Questions Listed Under Social issues

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  • Why is it that I have noticed that conservative Christians seem to hide within the 4 walls of the church and rarely attend
    a political meeting or keep themselves informed as of what is going on?

    I notice that they accept everything the news media, TV, Voters pamphlet says about a person or issue instead of becoming a part of their community, pro-life groups, helping a political groups, or going to hear a person who is running for office etc. etc. It is like they seem to either ignore what is going on around them, or act like it is a sin. I feel like I am
    the only one in my church who makes an effort to attend.

    Remember, Moses, Joseph, David, Paul, Peter, and many more stood up for their faith.....they didn't hide in the churches. We need to be aware what is going on in our country.....just as we need to be aware of what cults teach so we can be ready to give an answer to everyone an answer. I also believe pastors shouldn't be afraid to speak on present day topics...not just Old Testament. They should combine Old Testament and New Testament with current affairs.....not just hide in the churches.

    I imagine much of what you wrote depends upon a person’s perspective and circumstances.  I am personally aware of many individuals in our church body who keep informed of political and legislative matters, voice their opinions and take their civic responsibilities seriously.  From the preaching that I hear—and in which I personally take part—there is application from the Bible to current affairs delivered from our pulpits.

    Your observations and concerns, which I do not discount or dismiss, can serve as an encouragement for Christians to remember and follow God’s instructions regarding their responsibilities toward government (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-2) and to be salt and light in life (Matthew 5:13-16).

    Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.

  • I have been following some of the LGBT debates and things seem to be increasingly getting worse for those who are not LGBT.
    The debates and consequent actions are increasingly getting serious with the LGBT community being called Fascists etc.due to more and more people being taken to court and/or losing their jobs simply because they don't agree with the LGBT lifestyle. I don't like the idea of being forced to go against my conscience therefore I don't like what the LGBT community is doing to Christians. I don't think we should be forced to be silent or forced to go against conscience or forced to lose our jobs. That does seem Fascist to me. I don't know if the entire LGBT community takes this stance or if it is a minority within the LGBT community. I believe the LGBT lifestyle is a sin and the unrepentant will not inherit the kingdom of God. I believe that we ought to treat the LGBT community with love and respect despite their lifestyle and unrepentance. I believe that Christians should take a loving stand in favor of supporting the true definition of marriage and also sharing the law & gospel with the LGBT community. Please correct me on any of those things if I am taking the wrong position.
    Thinking of Jesus' words to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, what I don't understand is should we be forcing the LGBT community to face similar consequences by making laws against homosexuality? If we don't like them forcing us to do things we don't want to do, how can we force them? I am really struggling with this issue and it is causing family issues, not because anyone in my family is gay but because they support the LGBT community because they think we are all intolerant hate filled bigots. Please help me get my thinking on track.

    It appears to me that your thinking is on track.  Our starting point is that Scripture is true in all that it says.  John 10:35 – “Scripture cannot be broken.”  John 17:7 – “Your word is truth.”  When the Bible labels homosexuality as sin (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10), that is the case.  Impenitence over sin, including homosexuality, is what bars people from the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

    If we acknowledge that the Bible’s message is true, if we recognize the seriousness of sin and impenitence, if we care about other people, if we confess that there is forgiveness of sins only through Jesus Christ, why would we not speak out about the sin of homosexuality?  Your comments pointed out one (wrong) answer.  Keeping quiet helps to control the amount of flak we get from others in life.  But is that a valid reason to keep quiet?  Of course not.  Is it our goal to go through life with as few difficulties connected to the Christian faith as possible?  No.

    We recognize that the Christian cross is anything we suffer as a result of our faith, our connection to Jesus Christ.  The troubles, like name calling, that we may face because of our Christian witness regarding the sin of homosexuality is a cross, and what are we to do with such a cross?  Jesus said we are to take up our cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23).

    You wondered about “doing to others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12) with this subject matter.  With our Christian testimony about the sin of homosexuality, we are approaching people sincerely, lovingly, openly, and seeking their spiritual good.  That is certainly how I would want others to treat me.  If my approach toward others who are caught in sin is one of tolerance as it is defined today—meaning that everyone’s opinion is right and valid, and no one is wrong—then I am not helping them in any way.  I am simply looking the other way as they head down a path that leads to destruction.

    Scripture labels the last days in which we are living as “terrible times” (2 Timothy 3:1).  Our day and age can take on that descriptor partly because of the “in your face” attitude that emboldened sinners display in life (2 Timothy 3:2-5).  That attitude, along with the world’s growing acceptance of sinful lifestyles and the distortion of marriage, can lull us into spiritual complacency if we are not careful. 

