Hobby Lobby went to court. World Vision changed its hiring policy. Then they changed it back. The President visited the Pope. It’s been a big week – not for the kingdom, but for western evangelicalism. And it hasn’t been pretty.
The church is called, in Scripture, the “pillar and ground of truth,” so I believe we have a responsibility to be a voice for God’s truth in the middle of a society that doesn’t recognize or understand Him. That being said, I don’t believe our objective is to reform society as much as to offer redemption from sin, or to sway political leadership as much as to offer salvation to the souls of individuals. Every Christian, and every Christian leader and church and religious organization has to determine what they consider worth fighting for and that’s not always an easy thing to determine.
For example, I’ve been vocally supportive of Hobby Lobby’s case because I’m a big believer in religious freedom, even when it comes to Christians who run their own corporations. I don’t believe it’s the government’s role, at all, to mandate that any employer provide abortion-inducing or contraceptive drugs to its employees no matter how nice a benefit some may consider it to be. But when Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson was temporarily placed on haitus from his show over remarks about homosexuality, I was pretty silent. I saw it as a pop culture battleground over a commercial enterprise designed for profitable entertainment. You may disagree with me on one or both of these issues, and that’s okay.
When it came to this past week’s World Vision debacle, I didn’t like the way some conservative evangelicals (a label I don’t have any problem wearing) sounded so angry. And I really didn’t like the way progressive evangelicals portrayed conservatives as throwing kids under the bus for their personal agenda when they really just wanted to hold a Christian organization theologically accountable to the majority of Christians and churches that support it financially.
But what I REALLY didn’t like is that “our” battle within Christianity sends the message that we’re just all angry at each other all the time. I’m mostly concerned about the bystander who observes our contentions without the larger context of why any of our issues matter to us in the moment.
And that leads to my observation about culture wars. I don’t believe a truce is an option. And I don’t believe victory is possible. And that creates an unsolvable conundrum.
I say that truce isn’t an option because of what I believe about the Bible. I wrote just a few days ago that I recognize it as divinely revealed, eternal, absolute truth. So it isn’t subject to popular opinion or political reform. It stands. I can’t change it. I can’t compromise it. I can only try to observe, interpret, and apply it in whatever context I currently live.
I don’t believe I’m “homophobic” and I certainly don’t hate gay people (though I’d rather say people, like anyone else, who happen to identify themselves as gay). I simply believe that the Bible gives us God’s parameters for sexual behavior and restricts it to a marriage between a man and a woman. For me, it doesn’t matter to whom you’re attracted. Our identity isn’t defined by our attractions. It’s defined in our creation. And all people, regardless of any particular orientation, are created with dignity and worth and value. So all people need and deserve love from me and from you. And God definitely loves every person enough to give His own Son for them, regardless of lifestyle, orientation, preferences, attractions, or even behaviors. But to ask me to recognize homosexual behavior, or any sexual activity outside marriage between a man and a woman as good and right and acceptable, is asking more than I can possibly give as one who believes the Bible.
So when I call homosexual behavior a sin or I speak out against abortion, it isn’t because I don’t like you or I’m mad at you or I just want to make you more like me. It’s because of some deep-rooted beliefs in me about the Creator being defined by His own self-revelation in Scripture and not by what people wish Him to be.
So I don’t want to fight. And I can’t call a truce, at least not if it means giving up my belief. But I can love you, respect you, go to church with you, and enjoy a good cup of joe with you, no matter how we may be different.
So if you’re fighting against Christians who embrace Scripture the way I do, please extend some grace in light of the fact that we’re trying to figure out the best way to live out a biblical faith in a society that is grappling with sexuality and the definition of marriage in a way no other culture ever has. Ever.
And to my fellow Christians who believe the Bible, let me explain why victory is no more plausible than a truce. It’s because sometimes in winning the battle, we lose the larger campaign. We can muster our strength in numbers and push and shove to change (or preserve) the laws of the land in our favor, while ultimately failing to show love and respect for our fellow humans. We can influence or force people to behave the way we want them to morally while failing to offer redemption for their souls, which is a perversion of the concept of grace and an offense to the gospel of the cross.
Victory is assured eternally for all who trust in Christ. But victory here and now, in this world, on moral issues divorced from the central message of the gospel is relatively difficult if not impossible. And if it’s achieved, we often sacrifice the greater victory of populating heaven. In seeking to bring the kingdom on earth (which is a good thing when done right) if we attempt to coerce non-subjects into submission, we’ve missed the point entirely.
So truce isn’t possible if it requires abandoning the Bible as eternal truth. And I don’t think victory is possible either, at least not in temporal terms. So what do we do? Keep fighting aimlessly? Bloody our knuckles on each other’s faces until someone submits? Sounds… painful, and definitely not helpful.
Here’s another option. Let’s keep wrestling with the tension between truce and victory. Let’s allow each other to speak. And let’s listen. And let’s respect each other and demonstrate our love with action. Let’s avoid unnecessarily hurtful rhetoric (like “you just be hatin’!” or “you’re just a bleeding-heart liberal” or “you must want to punch hungry babies in the face and torture kittens for Christ”) and check our motives and attitudes along the way. Let’s stay humble.
At the end of the day, some will believe in and follow Jesus. Others won’t. Some will embrace biblical truth and others won’t. Still others will embrace Jesus but fail to understand or to agree on a right interpretation of Scripture. Thankfully, I can be the best representative of the gospel I can be and then allow the issue of conversion to be entirely up to a supernatural God whose Spirit alone can convince others of the truth of His Word.
I don’t fear you. I fear God. I don’t hate you. I just respect our Creator. And I think He’s right whether either of us are or not.
On a side note, I feel I should clarify that if you DO want to punch hungry babies in the face or torture kittens for Christ, please seek help immediately. In case that’s an issue for you.
photo credit: Jan Tik