The Endearing Conceit of Young Men

I wonder if you have ever thought about the kind of courage—but also the kind of conceit—it takes for a young man to ask a father for the hand of his daughter. De Witt Talmage once considered this in a discourse on marriage and, frankly, his thoughts are hilarious. I trust you’ll enjoy reading about the very “sublimity of impudence” as he highlights it here.

I charge you realize your responsibility in having taken her from the custody and care and homestead in which she was once sheltered. What courage you must have had and what confidence in yourself to say to her, practically: “I will be to you more than your father and mother, and more than all the friends you ever had or ever can have. Give up everything and take me. I feel competent to see you through life in safety. You are an immortal being, but I am competent to defend you and make you happy. However bright and comfortable a home you have now, and though in one of the rooms is the armchair in which you were rocked, and in the garret is the cradle in which you were hushed and the trundle-bed in which you slept, and in the sitting-room are the father and mother who have got wrinkle-faced and stoop-shouldered and dim-eyesighted in taking care of you, yet you will do better to come with me.” I am amazed that any one of us ever had the sublimity of impudence to ask such a transfer from a home assured to a home conjectured and unbuilt.

You would think me a very daring and hazardous adventurer if I should go down to one of the piers on the North River, and at a time when there was a great lack of ship captains, and I should, with no knowledge of navigation, propose to take a steamer across to Glasgow or Havre, and say: “All aboard! Haul in the planks and swing out,” and, passing out into the sea, plunge through darkness and storm. If I succeeded in getting charge of a ship, it would be one that would never be heard of again.

But that is the boldness of every man that proffers marriage. He says: “I will navigate you through the storms, the cyclones, the fogs of a lifetime. I will run clear of rocks and icebergs. I have no experience and I have no seaport, but all aboard for the voyage of a lifetime! I admit that there have been ten thousand shipwrecks on this very route, but don’t hesitate! Tut! Tut! There now! Don’t cry! Brides must not cry at the wedding.”

Tim Challies

The Hand of God

In 1 Peter 5:5–6, Peter addresses younger Christians who are not leaders in the church and, likely, less mature in their walk of faith. He urges them to practice humility in all of their relationships—with elders, other believers, and with God: “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (ESV).

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God is an expression that entails submitting in a spirit of humility to God’s sovereign dealings in your life. It means trusting God and accepting His will, no matter what hardships He allows. In the next breath, Peter says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). We are to humbly trust God even in times of adversities, giving all our worries and concerns to Him.

In 1 Peter 5:5, Peter quotes Proverbs 3:34: “Surely He [God] scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble” (NKJV). The sin of pride is linked with rebellion against God (Ezekiel 28:13–17). A proud person sets himself against God, causing God, in turn, to set Himself against the proud. A humble person agrees with God and receives His favor and care.

In a strikingly similar teaching, James references the same proverb: “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. . . . Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:6–10, ESV).

Both Peter and James highlight the difference between God’s dealings with the proud versus the humble. The Lord opposes the proud but raises up the humble person who casts himself entirely on God’s grace. Peter’s pronouncement echoes the psalmist’s: “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).

The mighty hand of God is an anthropomorphous expression referring to the Lord’s superior strength. When Peter says, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,” he is reminding Jewish Christians of the Lord’s unequaled power. God’s “mighty hand” and “outstretched arm” have humbled Israel and brought His people to repentance over and over again in the past (Ezekiel 20:33–44; Jeremiah 15:6; Isaiah 5:25).

Perhaps more than most, Peter understood that it’s far better for followers of Christ to humble themselves under God’s mighty hand than to reach the point of needing to be humbled by God. As a young, immature believer, Peter had bragged that he would always remain faithful to Christ, choosing to die rather than ever deny Him: “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matthew 26:33; see also Mark 14:29, 31). Yet from that lofty place of boasting, Peter plunged into unimaginable depths of denial (Luke 22:54–61). When the rooster crowed, and Jesus turned to look into Peter’s eyes, the apostle was profoundly humbled under the mighty hand of the Lord. Yet it wasn’t long before Peter was restored by the Lord (John 21:15–25). His pride had hurled him down, but God lifted him up.

