The Philippines’ Catriona Gray won last night’s Miss Universe pageant. Steve Harvey hosted the event again; competitors from ninety-four countries and territories participated.
Among them was Spain’s Angela Ponce. She earned the title of Miss Spain in June, defeating twenty-two other competitors.
Emergency contraception in vending machines
I recognize that Jesus’ statement, “He who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (Matthew 19:4), is an unpopular position these days. Our culture celebrates the “courage” of those who “transition” from male to female or vice-versa.
For me to suggest that sex reassignment surgery (known today as “gender affirmation surgery”) may not be in a patient’s best interest is to risk being branded intolerant and prejudiced. This despite a review of more than one hundred international medical studies of post-operative transsexuals that “found no robust scientific evidence that gender reassignment surgery is clinically effective.”
The director of the study stated: “There is a huge uncertainty over whether changing someone’s sex is a good or a bad thing.” I could point to numerous other studies (such as this report) that suggest similar caution.
However, my purpose today is not to debate transgender issues. It is to note that engaging in such a debate demands a level of courage that was not necessary even a few years ago.
Our culture has moved rapidly to codify a host of unbiblical moral positions. For instance, sex outside of marriage is now so normalized that many universities are making emergency contraception available in vending machines on campuses.
To fulfill God’s calling leads to lives of unparalleled purpose and eternal significance. But such a commitment always comes at a cost.
The privilege of obedience
Christmas is the story of surprising obedience. Mary agreed to become the mother of the Son of God before she was married to Joseph, risking his rejection and being branded as an adulteress. Joseph agreed to marry her and raise her son as his, risking a lifetime of social ostracism.
What if they had refused? What if Noah hadn’t been willing to build the ark, or Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees, or Moses to talk to a burning bush? What if David had run from Goliath, or Peter had chosen fishing over preaching, or Paul had remained a Pharisee?
The fact is, God doesn’t need our obedience. His eternal plans include our free decisions to accept or reject his will for our lives.
He knew what Noah would do before he asked him to do it. He knew that Joseph’s brothers would sell him into slavery and used their sin to bring him to Pharaoh’s palace. He knew that Judas would betray Jesus and used his sin to bring our Savior to the cross for our salvation.
Why, then, should we choose obedience?
The simple answer: obedience positions us to experience what grace chooses to give. But there’s a catch.
The lure of the popular
In his brilliant sermon, “The Inner Ring,” C. S. Lewis perceptively observed that popularity is one of the most attractive features of promiscuity. He noted: “When promiscuity is the fashion, the chaste are outsiders. They are ignorant of something that other people know. They are uninitiated.”
The popularity of a sin tempts us to believe that if everyone’s doing it, it must be acceptable and worth doing.
The Israelites faced this satanic strategy when they conquered the land of Canaan. Because they did not drive out their enemies as commanded by God, they were constantly tempted to do what their enemies did. “If Baalism works for them, it will work for us,” or so they thought.
Doing what God wants usually means refusing what the world wants: “All that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:16-17).
You cannot outgive God
If you want today to count on earth and in heaven, choose obedience. A life of eternal significance is waiting on the other side of sacrificial faithfulness.
And know this: no matter where you are or what you’ve done, it’s never too late to turn to God.
When Jonah was called to go to Nineveh, he refused. When God sent “a great fish to swallow up Jonah” (Jonah 1:17), he repented. His prayer of confession and obedience is one of the most moving in Scripture (Jonah 2).
Frederick Buechner: “No matter how deep [the fish] dove and no matter how dark the inside of its belly, no depth or darkness was enough to drown out the sound of Jonah’s prayer. . . . the intractable and waterlogged old man called out from sixty fathoms, and Yahweh heard him, and answered him.” (Then Buechner notes with his typical humor that “Jonah’s relief at being delivered from the whale can hardly have been any greater than the whale’s at being delivered of Jonah.”)
Our post-Christian culture demands–and needs–courageous Christians. Where is your Nineveh today?