    So what do we do?  What can we do?  We can continue to speak openly, sincerely and lovingly to others about the truths of Scripture.  We can point unashamedly to God’s law.  We can direct people to the gospel and the forgiveness of sins that all people can enjoy through faith in Jesus Christ.  May God give you strength to continue to do that.

    Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.
     
     


  • I am looking towards Alcoholics Anonymous to help overcome a drinking problem. What is your opinion on AA? Would it be beneficial for a Christian to go to this group or not? Thank you

    As a church body, we have concerns about the religious aspects of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).  In step number 2 of The Twelve Steps, there is acknowledgement of a “Power greater than ourselves.”  Participants in AA are free to define who or what that Power is. 

    In step number 3 there is reference to “God as we understood him.”  Participants in AA are free to define God however they understand him.

    Step number 11 uses the same wording:  “God, as we understood him.”  Once again, participants in AA are free to understand God however they like.

    As Christians, we know that understanding God is not like selecting an answer for a multiple choice question where all the choices are equally valid.   In the Bible God explains clearly who he is.  He is a Triune God:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  AA certainly fails to provide clear testimony to the truth of God’s Word.  And while AA provides opportunities for Christians to state their beliefs, circumstances can be such where Christian witness is absent much more than present.

    Joint prayer at AA meetings is another concern.  Scripture directs us to refrain from activities like prayer when we are with others who do not share a common belief (Romans 16:17).

    In light of all this, WELS members have been able to participate in AA by not taking part in joint prayer.  In addition, they have recognized the concerns in the three steps mentioned previously and have not, by their words and actions, endorsed the idea that people may define God however they want.

    No doubt you can see that we need to be cautious if we are considering utilizing AA.  Unlike the Scouting movement or lodges that require participation in their religious elements, AA does not demand that Christians compromise their faith.  They provide opportunities to do so, but Christians need to turn down those opportunities.  If you utilize AA, it would be good to debrief with your pastor, as you can, to steer clear of any issues that might impact your faith negatively.

    Finally, be aware that WLCFS-Christian Family Solutions is able to provide the services you need without the concerns of AA that have been mentioned.  That would be my first recommendation to you.  God bless your efforts in overcoming this issue in your life.

    Answered by James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Pope is a contributing editor to Forward in Christ magazine. He writes the monthly “Light for our path” question and answer column.


      

  • Capital Punishment: a right or a duty of the government?


    Governments establish laws on the basis of the natural knowledge of the law and reason.  When governments conclude that capital punishment is the penalty for certain crimes, they are exercising a right that God grants them (Romans 13:4).  Governments have a duty and responsibility to maintain order in society. 

  • I have several current, and past co-workers of both genders that are homosexual. I try very hard not to become close with many of them because of this fact. However, some I become friends with, as I find them to be hard working and trustworthy people. Our work situation doesn't allow for a lot of religious discussions, but when it does, the homosexual person will ask about where to go to church. Some co-workers will say "oh come to my church, we accept everyone" or "try this (enter name of church here) church". How do I approach this. And is it wrong of me to be a friend? I so badly want to say you need to pray and ask for God's forgiveness but in today's workplace, this isn't an acceptable thing to do. (Or it seems)

    Thank you for your sharing your concerns and questions.  You want to do what is right, and I commend you for that.

    For starters, it is not wrong for you to be friends with homosexuals.  You, after all, might be one of their few friends who can share with them the truth of God's Word regarding sexuality.  It is not a problem to be friends with homosexuals.  It is a problem if concern for your friendship leads you to be silent about the very matters those friends need to be hearing.  Remaining silent could send the signal that you approve of your friends' homosexuality.

    So what can you share with your homosexual friends?  You can explain that  your church teaches the truth of God's word.  That truth means that all people are sinners who rightly deserve punishment from God.  Homosexual behavior is one of many sins that condemn people.  That truth means that God is gracious and forgives sinners through Jesus Christ his Son.  That truth means that forgiven children of God distance themselves from sin as best they can through the power that God provides through the gospel. 

    By cultivating friendships with homosexual workers, you will, potentially, gain trust to speak the truth in love regarding their particular sin.  And rather than just talking to them, do listen to them.  Ask them questions.  Ask them questions about the Bible.  What do they know about the Bible's teachings regarding sin and forgiveness?  Their answers will very likely open the door for you to relay truths from the Bible.  Ask your pastor for more guidance.  Also, check out this website of a WELS member:  http://www.poglutherans.org/   Click on "Resources" for some witnessing ideas.