Although our human tendency may be to react with pride, the Lord calls us to respond with humility to all people and every adversity we face. After receiving “surpassingly great revelations,” the apostle Paul was given a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him from becoming conceited and boastful (2 Corinthians 12:7). Peter acknowledged the same principle—that God often allows trouble and adversity to keep us humble and dependent on Him.

To humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God means to trust in the Lord’s power, recognizing that our strength comes from Him and not ourselves (Psalm 121:2; 2 Corinthians 12:9). It involves accepting His sovereign dealings in our lives, submitting to our elders, and acting humbly toward our brothers and sister in the body of Christ.

We get to choose how we will respond to adversity. We can fret and chafe under the Lord’s mighty hand, or we can accept the tests that God sends. We can trust in His faithfulness, knowing His hand is strong to deliver us. We can offer our worries to Him, knowing He will take care of us. God will give us the grace we need to endure so that His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). And He will lift us up at the proper time.

Bear Fruit

Galatians 5:16-26

It’s impossible to think about Jesus’ call to bear fruit without considering
Paul’s words in Galatians 5. It’s clear from this passage that everyone
bears fruit. Some of us bear fruit that brings pain and division, and that
makes the world a poorer, more hostile place. But, when we allow our
lives to be aligned to God’s values and directed by God’s Spirit, we
bear fruit that brings peace, justice, and compassion, and that makes the
world a kinder, more hospitable place. If we’re honest, we’ll have to
acknowledge that we all bear both kinds of fruit. In some parts of our
lives, we are more connected to Jesus than in others. Where we remain
in Jesus, we bear the fruit of the Spirit. Where we still insist on doing
things our way, and prioritizing our agendas, we bear rotten fruit.
What’s great about the fruit of the Spirit is that it requires no law. When
we follow God’s values and priorities, we don’t need to be given a list
of “dos” and “don’ts”. We automatically seek to be and do what brings
life, joy, peace, and justice into our world. Whenever we find ourselves
becoming obsessed with laws and rules, we can be sure that we’ve
strayed from the Spirit’s leading. But, when we find ourselves naturally
loving and caring for others, we know that God’s Spirit is working in us
to bear fruit that lasts.

We can’t really bear good fruit unless we’re willing to acknowledge the
things that stop us from doing so. This is where confession is such a
powerful practice. It helps us to face, and deal with, anything that blocks
us from the Spirit’s gentle guidance. Today, whenever you become
aware of things that keep you from bearing good fruit, confess them and
open yourself to God’s Spirit again.

Forgive me when I bear bad fruit, O God, and lead me to bear the fruit
of your Spirit.

Songless Saints

I was on a scriptural safari. Prowling through the Ephesian letter, I was tracking an elusive, totally unrelated verse when God’s sharp sword flashed, suddenly slicing me to the core.

. . . speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:19)

Everyone knows Ephesians 5:18, where we are told to “be filled with the Spirit” . . . but have you ever noticed that verse 18 ends with a comma, not a period? The next verse describes the very first result of being under the Spirit’s control . . . we sing! We make melody with our hearts. We communicate His presence within us by presenting our own, individual concert of sacred music to Him.

Let’s take it another step. The church building is not once referred to in Ephesians 5. I mention that because we Christians have so centralized our singing that we seldom engage in it once we drive away from the building with stained glass and an organ. Stop and think. Did you sing on the way home from church last Sunday? How about Monday, when you drove to work . . . or around the supper table . . . or Tuesday as you dressed for the day? Chances are, you didn’t even sing before or after you spent some time with the Lord any day this week.

Why? The Spirit-filled saint is a song-filled saint! Animals can’t sing. Neither can pews or pulpits or Bibles or buildings. Only you. And your melody is broadcast right into heaven—live—where God’s antenna is always receptive . . . where the soothing strains of your song are always appreciated.

Believe me, if Martin Luther lived today, he’d be heartsick. That rugged warrior of the faith had two basic objectives when he fired the reformation cannon into the sixteenth-century wall of spiritual ignorance. First, he wanted to give the people a Bible they could read on their own, and second, to give them a hymnal so they could sing on their own. The Bible we have, and its words we read. The hymnal we have, but where, oh, where has the melody gone? Mr. Songless Saint is about as acquainted with his hymnal as his six-year-old daughter is with the Dow Jones averages. Christians know more verses by heart from Ecclesiastes and Ezekiel than from the well-worn hymnal they use over 100 times a year! We simply do not sing as often as we ought, and therein lies the blame and the shame.

