No Room in the Inn

Source:  AAC Weekly Update

 

The following article by The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is from the December 20, 2013 edition of the AAC’s Weekly Email Update. Sign up for this free email.

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

 

“Mary gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.”  Luke 2:7 NIV

 

All over the world Christians are being marginalized, persecuted and martyred “because there is no room for them in the inn.” Consider this: Open Doors USA estimates that there are only 330,000 Christians left in Iraq, and they are not likely to celebrate Christmas in public because churches and worshippers have been targeted, bombed and killed. Many have fled Iraq – the fourth most persecuting country, behind North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan – because of the extreme violence and persecution. They are staying home because they are afraid.  There is no room for them in the inn.

 

Increasingly, among an estimated 130 of the 193 nations on this planet, there is no room for Christians in the public square to express our views on what is right and what is wrong, according to the Bible and natural law, without being marginalized, ostracized, vilified and even losing our jobs or other rights we would otherwise enjoy and exercise.  I remember facing this reality on a Sunday morning at Truro Church in Fairfax, VA years ago when a visiting Anglican bishop from Pakistan shared how the only job he could find was working underground, neck deep in the filth of the sewers – all because he professed to follow Jesus Christ.

 

So why should we be surprised at the A&E Network’s decision to give the patriarch of the popular “Duck Dynasty” family series the heave-ho for his comments in GQ about homosexuality?  Phil Robertson, patriarch of “Duck Dynasty,” frequently alludes to his faith and ends virtually every episode with a prayer around the family table.  It has also become one of the most, if not the most, popular series on the A&E cable network.

 

What was Phil Robertson’s offense?  He shared about the sinfulness of homosexual acts – both from a biblical standpoint and from the standpoint of natural law.  He probably should have stopped right there. But as Al Mohler observes in his commentary on the Duck Dynasty interview, Robertson used language that was rather crude and graphic:

“Phil Robertson would have served the cause of Christ more faithfully if some of those comments had not rushed out. This is not because what he said was wrong; he was making the argument that homosexual acts are against nature. The Apostle Paul makes the very same argument in Romans 1:26. The problem is the graphic nature of Robertson’s language and the context of his statements.

 

“The Apostle Paul made the same arguments, but worshipers in the congregations of Rome and Corinth did not have to put hands over the ears of their children when Paul’s letter was read to their church.”

 

Point taken: As Christians, we need to be careful, thoughtful and discerning about how we witness to what we profess. Not all publicity is good publicity.  We need to discern whether the forum in which we are sharing is the best forum to communicate our convictions. But in the end, as Al Mohler notes, it was the moral judgment Robertson asserted, and not the manner in which he asserted it, that caused the controversy.

 

As Christians, we need to wake up to the fact that we are likely to experience the same marginalization, vilification and even persecution that Robertson has experienced for exercising rights to freedom of speech and conscience in matters of faith. It was not long ago that Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A were targeted by the same sexual advocacy groups and media elites for their defense of traditional marriage. Increasingly, any Christian witness to traditional marriage between a man and a woman for life as inherent to God’s creative intent (see Genesis 2:24 ) will be deemed “hate speech,” especially if accompanied by witness to the biblical teaching that all forms of sexual expression outside traditional marriage are inherently sinful.  LGBT sexual activists and their media elites have made it clear that unconditional acceptance of homosexuality is the only option in our country.  The end goal is normalization with 100% public support, rather than mere legal recognition.

 

This is not an exaggeration. Earlier this week state Senate Democrats in New Jersey pulled from consideration a bill that would write gay marriage, already legal in New Jersey by court order, into the law books. The reason: the bill contained religious exemptions. Loretta Weinberg, the Senate Majority Leader, said she pulled the bill after pressure from an LGBT legal group, Lambda Legal.

 

“They don’t want any kind of religious exemption, so out of respect for that, I will (pull the bill),” Weinberg said. “There’s a disparate group of people and it’s hard to follow what they want, so I’m following Lambda Legal.”

 

As the Gospel Coalition observed, “The decision by New Jersey Democrats and A&E are similar. When pressured by LGBTQ groups, organizations and politicians will choose to silence Christians who oppose the normalization of homosexual behavior.”

 

We are deluding ourselves if we think we can avoid the issue.  We are in a culture which is seeking to silence Christians on this and every issue where our faith in Christ and his word leads us to form and express a moral judgment. But allowing our biblical witness to be silenced is not an option for those who follow Jesus Christ.  We will share as winsomely as we can the love of Jesus Christ that should leave none of us unchanged, none of us with an identity in anything but Christ alone.  But even as we do so, we also stand in the tradition of the apostles who would not be silenced.  We stand with them in the face of “authorities” that would retaliate against us for our witness, and we say with Peter and the other apostles “We must obey God rather than men.”  (Acts 5:29)

 

We may not have a reality show and sponsors to lose. Whatever we face will be NOTHING compared to believers in Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, North Korea and throughout the world who face death if they go to church on Christmas eve.

 

But if “room in the inn” can only be purchased by silencing our faith, it is too costly a room. It is far better to be in the company of the angels and Christ himself in cold, filthy and uncomfortable places, warmed by his presence and faithfulness.

 

Yours in Christ,

 

Phil+

 

The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey,

COO, American Anglican Council

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