Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:22-26
Nearly two months ago, a large number of people changed their Facebook profile to this picture. The intention of the image was to show support for marriage equality laws. The response from those who oppose same-sex unions was disheartening. Mocking posts. Insulting posts. Threatening posts. Many (including numerous Christians) changed their profiles to pictures of the cross (using the same colors as the equality sign) or pictures displaying man and wife as the only true marriage. It was a passive-aggressive, petty, “foolish” attack on homosexuals and those that support them. Naturally, these responses led to fights and resentment. Feeling that I could no longer stay quiet on the issue, I began a series of posts. So far, I have discussed the political angle and the religious angle. Christians, in this final post, I specifically address you.
The opening verse is tied to a fantastic Mark Driscoll sermon of which I have already quoted in previous posts, and will continue to do so here. In it, he reminds us who we are truly fighting: “Are we at war with sinners? This is a trap that our enemy has set. We are at war and our warfare, as Ephesians 6 says, ‘is not against flesh and blood but powers, principalities, spirits, the authorities of the dark world, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’ It’s an intensely spiritual battle. You don’t just win this with voting and arguing. You win this…with prayer, evangelism, truth, love. Make no mistake. We are at war, but people are not our enemy. Satan is our enemy. People are our goal.”
…escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. Driscoll also uses a term that I will steal: “hostage.” Regardless of the sin, the sinner is the enemy’s hostage. We don’t send in the S.E.A.L. team to kill the hostages, we send them to rescue the hostages. Our goal is to defeat the enemy. Sinners are not our enemy.
Stop Shooting the Hostages:
“Many pastors know that saying yes (you are welcomed in our church) to gay people will likely cost them with those in their churches who strongly disagree with that yes. ‘It would appear we’re condoning homosexuality,’ they say…Others have told me it was irresponsible for me to allow gay people to be in close proximity to our children.” (Todd Morrison)
“(Penny) volunteered at the gay center in town, helping troubled teens on a phone hotline. On more than one occasion, she would come out to her car…and find Christian tracts on the windshield. Some of them had sayings on them such as, ‘Homosexuality Is the Social Cancer of Today—Repent or Go to Hell.’ ‘I’d look at these heartless words and wonder, Why do they hate me so much? Why don’t they even have the decency to come in and talk to me rather than leave anger and hate on my windshield and run?’” (Dan Kimball, from his book They Like Jesus But Not The Church)
We’re shooting the hostages when we behave this way. Now, you may think that you’re not acting like this, that my examples are extreme, but when you change your Facebook profile pic in response to an equality sign…you’re shooting the hostages. When you call something you don’t like “gay”…you’re shooting the hostages. When you say or post things claiming that the end of America is coming simply because we’re considering a law that would allow homosexuals to marry…you’re shooting the hostages.
In my research, I came across too many sources to quote and/or list that made a statement similar to this: “If two men can marry, why not a man and several women? Then why not 3 men and 5 women? And why not a man with a boy, or even a man and an animal? All these practices stand or fall with homosexual marriage” (David E. Pratte). Right now, some of you feel slightly uncomfortable because you’ve made a similar statement. I’ve seen them. This is a disgusting argument, and it’s incredibly damaging to what we’re supposed to be doing. I know and am friends with numerous homosexuals. Nearly every one of them has told me that statements like these cut the worst. To them, implying that their love for someone of the same sex is equivalent to—or could legally result in—incest and bestiality is the bullet in the chamber of the gun that we’re pointing at the back of their head.
“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” – Matthew 12:35-36 (Jesus speaking)
What we say and how we act reflect the true nature of our hearts. We preach, preach, preach love, yet we frequently display judgment. In a Barna Group study, it was found that nearly 60 percent of teenaged Christians leave the church after the age of fifteen. Among the top six reasons for this mass exodus, Christians are called shallow, antagonistic, overprotective, judgmental, exclusive, and unfriendly. Our mission as Christians is to bring people to Christ; instead, we’re driving them away with spiteful words and actions. I’m sorry if they feel that way, but I’m speaking the Truth. We frequently hide behind that statement, but it’s time that we look at how we’re speaking the Truth.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
Matthew 7:1-5; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 6:37-38, 41; John 8:7, 13:34; Romans 2:1; 1 Corinthians 5:12a; Galatians 5:14-15; Hebrews 12:14…we know the verses. We are called to love, not judge. Love. Not judge. Love. Not judge. I feel that this needs to be repeated and stressed in this manner because many Christians are phenomenal at quoting these verses, yet fail to perform them in spectacular fashion. “People can spot a phony from a mile away. The absolute worst thing you can do is say one thing and do another. If you aren’t committed to applying Christian principles in your own life, you will not only be ineffective, but will be seen as insincere and phony. People aren’t as interested in what you say as they are in seeing how it’s working in your life” (Karen Wolff).
The other day, my daily devotional calendar said, “Conventional wisdom says that a lack of love implies a lack of effort.” Are you even trying? Do you actually know any homosexuals? Have you talked with them? I don’t mean about their sexual preferences. I don’t even mean about whether or not they go to church. Just…talk. Befriend them. It’s astonishing how many of us discuss the sins of the world with our Christian friends at church or at dinner or on the computer…how many attack the sins of non-believers on public social forums…yet how few of us actually take the time to meet these people and strike up real human-to-human conversations. Jesus hung out with sinners all the time. He loved them. We are to follow His example, yet we hide behind our Facebook statuses. We kill the hostages with Smart Bombs from the safety of our own home. Meanwhile, the true enemy sits back and laughs with glee (James 3:6).