Allow me to offer a few corrective suggestions:

Whenever and wherever you sing, concentrate on the words. If it helps, close your eyes. Let yourself get so lost in the accompanying melody that you momentarily forget where you are and what others might think. Frankly, I find it impossible to praise my Lord in song at the same time I feel self-conscious.

Make a concentrated effort to add one or two songs to your day. Remind yourself periodically of the words of a chorus or hymn you love and add them to your driving schedule or soap-and-shower time.

Sing often with a friend or members of your family. It helps melt down all sorts of invisible barriers. Singing before grace at mealtime in the evening is so enjoyable, but I warn you, you may become addicted.

Blow the dust off your record player and put on some beautiful music in the house. The family atmosphere will change for the better if you do this occasionally. And don’t forget to sing along, adding harmony and “special effects.”

Never mind how beautiful or pitiful you may sound. Sing loud enough to drown out those defeating thoughts that normally clamor for attention. Release yourself from that cage of introspective reluctance—SING OUT! You are not auditioning for the choir, you’re making melody with your heart.

If you listen closely when you’re through, you may hear the hosts of heaven shouting for joy. Then again, It might be your neighbor . . . screaming for relief.


Half of the Christians in America Feel Casual Sex Is Okay

A new survey finds that a majority of Christians don’t care what God thinks about the issue of sex.

The Background: According to a new survey by Pew Research, half of Christians in America say casual sex is sometimes or always acceptable. The survey defined casual sex as sex between consenting adults who are not in a committed romantic relationship.

Catholics were the most likely to take this view (62 percent), though Protestants in the historically black tradition (56 percent) and mainline Protestants (54 percent) were close behind. More than one in three evangelicals (36 percent) also hold this view.

A majority of Christians (57 percent) say sex between unmarried adults in a committed relationship is sometimes or always acceptable. That includes 67 percent of mainline Protestants, 64 percent of Catholics, 57 percent of Protestants in the historically black tradition, and 46 percent of evangelical Protestants.

Not surprisingly, frequency of church attendance affects one’s perspective on this issue. A little less than half of U.S. adults who attend services at least once a month (46 percent) say sex between unmarried adults in a committed relationship is sometimes or always acceptable, compared with three-quarters (74 percent) of those who attend less often.

Not surprisingly, frequency of church attendance affects one’s perspective on this issue.

Still, about one-third of those who attend religious services at least monthly (35 percent) say casual sex is sometimes or always acceptable. Another 12 percent of those who attend religious services at least monthly say it is always or sometimes acceptable to have sex on a first date, compared with 38 percent who attend less than monthly.

Why it Matters: Many Christians in America have forgotten a fundamental biblical truth: Because we belong to Jesus, God alone determines the use of our bodies.

A prime example of this teaching is found in 1 Corinthians 6:15–17:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.

As the context shows, Paul means we are truly members of the body of Christ, and that some of the people in the church of Corinth are uniting Jesus with prostitutes. But how does that make sense? We are using our bodies to engage in sin, so how exactly are we involving Jesus in the act?

Think about the connection between a pregnant woman and the baby in her womb. The baby is a unique and distinct human being. The baby is not a part of woman’s body, but rather a person located in her womb. These two human beings are connected physically by the placenta and umbilical cord.

If a woman who is pregnant ingests cocaine or heroin, she makes her baby an involuntary participant in her drug habit. In the same way, a person involved in sexual immorality makes Jesus an involuntary participant in sin.

A person involved in sexual immorality makes Jesus an involuntary participant in sin.

Just as the mother and child are two beings connected physically, Jesus and the believer are connected spiritually. That’s what it means when we say we are united to Christ. Our human spirit and the Holy Spirit are eternally united. And because we are connected to Jesus spiritually, and because sexual intercourse is an act that involves not just the body but the spirit as well, we are involving Jesus in our acts of sexual immorality.

As Paul says in verses 16 and 17: “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”

When Paul says “the two will become one flesh,” he’s referring to Genesis 2:24 and how sexual intercourse creates a “one-flesh union.” This applies not only to conjugal sex in marriage but also to any sexual intercourse, including with prostitutes. When a believer—who is one with Christ spiritually—engages in such a bodily union with a prostitute, he is forcing Christ to be united with a prostitute. Paul finds that idea repugnant.

