From the beginning my intent for this blog has been to spread hope, encouragement and love. Because of this, I have purposely chosen not to write about controversial topics.
Believe me, it’s not that I don’t have my own opinions about wars and politicians and Duggars and SCOTUS rulings. In many cases I have very strong opinions; but I find that the thing that makes a topic controversial to begin with is its power to divide people, and where there is division, usually misunderstanding, hurt or anger follow.
However, it is precisely because of the division the recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage is causing that I feel led to write about it.
As a Christian I am called to speak truth and follow scripture. This is not optional, and I can’t pick and choose which scriptures to follow.
But, as a Christian I am also called to love. And what concerns me is when speaking truth seems to be more vital than speaking love. When being right and being heard is more important than being humble and listening.
As Christians, we cannot cherry pick passages of scripture to suit our own agenda. We cannot quote scripture that defines marriage as being between a man and woman, and not look at the full transcript of that scripture and recognize it also admonishes divorce, declaring any man who divorces his wife and marries another is committing adultery (Matthew 19:3-12, Mark 10:5-12).
We cannot use portions of scripture to make a point and then, conveniently, leave off the rest of the message. Scripture was not meant to be used as a weapon, or as a tool for furthering political agendas. If we use our Facebook pages to publicly condemn one act of sin, we must be willing to, just as loudly, condemn all others,
including especially our own!
That word: condemn.
That is the problem.
By choosing to use our pulpits, our newsletters, our websites, our Twitter feeds, and our voices to focus on condemnation instead of love, we are misrepresenting Jesus and misrepresenting the Word.
Jesus called us to “love one another, just as he loved us” (John 15:12).
This doesn’t mean Jesus shied away from the truth. We know he didn’t. But he loved first.
He shared meals with people first.
He healed them first.
He offered them water first.
He visited their homes first.
He asked them to come and sit with him first.
He loved them first.
Over the last few days I have seen Facebook, Twitter and the news media ignite with opinions, photos, quotes, hashtags, scripture references, and articles. Friends have been very quick to claim which side of the issue they stand on and it seems (despite the plethora of rainbow colored profile pictures) people find this issue to be black and white. Either you are for, or you are against the Supreme Court ruling. Right or wrong. And you must choose a side.
However, what happens when we choose one side is it usually alienates the other, leaving little room for open dialog and honest conversation. When we make the focus on right versus wrong, instead of on love, we are shutting the door to conversation and relationship with each other and we are giving the enemy lots of ammunition for creating a division within the church.
Yes, as the church we must speak truth. We cannot present a watered-down Gospel just to make ourselves more relevant, more palpable, more accepted. But, we must also follow the example laid out by Jesus and start with love.
Because when love leads, truth follows.
We must remove the condemnation for others from our hearts and our mouths, and instead focus on ourselves.We must accept that we won’t always see eye-to-eye, but love and respect can remain in tact even in the midst of disagreement. We must come together in homes, and small groups and listen first and talk second. We must create an environment where our friends and neighbors and relatives feel safe sharing their hearts with us, safe walking through the front doors of our churches.
We must remember that no one’s heart was ever changed in 150 characters or less. I don’t care how many emoticons you use, people cannot receive love and understanding from a Facebook post.
Look, I’m not saying it’s easy. In fact, it’s incredibly complicated.
Jesus never promised us that following Him would be easy.
But we can do this. We can come together instead of standing divided. Let’s start and end with love.
Author’s note: I had begun writing this post two days ago, but kept hesitating on whether I should actually publish it. Then tonight, by chance, I had two separate conversations with friends about this topic. We did not all agree, but the conversations were based on love and mutual respect. We shared with transparency and honestly while keeping open hearts and open minds.
These conversations affirmed what I was feeling when writing this post — that these conversations are best had around dinner tables, in living rooms, or on park benches…even via the telephone is better than social media and electronic communication. These conversations need to be had person-to-person, and with an interest in listening more than being heard. I am so thankful to my friends for affirming that for me. For being real, and for being willing to listen.
If you feel led to share this article via social media, that’s great. But I hope that you will also feel led to discuss this topic in-person. The conversation may have gotten started on social media, but lets continue it in our dining rooms and back porches.