Hurricane Laura made landfall early this morning near Lake Charles, Louisiana, as a Category 4 storm with winds of 150 mph. The Wall Street Journal calls the hurricane “a storm of historic proportions, with wind speed at landfall surpassing Hurricane Katrina in 2005.”
At least twenty million people are in the storm’s path; over half a million were ordered to evacuate. The National Hurricane Center has been warning of potentially catastrophic and life-threatening storm surges, extreme winds, and flash flooding along the Gulf Coast.
As a native of Houston, I remember clearly the danger of hurricanes. The one advantage we had over those living in areas prone to tornadoes and flash floods was that meteorologists could tell us when and where the storms were coming.
If I knew where Hurricane Laura was headed and when it would strike but kept that knowledge to myself, what would you think of my decision?
A lie Satan loves to tell
Yesterday, we noted that our story of transforming grace can be a powerful invitation to those who have not yet experienced such grace. As St. Francis reportedly said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”
Today, let’s consider the necessity of using words.
One of the falsehoods of moral relativism is that there are no falsehoods. Since all truth is subjective, “sin” is equally subjective. As a consequence, there can be no judgment for sin, since there is no basis for such judgment.
If you were Satan, committed to leading as many people into sin as possible, wouldn’t you try to persuade as many people as possible that this lie is true?
By contrast, Jesus warned, “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).
“Repent, therefore, and turn back”
In light of the reality of sin and judgment, you and I are called to help people turn to God before it is too late. No matter their social standing, everyone needs to “repent, therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19).
For example, 1 Samuel 2 states, “The sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord” (v. 12). This despite the fact that their father was the high priest of the nation. They stole from those who brought offerings to God (v. 16) and “lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting (v. 22). Their father knew that “his sons were blaspheming God,” but “he did not restrain them” (1 Samuel 3:13).
Consequently, the Lord sent a “man of God” to Eli to warn him that judgment was coming against his family (1 Samuel 2:27–36). In fulfillment of this warning, the Philistines captured the ark of God and “the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died” (1 Samuel 4:11). When Eli heard the news, he died as well (v. 18).
Like this “man of God,” our job is to warn others of their sin, measuring success by our obedience rather than by their response. You and I cannot convict a single person of a single sin; this is the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8). But we can and should declare the word of God so they have an opportunity to repent before it is too late.
When we keep “silent about evil”
In The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn noted: “In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”
No one likes being confronted about their sins and failures, but failing to do so allows sin to metastasize. When I was diagnosed with skin cancer a few years ago, the news was unwelcome, to say the least. But the diagnosis and procedure to remove the cancer kept it from spreading, an outcome for which I am obviously grateful.
In a very real sense, you and I are spiritual oncologists called to share the only truth that can diagnose our condition and prescribe its cure. In The Gathering Storm, Albert Mohler notes: “We are those who confess, along with the faithful throughout the centuries, that when Scripture speaks, God speaks. Scripture alone is the ultimate authority for life and doctrine. In a sense, a Christian theology hangs on the accuracy of that singular proposition.”
As a result, “The reality is that Christians who define Christianity in terms of historic Christian doctrine and moral teachings do not believe merely that these teachings are true, but that they point to the only truth that will produce real and lasting human happiness.” For example, “We are not merely opposed to same-sex marriage because we believe it to be contrary to Scripture; we believe that anything opposed to Scripture cannot lead to human flourishing.”
Of course, we should not expect those who hear our diagnosis to welcome the news that they must repent of their sins. But those who respond in faith will be forever grateful for our courageous compassion.
Jesus was not politically correct
Max Lucado writes: “Some historians clump Christ with Moses, Muhammad, Confucius, and other spiritual leaders. But Jesus refuses to share the page. In John 14:6 Jesus declares, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.’ He could have scored more points in political correctness had he said, ‘I know the way,’ or ‘I show the way.’ Yet he speaks not of what he does but of who he is: ‘I am the way!'”
If you knew the only way through a hurricane to the shelter that would save the lives of all your fellow travelers, wouldn’t you share it with them?