Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be men of courage, be strong. -1 Corinthians 16:13 (NIV)
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. -1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. -Romans 8:28 (NKJV)
We walk in a world with governments and people whose values go against how God calls us to live. And it’s crucial that we do not waver in our walk to please the world. Just as the world is steadfast in its stand for its beliefs, so do we stand for ours. And we will never all agree.
It’s important to recognize that this is not anything new for Christians. Over the past 2000 years, Christians have fluctuated between secretly surviving to publicly thriving and dominating. Followers of Christ have ranged from terrible to great ambassadors for making God known to the world.
The truth here is that God allowed all things to come to pass. There is no government that comes into power or trend that happens without Him allowing it. And just as He allowed for the Israelites to endure the reign of their rulers in Egypt, He allows for injustice and wrongdoing to occur today. This is a fallen world, but He still will work through all things and people for a greater purpose in His long view.
More is caught than taught
As believers, we are entrusted with a wonderful job in the Great Commission: God placed us right where were are in time, and awakened us right when He needed us to, so we could make Him known to the world in our walk. And because the world is watching, our walk is crucial in making a way to win the lost.
As passionate agents of light who want to evangelize and win the lost, God gives us unique opportunities of discernment to survey the spiritual landscape around us and determine how best to minister in our walk. And there are two ways to look at it: there’s the short, damaging view, and the long, inviting view.
The short view
Though there may be a temptation to grab a bible and rattle off verses condemning others for what doesn’t agree with biblical values, fire and brimstone will only shut the doors of peoples’ hearts until they are ready to receive Jesus. I can testify to this, because I used to be one of them: I would be open-minded to seemingly everything…except following Jesus. And any Jesus talk or biblical talk would send me into shutdown, defensive, or offensive mode.
In short, telling someone else they’re wrong isn’t going to win them to your point of view, just as them telling you that you’re wrong won’t sway you.
The long view
We need to take the long view while standing firmly to our values. We can win more in a demonstrated walk of love and grace, which opens the doors of possibility for nonbelievers to accept Christ, because such a walk can make them curious. The short view, fire and brimstone condemnation, slams the door on them and throws away the key. How many times have you heard people who have left the faith because of someone who poorly represented God in their eyes?
Case in point: Chick-fil-A and Campus Pride
I recently ran across a January 2013 article of the Huffington Post, written by the founder and executive director of the LGBT organization Campus Pride, telling the journey of Campus Pride’s campaigning against Chick-Fil-A to suspending its campaign. Why?
Dan Cathy (president and COO of Chick-fil-A) reached out to Shane Windemeyer (Campus Pride). They texted and talked at length, over months, to understand each others’ viewpoints. They did not have to agree on their viewpoints, but better understood each other, without motive, to make each person and their perspective more real (rather than assumed caricature).
What I liked most in that article was how Dan Cathy, who could’ve blasted back and continued the impasse, was the one to reach out in kindness to Windemeyer, who was actively condemning Chick-fil-A. And by Cathy reaching out and having authentic dialogue, the two were able to become friends, and in this very public article, God was made known positively to who knows how many people who had written off Chick-fil-A, Cathy, and maybe even believers by extension.
And by doing that, the door is open through grace.
We are God’s hands and feet in this world, entrusted with great things in His name. Let us walk lovingly, compassionately, and patiently through these times, and those whose hearts are curious may choose to join the walk as well.