Contemporary Issues

Martin Luther is said to have remarked that “Any gospel which does not address the issues of its day is no gospel at all.” Friends have traditionally addressed this challenge in the form of “Advices” – spiritual counsel and biblical perspective on the issues of the day addressed to both the church and the larger community. We continue this practice regarding the issues below, although this is not an exhaustive list.

Abortion and Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide
We believe that all human life is a gift from God. We believe that Scriptures teach and common observation confirms that life begins at conception. God is as intimately concerned with the person inside the womb as with the person outside the womb. Moreover, we believe, with the Scriptures, that one’s life is never entirely one’s own. We belong to God, first of all, but in a very real way, we also belong to one another. As a consequence of this, we oppose the practices of abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide.

An abortion infringes the very principle of life, violating the love through which God creates and nurtures human life. It asserts an individual’s choice over the life of the child, and denies the child’s place in the community.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide have the appearance of compassion, but at their heart, these practices violate the basic principle of life. Any judgment about the potentiality or quality of one life is a diminishment of all life. We recognize that human suffering can be very real at the end of life, but we also affirm that God’s presence is just as real.

We believe our best answer to abortion and euthanasia is to value life profoundly and to embody Christ’s love completely in our communities, especially towards those who have undergone an abortion or have been part of an assisted suicide. We recognize that these sinful choices are frequently made under great stress and confusion. We realize as well, that while we must speak clearly against these practices, we must just as clearly proclaim God’s love and the availability of forgiveness to those who have done them.

The Scriptures clearly declare that God is the Creator of humanity. The Lord’s creation of men and women, which is in the image of God, includes our sexuality, and by His own statement about all of creation, our sexuality is good. The Scriptures also declare that our sexuality, like every other aspect of ourselves, is subject to sin.

As a consequence of this, our sexuality is to be both celebrated and controlled. We believe that God has created sex as a complementary expression of our being made male and female, and intends our sexuality for mutual self-giving, and not for self-satisfaction. This means the only appropriate context for sexual activity is a publicly declared, legally binding marriage between one man and one woman. Sexual activity outside of marriage, premarital or extra-marital, homosexual or heterosexual, is sinful, in that it rejects God’s plan.

Within marriage, sexual experiences that involve mental or emotional manipulation, coercion and abuse are always sinful, falling short of the purpose of mutual self-giving. Any involvement with pornography or explicit communication leading to lust is clearly a means of sexual self-satisfaction, and falls short of this standard as well. All sexual sin undermines one’s relationship with God, one’s spouse and others, while destroying one’s self-respect. As with all sins, when we fall short of God’s standards for sexuality, we are called to repent, receive God’s forgiveness, and change our behavior.

As we affirm our sexuality, we also affirm that abstinence from sex in singleness is equally a gift from God. While sex is certainly an expression of love and self-giving within marriage, we must remind ourselves that sex is not the only, or even the best means of expressing love. The life of Jesus, who gave up even His own life so that we might live, is surely the best witness to this truth.

Marriage and Family
We believe that God created the family as a foundational institution of society. It is composed fundamentally of those persons who are related to one another through blood, marriage, or adoption.

Marriage is a committed union between one man and one woman that God intends to last for a lifetime, regardless of trials, financial pressures, sickness, or emotional distress. As a gift of God, a marriage covenant provides the framework for intimate companionship and is the only appropriate context for sexual fulfillment and procreation. When a husband and wife submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, loving and honoring one another, a marriage becomes a beautiful picture of the relationship between our Lord and His Church.

Divorce is a tragic end to a relationship that God intended to be permanent. In every case of divorce, one or both persons have been disobedient to the Lord. God hates divorce, in part because He understands the painful consequences of deviating from His best for our lives. The Scriptures indicate that God may tolerate divorce under certain circumstances. However, those who, in anticipation of God’s forgiveness, proceed casually towards divorce do so as an act of rebellion and test His grace.

In cases of domestic violence or abuse separation may be necessary and appropriate for the safety and health of the individual or family. In times of physical or emotional separation, as well as divorce, God’s desire is for transformation and reconciliation.

Prior to any divorce or separation, we strongly encourage the pursuit and humble consideration of godly counsel and advice. Those who have suffered a divorce or separation can find hope, healing, and restoration in the Body of Christ.

Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and gift from the Lord. As stewards, parents have the wonderful responsibility to raise their children to love and serve God, providing a safe and secure environment for them to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. God’s plan is for children to obey their parents, and they learn best through the example, nurture, discipline, and instruction of parents who love both God and them.

