“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Rom. 12:9).
Just recently, I heard of a politician in Canada who was working very hard at rousing public opinion to take a stand for traditional marriage. In the course of his labours, he noticed that the leadership of many churches in his riding were saying nothing. He thought carefully and then composed and sent a letter to the clergy, challenging them to take a public stand. How very ironic, if not tragic, that a secular politician should have had to challenge the moral gatekeepers of society to take a stand for truth and righteousness.
Canada is in the midst of a moral revolution – or better stated, an immoral revolution. Right and wrong are being turned on their heads by much of our society. Old values are being jettisoned as new ones take their place.
So why, in the midst of this moral ferment, are the shepherds largely silent?
Why, indeed, are pastors and priests mostly mute on prevailing and blatant sins like abortion and homosexuality, to name just a couple of examples? Frankly, I suspect there are several different factors, but I can deal with but one of the major ones at this time.
Someone has observed that pastors, by temperament, are usually sensitive people, and are often described as loving and compassionate. I think this is indeed the case, and in a right and godly way, such love is a great strength of their ministry. Tragically, one’s greatest strength can become a point of weakness. I think this has occurred in far too many cases.
What do I mean? Simply this: it is my observation that too many Christian leaders have been seduced by the false notion that in order to be loving, one cannot at the same time judge and condemn sin. For example, I recently heard a national Christian leader refer to the incident of the woman caught in adultery, as related in John’s gospel. He insisted that Jesus demonstrated love for this woman and did not condemn her. But that interpretation is plainly inadequate. While it is certainly true that Jesus did not allow her to be condemned to death, as was the custom, He plainly said to her, “Go and sin no more.” And by so doing, He judged her adultery and condemned it as wrong.
So, when pastors refuse to judge sin and refuse to call people to repentance, they effectively seek to be more “loving” and kind than Jesus was. But in point of fact, it is not loving in the least to leave a man or woman in their sin and not call them to repentance. It smacks much more of the gospel of “tolerance” than it does of the true gospel, which always heralds the message of repentance along with the offer of salvation. Indeed, it may well be that the missing doctrine of repentance in our age has led to a deficient notion of “love,” which in the end is not biblical love at all.
Some time ago, I heard a very competent pastor preach on the Seventh Commandment, “Thou shall not commit adultery.” It was not a bad sermon until the application. At that point, the young pastor wimped out so badly that the congregation was left with nothing to take home. He told me later, “I couldn’t bear to cause more pain to those spouses who have been victimized by adultery or to those who have committed it in the past.”
I understood what he was saying, but I believe he was desperately wrong. For while love and compassion for the sinner must always have its place, nonetheless, the clear call of righteousness and holiness must once more be sounded from pulpits. Herald them to be sure in love and with love. But an unbalanced focus on love must not be allowed to obscure other equally valid doctrines. All people urgently need to know God as both a God of love and a God of holiness who will judge sin.
The church crucially needs pastors and priests who love people and preach grace. But, an equally desperate need is for these same shepherds to sound the trumpet on the prevailing moral issues of our day.
May muted watchmen everywhere soon find trumpets, for speaking plainly in Canada is becoming dangerous. Speak then, silent shepherds. Speak now while you are able. Proclaim the full counsel of God today, for daylight fades, nightfall looms and freedom is waning.