“The Whole Gospel”
In Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 22, verses 37-39 Jesus responds to the question asked by a Pharisee to test him, “What is the greatest commandment?” His answer comes from the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. He says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This statement is a major theological underpinning for Christian charity and world relief.
As Christians, because of the words of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior found here we believe we are compelled to intervene in the plight of children and adults all over the world. They are our neighbors; we must love them as we do ourselves. That is why in the name of Jesus we provide plane loads and boat loads of food all over the world. They are our neighbors; that is why doctors and nurses and health care professionals are supported and sent to remote places throughout the world to bring relief and healing to those in pain. They are our neighbors. Jesus said so! That is why we raise millions of dollars for villages in far away places to have clean drinking water. We do to them as we would have them do to us because that is what Jesus would have us do (Matthew 7:12).
Few Christian organizations have gone to greater lengths to carry out the concept of loving your neighbor as yourself than World Vision. Founded in 1950 by evangelist Bob Pierce, World Vision has grown into a major relief organization sponsoring over 4 million children worldwide. They also put boots on the ground after every disaster in every part of the globe. They are, by all accounts, a deeply compassionate organization motivated by the words of Christ in Matthew 25:40 – “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
Because of their long history of following the words of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, this week’s announcement by Director Richard Stearns is particularly puzzling. Christianity Today, which interviewed Stearns for their story, reported as follows:
World Vision’s American branch will no longer require its more than 1,100 employees to restrict their sexual activity to marriage between one man and one woman. Abstinence outside of marriage remains a rule. But a policy change announced Monday [March 24] will now permit gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to be employed at one of America’s largest Christian charities.
Later in the same article Stearns said the following :
Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues,” he said. “It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage.
So now it is acceptable at World Vision for same-sex couples to date and marry. Because this is, in World Vision’s mind, a controversial issue they will not exercise judgment as to whether or not marriage can be defined as between a man and a woman or whether a same sex marriage is right or wrong. For the sake of “unity” they’ll vote present and move on.
Here is why their decision is so puzzling to me. In Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 19, verses 4-6, Jesus responds to the question asked by a Pharisee to test him, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” Jesus once again quotes from the Pentateuch. He says , “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So, they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” These verses are a major theological underpinning for defining marriage and the sanctity of marriage itself. These words are the reason that for centuries Christians trumpeted marriage to be between one man and one woman for one lifetime.
The major underpinning of World Vision, and for that matter, all of Christendom’s work and ministry, are the words of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. He is the One we answer to. He is the One who is to be pre-eminent in our lives. How can we decide we will embrace His word fervently in Matthew 22 and ignore His words casually in Matthew 19? We cannot do so and call ourselves Christ followers. Following Jesus is not like going to a diner and ordering the meal on the menu that we prefer and find most appealing. Following Jesus is like going to your parent’s house for a meal in the old days and hearing, “eat what’s put before you!” Who are we to pick and choose which words of Jesus we will partake of and which we will disregard?
Furthermore, when we teach those who want to know what Jesus said, as I presume we must in order to carry out the Great Commission, (“teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” Matthew 28:19) what will we share from the teachings of Christ? Will we teach the Sermon on the Mount ? – Of course. The Parable of the Talents? Absolutely. The Parable of the Sower? Sure. Let’s look at Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 again, “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” What is it about the word “all” that we do not get? Some of Jesus’ words are tough and at times unpopular. His words about discipleship and commitment are serious. His words about marriage regarding its definition and permanence may not be popular, but they are His words. We must teach all things that He said.
I am praying for Richard Stearns and the board and staff of World Vision. I am praying. But, unless they change their hearts and minds about following all the words of Jesus neither I nor the organization I lead will ever again support them. Stearns famously wrote the book entitled The Hole in Our Gospel. I urge him today to embrace “the whole gospel.” I cannot imagine that our Lord is pleased with World Vision, so, neither am I. I have lost all confidence in them as a Christian organization. We take Jesus’ words about loving your neighbor as yourself seriously though. Therefore, we will find other ways to support children and families around the globe who are in need. I would recommend that other Christ followers to do the same.
In His Service, Pastor Dave Watson