But why exactly is Paul so disgusted by the idea? It can’t be because Paul finds the prostitute repugnant. Jesus died for sinners, including prostitutes. What Paul is disturbed by is that we are taking a meaningful act—sex—and stripping it of all its meaning.

What Paul is disturbed by is that we are taking a meaningful act—sex—and stripping it of all its meaning.

Before we consider the meaning of sex, though, let’s ensure we understand how this passage applies in our context. Paul is talking about sex with prostitutes because the Corinthians were engaging in sex with prostitutes. But we shouldn’t think that is the only application.

The Corinthians lived at a time when commitment-free sex still had some monetary value. Today, though, casual sex has become so devalued and debased that it’s believed to have no value at all. Many Christians are willing to hook up with stranger and not even bother to exchange names. And yet they would be deeply insulted if their partner offered to give them cash for the sexual encounter. To offer them money would be an insult since it implies that in sexual intercourse they’ve given away something of value—their bodies.

This also applies to sex with anyone who isn’t your spouse. Paul’s point is that a believer belongs body, soul, and spirit to Jesus, and any unholy union with anyone else other than our spouse is a betrayal of our union with Christ. That’s why sex is reserved for the holy union of matrimony.

What exactly makes it wrong, though? That’s something we have a hard time grasping. There are numerous reasons it’s wrong, ranging from “Because God said so” to how it affects the reputation of Jesus and his church. But an oft-overlooked reason is that when we engage in sex outside of marriage, we are involving Jesus in a lie. We are involving the One who is the embodiment of truth (John 14:6) in an act of profound dishonesty.

Sexual intercourse is designed by God to be, in part, a form of physical non-verbal communication between two infinitely valuable human beings. In sexual intercourse, two human bodies physically “communicate” their commitment to one another. When you engage in sex with someone your body is communicating not only that you love that person, but that you have already made a commitment, before God and man, that this person will be with you for the rest of your life.

Some people may scoff at that idea, but intuitively, we know it’s true. We try to deceive ourselves, and even gaslight others who know that this is what sex is communicating. Even when we try to ignore it, though, the reality remains that sex binds two people, whether they want to be bound or not. If no level of commitment is intended, if the bodies are “lying” to each other, then this will inevitably cause psychological confusion.

Sex binds two people, whether they want to be bound or not.

Healing and restoration are possible, of course. We can be forgiven for the ways we’ve used our bodies to lie to others. But it’s so much better not to damage ourselves and others in the first place. We should avoid such damage and stop harming ourselves by engaging in sexual sin.

And how do we do that? Paul gives us a simple solution: Flee sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:12).

To flee is to run away from danger or evil. And sexual immorality is a danger and an evil we desperately need to run from.

Our nation has taken extreme precautions in the past 18 months to avoid the dangers of COVID-19. Even people who wouldn’t be severely harmed by it, such as the young, are taking precautions so they won’t hurt others. If the church took sexual immorality as seriously as we do the coronavirus, we might avoid much of the brokenness and pain we are helping spread.

Joe Carter

When You’re Not Mary Poppins

In Philippians 4:8, the apostle Paul teaches believers how to overcome anxiety and worry and experience joy and contentment in the Christian life. His prescription begins with understanding the tremendous power of our thought life. When we learn to guard our hearts through right thinking—focusing on things that are good, beneficial, and pleasing to God—our renewed attitudes and outlook will spill over into transformed actions and behavior (Proverbs 4:23).

Paul presents a list of worthy, God-pleasing virtues to occupy our minds, including the instruction to “think on whatever is lovely.” What does it mean to think about whatever is lovely? The original Greek word translated as “lovely” is only found here in the New Testament. When used to describe things, it means “pleasing, attractive, giving pleasure.”

One Bible commentary explains that the word for “lovely” in the original language “is a rare word referring to things that attract, please, and win other people’s admiration and affection. Such thoughts bring people together in peace rather than separating them in fighting and feuding” (Anders, M., Galatians—Colossians, Vol. 8, Broadman & Holman, 1999, p. 262). Another commentator expounds, “The basic meaning of the word is ‘that which calls forth love, love-inspiring,’ and here it has the passive sense of ‘lovely, pleasing, agreeable, amiable’” (O’Brien, P. T., The Epistle to the Philippians, Eerdmans, 1991, p. 505).

