At times like this, I wish I could escape texts like 2 Timothy 4:1-4 and Ezekiel 33:1-9. But as an ordained Christian clergyman, I cannot.
I wish I could escape my vows from the Presbyterian Church in America’s Book of Church Order section 21-5, especially vow number six: "Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace and unity of the Church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?" But as an ordained PCA clergyman, I cannot.
So, in the past few months God’s hand has been heavy upon me as I’ve wrestled with Him (and others) over what it means to speak His truth in love in the face of grave evil – particularly, the evil perpetrated in the form of a wicked sex education curriculum proposed by Parkway School Administrators, and championed by some on their Board, among some local clergy, among some in the community at large, and by a growing segment of the American population.
This deep angst is nothing new to me. I deal with it every day in my role as President of Churches for Life. It seems that all day every day I somehow wrestle with God and cry out to Him for a gospel-captivated heart of humility, wisdom, and courage to coach churches to speak the truth in love regarding controversial issues like medical ethics, abortion, and end-of-life challenges.
But in Parkway’s case, I feel more vulnerable and exposed. In churches, my main adversaries are cowardice and apathy. Seldom do I feel threatened or afraid. But in the public square, the threat is outright ridicule and hostility. Oh my God and my gracious King, grant me the strength to discharge my responsibilities as an ordained minister of the gospel, and to keep my vows to you!
Besides Scripture, Dr. Dan Allender’s book Bold Love [1992, Navpress, p. 144] has been particularly helpful as I wrestle with God:
The gospel [in all its applications] offends. It strikes at the heart of man’s arrogance and rage. It demands a response of brokenness – or evokes mockery and contempt. The gospel does not settle for good, moral living; it requires radical transformation of the heart. In that sense, the calling of every Christian is to prophetically live out a disruptive goodness that embraces foolishness before the wise and weakness before the strong.
“Disruptive goodness” – that’s my aim tonight as I stand before Parkway’s School Board to make the statement I’ve prepared below. May God pour out His grace upon me and upon other godly people, particularly ordained clergymen, as conduits of His tender strength, all with the ultimate aim of restoring every man, woman, and child to joyful intimacy with Him through repentance and faith. Amen.
March 9, 2016
Dear Parkway School Board Member,
I stand before you tonight as an ordained Christian clergyman1 full of heartfelt desire to help you and those you influence experience comprehensive godly flourishing. With respect,2 I express this love for you tonight as a bullhorn amplifying God’s warning of judgment upon those of you who still believe that this sex education curriculum is actually good when, in reality, it is rife with evil.3
First, from Isaiah 5:20-21, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!”
Second, from the gospel according to Luke 17:1-2, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”
My dear friends, we will all – myself included – one day be judged by these words of God. So, in the face of evildoing, I exhort you to repent.4 Hear God’s gracious invitation tonight to escape His judgment upon those who call evil good and good evil, and upon those who place stumbling blocks before children. I beg you as a fellow person needing the mercy of God, to revere and honor Him by voting “no” on the sex education curriculum.
Respectfully with grace and truth,
Rev. Douglas W. Merkey
President and CEO, Churches for Life
Assistant Pastor, Twin Oaks Presbyterian Church
NOTE: Some of these Scriptures apply most directly to “God’s people” – those who trust in His covenant promises of eternal life through faith in Christ in both the Old and New Testaments. Yet even in those Scriptures, principles can be gleaned which apply just as equally to all nations and all people.
1 Ezekiel 33:1-9 The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand. So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. 1Corinthians 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 2 Timothy 4:1-5 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America, questions for ordination (BCO 21-5): “Then, addressing himself to the candidate, he [a minister appointed by Presbytery] shall propose to him the following questions: 1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice? 2. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow? 3. Do you approve of the form of government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the general principles of Biblical polity? 4. Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord? 5. Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God and a sincere desire to promote His glory in the Gospel of His Son? 6. Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace and unity of the Church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account? 7. Do you engage to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all your duties as a Christian and a minister of the Gospel, whether personal or relational, private or public; and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your manner of life, and to walk with exemplary piety before the flock of which God shall make you overseer? 8. Are you now willing to take the charge of this church, agreeable to your declaration when accepting their call? And do you, relying upon God for strength, promise to discharge to it the duties of a pastor?”
2 Exodus 20:12 Honor your father and your mother [by extension, this includes honoring all authorities], that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. Ecclesiastes 11:5 As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. Psalm 10:13 Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, "You will not call to account"? Psalm 96:10 Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity." Romans 3:19Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Romans 14:12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. Titus 3:1-2 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. James 3:1-2 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.
3 Genesis 1:27-28a, 31 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Exodus 20:14 You shall not commit adultery. See the entire chapter of Leviticus 18. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? Luke 12:7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Romans 1:24-27 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. Romans 8:6-11 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. 1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Hebrews 12:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Hebrews 13:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. James 1:17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Comment: The ways that this curriculum violates God’s wonderful design for total human flourishing, including sexual flourishing, are too numerous to mention in this brief letter. Among them are the normalization of sexual and relational dysfunction present in LGBT lifestyles, the normalization of sexual acts contrary to His design (i.e., anal and oral sex), deceptive teaching about abortion-causing drugs (i.e., so-called “emergency contraception”), the idea that gender is not determined by biology, and the suggestion and promotion that sex outside marriage is normal or healthy.
4 Nehemiah 18:23, 32 “Have I [the LORD] any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live." Matthew 4:17From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 11:20 Then he [Jesus] began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Romans 3:19-25 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified [through faith] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 5:1-2, 20 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. Treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 2 Timothy 4:1-4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. Hebrews 9:27-28 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.