A response to World Vision’s decision to embrace same sex marriage

        “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, 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’? 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

My Take on the movie “Son of God”

     Image“You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts” one politician famously said to another. In a nutshell that’s how I feel about the recently released movie “Son of God.”  I think I understand what the producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett were trying to accomplish.  I think there is a lot here to be commended, but I am very uncomfortable with the way they went about it and the final product.

      Having seen the movie I am of the opinion that the producers want us to see Jesus in a specific light.  They say they want us to see Jesus as the Son of God but that message easily gets lost. The message that comes through is that Jesus is a politically correct (for our day) counselor and a therapeutic healer (He is also very good looking, compare to Isaiah 53:2). Narratives from the Gospels are selectively chosen to prove their point. Then the producers actually change some of the narratives to make the image of Christ displayed on screen fit their preconceived notion of Him.

         In doing this, Downey and Burnett and their team are not interpreting the Gospels, they are manipulating the Gospels. To take artistic license with a book or screen play everyone agrees is to be expected. To change or alter “The Book” to paint a picture of Jesus that you or I have conjured up is not something we can let go as harmless. It can actually be quite harmful especially to someone in search of truth.  It is always a little dangerous to portray Jesus in any light other than what is clearly revealed in the Scriptures.

 Here are a few illustrations of what I am trying to communicate:

      In a scene early in the movie Jesus and Peter are seen in a boat by themselves. Jesus tells Peter to pull his net up and there is a huge load of fish that almost breaks the net, Cool, right?  Not really. In the gospel account in Luke (Luke 5:1-10) we see this event portrayed quite differently. It’s not Jesus and Peter alone but many others are there and  are involved.  Jesus is not counseling Peter privately but proving Himself to be the Son of God in front of Peter and the rest of the disciples. The moment is humiliating for Peter and those with Him.  Jesus also calls Peter to follow Him to be a fisher of men. At no point did he say follow me and we will change the world as the film depicts. These distinctions are worth noting and one would think, worthy of being accurately captured in the film.

       Later, Jesus is called to the tomb of His friend Lazarus who is dead. In the film He goes into the tomb. He puts his hand on Lazarus’ head, runs his fingers through his hair and raises him from the dead by talking gently in his ear.  Super, right? Not really. Read the account in John 11:1-44. You will find that Jesus wept over the pain of Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha. In addition, He never went into the tomb. He stood outside the tomb and the text clearly says “When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” (John 11:43). Lazarus then comes out bound in grave clothes. What a cinematic moment this would have made!  Downey and Burnett, however, totally make up a version that fits their image of the therapeutic Jesus.

    Throughout the film the disciples are accompanied by a lone woman, Mary Magdalene. There is no Scriptural support for a single woman hanging around with Jesus and the disciples. Truth be told, this would be totally taboo in the culture of that time. We do learn that a group of women including Mary Magdalene follow Jesus (Luke 8:1-3), but they were not part of His chosen group of disciples. The producers want us to see Jesus as having men and women disciples. They don’t want Jesus to be offensive because he only called men apostles. It seems that their desire for political correctness causes them to manipulate the story. Now that’s offensive.

      Anyone who reads the Bible’s account of the life of Christ will see Jesus teaching a lot. For the life of me I don’t understand why there is not an extended sequence of the Sermon on the Mount in the film. It is universally agreed that it is the most influential sermon in history. It gets a minor part in the film. Again, I think the producers didn’t want to make Jesus look like a preacher or teacher but a man of the people, someone who taught as He went. Surely he did that, but He also sat people down and taught them (Matthew 5-7 and Luke 9:11-17). 

           I could probably spend another two or three pages giving further examples, but I’ll stop here. I don’t want to pick on Rona and Mark and their team. They probably have great intentions. In fact I really wanted to love the movie. I encouraged people to go see it and provided free tickets to over 1000 people to attend. I wanted it to be a great tool to share our faith in this increasingly cynical world. I was sorely disappointed.  All the hype was just that, hype.

      In reality the movie was, in my opinion, just okay. It wasn’t powerful because it didn’t clearly reflect who Jesus really is. Someone teaching a series or leading a Bible study using it would have to spend a good portion of their time correcting the inaccuracies. If the movie has any staying power, individuals for a generation will believe the movie’s portrayal of Jesus over the Scriptural account of Him. It’s not just a matter of interpretation it is a matter of distortion.

      Over the past six months I have immersed myself in the Gospels. I try and read at least one gospel a week if not more. I try to read my gospel of the week over a couple of days, making time to read large portions. The results in my life have been amazing. My love for Christ has grown so much. I have seen Him in a new light. I have had to change my view of Him to match the Scriptures. I have had to make changes in my life to come in line with His exhortations and example. 

      If you’ve seen the movie, that’s super. Now, read the Book for the real scoop on Jesus. If you haven’t seen the movie you might want to save your money. Use the 2 hours and 20 minutes you might have spent in the movie “Son of God” reading the Gospel of John which reveals Him as such. You can probably finish it in that amount of time. If it would make you feel better eat some popcorn as you read.  Seeing the Son of God at the theater $12.00 — seeing the Son of God in the pages of Scripture……. Priceless!



Pastor Dave Watson