Gentleness and Respect

Posted: July 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

My wife and I just came back from a music festival where we went to see our favourite band perform in celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary. Ironically, this also happened to coincide with the US Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling, something that was openly celebrated by 99% of those in attendance. Which got us thinking, I wonder what would happen if anyone here found out that we were in the 1% who held a very different belief?

The truth is, the more I talk to people, the more I realize that this is a very common experience for those who hold to a biblical view of marriage. Whether it is at school, work or among friends and family, many Christians are feeling unwelcome. Even though we as Canadians have been living with the reality of same-sex marriage for years now, this recent shift in US law has certainly brought the issue to the forefront, often leaving those who oppose it afraid to speak their minds.

Part of this reminds us of something Jesus said:  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” – John 15:18-19 (ESV) If we are going to stand firm on our theological and moral convictions, the reality is that we should expect animosity. The question is, how should we respond?

As professor Denny Burk explains,

The video above is from a Roman Catholic group, but I can testify that many evangelical Christians are feeling the same way these folks are. I am a pastor, and the testimonies in this video look very similar to what I have been seeing with the folks in my church. Our members by and large don’t have questions about the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality and marriage. They get that. Nor do they have questions about their obligation to love their neighbor, to seek their good, and to be at peace with everyone (Mark 12:29Luke 6:33Rom. 12:18). They get all of that. Their question is how to live out what Jesus has called them to be when folks treat them with hostility.

Now to be sure, the kind of cultural animosity we may encounter is nothing compared to the persecution many Christians face throughout the world. Still, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think carefully about the context we live in and the way we in the church today are being viewed and treated here in North America. Because it certainly seems like we are entering a season of increased hostility and rejection but hopefully this will lead to greater humility and increased wisdom as we seek to find some common ground with our neighbours.

Pastor Gavin Ortlund recently shared some very helpful thoughts on this…

Many younger people seem to intuitively sense that accepting gay marriage is tolerant and compassionate, and opposing it is narrow and mean. That instinct is not incomprehensible. There is indeed a lot of bigotry and homophobia in the world, and there has been a lot of downright meanness directed toward the LGBT community. I grieve and oppose this as much as anyone. It is wrong. Christ has called us to love our neighbor, whatever their sexual identification, and the gospel calls us to be more concerned about our own sin than anyone else’s.

But many prominent voices in our culture regard all opposition to same-sex marriage as bigoted. There is an aggressive, “take-no-prisoners” mindset that—all in the name of open-mindedness and tolerance—sweeps away any space for principled disagreement. There are only two options on the table: the celebration of gay marriage, or “nonsense … absolute stupidity” of the kind that is comparable to denying women or black people the right to vote and can only be met with exasperation and disbelief.

But if we are really seeking to advance the cause of tolerance, shouldn’t we be willing to tolerate persons who hold to the traditional view? If we are really seeking to advance the cause of open-mindedness, shouldn’t we be willing to distinguish between more and less thoughtful expressions of the view we oppose?

“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” – 1 Peter 3:14-15 (ESV)

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