When we think on “whatever is lovely,” we are dwelling on things that inspire us and others to love one another. Thankfully, the Bible contains many passages to help us meditate on this particularly worthy virtue. Perhaps the most outstanding is the Bible’s “Love Chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13. Here the apostle Paul commends the “more excellent way” of love. All other spiritual gifts pale in comparison to the greatest, which is love. Believers gain nothing—indeed, are nothing—without love.

Filling our minds and hearts with God’s love brings us together in unity and peace because His “love is patient and kind . . . not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!” (1 Corinthians 13:4–8, NLT).

Jesus Christ is our greatest inspiration for thinking on whatever is lovely: “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions” (1 John 3:16–18, NLT). Jesus also said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34–35, NLT).

Meditating on ideas that inspire unity, peace, and love for other people aligns with the Lord’s teaching about the greatest commandments in the law: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37–40).

Paul further illustrated how loving others fulfills every requirement of God’s law: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8–10).

Stewing on trivial, spiteful, bitter, or damaging notions about other people will only hinder the process of letting “God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2, NLT). Then again, if we constantly fill our minds with love-inspiring, peace-motivating thoughts, if we set our hearts to think only on whatever is lovely about another person, to value what is attractive and pleasing about them, we will become peacemakers. We will be well on our way to practical holiness, putting on our new nature, getting to know God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and becoming more Him in thought and deed (Colossians 3:10).


John 15:1-8

There is always a danger when we read metaphorical passages like this
one. Sometimes we take Jesus’ parables too literally, and then we find
ourselves using them to judge others, trying to decide who needs to be
“pruned” and who needs to be “cut off and thrown in the fire”. That’s
why we need to remember that Jesus was simply using the image to
teach us an important lesson about life in God’s Kingdom.
Although we can think about the different branches as different kinds of
people, it is equally true that we all have these different branches within
us. We all have branches that have grown dead and need to be cut off
and thrown away. These are the habits and attitudes that keep us from
being true lovers of God and of others. We all have parts of ourselves
that need to be “pruned”. These are the capacities for love that need to
be disciplined and “shaped” in order for us to become more effective
lovers. And we all have parts of us that bear good fruit. These are the
places where we have already grown like Christ in some way and
where we are already revealing God’s love through our lives. As we
seek to “remain in” Jesus, we become like Jesus and our capacity for
bearing the fruit of love grows.

The worship practice of “invocation” which opens our awareness to
God’s presence is an important tool for “remaining in” Jesus, for staying
intimately connected to God. Today, use this practice to keep drawing your awareness back to God and to deepen your connection with God.

I choose to remain in you, Jesus, so that you and your love may remain
in me.

You Kneed This

Nehemiah 1:11

O Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man.” (Nehemiah 1:11)

Father in heaven, we call upon You today. We know that You are the Giver of all good things . . . and that You never change like shifting shadows. We believe that Your heart is moved when Your people pray. So remind us, our Father, as we bow before You, that there is nothing more important we can do when facing situations that are beyond us . . . than to pray.

We remember that prayer forces us to wait, and we must learn to wait patiently for Your timing. Prayer quiets our hearts before You. The chaos subsides and life seems to settle down around us as we pray. Prayer clears our vision, Father, as we think about our lives, as we ponder where we’re going, and as we pursue Your will. May we walk with You in such a way that our obedience is revealed through deeds that honor Your name . . . even when that means doing the hard things You want us to do.

For those who are in a difficult strait, under pressure, up against a wall, facing a test—perhaps the greatest in their lives—we ask that You remind them that the saint who advances on his or her knees never retreats. Help them remember that You are still on Your throne and they are still at Your footstool . . . with only a knee’s distance between the two of you.

May we all become people who pray. May we also learn to leave the burden with You, rather than pick it up and carry it with us after claiming that we’re trusting You. Right now, Lord, take the burden. We cast it upon You, knowing that You’re better able to handle it than we ever will be. We ask that this time of prayer might make a difference in the balance of this day . . . which we commit to You now, in the name of Jesus, our Savior. Amen.



