I am fairly certain that for the last two months, I have been asked my opinion more consistently than any other time in my life. Social issues of the day have overwhelmed my state, my hometown, churches across the country, numerous friends, my family, my workplace, & people that I have known & loved much longer than I’ve known Christ as my Savior. And it would be callous & fraudulent to say that this has not impacted me.
It has hit home. Just today, two people that have known me for years, who likely do not agree on anything social/political, expressed their disappointment in me for my failure to respond…
I have a number of opinions on those interactions. But my overwhelming conviction is this… my opinions simply do not matter. My convictions, those things that I believe that are outside of the Gospel & my own family, are irrelevant within the scope other people’s feelings, failings, liberties, rights, sufferings, & investments. And that is impossible to express.
I just re-read that little paragraph & even I think it sounds incomplete…
Desperately, passionately, painfully, I want to express my heart for issues that matter to other people. With the highest devotion I can muster, I want to honor my Lord, my wife, & my child with every word that comes out of my mouth about anything. And when I’m done talking, my highest aim is to be accused of being some brilliant hybrid of Bible-believing zealot & socially-concerned friend.
I really do want that.
So how am I to respond when one man’s thoughts & ideas infringe on the rights, freedoms, & beliefs of another man’s rights, freedoms, & beliefs? Especially when the argument constantly goes both ways. Do I trumpet my beliefs? Do I raise up a standard within my faith that believing people already know & those outside don’t understand… because they aren’t supposed to? That’s what being outside of something always results in. Do I join a ‘side’? Do I fight? Am I supposed to weigh it out & choose a side. Do I defend the accused? Do I defend Scripture, though it never asks me to?
Jesus never asked me to fight to defend him. He did say that, in following Him, I will be persecuted. And if this is persecution, I can’t tell who is hitting me harder, the lost or the redeemed. And no one has really asked me about what Scripture says. It seems that both sides know the arguments pretty well, & now we’re in a tug-o-war with what is relevant & right. When did social debates become uglier than political campaigns? Maybe they’ve always been this way. I’m only 31. The Berlin wall fell while I was learning the alphabet.
So my response is not to defend Jesus. I’m going to follow Him. He asked hard questions that lead to harder truths about God & devotion to Him. Some walked away [Matt. 19:22]; some were humbled & changed [John 4:29]; but everyone who encountered Him knew two things about the Christ: that He loved them & that He spoke what He knew to be truth.
Two steps… 1. Love everyone consistently, right where they are. Be no respecter of person. Love the least & the wealthy, the conservative & the liberal, gay or straight, churched, anti-church, or unfamiliar with church. Earn the right to be heard. Pour affection, attention, & intention on all people. Some won’t click, some won’t stay close, some won’t like me, & some will place me in a category & never give me a chance. Those things cannot be changed. But for those that I learn about, live around, & love on, 2. Tell them the Truth. Christ had a reputation. God’s work was His work. Creation cried out for Him & to Him. People were designed to relate to him. None of those things are true of me. No one knows me… so I’m not going to spout off philosophy & theology into the cyber-world or without concern from behind a pulpit. God’s work redeemed me for sure, but I’m just a sin-filled, often faithless, ever-dirty man, so I can’t claim omniscience & flawless exegesis whenever I want to whomever I want… so I won’t. But relationship… I was designed for that!
So, if in my responding, I let you down, I’m sorry. I just don’t have anything brilliant to add. I believe in God’s Word. I believe that Christ has me hear to seek out the lost & to love them. I am not, however intending to use my Bible like a metal detector in search of sin I’m not guilty of. I believe in the image of God that exists in every human being, & I’m looking for that. I think that’s what Jesus wants of me. In my preaching & teaching, as a leader & follower, in my intimate moments & when I’m in a crowd, with people I’ve known forever & with complete strangers… love.
That’s how I plan on responding… loving everyone, like I have first been loved. There may never be any eloquent words, stump speeches, or clever phrases… Sorry, Jesus already took all of the good stuff.