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ASK BOB: “How Can We Take a Biblical Stance on Cultural Issues Without Appearing Hateful or Bigoted?”

by Bob Russell

(From www.bobrussell.org)

Occasionally people ask my opinion on various personal or church issues. I recently received the following question which I have reprinted below, followed by my response.

QUESTION

Bob, 

     Throughout our lifetime I believe a person’s integrity is often tested.  My test came a little more than a year ago during jury duty where I participated in “Voir Dire” for a high-profile murder trial.  At the very moment of “swearing in” I realized that I was accountable for my answers not just to the court but to God Himself.  The first thought that ran through my mind was to give honest but short answers.  All was going as I had planned…until I believe God decided to test my resolve and belief in Him and His Word.  An opened-ended question regarding the level of my acceptance of the LGBTQ community was then asked.  God was asking me, “Is what you say, what you really believe?”  I became calm and deliberate at this moment, weighing the impact of every word.  I knew what I believed, but was unsure how to convey it. I then remembered a radio interview you had years ago where you were asked a very similar question. I tried to pattern my response after the tone and demeanor of that interview: “I am a Christian, and I believe in and try to follow the standards and commands of the Bible. My belief system tells me that I am not to embrace the lifestyles chosen by the LGBTQ community. My faith also admonishes me to love everyone.”   

     My responses were honest, truthful, and delivered in a loving tone. As I looked into the faces of the defense attorney, the prosecutor, and all the others before the bench, you would have thought that I had personally insulted each of them.  I then thought to myself, “Surely the judge understands my response,” yet I saw pity or maybe disgust on her face.  Needless to say, I was quickly excused from voir dire and not chosen for the jury.  The experience has left me a bit unconfident in discussing my beliefs on this issue.  Please understand I do not question my position on this matter, just how best to articulate it.

       So, my question concerns how we can best lovingly state our beliefs within our current culture to answer these types of questions without diluting God’s truth or retreating from the issue and, at the same time, not to be perceived as a bigot or a phobic.  

 MY ANSWER
     Thanks for sharing the experience you had while serving as a potential juror. It sounds to me that you responded to the questions in the inquiry room the way you should have. It would have been wrong to lie or keep silent about your convictions just because they are unpopular. But seasoned Christians are frequently stunned to discover that we have so few allies in the public arena. Thirty years ago your views would have been the majority opinion, but that’s not true anymore and, not surprisingly you felt very much alone.

     Pastor John Dickerson recently authored an eye-opening book titled The Great Evangelical Recession in which he points out that today only 7-8 % percent of the American people are evangelical in their belief. Less than 10% contend that the Bible is the Word of God and Jesus the only source of Salvation. In light of that statistic, it’s really not surprising that the lawyers, those in the jury pool, even the judge evidently didn’t share your convictions. The truth is we’re very much in the minority anymore.

     In the future, Bible-believing Christians need to face the fact that we are vastly outnumbered. Ours is indeed a post-Christian era. Our experience is becoming increasingly like that of the early church when followers of Christ were considered such a threat to cultural norms that they were arrested and sometimes executed for their faith. Jesus was the epitome of compassion, yet He was crucified by the majority. He said, “A servant is not above his master. If the world hated me it will hate you.” 

     The bottom line is there is not much we can do to avoid being considered haters or bigots. No matter how tender, compassionate, and courteous we try to be, the world is in rebellion against the truth of God’s Word. The Bible clearly states that God has created us male and female, homosexual behavior is a sin, and it’s wrong for a man to dress like a woman. The world has come to believe Satan’s lie that homosexuality is a gender instead of a behavior. But we can’t alter God’s truth. No matter how tactful we try to express it, the truth goes against the grain of popular opinion. 

      A few weeks ago Lady Gaga called Vice President Pence: “…the worst representation of what it means to be a Christian.” The reason for her harsh attack against the Vice President? Mike Pence’s wife volunteers at a Christian School which does not endorse the LGBT agenda. He said nothing to deserve the ridicule and venom he’s recently received from the press and social media. It’s just that his wife is a part of a Christian school that teaches Christian values.

      The prophet Hosea predicted, “The days of punishment are coming, the days of reckoning are at hand.  Let Israel know this. Because your sins are so many and your hostility so great, the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired person a maniac” (Hosea 9:7). 

     The prophet Isaiah warned, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness…” (Isaiah 5:20). I think your experience is the new normal. In the future, followers of Christ will need to toughen up and anticipate that many in the world will reject our beliefs. Those of us over the age of 50 have been spoiled by growing up in a country where Christian values were the norm. That is no longer the case. Jesus warned, “If the world hates you keep in mind that it hated me first.”

     The fact that we are in the minority and falsely accused of hate and bigotry should not change how we respond. We are still to speak the truth in love. We are still to pray for our enemies. We are still to overcome evil with good. 

     Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount are our best encouragement: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for, in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

 

            Bob Russell is retired Senior Minister of the Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY.

 




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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10