For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)
Lest one be able to legitimately charge me with the clearest example of the pot calling the kettle black, let me acknowledge some of the musings of this post was shaped by the commentary from Dr. Albert Mohler, one of the titans in the Evangelical community and my very own pastor, Dr. Brad McLean, from his past Sunday (March 13, 2022) morning sermon expositing 1 Corinthians 7. These men and many other dear, faithful, fellow co-laborers, I will forever be indebted for helping shape and, in many other cases, sharpen my critical thinking through a decidedly unapologetic Christian Christ-centered ethos and pathos.
It is apparent for many in the professing Evangelical community that their chief identity-marker is not their allegiance to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Anything and everything else seems to crowd out the Lordship of Jesus Christ and will not matter one iota when they take their last breath.
Most will vehemently dissent, but the evidence is overwhelming, even for an ole country boy from the backwaters of good ole Mississippi. Seemingly, the news becomes more alarming and increasingly more direct in society’s open rebellion to what God has not failed to speak in clear, explicit terms. This news can only necessitate that God voices His displeasure and forces Him to pour out His wrath because He is utterly Holy. Thus, He must punish violations of His will. To look the other ways would be an expressed evidence who we have in mind is not the revealed God of the Holy Writ. Whoever you imagine He is not the God found in either the Old or New Testaments.
Some of the reasons I postulate my thesis for today’s blog post which is:
Many professing Evangelicals are spending far too much time and energy being preoccupied with their temporal identities.
Who alone has the authority to determine our gender identity?
Who alone has the authority to determine our economic status to the largest degree?
Who alone has the authority to decide both the timing and locale of our entry into time and space?
Who alone controls the extent of our intellectual and physical attributes?
Who alone determines if we possess unique hand-eye coordination that allows some to excel at sports like Babe Ruth or Henry Aaron?
Who alone determines if we are introverts or extroverts?
Who alone determines who gets the ability to paint masterpieces like Michangelo’s portrait of King David or whoever painted the Mona Lisa?
I could contemplate all manners of various other scenarios that are expressly beyond human control and influence. Yet, the clarion call of the cultural elites is “celebrate your truth!” In fact, those were the exact expression used by Susan Rice, formerly of the Obama administration and a current member of the Biden team in some capacity. I will be too lazy to look up (you can if you are so inclined), in response to Rachel Levine, the highest-ranking transgender person to serve in the United States government by the appointment of the President of the United States, being chosen by the national newspaper USA Today as one of their “Women of the Year” (link to the article will be attached).
I am told quite frequently, by those who know me well and by those who do not, that I hate black people. Such a charge always strikes me as utterly foolish and very insulting, but I have learned it is part of the deal when you seek to engage the culture as an Evangelical blogger. Now, my closest friends would quickly interject they were not speaking literally, but I know all too well every comment, even said in jest, carries a portion of sincere belief.
For the record, not that it should be necessary or will change the minds of my dissenters, I am most proud of my African American ethnicity. I take great pride in my family name Kyles, and I have sought to always (but most regrettable, not always consistently) bring great credit to it. I carry no shame in delighting in my masculinity, and I am not intimidated in the slightest at the climate’s claim of toxic masculinity for red-bloodied men like me.
Yet, none of these identify markers or no other identity marker assumes top status in my self-identification. My chief identity marker, in fact, my sole, my only identity marker, is in Christ. Being a child of the King is more than enough for me to be content. I frankly confess that reality is not always so easy to navigate, but this calling is not the perfection of my stewardship, but it is most definitely the direction of said stewardship.
The aforementioned Pastor Brad did such a masterful job of expositing 1 Corinthians 7, admittedly a very tough passage, especially in today’s confused Evangelical community. You see, slavery, though not the chattel slavery of America in the 19th century, was still a blight on society and decidedly not God’s best for human flourishing.
Yet, I hasten to interject at this crucial juncture, exactly how many times did either Jesus Christ Himself or any of His disciples, especially the Apostle Paul, make any appeals or efforts to eradicate the ills of slavery from the culture. I will symbolically pause for dramatic effect to await your response. (Me mimicking me waiting). Waiting! Waiting! Waiting! Waiting!! Okay, enough time.
