. But, it’s even more important to honor the One who sacrificed himself for every human soul in the world.
I love my country, but I am called to worship the Lord.
A PARABLE FOR TODAY
I stood above the sunken USS Arizona, moved by the memorial message from the guide. I looked at the oil stains on the surface of the water and thought it was a parable for our Christian faith. Thirty or forty years ago, pastors were encouraged to make their churches more “seeker-friendly.” Churches changed their priorities by changing the music, the dress codes, and often the sermon topics.
Now, thirty years later, has the culture benefitted from those changes?
Did the changes make it easier for non-Christians to enter, or make it easier for Christians to leave unchanged?
Often, we try to mix faith with our culture. But oil and water naturally separate. The word holy literally means “to be separate, set apart.” Do your values seem increasingly different from the world’s? Good! Then you are likely obeying Christ’s command to be in the world but not of it.
Oil floats above the memorial, but, even after all of these years, it remains separate from the surrounding waters.
THE KENNEDY CENTER HONORS
Our culture is good about lauding those who entertain us. I watched some of the Kennedy Center Honors on television. I only watched a small portion of the program. I like Garth Brooks, and I enjoyed watching those who honored him.
But, there was a LOT of the program I found distasteful. I can’t honor a lot of what is happening in our culture today. It seems like our culture is increasingly drawn to appreciate and accept thoughts and ideas the Bible rejects. But, I also have to remember what Jesus taught. Jesus said that if you love him, you will “feed my sheep” (John 21:17).
How do we honor the Lord’s sacrifice in a culture that labels our faith narrow-minded or prejudiced?
The answer: we feed his sheep.
OUR PRIORITY IS GOD’S PROMISE
I’ve not enjoyed June very much and it’s not because of all the rain. In fact, I’ve thought several times that the clouds are like God’s commentary on what our culture is honoring this month. I’m getting very tired of the little rainbow symbols that are attached to the different emails in my inbox. I just hit delete and move on.
For me, the rainbow will always be a symbol of God’s promise to redeem the world. I’m saddened it is now used as a symbol for perverse behaviors. I can’t encourage people to think a lifestyle the Bible calls “detestable” is acceptable. I don’t “hate” them as some might accuse. In fact, it’s the opposite. I truly want God’s best for them. I want their lives to have his eternal blessings.
All of us sin, and all of us try to explain, justify, or describe our sins as “normal.” But, we should be very careful not to “honor” sin or teach it as acceptable. Our sins cost God an unspeakable sacrifice: Jesus. If we say sin is “okay,” then we’ve just said, “Jesus didn’t really need to die.” I think most of the time we accept sin because we don’t care, not because we do.
I’ve heard people say things like, “It’s my life,” “I’m free to be who I want to be,” or “You can’t tell me what to believe.” And those people are right. It is their life; God gave it to them. They are free to make their choices because God created them with the freedom to choose. And, I shouldn’t force anyone to agree with my preferences; God has always made certain we could know his. And God’s preferences for our lives should be our highest priorities.
God didn’t leave us alone to make random, personal choices. He gave us guidance, answers, solutions, forgiveness, grace, and his “one and only Son” (John 3:16). Our priority isn’t to help people enjoy their earthly lives, living any way they choose. Our priority is to love God and honor his word, by walking in the truth. We are called to live with biblical priorities.
Jesus said, if you love him, “feed my sheep” (John 21:17). The question for today is this: What are we feeding those around us?
SPEAKING TRUTH IN LOVE
How do we honor the Lord’s sacrifice in a culture that increasingly ignores the Savior?
The answer is for God’s people to love others so much that we want them to live sanctified, eternal lives.
- Love people enough to want their salvation.
- Value their eternal lives more than their temporary lives on earth.
- Teach God’s truth with love. We aren’t imposing our personal truth; we are offering God’s perfect truth.
- Live with bold, compassionate confidence that Jesus is Lord.
- Refuse to accept a sinful choice as a “personal preference.” People deserve to know how to be right with God and others. If necessary, love them enough to let them hate you. That is the sacrifice Christ made for each of us.
OIL AND LIVING WATER
Oil has been floating to the water above the USS Arizona for many years. If it was going to mix with the water, it would have by now. But, we know it never will. The stain serves as a strong reminder that people died in that place, sacrificing themselves for our country.
Let the “rainbow” messages in your inbox this month remind you that Christ died for everyone. Sin and faith don’t mix eternally and can’t mix now. Thankfully, the biblical meaning of the rainbow still holds. God provided redemption for sin. But, people need to choose their redemption in Christ. Our job is to teach them how.
OUR PRIORITIES ARE OUR CHOICES
Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, a woman living in sexual sin. He offered her the chance to drink from the living water and never thirst again. She was saved that day and changed. She chose to believe Christ, and she chose to go back to her home and live differently.
The Samaritan woman went back to her village and told others how to find Jesus. Scripture says, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word” (John 4:39–41).
Our Christian priority isn’t to accept sin; it is to help people separate from it. We can offer them a better way to live on earth and the promise of eternity. But knowing that is a priority isn’t the same thing as living with that priority.
Will we love people enough to let them hate us?
Will we care enough to offer them truth?
Everyone has choices.
Our priority is to be in the world but not of it.
Oil and water naturally separate. God made them to do just that.