    And, finally, have these conversations with your homosexual friends outside the workplace.  We live in a very litigious society.  God bless you in your Christian witness.

  • May a Christian fight in a war?

    Moses, Joshua, and David all led God's people Israel in war according to God's command. In the New Testament when John the Baptist told the people to bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance, he was asked by some Roman soldiers what they should do. John didn't tell them that they could no longer be soldiers. He told them, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay" (Luke 3:14).

    The Lutheran Augsburg Confession puts it this way: "Our churches teach that lawful civil ordinances are good works of God and that it is right for Christians to hold civil office, to sit as judges, to decide matters by the imperial and other existing laws, to award just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to swear oaths when required by magistrates, to marry, to be given in marriage" (Augsburg Confession, XVI:1,2).

  • Are homosexuals accepted in WELS?

    It depends on what the question implies. Could a church member experience homosexual feelings or temptation? The answer is yes. Our society loves to debate whether an inclination toward homosexuality is due to hereditary or environmental factors, but this is utterly beside the point. The devil, the world, and our inherited sinful nature assault each one of us in different ways. One believer struggles with gambling, another with alcohol, another with a quick temper, another with indifference toward those in need, etc. The fact that a person experiences temptation in one form and not in another does not put him or her out of the kingdom of God.

    Is it possible for a church member to stumble and fall into the sin of homosexuality? The answer again is yes. Scripture does not classify sinful actions into "sins that believers commit" and "sins that only unbelievers commit." The fact that someone sinned sexually with a person of the same gender does not, all by itself, mean that the person isn't a believer, any more than would an act of heterosexual immorality, drunkenness, reckless driving, or cheating on one's taxes.

    Can a person remain a practicing homosexual in defiance of God's Word and also be a believing member of the church? The answer is no. Believers agree that what God calls "sin" is sin. They turn from their sin, receive God's forgiveness, and battle against the sin in their lives with the help of God's Holy Spirit.

    1 Corinthians 6:9,10 are perhaps the key passages on this subject in Scripture. First, note that it includes homosexuality in a catalogue of other sins, with no indication that it is any worse (or any less bad) than greed, slander, or cheating someone. Then, speaking to Christians, Paul says, "That is what some of you were" (1 Corinthians 6:11). The past tense is significant.

  • What does the Bible teach about dissent or protests against authorities if official policies and practices go against the Bible? Should we be good patriots, vote, go to war for our country, and go along with all policies?

    On the one hand the Bible clearly instructs us to respect and obey civil authorities as representatives of God in our lives. Read and ponder Romans 13:1-7 and parallel passages on this subject. Do this remembering that the authorities Paul was referring to in his letter to the Romans were among the more godless in history, including people like the Emperor Nero.

    On the other hand, the Bible makes it equally clear that when we are specifically told to do something that is contrary to God's revealed will for us, we are to respectfully disobey. Read Acts 5:29 for the principle stated and review the events that are recorded in that context. Our highest allegiance and obedience is always to God, and when necessary we may become "conscientious objectors" to civil authorities on certain issues, namely if we are commanded to disobey God's will as our consciences understand God's will. This can result in suffering civil punishments as the (erring) civil authorities have the right to inflict. (Recall how most of the apostles died—as victims of civil authorities who were using their power in misguided ways.)

    In applying these principles, attention needs to be given to each situation and circumstance one at a time. Sweeping statements in application are not helpful or wise when dealing with the many diverse questions and challenges confronting a Christian citizen in a pluralistic country like the United States. Better to get firmly grounded on the principles, examine thoroughly the situation in mind, and then make a responsible decision.

    I recommend a thorough review of Bible teachings regarding the role (and limitations) of civil government and citizens, through materials like God's Other Kingdom, available through Northwestern Publishing House.

  • How should Christians respond to those who condemn us as "haters" when we profess what the Bible says about the sin of homosexuality?

    When love is such a central part of our convictions, it is disheartening to be so regularly accused of being haters. Yet this happens a lot. Whether the accusation is leveled against us because of misunderstanding, ignorance, as malicious slander, or as a retort to our inadequate professions of faith, we owe people a response.

