We are now entering #PrideMonth,1 when companies like Target form a great crowd, especially on social media, to pander to those who follow LGBTQ ideology. In June they roll out their chest binders and glow-up their social media logos - but only in their western hemisphere units, not in the Middle East. Crowds are funny that way - headstrong they always are, but not necessarily consistent. Loud and boisterous they are, but not necessarily courageous. Powerful they can be, but not necessarily for good.
This is an axiom you and I must remember, especially in June: just because a crowd exists doesn’t mean it’s for a good reason. We can easily think of examples of crowds assembled for bad reasons. Crowds thronged to hear Hitler speak. Sodom met Lot’s guests with a huge crowd - that wanted to rape them. I’m aware of a town in Nevada with a large number of young people coming down with cancer. No one wants to be in that crowd. In the 1980’s, a “swarm” of people in the US became fixated on self-amputation and becoming handicapped. Just because a crowd has gathered around something doesn’t tell you anything about whether that thing is good or not.
This is especially important to remember if you are a student surrounded by friends and peers who tell you they are gay, bi, poly, cake-gender, or any of the other 267 “genders” popping up. You’ve found yourself in a crowd, and a lot of the people in that crowd you appreciate; you perhaps love some of them; you at least care for them, and you want the best for them. It’s hard for you to conceive in your brain that this crowd, with this many people, this crowd that I’m in, could be wrong. How can that be? How can God be angry or judge them?
This is an understandable question. Yet consider this fact: that in each of the “wrong” crowds that I mentioned above, those people would have concluded the same thing. Those Nazis listening to Hitler, those rapists in Sodom, those self-amputators would have all asked the same question: but how could my friends that I’m here with, whom I like and care for, how could they be wrong?
Consider also how you got to that crowd. The impulse to be “in,” inside the “inner ring”2, however you define “inner ring,” is really strong with each of us. We each of us want to be inside a group, a crowd, that we admire and esteem and enjoy and care for. Life can be cold and cruel, and such “crowds” promise comfort, care and respite. But note that the reason you therefore entered that crowd has more to do with your own desires, and certain features of that crowd that you find admirable. But in seeking your own desires, you may have looked past certain features of that crowd that are less than admirable. It’s easy to do, and oh so common - easy for the Nazi (before that name was bad) to look past that comment about the Jews, cuz he!, zee economy’s booming, gut!
Lessons from History
When you look at the history of the Third Reich, or Stalin in Russia, it is a dark wonder, how one man could lead so many - such a crowd! - into such malignant evil. So many people in that crowd would have said in the moment - surely not these, my friends! Surely these people, my friends - surely they’re not evil! How could God be angry and judgmental to them?! So, so many would have said that. And later regretted and disavowed any and all participation in that very crowd.
So again, being part of a crowd, and being close to a crowd means nothing. Mankind’s best and brightest have often been so deceived. The existence of a crowd tells you nothing about whether it’s there for a good reason or a bad one. Nor do your feelings. Our feelings are not a good standard by which to judge whether we participate in a good crowd or a bad one.
Note again: we all want to be part of a good crowd, not a bad one. Even people who rebel against “the man” find it good to be part of the “bad” crowd. Everyone is looking for the good. The question is, by what standard shall we discern the good?
Start with the Bible
Might you consider the fact that every good in Western civilization previously came to us from a worldview founded on the Bible? Might you consider that the blessings that you enjoy today stem from the gracious hand of God, Who authored the Bible? Who is both the One we should fear, but Who is also the One we should run to - and CAN run to - for mercy and forgiveness?
If we are willing to believe that, and rest our thinking on His Word, we will discover two things that are fresh and desirable. The first is solidity. We will know that we can find the good, and stand on it, and know that it is good, and that it won’t change to something else, when the crowd changes its mind about what’s good next month. We can have solidity.
But secondly, we can have true love, toward those in our crowd who are rebelling against this God. For instance, let’s say you are a student in the choir. And in the choir there’s a number of self-declared homosexuals. As you consider them, you can know that you are standing on solid ground, that their homosexuality is part of the wrath of God itself (Romans 1:22-27), and that they will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9). So you know that you don’t want to be “in” with them, in that trajectory, that destiny.
But you can also relate to them with love, wanting them to join you in your destiny, with Christ. Thus you don’t despise them either. You befriend them, without joining them. You look for an opportunity to tell them of your life in Christ, while not giving away an inch of your stability in the Word, never apologizing for it. And you endure their scorn, knowing that Jesus endured the same scorn before you.
In this you give and they see real love, a love foreign to the rest of the world. A love that is as solid as the cross, as and happy as the angels sitting on Jesus’ tombstone. This is not easy. It is not hard to be stable, solid, without love, or to be loving without stability in Jesus. The goal is both, and it ain’t easy. But good things never are easy. It’s hard all around these days.
One More Thing
One more thing. If you find yourself tempted to be drawn “in” to the inner ring of any ideology, that pull, that tendency is telling you how much you need the church. Not just the youth group or your small group, but the whole church. The church is the only entity that exists now that will go into eternity. As humble and strange as she is sometimes, it’s true. God hides His glory in plain sight in humble packaging.
As you live in the church, you learn that life really can be lived without being in that “inner ring”, that crowd. The church teaches and empowers you, that it is plausible to live a fuller and happier life without that crowd. You see it in the elderly widow, who is so sparklingly happy, though she lives by herself. You see it in that middle-aged man, who suffers from an early cancer, but whose hope is in the life to come. And you see it your other friends and peers who are wrestling to follow Jesus, though the cost is high.
Crowds are just crowds. They are either good or bad, and the standard is always Christ.