I hope most of you instantly knew the answer was a colossal none, nada, zilch, and it really is not at all that difficult to digest when you fully understand the intent of the Gospel. It most certainly is not the toxic Joel Olsteen false narrative so that we can have their best life now. In the final analysis, the Gospel’s concern is not all that concerned with your temporal status. The Gospel has one purpose: to repair the spiritual and eternal breach between God and those created in His image: humankind. Our problems are not temporal; they are spiritual and eternal.
Now, this is where I can give roses to Pastor Brad. The Apostle Paul took time to address the concerns of the believers in Corinthians. I imagine for some within the Corinthian Church, the following questions were pressing on their conscience:
If there was married, should they seek to divorce and become single so they could devote more time to the ministry?
If there were single or widowed, should they be chiefly concerned with becoming married to fulfill the Genesis mandate to be fruitful and fill the earth?
What about the question for slaves and slave owners? Remember my earlier supposition: Slavery, again though not the barbaric chattel slavery of the American 19th century, was nonetheless alive and striving as part of the Greco-Roman culture of their day. It is easy to ponder the perplexing question for both the slaves and their masters as they became part of the Christian tradition.
Our duty as Evangelicals is to permit the Bible to shape our thinking, never the culture, no matter how their message wins sway and influence. So, let us turn to the passage Pastor Brad preached from last Sunday. The pertinent passages concern 1 Corinthians 7:17-24:
7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.8 To the unmarried and the widows, I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
My Bible’s subscription (a subscription is an aid bible translators give the reader to help them understand the theme of the particular biblical paragraph currently being read) entitles this paragraph as Live as You Are Called.
Now, I grant legitimate questions can be advanced, such as why did Jesus and His cohorts not spend any time whatsoever confronting slavery and any of the other societal ills so prevalent in their time and day.
Let me answer that legitimate question thusly: other than that was not God’s intent, I can not be of much further assistance. Our job as theologians: be they professionals or novices, is not to be able always to be able to offer very nuanced and detailed explanations as to why God “did this” or what God “did that.” No, our job as theologians are simply to communicate and, when possible, accurately give the sense of the passage as the scribe Ezra did in Nemehiah 8.
Now, if you want to add a vertical (heavenward, directed from God to man or vice-versa) modifier such as God’s truth, then go for it. Still, there is no such animal as Ricky’s truth or Rachel’s truth, or Pastor Brad’s truth or Dr. Albert Mohler’s truth, so there is undoubtedly no such creature as (fill-in-the-blank) truth.
So, in Paul writing back to answer the inquiries from the Corinthian Church, his Apostolic counsel was not what today’s culture would advance. The Susan Rices of today brazenly take to social media and heartily affirm the transgender “Rachel Levine” for celebrating her truth. The sage Evangenical recoils at the practice of placing any modifier before the precious word Truth. We have bastardized a perfectly good word. Biblically, the word Truth has no acceptable horizontal (earthward, man-to man) modifier.
I stand should to shoulder with Dr. Albert Mohler when he expresses bewilderment how much the Evangelical Church passively embraces this moral declaration with nary a whimper out of fear of being labeled unloving or intolerant. Well, color me unloving or intolerant, all-day, Errday and twice on Sundays.
As a result, I will take whatever the cultural elites want to send my way, but “Rachel Levine” is no woman, no matter how this person chooses to modify their appearance. This person will forever possess male genetic features that humans can not alter substantially, cosmetically for sure, but not intrinsically.
As a quick aside, I draw the reader back to former President Obama for a brief second. Many African American Evangelicals still hold former President Obama in the highest esteem and reverence. Yet, while he was the sitting President, he decided to post a picture of the revered symbol of American greatness, the White House, bathed in a rainbow. A clear and unmistakable embrace that gay culture was acceptable and to be considered as normal. What God has forever (remember God is immutable, that is, He cannot by definition change in any fashion) called evil former President Obama chose to call good. Former President Obama received and still receives, to this day, uncritical adulation from most of the visible AA members of the universal church.
