By now most readers will have heard about the news concerning the charity World Vision. Founded as an evangelical anti-poverty parachurch organization, the group announced new personnel policies today. President Richard Stearns announced that the ministry would allow employees to engage in sexual activity outside the covenant of marriage. To be specific, any “Christian” in a legal same-sex “marriage” will now be eligible for employment at World Vision.
Stearns claims that World Vision does not want to get mixed up in the contentious debate about gay marriage. Rather, they want to focus on the organization’s mission. So they will leave the debate about gay marriage for the churches to sort out. In the meantime, World Vision is going to move on from this issue.
The announcement from Stearns is all at once sad and self-contradictory. While claiming not to endorse same-sex marriage, World Vision has adopted a policy that looks just like the one that would be in place if they had endorsed same-sex marriage.
There is an array of confusion in Stearns’ statement, but I want to focus on one item that reveals what the real bottom line is. Stearns says that even as World Vision will be hiring people who are in same-sex “marriages”…
World Vision is committed to our Christian identity. We are absolutely resolute about every employee being followers of Jesus Christ. We are not wavering on that.
Stearns says that “every employee” must be a “follower of Jesus Christ” even as he affirms that some of his employees will be living in open immorality. What does this mean? It can only mean that he believes being a “follower of Jesus Christ” is somehow compatible with being in a same-sex marriage. Whether he realizes it or not, this is nothing less than a crossing of the theological Rubicon. And it is why his announcement has been met with censure from evangelicals across the country today.
Following Christ is not a choose-your-own-adventure story. King Jesus defines the terms of our discipleship. He is very clear that there is a narrow path that leads to life and a broad road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). The path of sexual immorality—including same-sex immorality—goes along the broad path (Mark 7:21; Rom. 1:26-27). Thus it is impossible to be a “follower of Christ” while endorsing or participating in a same-sex marriage.
Jesus also says to “beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing.” The false teacher never comes to us with a cardboard sign around his neck saying, “I’m a false teacher.” The false teacher comes to us in the guise of Christianity. He says things like, “We’re not taking a position on gay marriage” or “We are leaving this issue to the churches” or “We are not wavering on our Christian commitment.” The false teacher’s outward presentation will be that of a Christian, but inwardly he will be a ravenous wolf.
If the false teacher looks and sounds like a Christian, then how are we to know if he is a false teacher? Jesus tells us how we know, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). In other words, what they do will often reveal far more about who they are than what they say. In the case of World Vision, they have adopted a policy that is indistinguishable from a policy that would explicitly endorse gay “marriage.” The President speaks as if gay marriage is somehow compatible with being a “follower of Jesus.” The fruits are pretty obvious in this case, despite the deceptive rhetoric to the contrary.
Stearns and his board may have tricked themselves into thinking that they haven’t taken a position, but they are not deceiving anyone else. We know what this means.
Yes, it is true that the issue is greatly debated in our time. But the presence of theological controversy does not mean the absence of biblical clarity. Thus the present controversy cannot be used as a pretext to opt-out of faithfulness to Jesus. That kind of sophistry might work with Twitter followers, but it won’t work at the judgment (Romans 2:15-16). Be warned.
It really does come down to this. Is God’s word about human sexuality true, or is it false? Is it binding and authoritative over our consciences, or is it an optional debate that we can opt out of? This is where every Christian leader—and indeed every Christian—needs to be ready. This is a watershed issue in our time. You won’t be able to dodge this question indefinitely. You will eventually have to choose a side. Jesus once said, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division” (Luke 12:51). When it comes down to it, which side of the divide will you be on?
World Vision has asked the age old question, “Hath God really said?” And they’ve concluded, “We’re not going to say.” They’ve taken a side, and they’ve chosen a path. And when they get to the end of it, they will find out who was on the wrong side of history. God have mercy.