“Satan wants the numerous non-Christian heterosexuals to hate us and Jesus. If we pick up the Bible and just start hammering…‘You need to obey God, you need to obey God, you need to obey God’…Do you think (non-Christians) are going to give us a hearing and come to church and learn about Jesus, or do you think they’re going to run like crazy?” – Driscoll
We have our priorities all messed up. Christians are to rebuke other Christians when they spot sin (Luke 17:3-4; 1 Corinthians 5:1, 5:12b), but God handles the non-believers (Matthew 13:40-43, 16:27; 1 Corinthians 5:13). Besides, what good is it to rebuke non-believers? “The man without the spirit does not accept the things that come from the spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:14). They don’t care if you tell them that they’re sinning. As Driscoll puts it, “their heart is like a huge rock. It cannot receive truth.”
It’s for this reason that I believe God is more disappointed in us (Christians) than He is with homosexuals and their supporters for marriage equality. One could argue that God does not have higher or lower levels of disappointment; however, I imagine Him being more disappointed with us because we know better. We know to love others, yet we act with hate. We know that we are to be kind, yet we act petty and foolish. We know how to act…we know how to speak…yet we actively refuse to do it. Furthermore, we behave this way in His name!!
“I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” – John 12:47 (Jesus speaking)
That is our call. We are not to judge the unbelieving world; we are to display Christ’s love in order to save the unbelieving world. “This doesn’t mean that we can’t be passionate people. This doesn’t mean we can’t take strong opinions on controversial matters, but we can’t do so with a stupid and foolish argument, and we can’t do it with a mean-spirited disposition. Be kind” (Driscoll).
Timothy tells us not to quarrel with those who do not know the Truth; rather, we are to teach them. We are to show them the Light. “I am convinced that no matter what the issue is, even if it goes against the grain of culture, how we say what we believe is critical. Most of the emerging generations’ misunderstandings derive not from the church’s beliefs but from the way we go about holding and teaching our beliefs” (Kimball—emphasis mine). In order to be a successful teacher, you must know your students. You must know their different methods of understanding and be able to simultaneously form your message around every need. That said, there are three basic ways that people learn: Listening, Seeing, and Doing.
1) Those that learn best from listening are generally the ones that ask the most questions. Be ready. Be educated. Do not speak emotionally, as you will be more apt to say something foolish. “By being mean-spirited…they’re not going to learn. If we do not do this in the right way, they will reject us and in so doing, reject Jesus because they feel like, ‘If you work for Jesus, I don’t want anything to do with it’” (Driscoll). We speak emotionally when we’re uneducated, so read. Learn. When the opportunity presents itself, speak intelligently…lovingly.
2) Those that learn best from observation are watching. How are you acting? Are you displaying Christ’s love? “Treat people with respect and dignity, no matter the circumstances. Whenever you have the opportunity, show how you don’t change how you treat people, no matter what. Jesus treated people right, even when they mistreated Him. People around you will wonder how you’re able to show this kind of respect for others. You never know, they may even ask” (Wolff). These are the ones you’re chasing away with your petty Facebook pictures and posts. These are the ones that will know when you’ve said one thing, but behaved in another. Always assume a non-Christian is watching you. What will they see—Jesus or a fool?
3) Those that learn best from life experiences need to physically be around God. We need to bring these people to Christ. Pray for an opportunity to meet them. Once introduced, develop a personal relationship. When you have a true relationship established, casually invite them to youth…or a small group meeting…or to your church if you’re so moved. Let Christ’s love pour out from you, then allow Christ to convict them of their wrongs (Acts 9:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:5).
Like He did for you.
You were once no different from that sinner across the room. Don’t think for one second that your sins (past, present, and future) are less than the sins of anyone else. That falls directly into the enemy’s hands. “Satan wants Christians to elevate some sins worse than others. There is a propensity amongst Christians to take sins that we find deplorable and elevate those that are really bad and then take other sins that we struggle with and say, ‘Well…you know…nobody’s perfect.’ All sin is sin. I didn’t know there were good sins” (Driscoll).
Your heart was once hardened too. You were once blind to Christ’s love, grace, and healing power. When you found Jesus, your eyes and heart opened. You recognized your sin and fought it. You’re fighting it still. You will always struggle with sin. You will always battle temptation. However, now you know that Jesus is in your corner, helping you in this spiritual war. Non-believers don't know this, and it's our job to help display this love.
Before Jesus, you were not the enemy. You were a hostage, and a lucky one at that. No one shot you. Jesus found you and set you free. Practicing homosexuals (or any habitual sinner) are not the enemy. They’re a hostage. Stop shooting the hostages. Sin comes from personal choices we have made. When those choices are attacked, the sinner does not feel loved. Does this mean we should ignore the sin? Of course not (Galatians 2:11). But instead of telling a non-believer, “What you’re doing is wrong,” find a way to introduce them to Christ. Bring them Jesus so they can be freed as you once were. They don’t need to be judged. They don’t need to be ridiculed. They don’t need to be debated. They need to be loved.
“If ‘winning’ the debate is our aim, we must reconsider. We win an argument and lose a potential friend. Winning the debate at all costs leaves a trail of destruction—jaded souls unwilling and unable to hear the good news of Jesus because they were bludgeoned into defeat. However, if our aims are to win people to Jesus, then the debate takes a back seat—where it belongs…As Christians, we are called to represent Jesus in word and deed. And all this political fervor is doing a pretty poor job of it…Be a witness—not of your political views but of your faith” – Barnabas Piper.