The recent Chick-fil-A debate, and the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day yesterday, has me thinking about how we Christians are supposed to respond to accusations of us being “bigots” and being “intolerant.”
In a very pointed article, Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day: A Bold Mistake, Barnabas Piper notes:
Homosexuality is one of the most defining, contentious, and complex issues facing this generation of the church. We cannot sacrifice our biblical convictions but neither can we sacrifice the church’s ability to serve people of opposing viewpoints and lifestyles. The 452,000 people supporting Chick-fil-A are delivering more than one message, and the message the homosexual community and its supporters see is “us versus you.” The event also sends a message of separatism and territorialism in the “reclaiming” of those restaurants that are being boycotted, a collective action easily seen as a shaking of the fist or a wagging of the finger.
Convictions, especially biblical ones, will divide people. That is inevitable, but not desirable. The separation of believers and unbelievers, when it happens, must be a last resort or an unavoidable result. Actions to the contrary, those that clearly promote an “us versus them” mentality, are most often unhelpful. There is a time for Christians to engage in boycotting, such as when a business deals in obviously immoral areas or is clearly unethical in its methods. But for a mass of Christians to descend upon Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country tomorrow to support the leadership’s view on this issue is, I believe, a bold mistake.
So I stand with Dan Cathy in his biblical affirmation of family but I cannot stand with those making a movement out of his beliefs. I do not question the motives of Mike Huckabee or those thousands joining him, but what about the wider effects? How is the Kingdom of God served by this? Is Jesus represented well to the gay community and the politicians pandering to them? Marching on Chick-fil-A tomorrow like an army will produce nothing more than defined battle lines, and the result will be greater contention and fewer softened hearts. On both sides.
In reality, the gay marriage debate is not us versus them, it’s God against sin. We are fighting for traditional marriage not because we want to infringe upon the happiness or the so-called “rights” of the GLBT, but because we believe homosexuality is a sin, and also because gay marriage redefines God’s design and intent for marriage. When we create war zones with our battle lines, the fighting will be neverending. Both sides will not give up and will keep on opposing one another.
As Christians, we have something better to do, a higher calling, than to stand staring across at people we assume to be our enemy, and tell them that their wrong, meanwhile enduring and discarding the accusations of intolerance, discrimination, and hypocrisy. We are to look past the person’s ignorance (yes ignorance; they’re blinded by sin and can do nothing about it) and at their sin. Seeing that sin, and the blindness it forces upon them, we acknowledge their need for the Gospel. We are to pray on their behalf, and plead with God that He will work in their lives, and perhaps use us as a vessel through which to lead them to Christ.
We are supposed to spend our time not arguing with these ignorant sinners, but instead preparing ourselves so that no one can point a finger at us and accuse us of not showing love and being a hypocrite. We are also to spend our time preparing our churches to be able to reach out to these people when they come to us. It will do us no good to argue, but it will help us to be on guard, standing ready to share the love of Christ and the Gospel to our fellow broken sinners.
So what if we devote more time to preparing ourselves and our churches to reach out with the Gospel to those who come to us? Will that do more than heading out to argue with people who, in their ignorance, cannot understand why we believe homosexuality and gay marriage is wrong? This is not to say we should preach a watered-down Gospel that promotes Jesus’ love over God’s intolerance of sin. It does, however, mean that we need to understand that sin blinds sinners, and they need the Gospel before they can shed their ignorance and understand our beliefs.