This morning, the leader of the network to which I belong, released a statement regarding the most recent SCOTUS decisions. It was an expression of disappointment on many levels, but mostly because of how the Body of Christ is portrayed. Called into question was Justice Kennedy’s use of the word animus against the LGBT community as a reason to uphold their rights. I respect the leader of our movement particularly because he is a man of integrity, he loves God, has a sharp mind, and is a bridge builder on so many fronts. But I do want to take this opportunity to maybe give a different perspective on this issue after working with our university LGBT community for seven years now.
This refers to a “prejudiced and often spiteful or malevolent ill will.” It still astonishes me how the average, everyday Christian is so aloof that they can’t perceive our prodigious public relations problem with the world. Have we not listened to the warnings from men like David Kinnaman in his truth telling book UnChristian. Among the top 10 characteristics of Christians from “outsiders” are that we’re intolerant, old-fashioned, out of touch, and too political. 85% view us as hypocritical, 87% judgmental, and 91% think we’re homophobic.
I’ve learned to understand where this perception comes from somewhere beyond our “friends” from Westboro and some outspoken evangelical leaders spouting off on CNN. Beyond the media is the 14 year old boy who’s confused, embarrassed, scared, you name it. If they can muster up enough courage to talk to a pastor or youth leader, then they face condemnation, shame, and alienation. They’ve prayed at the same altars, gone to the same camps, prayed the same sinners’ prayer, and prayed every night for years that God would take “it” away. He doesn’t so they assume: “God doesn’t love me and I’m doomed to hell; or there is no God.”
You see, this isn’t just a PR problem, it’s a hindrance to the Gospel. Now, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is very narrow-minded in that He is the only way to be saved (John 14:6). But our view of people can’t be. We can’t allow our causes and agendas to distract us from the greater calling of reaching people and helping them to follow Christ. Do they see in us something worth having and living for? Do we exude with life giving words (2 Corinthians 2:16)?
It shouldn’t be too hard to believe that the church is fully capable of being prejudiced. It’s been our history since Acts 6. I’ve been reminded of that very recently which I will be addressing some time in the next week. With Christ’s assistance, we must overcome our opinions, preferences, and attitudes, and tear down every barrier between us and them. WE DO IT ALL THE TIME! We back away from people who are different: the way they look, speak, dress, smell, what they eat. And for some reason, someone identified homosexuality as the greatest sin of all. So of course, whether we intend to or not, our words, our attitudes, our actions—they speak so much more than we could imagine.
I was asked by a colleague about the “gay agenda” and how they’re mounting an offensive against Bible believing Christians. I told him, “We created that hostile environment. We told them we don’t want them in our churches, recruiting our children, polluting our schools, spreading AIDS, and cheapening our sacred institutions. Go get your life straightened out first, then you can join our services and become just like us.” Whoa, where do I sign up? We’ve a long way from COME JUST AS YOU ARE (Matthew 9:11-13).
- “I’m not homophobic.” Now, other than white supremacists, who would really admit they’re racist. Just saying.
- “I have to proclaim the truth.” Yes, and it starts something like John 3:16, Romans 3:23; 6:23, 5:8, 10:-9-10.
- “I have to take a stand for righteousness.” We do that by lifting up Jesus. In our own lives, we have nothing to show. If we show Jesus, people will see THE STANDARD (Romans 3:10).
This again is the issue with the younger generations. According to Josh and Sean McDowell in their book “Apologetics for a New Generation” younger Christians are growing resentful because they don’t like being perceived as homophobic and they’re frustrated because their leaders aren’t modeling how to lovingly minister to their gay friends. According to their research, 9 out of 10 young Christians would pick their friends over the church
Perception is very powerful. I challenged a friend on his Facebook post revealing his feelings about the recent SCOTUS rulings. “How is that offensive?” I told him in and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with it. But in his position of influence, it would only serve to reinforce tensions with LGBT people. “It WILL come back to haunt you someday. Ask Lou Giglio.” Haven’t we learned yet that Facebook statuses don’t change people’s views?
THIS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING OF RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION
“In his dissent, Justice Scalia predicted that this decision was only the first shoe to drop. As American culture shifts away from its Judeo-Christian heritage, the speed of that shift will only be accelerated in the days to come.” Yes, there is a very real cultural and ideological war going on, indicative of what’s being waged in the spiritual realm. Again I ask, isn’t that what’s supposed to happen? Weren’t we warned about persecution and the last days (Matthew 24)? Haven’t we been told that the devil is in charge for now (John 12:31, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:2)? But we also know what the last chapter says, and Who wins. Why do we act so defensively? Why are we so reactionary? If anyone should be experiencing peace, joy, contentment, shouldn’t it be those who have been redeemed.
Why are we worried about secularists taking prayer out of the schools? Who cares about the schoolhouse. What about the churchhouse? What about our own houses? Is prayer foundational to our ministries? Our families? Our individual relationship with Christ? #ouch
Do we trust in our tax exempt status more than Jehovah Jireh? Do our Nativity scenes and ability to say Merry Christmas outweigh living out Christ’s Advent the other 11 months? Does the removal of 10 Commandments plaques negate living them out daily? Take away the church buildings, Christian bookstores and radio stations, our bumper fish…don’t we still possess intimacy with the Almighty? What law or government can take that away? I know what Peter and Paul would say. #bringiton
WHAT’S MY POINT?
The ballot box does not trump prayer, repentance, holy living, and discipleship. We try to do so many things to serve Him, yet we ignore what He’s already told us to do.
- Check yourself
Am I living for God? Am I hiding secret sin? Do I seek God daily through prayer and the Scriptures? Do I serve outside the four walls of my church? Am I caring for the underserved? Do I tend to the overlooked and ignored? Am I comforting the least of these (Matthew 25)? Are there areas of rebellion in my life? Do I support my pastor with humility? AM I FAITHFUL? Do I love people? Is the Fruit of the Spirit evident in my life? Do I take every opportunity while freedom is allotted to me (John 9:4)? Do I really have what it takes to face days of persecution? Which is more important: my civic rights or my freedom in Christ? Am I prejudiced? Do I think some people are less deserving of God’s mercy than others? How did God show me His kindness, mercy, and compassion? If Jesus were to right my obituary, what would it say?
- People are not our enemies…PERIOD!
“For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). We have one enemy and accuser. And his fate is already sealed (Revelation 19).
- Love people
Meet folks where they’re at, not drag them to where we’re at. We’re not spiritual surgeons with the purpose of going after people’s individual issues and problems. The Church is here to invite people and lavish courageous and outrageous love upon them. I don’t know about everyone else, but my salvation didn’t come about because someone tried to deal with my issues. My sisters simply shared Christ and His love and forgiveness. It was followed by the Holy Spirit’s conviction, making me aware of how sinful I am and how much I need Jesus. It was His unconditional love that opened my eyes and made me want to change. “Don’t you realize how kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see how kind he has been in giving you time to turn from your sin?” (Romans 2:4).
- Display Christ
I’m not saying ignore Scripture or ignore sin. But let’s not focus on the things that distract us from the Great Commission. There are 31,103 verses in the Bible. Why do we fixate on 6 of them? We must partner truth AND relationship. How can we expect people to live by the standard of a God they don’t believe in…and that’s probably because we’re not presenting Him accurately? Earn the right to speak into people’s lives based on love, acceptance, and mutual respect. Tell them about Christ, the center of the Gospel. As much as people view Rob Bell as a pariah, he did ask great questions that we are still compelled to answer. And he did get some things right. #LOVEwins
“Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that” (Epehsians 5:2).