It is at this time I fully anticipate the lazy retort that Republicans do the same thing with former President Donald Trump, and I dismiss this as a baseless comparison. Sure, former President Trump still has many faithful adherents, but thankfully, many will still be the first to repudiate his moral failings, not all to be sure, but still many, but I digress, so let me press on.
I join with many others who struggle with historical accounts like American chattel slavery or the injustices to the Native Americans, the Holocaust, and so many other societal ills. Still, Evangelicals must always take our marching orders from Holy Scripture, never from man, especially fallen unredeemed man.
As the Apostle Paul said in verses twenty-twenty four of 1 Corinthians 7, “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was named in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise, he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were brought with a price; do not become bondservants of man. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.”
When an author places words in parentheses, we understand that they are communicating a thought within a thought. It is not their main argument, but they are directing the reader to understand they are communicating a sub point to their main point for clarification.
Thus, Paul’s main point must be understood his chief concern was for the followers of the Corinthian Chruch to remain in whatever social stratus they currently found themselves. If God opened the door to change their circumstance, then, by all means, they were free to pursue the opportunity, but their chief marching orders were to bear fruit and serve as God’s bondservants wherever God planted them. (Now, more can always be said and must be said, but a more detailed exposition of 1 Corinthians 7 is beyond the scope of a blog article, so I invite the reader to be a Bearan and study the passage for themselves.) That is why being a member of a church that preaches the Word of God faithfully and equips believers for ministry and how to rightly divide the Word of God is so important but that can be a topic for a future blog post or YouTube video.
Now, if you can actually read these passages, and yet you leave them undeterred and unmoved in the slightest. If that be the case, then I can be of no assistance whatsoever as only those who have ears to hear will ever come to accept and eventually, but maybe not entirely, come to celebrate and cherish this hard truth from the throne of Heaven itself.
God inspired and sanctioned the Apostle Paul to communicate to the Corinthians that their chief identity marker would forever be marked by their deliverance from the bondage of slavery. You see, every believer comes to understand, even though never fully, they have been bought with a great price (Jesus Christ’s shed blood upon Calvary’s Cross). Thus, the Evangelical yields to the biblical declaration that they are no longer their own but they are now slaves of Christ.
As a result, Evangelicals accept that God determines what marriage is because it is God who gave His creation the institution of marriage. The same with gender. He (that is God) created them, male and female. Gender is not a social construct and God’s created beings are not permitted to modify God’s creative order. I do not care what Rachel Levine, Susan Rice, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Joseph Biden, or the swimmer Lisa Thomas (another topic for another day, until then Google the name or check out one Albert Mohler’s podcast “The Briefing”) says or what you say.
The only thing that matters is what God has said in His Holy Word; at least that is what it MUST mean for the Evangelical if we really take the Bible and God seriously.
I close with these solemn words. I wrote them in my book, which I unapologetically advance for your purchase consideration (I will attach the link). I regard myself with no misapprehension and with wholehearted glee; my number one identity marker is an Evangelical African American, not an African American Evangelical.
Lest you think this assertion is much ado about nothing, I demur and posit it means everything. For you see, what if I was born Caucasian? What then? What if I were born in Canada or to wealthy parents? What if I was born with a physical malady? What if I was born a victim of chattel slavery to cruel slavemasters.
Circle back to Paul’s response:
Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was named in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise, he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were brought with a price; do not become bondservants of man. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.”
Either I am going to imbibe in the cultural fascination with devoting every source of my human existence in addressing every societal misdress, or I am going to concentrate on proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and seek to honor His final mandate to His direct followers. We know that mandate as the Great Commission.
I ask you what will it profit a man if were to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul. For what will he be able to give in exchange for his soul when he stands before his Creator. My great fear is for Rachel Levine, Susan Rice, and for many of you, the reader. For many who will read this and especially for those who will not yet will nonetheless one day stand before a thrice-holy God, and He will utter the most soul-crushing words any human will ever hear in time and space. They are, “Depart from me, you worker of iniquity. I never knew you.” If anything were to ever keep me up at night, then that would be it.
As always, let me know what you think. Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.
With most fear and trembling,
Ricky Kyles DEd.Min