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Having a different opinion than someone you really look up to isn’t a bad thing.
That’s what I first told myself after reading John Piper’s article yesterday. I had to remind myself of this because, in all sincerity, I truly appreciate Pastor John Piper. I listen to his sermons and APJ (Ask Pastor John) weekly, and some weeks I listen daily; I have benefitted from his many books, have often quoted him, and am grateful for his impact on my thinking and pastoral ministry.
But in regards to his written piece of October 22, 2020, there is a better, and I believe more biblical, option than disconnection. Admittedly, as Pastor John stated as well, “you need not be sinning if you weigh matters differently.” He clearly believes we can disagree here and says he is not “dictate[ing] how anyone else should vote.” Even as he concludes his post, he again reiterates he is not mandating this response from everyone. I appreciate that insistence.
However, even this repeated admittance gets to the root of why I disagree. Yes, it is an area where we can disagree, but it isn’t a small area; this is not a minor matter. It’s not like we’re debating the level of taxes or the age at which someone can no longer be covered by their parents’ insurance. We’re dealing with how one approaches the protection and prioritization of life and the issues surrounding it. These are grave matters.
So when Pastor John suggests that not voting is the only option for him due to a “calling [that] is contradicted by supporting either pathway to cultural corruption and eternal ruin,” I would like to respectfully disagree. I don’t disagree that it may be what he senses his conscience must have him do. I am disagreeing with the equalization of these issues, and the way he arrives at this conclusion.
I believe there is a difference between the essence of sin before God and the effects of sin on us. I wouldn’t dare disagree theologically that all sin leads to spiritual death. Only Christ can save us from that just, eventual end.
But I would disagree that all sin has the same immediate, physical consequence (i.e., effect) on others. And thus, not all sin is dealt with in the same physical manner or responded to in the same physical way. This is seen in the law and sacrificial system God gave to Israel (Leviticus), as well as in how God instructed the church to deal with sin throughout the New Testament (1 Cor. 5 for example).
This understanding doesn’t minimize sin’s essence or the need we all have for God’s forgiveness of our sin through his Son. But it does recognize that, as we live in this world, we do have to prioritize our pursuit of biblically good actions and our response to biblically evil actions. All actions are not equal. We often are forced to decide, as finite humans, what are the good, better, or best options. Or bad, worse, and worst options.
We may not like this scenario, and no doubt long that the Perfect One would come and relieve us from this imperfect realm. One day He will. He hasn’t yet. Till then, wisdom and sound judgment is needed as we navigate our way through a world filled with all kinds of sin that has a wide array of consequences upon us and others.
Let me hasten to say that I’m not disagreeing that a leader’s “person” matters. It surely does. I am simply asserting that there are times when the immediate, present, sinful effects of a platform’s policy are far greater, more dangerous, and wider in destruction than the immediate, present, sinful effects of a person’s actions. Both can be wrong, but one can take a greater toll sooner. And longer. In my opinion, the last 47 years of the legalized murder of babies in the womb—50 million+ unborn but living children killed—in our country has proven that.
So because I think there is a range of sin’s effects in the here-and-now, I also think there is more than one option in our response to sin in the here-and now. Disconnection isn’t our only choice. I believe that’s a false choice. Unfortunately, that false choice seemed to be, though probably unintentionally, the end-game of the article.
Participating in the system and doing what you can to thwart the liberal culture’s continued love affair with killing babies in the womb—per Pastor John’s article, the option to vote— doesn’t make you part and parcel to the sins of others. A vote for the policies that best protect life, especially the initial and most basic right to life, doesn’t mean you are voting for/approving of a person’s loose tongue. Or greedy heart. Or proud mind. We don’t get to/have to wait till everything—and everyone—is “perfect” to jump in and help, nor do we have to exit the room totally when it’s not. If that were the case, we’d for sure need to socially distance from our own selves at every turn.
Because there actually exists a variety in the effects of sins—a difference when it comes to sin’s immediate consequences—there should be a disciplined and discerning approach to determining how and when we engage our culture. And when the right to life is on the line in an increasingly stark—and dark—manner, not voting seems like the very thing not to do.
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