Can Christians Handle the “Tough Truths” Taught in the Bible?
Jesus was teaching in the Synagogue at Capernaum one day when He said something that caused many of His “disciples” to leave because of how hard a saying it was. What kind of teaching could cause people previously devoted to Jesus to abandon Him? It was this:
“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6: 53-54)
After hearing these words many of the people following Jesus mumbled about it being a “hard saying,” and no longer followed Him. In other words, this “tough truth” revealed by the Son of God was too much to handle for some people.
We can discuss the theological implications of what Jesus said another time. Right now I’d like to talk about whether or not Christians are able to handle the “tough truths” taught in the Bible amidst a culture that seems to be increasingly immoral and perverse.
Bishop Thomas Olmstead, speaking at a conference in South America recently, made this statement:
“Popular culture has been badly distorted by a steady diet of false images of femininity and masculinity, reaching its most grotesque form in pornography, but seen also in the promotion of so-called ‘homosexual marriage. Who else but the Church is in a position to build a culture of chastity, a culture of sexual integrity? … What is needed even more than vigilance is Christian confidence that it is possible to live a chaste life, that fidelity to married vows is within reach, that it is possible to escape from a life of promiscuity and addictive pornography with the help of God’s grace.”
Though the bishop’s statement is directed toward Catholics it could easily be aimed at people of every denomination. As culture swerves away from anything traditional or moral, doubt has crept into the minds and hearts of those who claim the name of Christ. It almost seems to be that same doubt used by Satan in the Garden of Eden to deceive Adam and Eve and cause them to sin. Satan caused Eve to doubt God’s words, and then to add to God’s words, and ultimately to ignore God’s words and do what she wanted.
The same pattern is taking place in our society today and yet it is a tactic as old as time itself. Christians are sitting in churches week after week skeptical of the words being taught. They wonder inwardly if the preacher knows what he is talking about and if that’s the “original meaning” of the text. Now, I am all for exegetical study and going back to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek definitions of the words of Scripture. But the skepticism and doubt that seems to have taken root in our churches goes beyond wanting to be clear about the meaning of the text; it’s the doubt of agnosticism.
Consequently, when the pastor teaches biblical truth on sexuality, such as co-habitation is wrong (Heb. 13:4), adultery is wrong (Matt. 5:27-28), pornography is wrong (Matt. 5:28), the homosexual lifestyle is wrong (Rom. 1:26-27), and the definition of marriage includes one man and one woman for one lifetime (Mark 10:6); many church members inwardly shake their head in doubt.
The sexual theme of our culture since the 1960’s has been “if it feels good, do it.” For those pushing the boundaries of morality there is no end in sight. Dr. Albert Mohler recently lamented that it doesn’t even seem possible to turn back from the sexually self-destructive path we are currently on:
“That is the sad truth. The culture of vulgarity is now driven by so many sectors of our society that it seems virtually impossible to reverse. Furthermore, it is profitable beyond the wildest dreams of those who peddled vulgarity before the invention of the Internet. A society that increasingly sees all sexual restraint as repression hardly intends to turn back.”
Why should we turn back? According to those who are driving the bus off the “sexually repressive” cliff there is nothing to lament. We are finally freeing ourselves to be the sexual creatures we were intended to be. And as humans are increasingly demeaned to even status with animals unable to control their sexual desires and urges, Christians are more often caught in the snares of sexual immorality.
According to an older Barna Resource Group report, a shocking number of those claiming to be “born-again” Christians hold to morals views that are clearly unbiblical:
49% of born-again Christians approve of co-habitation.
49% of born-again Christians approve of sexual fantasies.
35% of born-again Christians approve of adultery.
28% of born-again Christians approve of pornography.
That Barna report is ten years old. While we might be tempted to believe that things have gotten better, the clear evidence from looking around our society says otherwise. The question of whether or not Christians can handle the tough truths of Scripture becomes more pressing. The fact is, our society needs for Christians to not just handle, but to joyfully live out the truth of the Gospel. While society says “everyone’s doing it” so we might as well give in and indulge our desires, Christians ought to be the ones standing firm and refusing to accommodate a lost culture.
The words of Jesus should sting the heart of every believer. Are we ready to hear these “tough truths” from Scripture, along with others, and lay our views and opinions at the foot of the cross? Will we surrender our ideas to the truth set before us in God’s Word? Or will doubt and skepticism creep in and cause us to acquiesce to the shifting and arbitrary ideas of society?
Hopefully we that claim the name of Christ will answer these questions in the same way Peter did when asked by Jesus if he was offended by these “tough truths”:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:68-69)