A Bigger Vision Than Our Own Holy Huddle

Chances are, you are/were a Boy Scout or know someone who was in Boy Scouts or know someone whose brother was in Boy Scouts. For the past century, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has shaped the life of thousands of American boys. Now, that may be changing in some Christian circles. Why? Back in May, the Boy Scouts of America changed a 103-year-old policy to allow members and leaders of any sexual orientation.

Christians and other conservatives were astonished, despite the fact that the BSA still maintains “a longstanding policy against any discussions of sexuality within the organization.” People who have generations of Boy Scout blood flowing through their veins have walked away. In response, an alternative scout group was organized and launched earlier this month. Trail Life USA was founded “to be the premier national character development organization for young men which produces Godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens.” The unashamedly Christian group coined the motto, “Walk worthy.”

Many of us are inclined to applaud and say, “Way to stand up for biblical values!” Or, “Thank you for protecting our sons!” Or even, “What a testimony to the truth of God’s design for sexuality!”

And yet I wonder: Who will shine like stars among a crooked generation? Who will proclaim the excellencies of Christ to those who are not yet God’s people? Who will be Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth? Who will live radical, holy life as exiles so as to provoke the question, “Where is your hope?”

You see, it is all-to-easy to retreat and start our own Christian version of Boy Scouts or anything else for that matter. There is little support for that kind of vision in the Bible. In fact, I find zero support for it.

What if our went deeper than biblical “values”? What if it aimed higher than security and protection for children? What if our vision was a dangerous and complex one without simple formulas? What if our vision was to image the One who left his sanitary home to live among filthy sinners? What if our vision was to image the One who ate and drank with sinners, not to burden them, but to give them a glimpse of the freedom of grace? What if our vision was to image the One who did not simply call people to repent, but loved them toward repentance. 

This One–Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God–did not ask for his Father to take his people out of the world (John 17:15). No, he commanded his people to be salt and light in the world. That is very hard to do if you willingly run away from those who actually need salt and light. The apostle Paul was obviously familiar with Jesus’ teaching, for he writes about this very thing in 1 Corinthians 5. He says, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people–not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one” (vv. 9-10, emphasis added).

The admonition, then, is not “flee from the gays in the world.” It is, “If a Christian brother (or sister) is not living in accordance with his confession (i.e. not repenting of sin), then you must not allow him to remain in the secure confines of the local church, therefore giving him false assurance that all is well with his soul.”

Creating a holy huddle may produce moral, disciplined, and respectful young men. But it will hardly produce men who know how to relate to lost people and saturate a culture with the gospel. How do I know this? Because I am recovering holy huddle member. Though not as a scout, I lived a life of seclusion and avoidance of “bad people.” During high school and college, I avoided “sinners” like the plague so I would not become like them and because, honestly, I felt uncomfortable around them. Now, as an almost 29-year old pastor, I am unlearning my tendency to avoid messy, sinful, lost people.

You see, the only way we will transform pockets of culture and see people repent of sin and believe in Jesus is if we saturate those pockets with the gospel. Retreating and avoiding will only confirm what non-Christians have believed for years: Christians only want to escape this earth and go to heaven, so they create their own little cultural bomb shelters while they wait for Jesus to return. 

Homosexuality is wrong. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. But taking your ball and going to another court will not draw the Boy Scouts or anyone else to Jesus. In fact, it will only push them farther away. Have you ever yelled at a blind person for walking into a parked car? Probably not. What did you do? You had compassion on her, walked up to her, grabbed her hand, and tenderly, yet firmly said, “I will show you the way.” The same is true for helping the spiritually blind.

So Christian scouts, if you are reading this, the BSA is full of sinners who need Jesus, just like you. You belong to Jesus. You know Jesus. Declare his excellencies to those who don’t belong to him and don’t know him yet. Do it up close. On their turf. In their troops. It is by no means safe and sanitary. But Jesus’ mission to purchase your redemption was not safe or sanitary either. As his ambassadors, it should not be any different for us.


Why Should I Be Generous?

Often during the Christmas season (we have been using the term “Advent” on this blog) people feel a genuine desire to give more. From a secular standpoint, the point of Christmas is to be kinder, gentler, peaceful, and, of course, more generous. In the same way, some Christians reduce Christmas to set of principles and morals to heed.

It is important to give. As Randy Alcorn has said, “The only antidote to materialism is giving.” If you want to avoid the plague of accumulation and the desire for stuff, give. Jesus even said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Christmas, however, is not about giving gifts (as good as that is). It’s about the ultimate Gift hanging on the cross to bring us to God.

But we still give at Christmas, and Christians are called to be generous people everyday. What is the motivation for giving? Is it to be a good example to your kids? Is it so you can be happy rather than a Scrooge? Is it because it is the “Christian thing” to do? Is it so you can get God in your debt?

When Paul wrote to the young, chaotic, pretentious, and selfish urbanites in Corinth, he did appeal to any pragmatic reasons for giving. He did not tell them to give because it will make them happy. He did not tell them to give because when they die they will be left without anything. Ultimately, Paul knew that these motivations were merely moralistic and have no heart-impact. So what did he say? He told them the example of the Macedonians and how he hopes they excel in generosity. Then appealed to the gospel and Jesus’ generosity to us:

I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:8-9).

The compelling motivation to give, for Paul, was that Christ, in his great riches, gave to people who did not deserve it. He gave the Corinthians (and us!) salvation and all the benefits that go with it (cf. Eph. 1:3). He gave us blessing in exchange for a devastating death on a cross (cf. 1 Cor. 5:21).

You will never be as generous as you should be. In fact, left to your own, you will probably be a miser if not for the occasional guilt trip from your conscience or loved one or pastor. But when you are changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ–really changed–when you taste and see what he has given to you, what he has accomplished on your behalf, what he has forsaken so that you might partake, you will not be able to keep yourself from worshiping God through generosity.