For those of you who just landed from the most recent shuttle from Mars, the Christian relief organization World Vision recently announced that they would no longer ban gay couples in same-sex marriages from working for their organization. Less than 48 hours later, they retracted that statement and reaffirmed their original position.
Enter the bloggers, the angry mobs, the ad hominem attacks, the straw men being erected in the theological cornfields of the perceived enemy. My friends, the blogosphere was not a pretty place last week. I don't have time to go into all of my frustrations about how this situation was handled by certain people on BOTH sides of the theological debate. But I'll talk about a few.
I am speaking to my brothers in the conservative theological camp in this post. To my regular readers, It isn't a surprise that I affirm the traditional, side B sexual ethic. Therefore, I do not have a problem with theological conservatives speaking the truth of what they believe the Bible teaches. In fact, if they are loving, speaking is required. I seriously cannot imagine a legitimate form of love that doesn't warn someone headed toward the edge of a cliff. However, in my view, there are at least three ways that this "speaking the truth" can - and in some cases has - gone horribly awry.
Number one, if the truth is turned into a hammer meant to bludgeon the perceived enemy to death, then I have a problem. The command to "speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15) is not optional. If there is no love, then don't speak. One of the ways that I see this happening, perhaps unintentionally, within this specific debate is when the conversation is reduced into a simple argument to be won, failing to take into account the lives of real people created in the image of God. How easy is it to ignore the emotions, desires, and experiences of gay people when we form our carefully crafted arguments? This does not mean that we should water down the truth in order to "not offend". Jesus was obviously not concerned about offending (Luke 12:51). I'm simply saying that the tone with which we communicate matters. We can say the same truth in a way that oozes love and compassion, or in a way that throws real people under the theologically correct bus.
Number two, if speaking the truth is where our love ends, then I have a problem. If our love terminates in truth telling, then our love is woefully incomplete. It is easy to speak. Actions are the proof in the love pudding. We are called to love our enemies perfectly (Matt. 5:43-48) and this includes more than telling them that they are sinning (Luke 6:27-28; Rom. 12:20). So do the actions line up with the words? How many outspoken conservative bloggers have gay friends that they have befriended and regularly serve? Perhaps many of them do. In my view, it is within those types of relationships that truth is best spoken (see Rosaria Champagne Butterfield's testimony). It's easy to sling truth across the interweb and call it love. It's difficult to love someone into the Kingdom.
Number three, when people use terms like "false teacher" and "wolf in sheep's clothing" immediately, at the first sign of sin, then I have a problem. Richard Strearns was called these very things THE SAME DAY that World Vision made their announcement. Then, less than 48 hours later, they changed their minds and repented, and Stearns was called "humble" and "courageous" by these same people. So can we just slow down the accusatory train here? Calling someone a wolf is an incredibly serious thing to do which, in my view, should only be done after a call to repentance has been issued and repeatedly ignored. Stearns did not ignore the call, thus proving (at least outwardly) the label of "wolf" to be false and premature. The only thing that would have been lost if a week or a month had been allowed to pass before labeling Strearns a heretic would have been a false accusation.
Brothers and sisters, let not our zeal for truth make our love defective. Same-sex marriage and homosexuality are not abstract theological issues. These are people that we are talking about. As Jonathan Akin recently tweeted, "May we Christians be more tolerant than the tolerance crowd - truly loving & being kind to those who disagree with us."