I hate that term; I really do.
But "Christ-follower" has gained lots of traction in the past few years, mainly among the thirty-something set. And, for a large part, these are actually genuine converts who say this. (Set aside for a moment today's definition, which can be used in the context of 'following' someone on Facebook or Twitter or National Enquirer, meaning we find them interesting and like to keep up with their news--as if the Kardashian gals' latest boob job makes our world go 'round.) More than that, the unfortunate implication of being a follower is that it's optional. And I might opt out as painlessly as I opted in.
I prefer the term 'convert.' Convert implies change; obliteration of a former state; a complete and total transformation of heart, mind, and direction. Think of food entering your body and being converted to energy. Once acted on by the body's metabolic processes, the change is permanent. Today's beet juice is tomorrow's five-mile run. And there is no going back; it's a physical impossibility.
So there is no doubt in my mind that Rob Bell has gay friends who are serious followers of Jesus. What he'll never be able to say, though, is that he has gay friends who are converts. Never.
While I'm never surprised by Bell's religious games, I admit I was a bit taken aback by Pope Francis' May 22, 2013, claim that moral atheists will go to heaven...doh!...because I at least had a modicum of respect for the recent popes (very, very serious doctrinal questions aside) who have been rather staunch supporters of a Biblical morality. Then this latest pontiff makes this really dumb comment. And I am stunned. At least pretend to have some respect for the Gospel, will ya?
" 'I don't believe, Father. I am an atheist.' But do good; we will meet one another there."
Then the Vatican spin doctors went to work.
But all God's people said, "Holy crap."
Because that is precisely what that was.
The standard does not change. The Bible is not a living, breathing document that bends with the times. And God put it in writing for a reason. So what's our job as believers, as citizens of Heaven who are submitted to this written, unyielding contract with the Truth?
It's simple, really. We point to the Plumb Line.
We listen to exegesis and sermons with a slightly critical ear. We observe behavior, our own and everyone else's, or read books and blogs with a slightly critical eye. And everything we hear or see, we hold up to the perfect Standard. We look carefully at the Level. If it's off plumb, we ditch it. No one gets a free pass. No one.
Warning! This Plumbing business has a cost. I know.
A number of years ago, I held up the Plumb Line. And all hell broke loose. I was a bad friend; I was a legalist; I was judgmental. And despite the fact that lots of time has since passed, I was still surprised when my husband came home from a meeting not long ago to report that there's a certain part of our community who still do not trust me--all because I pointed to Plumb during a crisis. I was shocked really, that this simple act could still be reverberating around me.
I stared at him blankly. Really??? People are talking about me???
He could see it in my eyes. "Noel," he gently interjected, "these women who are gossiping, since when is--"
"--their good opinion worth the earning?" I completed with him. "It's not," I assured him with a sideways smile.
"Right," he affirmed. "You did the right thing. You were the only one being the friend."
More recently, my older children have had to learn that lesson, as well. They have learned that yes-men coddle and validate and lie to each other, saying, "It's okay. God's not mad. He understands when you mess up."
The friend, meanwhile, points to Plumb and says to one he loves, "Beware! It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!"
And the cost? The evan-jellyfish becomes the new inner circle, and the one who was the real friend rides off into the sunset alone.
Sad. But there's a valuable lesson to be learned here, and one to pass on to our children. We want to surround ourselves with those who will spur us on to love and good deeds. We want friends, and we want our children to have friends, who love Plumb, who live by it, who measure goodness by it. We want to shun fakes, be they pastors or popes or people we know, whose lips desire it but whose hearts disdain it.
Funny thing about living Plumb. It brings blessedness and happiness. Happiness is, after all, what we all want. Rob Bell wants his gay friends to be happy. The pope wants atheists to be happy. We all want our friends, even the prodigals, to be happy. Yet therein lies the contradiction. Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, in Studies on the Sermon on the Mount, says:
"Whenever you put happiness before righteousness, you will be doomed to misery. That is the great message of the Bible from beginning to end. They alone are truly happy who are seeking to be righteous. Put happiness in the place of righteousness, and you will never get it."Living Plumb is the thing, the only thing, that will bring happiness and blessing. It divides the sages from the fools.
It's the measure of maturity.
It's the stuff of friendship.
It's the sure foundation.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6