It seems like most of the country, maybe even the world, is constantly talking about homosexuality. The conversation is virtually impossible to ignore if you pay any attention at all to cultural currents. News and media outlets, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, television shows, and even the federal courts are conversing about this topic. What some people are saying is very interesting, but much of it is also quite frustrating.
As legislature continues to be passed on the legalization of same-sex marriage and the definition of marriage “evolves/progresses” and all of that, if you’re listening to the rhetoric, here is the accusation against Christians in the broad-stroke: they are bigots. We are intolerant. We are the American Taliban. We’re straight up terrorists and a danger to society. We are right up there with the KKK and the Civil Rights Movement trying to deprive people of rights that are God-given or self-evident. We are out on an ignorant mission to rob others of their freedoms, liberties, and happiness. Those are the accusations against us.
Please don’t close the browser and tune me out just yet. All those accusations leveled against Christians, they had better be false accusations. I don’t pretend that our view will ever be understood by those outside the faith – outside the kingdom of God – but we are a people commanded by God to be marked by love, compassion, patience, mercy, and… even hospitality. Please understand this: You don’t catch sin from sinners. Do you get that?
“If my sinfulness appears to be smaller or less detestable than sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I know some of us, in the attempt to protect our family and to make sure we all stay purer than we actually are, build walls. You don’t want your kids around those kinds of kids. You don’t want to be around those kinds of people. But you are those kinds of people! It’s God’s grace that rescues from “that” (Ephesians 2:1-10). We’ve all got to stop that nonsense. We shouldn’t be consumed with building walls. We should open doors. Our home is open, and my friends, neighbors, and co-workers can make accusations against me, but they better be false. I want them just to be confused to some degree. I just want my neighbors and co-workers to be so ridiculously confused. “This guy is a bigot, but he keeps inviting me over for dinner. He’s so closed-minded, but he speaks respectfully and kind to me. That guy makes me sick, but he keeps bringing me presents on my birthday and Christmas. That dude is such a jerk, but man he tips really well. That guy is like an American terrorist, but he sure is friendly.” I just want that type of confusion. (I’ll admit I don’t always conduct myself in such a way that would reflect the love of Christ, but it is my hope to do so.)
There has to be wisdom though. I’m not telling you to operate in a way that lacks wisdom; God has put us here for the purpose of being the light of the world. We aren’t called to hide out in a building, we are called to engage our community. We are to encourage. We are called to open up our home. We’re called to live in the world. There is some risk involved in that. Yes, there is always risk. Be wise about how you try to do that, but trust God in those things.
I have some friends who would fit the prototype of someone who would probably be infuriated with Christianity and Christians, and sure enough, as we have had conversations, as I’ve seen social media posts, after hearing story after story of being judged harshly, of being ostracized, of being made to feel worthless, feeling like their lifestyle or beliefs are belittled… there has been some unfortunate legitimacy to some of the negative experiences they’ve had with those proclaiming to be Christians, way too much legitimacy to some of those stories. However, some (yes, SOME) of the perceived harshness has been on them. Sometimes people feel hypocritically condemned even when there is no actual condemnation present. It’s not always entirely on God’s people, it’s not always 100%. Because sometimes unregenerate, unbelieving people don’t know what to do with conviction. They don’t feel it as sweet discipline from God; they see it as harsh judgment. They see it as horrible and something to flee from very quickly.
In fact, some of you reading this today probably feel judged, and no one has actually judged you. You may be “judging” yourself right now. We’re not judging you though. However, we’re going to inevitably fall short sometimes. We should be striving to live in glad submission to Jesus Christ where we laugh a lot, where we enjoy good music, appreciate good movies, where we enjoy good food, where we enjoy good drink, where we enjoy hanging out with others and sharing our lives, but not doing so in a way that is outside of the bounds of the Word of God. We should readily let others see the life that is made available to those who would put their trust in Jesus Christ, and then actually see our imperfections. Because tolerance isn’t about not having beliefs. It’s about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you.
God loves imperfect people. That’s why dressing up like you’re pretty when you’re not isn’t helpful. The bigot, closed-minded, and intolerant labels will inevitably be put on us at this point. It’s over. This is how we will be labeled. It will only get “worse.” If you can’t handle this label and don’t want to be viewed like this, then you’re going to have a hard time; you’ll have to go underground or be silent with your faith, which means I don’t think you even really have any. In the end though, let us hope that the accusations and the labels are false.
In addition to being falsely labeled, if we limit the scope of how we are misunderstood and ignore that it is a form of persecution, we will neglect the Christian ethic incumbent upon us to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14; 1st Corinthians 4:12). When people slander us, mock us, or pass laws against us because we are thought to be anti-gay, anti-science, and anti-women, that is a form of persecution. And as such, we are commanded by Christ Himself to pray for those and love those who hate us so.
Because if John 15:20 is true, and 2nd Timothy 3:13 is true, and the expectation of the entire New Testament is true, then no amount of “cultural campaigning” or PR work is going to rescue the church from being thought by some as backwards and bigoted. Where in the gospels did Jesus promise that the world would love us if we just kept our heads down and tried to be really good neighbors? I know many people who think of the church as being very “unchristian” and evangelicals as being political operatives for the Republican Party. So let’s have the humility to see if we are as obnoxious and unintelligent as many people surmise. Honestly, sometimes some of us are… but let’s not assume that bad press with the world means we’ve all done wrong by God.
As followers of a crucified King we should expect to be like the scum of the earth to some (1st Corinthians 4:13) and like the aroma of death to others (2nd Corinthians 2:16). We should not think misinformed hatred and intolerant harassment mean the church has completely gone off the rails. The presence of persecution or hate is no sign that Christians have failed to engage the world properly. In fact, from everything we’ve seen in Scripture we ought to suspect something is wrong with us if we have somehow avoided all of the world’s persecution successfully.
Because, as Christians we believe that God has reconciled us to Himself, not by demanding that we first and foremost adhere to a moral code, but rather by sending the Son of God, by sending Jesus Christ, unlike us, to live a completely perfect life. Jesus Christ was completely obedient to every command God gave Him. He was other than, although He was fully man. Jesus is fully man, but His obedience is/was perfect. His record was spotless. No accusation could rightly be made against Him. Yet He was still hated by many…
So even when we are being criticized for quoting Scripture and stating our beliefs, the God of the Bible essentially says in Matthew 5, “Hey, they’re going to falsely label you. Cool, okay, stop worrying so much about that. They did that to Isaiah. You guys have something in common now. Oh, they’re going to falsely misrepresent you. Hey, you and Jeremiah would be good friends. You guys could sit around and talk about what it’s like to be ostracized and be pushed to the margins.” Jesus will also say, “Oh, hey, btw, I’m also well acquainted with all that.” Was Jesus not repeatedly misrepresented, repeatedly falsely accused of things that were absurd? There will be nothing you can do about the accusation. Just let it be false accusation, and strive to love your neighbor regardless of their actions, or your own feelings.