    Start with self-examination. The fact that many in our culture have negative impressions of conservative Christians has, in part, been linked to inadequate attitudes or statements by Christians. Is our primary focus on lifestyle and "sin-management" as the core measurement of spirituality? Is "trying hard to do what God commands" what others are led to see as the heart of our religion? Do we too often live for mutual approval within our own ranks while decrying the sins of others that we appear to have forgotten about grace? Have we allowed being anti-gay or anti-abortion, etc., to be seen as a kind of spiritual "badge of honor" or "credential" of vibrant Christianity rather than understood as a fruit derived from a Christ-centered and grace-dominated faith?  

    The preceding questions are not charges, but invitations for self-appraisal. Sometimes a damaged reputation is partially self-inflicted.

    Have reasonable expectations. True Christianity is always counter-cultural. "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world . . . That is why the world hates you" (John 15:18,19). Many who charge us with hatred are biased and not interested in what we really want or why. They have (correctly) determined that conservative Christians will never accept or tolerate their principles or lifestyle patterns, so they fiercely oppose us through the media, ill-defined "hate crimes" legislation, or whatever means at their disposal. Bottom line: "Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you . . . If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name" (1 Peter 4:12-16).

    This counsel does not solve the problem but puts it into a healthy perspective.  

    Maintain biblical balance. A major ongoing challenge is keeping our biblical convictions and biblical compassion in balance as we reach out to others. God-given convictions are not negotiable. But we are also not interested in sharing the truth in ways that unnecessarily invite ridicule or caricature. Humble compassion and Christlike sympathy remain important. To quote the old adage: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." While testifying to truth, our tone of voice and facial expression are maybe more important than we think.

    Maintaining balance in our speech patterns is invariably linked to inner spiritual strength. Are we still amazed at and captivated by God's grace for us sinners? Do we actively pray for those whose brand of sin disgusts us or who maliciously slander us? Are we willing to put ourselves and reputations at risk by seeking discussions with opponents to try to tear down stereotypes and erase misconceptions about our Lord and his people?

    Our answers to these kinds of questions will reflect our relationship with Christ more than anything else. "When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree . . . " (1 Peter 2:23ff). Let us respond to hate—and accusations of hatred—with love flowing from God in Christ.

  • In a society that stresses equality between men and women, why do most confessional Lutherans and other conservative churches choose to limit leadership and authority roles in congregations to men?

    We do believe and teach that men and women enjoy equal status and importance before God. Both men and women were created in the perfect holiness of the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Although that was lost in the fall into sin when as both men and women we became equally sinful before God (Romans 3:23), yet in Christ's life, death, and resurrection for us God has restored to us our position as his justified and holy children (Romans 3:24). As far as our status and importance before him as dearly loved children and heirs of heaven, whether we are female or male makes absolutely no difference (Galatians 3:26-29).

    However, Scripture is also clear that while we are equal in status and importance before him, God has not made us duplicates or clones of each other in how we carry out our various God-given callings. Already in the perfection of the Garden of Eden he assigned unique callings or roles to the man and the woman when God made her to be helper suitable for the man and created her right from the man (Genesis 2:18ff). God gave to the man the unique calling of being a loving head and to his wife the unique calling of being a loving helper to him. In the New Testament, the inspired Apostle Paul assures us that these unique callings were indeed found already in the perfection of Eden when he writes, "Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Corinthians 11:3). Later Paul reminds us that what we read in Genesis 2 is indeed where this was established when he says, "For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman but woman for man" (1 Corinthians 11:8-9).

    While man's headship is intended by God to be lived out in loving servant humility like Christ for us (Ephesians 5:25), yet headship also includes the God-given authority to lead (Hebrews 13:17). That is why one part of the unique calling of helper is to respect and yield (submit) to that leadership (Ephesians 5:22). 

    In the church, one of the places that those charged with leadership in our congregations exercise such authority is in the voters' assembly. There those charged with setting the direction of the congregation set that path in the debate and voting that takes place. Just as Paul reminds us that teaching the Word with authority is an expression of the headship principle (1 Timothy 2:12), so also it is an exercise of authority when the governing bodies of our congregations set the direction for that congregation.

    Of course, wise heads know that God has given them helpers for a reason. The wisdom and insights, the questions and concerns of everyone in the congregation, men and women, are important. Especially when a woman may have no husband in her home, it is very important that the congregation look for ways to gain her input.

    Does WELS stand out as different among other Lutheran church bodies in so honoring the principle of head and helper? Yes. But does that mean we are closed minded and old fashioned, or does that mean others have been more affected by the culture around them than they may know? The question is never what the culture demands, but what the Scriptures teach.

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