Wealth and Materialism
In His words recorded in the Gospels, Jesus addressed the problem of wealth more than almost any other issue, so we know that the danger presented by the abundance of possessions is not new. This is a long-standing concern of Friends as well. The earlier testimony of “plain” or “simple” dress was created in response to the growing affluence of Friends and their concerns about the effects of wealth on their Christian discipleship and witness.

We live in a society and under an economic system that has created unprecedented wealth, and in our particular era, our culture seems especially concerned with its pursuit. This creates tremendous possibilities as well as dangers for us both for those who do possess wealth and those who do not. We observe that while the Scriptures seem to put no specific limits on the gaining of wealth, their teachings about money and possessions do run counter to the dominant values of our culture. We would like to highlight three.

First, the Bible boldly states that our possessions, wealth and the earth itself are not ours – they belong to God. We are merely stewards, or caretakers of what we have earned and possess. What we have is never merely the result of our efforts. It is always and fundamentally a gift from God which we hold in trust for Him. This means our financial values must be those of the Scriptures; regular generosity, sacrificial giving, and balancing what we have and keep with the needs of those who are without. It also means we are stewards and caretakers of God’s creation.

Second, the Bible is very concerned about how wealth is produced. Our earlier Friends testimony of honesty in business is an expression of part of this concern. While affirming honest practices, the Scriptures also focus on fairness and justice to those who are the most vulnerable in the economic system of their era- laborers and slaves. This concern creates more than just a responsibility to treat those who work for us well. These teachings also indicate that we cannot turn a blind eye to unjust situations elsewhere which lead to our own benefit. Our purchasing and investment patterns should reflect this biblical concern for the poor and the oppressed.

Third, in subtle ways the values of our economic system undermine or contradict biblical values. The Bible tells us we are valuable because we are made and loved by God. Our economy assigns value according to what we produce or the power and wealth we possess. Our society defines happiness by consumerism, inducing us to worry about the quality of our lives against a rising standard of affluence. The temptation to envy is virtually built into our economic system, both for those who have wealth and those who do not. The Bible says the quality of our lives is not in what we have, but in Who has us. The Scriptures ask us to highly esteem our families and our churches. Our economic system goads us into longer hours, longer commutes, and obsessive competitiveness. We are told and we tell ourselves, that this is done for our families, while in fact it is precisely those practices which hurt our families and keep us from our churches.

We believe, with Jesus, that He intends for us to have an “abundant life.” But Jesus’ definition of abundance is seriously at odds with our culture’s viewpoint. We should rejoice when the opportunity for wealth comes our way, but never grasping for it at any cost, and always regarding the Scriptures’ concerns about how wealth is gained and maintained. For all of us, whatever level of wealth we possess, we believe that God calls us to the continuing disciplines of generosity and sacrificial giving, and to maintain the values of the Kingdom rather than those of the marketplace.

Christians and the Political Process
In recent years, many Christians have become increasingly involved in the political process. We believe this is good, and we rejoice that we live in a country that allows our participation. Several observations about the Bible inform our perspective. First, the Bible tells us that we are commanded to obey, respect, and pray for the government. These commands are not qualified according to whether we support the current government or not.

Second, the Bible never envisions or looks forward to a Christian state, or the establishment of a Christian nation. The Kingdom of God is to be everywhere, and its success can never be wrapped up with the success or progress of a particular nation.

Third, the Scriptures tell us that our primary citizenship is in God’s Kingdom. We are always to seek first the values and benefit of God’s Kingdom over our country of residence or nationality, especially when the values and purposes of the Kingdom might clash with those of our nation.

The Bible calls the Church to speak the truth with boldness, and in our society we have three primary means of influence – voting, free speech, and participation in the political process. We believe every Christian should be an informed voter, committed to genuinely understanding the issues. We believe that God’s people can and should speak clearly to the issues of the day, but that our speech should always be respectful and persuasive, never merely angry nor argumentative. We believe that God does call individual believers to seek elected, appointed and consultative positions in government.

We should be reminded that in God’s plan, no government can do what the Church is intended to do. We are called to disciple all the nations. We are called to live out our faith in a way that transforms our culture and gives effective witness to the truth of the Gospel. As we work for change in society, in some situations it will be appropriate to work with groups outside the Church. But we must be careful. The success of the Kingdom of God should never be identified with the success of a particular political movement or proposal. God’s purposes are always greater than the political process, and our primary task is always to be workers for the purposes of His Kingdom.

Long Beach Friends Church