Recently, I found myself in a conversation with someone about one of the hottest topics of today. I don’t want to get into what it was or the details of the debate. I have no desire to belittle someone who is struggling with any of these issues we hear of. I felt as though I was being forced into a debate I didn’t want to have. Especially in this case. Fortunately it was lunch time, so I had an escape hatch. But, as I was in the conversation and for days afterward, I found myself wondering how can I share the gospel with the person whey they so clearly believe I am wrong for believing the Bible on issues of morality. Here is my response on how we ought to respond. It’s long, but hopefully worthwhile.
Let be begin with some background.
We are passionate about the gospel at our church. We believe in it’s work and that it is the one thing we would love for everyone we come in contact with to experience. All of our efforts as a church are designed to lead people to it. We spend a great deal of time training our people to live it out and share with the people in their sphere of influence. This is the main thing for us. The gospel, the good news is that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the dead sets us free from the punishment of our sins and gives us an inheritance as a child of God in the Kingdom of God.
I have talked in the past of the struggle we face in our culture today due to the justification of sin. So many issues that we would classify as sin have become justifiable rights. The challenge is, if we no longer sin, why do we need grace? So our first problem is, the moral boundaries are being pushed further and further out. The road is getting wider and wider – so to speak.
I have also heard it said that you can’t legislate morality. Which I don’t necessarily agree with. But, let’s say that’s true – that you can’t legislate morality. What appears to be happening now is that we are trying to legislate a guilt-free society. A society where we can do whatever we want and we don’t have to feel guilty about it. So, we make more laws (or do away with existing ones) that make it legal to do or be whatever we want in the hope of not having to feel guilty about whatever it is.
If the cross is supposed to put us in a right standing with God (atonement), there has to be something that put us in a wrong standing with God. Right?
We have also talked, at length, about truth. There is such a thing as absolute truth. Truth is not relative. The fact that you may or may not believe in something does not make it true/untrue. It’s true whether you believe in it or not. 2 + 2 = 4. Always. You may choose to believe that 2 + 2 = cat, but that does not make you right.
So, we have justified sin, legislated out guilt and rid ourselves of the idea of truth.
That makes it a challenge to share the gospel with people. It’s hard to tell people they need grace when it would appear we have done everything we can to erase the need for any kind of externally received grace. We, in essence, have become our own savior.
So then, how are Christ-followers supposed to respond when issues of morality are forced upon the church?
Let me explain. For me, grace is the most important issue. All the other sin-issues are secondary. We all sin. We all have sin issues. That’s the problem. The solution to that problem is grace. So, the primary issue is grace. To be honest, I don’t care what your sin issue is. We all have sin in our lives that requires grace. The more important thing is grace.
So, how are we to respond when sin issues triumph and are touted as a primary right?
One more clarification. You might be surprised to hear me say this, but you do have the right to do whatever you choose. You can be as nasty of a person as you want to be. God gave you a free will, and you are free to exercise that free will however you choose. But, as you have probably read, “You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequence of your choice.” You may choose to be as evil as you wish, but you are not free from the consequence of that choice.
Our culture is working really hard to remove the consequences of our bad decisions.
So, you are free to live however you wish. And yes, you can even say you have the right to be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do.
But, what you may not do is require truth to change to alleviate the guilt you feel or the consequences you encounter as a result of your choosing.
This is where some veins of the church are getting into trouble. They are allowing the pressure of an unbelieving world to affect the truth that we have believed and been guided by for Millenia. People can live however they please. But, the church is not under any kind of obligation to acquiesce to the demands of society to alleviate the consequences of that choice.
How do we respond?
The temptation is strong to want to get into a verbal exchange about how we are right and they are wrong. While I believe we need to know what we believe and be able to give a defense of our beliefs – the majority of people aren’t brought to grace in this way. Honestly, I wish they were. Because the logic of scripture is infallible, it would be much easier to just argue the truth of our faith with those who don’t believe. But, that’s just not the case most of the time. In fact, when you find yourself in a conversation that has been forced on you, you will realize that truth has no place in the argument. Trust me. I have been in these conversations. Logic doesn’t matter.
So, how should we respond?
Let me first say, I don’t think it does us a lot of good to get into debate that is devoid of relationship. Instead, I think we should get to know someone and build trust with them. Does that make the dialog harder? I guess it can. But, remember the ultimate truth is that they are ultimately lost if we don’t. We want to set ourselves up for the best chance to have the most important conversation. We don’t want to put more up more road blocks.
So, this is how I think we should respond.
1. We love people unconditionally.
No matter how repulsive their behavior is, we still love unconditionally. Of course, we don’t want to put ourselves into unnecessary danger. But, we have to be in the mess if we are going to be used by God to redeem people out of it. Your hands will get dirty. You may suffer some scars and bruises. But, everyone is made in God’s image. Regardless of their beliefs or actions, they still deserve to be treated with dignity and respect because of whose image they resemble.
2. We follow the truth unswervingly.
As difficult as it is becoming, we still cannot neglect the truth. When we are pushed to condone a behavior, we simply cannot. It sounds intolerant. You will be called intolerant. You will be called a bigot. Get used to it. How can we condone a behavior when someone doesn’t believe and then condemn it once they do? Do they have the right to do whatever they want? Yes. Does that make what they are doing right? No. We believe that following God’s design for humanity is what brings about human flourishing. If we live by it, we find a better way of life. When we live against it, we struggle. If we compromise on that truth, we are not living by God’s design.
3. We live out the gospel universally.
We cannot have any area of our lives where we aren’t living out the gospel. No, we don’t have to be little holiness machines, running around trying to scrub the earth of any form of ungodliness. But, we have to be consistent in all facets. You never know when someone will encounter you in a different arena than they normally do. You need to be the light, even if you don’t think anyone is watching. Every chance you get, be the light. Do good deeds so that people will see God through you. Live out Micah 6:8 in all areas of your life.
4. We share personally.
While it may be difficult to tell another person they are sinning, it’s not difficult at all to point to the sin in your life and how you have been forgiven. Don’t focus on trying to make the other person feel guilty for what they are doing. Instead, speak of your own life. Speak of how the price you had to pay for your wrongdoing was paid by Jesus. And how amazed you are by grace.
5. We pray incessantly.
Pray for those you encounter without ceasing. Pray for them in your head while you’re speaking with them. Pray for them as you’re walking away. Pray as often as you can. Pray that God will send His Spirit to open the eyes of their mind and heart to His truth. Pray and expect that God will not only do it, but that He will give you opportunities to share with them.
6. We invite them to receive freely.
Invite them into the Kingdom of God. The door is open for all who choose to walk through it. It’s not our job to decide who can come in and who can’t. It’s our job to invite freely. Instead of condemning their lifestyle, invite them into something they can’t experience on their own. Don’t try to get them to your side of the argument. Instead, show them what they’re missing out on. Then, maybe they might be drawn into the Kingdom and be willing to lay everything outside the gates.
Perhaps we’ve been focused for too long on trying to convince people that they are evil instead of trying to show people the joy and goodness that awaits us all in the Kingdom of our Creator. The next time you find yourself in a conversation where someone is trying to force you to condone a behavior the bible says is wrong, remember that you too once stood on that side of the argument. It is only by grace that you stand on the other side now. It will only be by grace that they come stand with you. Focus on inviting people into something instead of on what’s keeping them out.
Life the life. Don’t compromise. Invite people in.