If there is one word that sums up what Jesus asks of his followers, it’s
“fruitfulness”. It’s a significant and important word, because it’s very
different from the values that we usually use to direct our lives.
Fruitfulness is not synonymous with success. Fruitfulness is not the same
as “winning” or “achieving” or “accomplishing”. In fact, if we read
Jesus’ words in John 15 carefully, fruitfulness is not so much something
we do as something we are. A tree does not have to strive to be fruitful.
If a tree is healthy and connected to a source of water and nutrients, it
will bear fruit – it can do no other.
In the same way, Jesus invites us to “remain in” him, to stay connected
to the one who is the source of our sustenance. If we do this, we will
bear fruit – we can do no other. When we remain in Jesus, then we will
find our values, priorities, desires, and dreams all lining up with those of
God’s Reign, which was Jesus’ focal point. We won’t have to strive to
love (which is how Jesus defines fruit in John 15) – we will automatically
become lovers of God and of people. We won’t have to strive for justice we will automatically become concerned for the wellbeing of others
and of our planet. We won’t have to pretend to be compassionate – we
will find compassion flowing freely because that is the heart of Christ. All
we need to do is stay intimately connected with Jesus and allow his
message and mission to flood through our lives.
We have already begun to explore what it means to bear fruit. This
week, we continue that journey and seek to “remain in” Jesus in a deeper way.

Can the Doctor Still Choose His Patients?

On April 19th, the Biden administration filed an appeal in a case that could force “religious doctors and hospitals to perform potentially harmful gender-transition procedures against their conscience and professional medical judgment.”

The case involves an Obama administration rule interpreting the Affordable Care Act. The rule was issued in 2016, and prohibits insurance companies and health-care providers from discriminating against people on the basis of sex. The rule anticipated that discrimination on the basis of sex would soon legally include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Biden administration has repeatedly pointed to the 2020 Supreme Court decision in the Bostock case, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, as now legally requiring this new way of seeing categories of sex.

If this new way of reading the rule stands, insurance companies and providers “may not deny access to medically necessary medications, surgeries, and other transition-related treatments for transgender people if similar services—a hysterectomy, for example—would be covered for non-transgender people.” This would, of course, redefine the concept of “medically necessary,” ignoring the obvious difference between removing perfectly healthy organs and removing organs riddled with cancer.

Also, the rule contains no conscience protections for doctors or hospitals. Therefore, Catholic hospitals, which do not perform hysterectomies except to preserve the life or physical health of a woman, would be forced to violate Catholic teaching. Various legal challenges to the rule by faith-based groups, all of whom claim that the regulation violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, have been unsuccessful.

Courts did, however, block Trump administration attempts to eliminate the mandate. So, the litigation over the rule continues. In January, a federal district court in North Dakota ruled in favor of the Sisters of Mercy, a group of nuns who believe “that every man and woman” including transgender individuals, “is created in the image and likeness of God, and that they reflect God’s image in unique—and uniquely dignified—ways.” They also believe that “performing gender-transition, abortion, and sterilization services . . . [violates] their religious beliefs regarding human sexuality and procreation,” and object to “providing insurance coverage for abortions, sterilizations, and gender transitions.”

If this case sounds a lot like the Little Sisters of the Poor case, it does.In fact, the district court cited the Little Sisters case several times in ruling that the mandate violated RFRA. Like the Obama administration, who couldn’t leave a group of nuns in peace to serve people in need, the Biden administration has decided that it can’t leave this other group of nuns in peace, either. So, it appealed the district court ruling to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Sisters of Mercy, as Luke Goodrich of the Becket Fund put it, “joyfully serve all patients regardless of sex or gender identity,” and “routinely provide top-notch care to transgender patients for everything from cancer to the common cold.” They also provide “millions of dollars in free and low-cost care [provided] to the elderly, poor, and underserved.” Still, the Biden administration is ready “to punish [the Sisters] with multi-million dollar penalties” even though, as a federal appeals court wrote, “There is no medical consensus that sex reassignment surgery is a necessary or even effective treatment for gender dysphoria.” In fact, there is ample evidence that gender reassignment surgery makes matters worse, not better.

Given both precedent and the makeup of the federal courts, it’s difficult to imagine the Biden administration will prevail in this case, especially at the Supreme Court. However, that is not the primary concern. Upstream from the courts is the larger culture, one not only quick to embrace and advance observably wrong ideas about the human person, but to sacrifice religious freedom in order to do it.

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