The Right to Disagree
By Daniel McGrath
For hundreds if not thousands of years the Christian church has been almost unanimously giving the same message towards current social justice issues, particularly same-sex marriage. But even from as early as a generation ago there has been a decided shift in public sentiment in favor of equal rights for homosexual unions. It seems that the church has been forced to bow to the tide of public opinion and to the demands of this new non-discriminate generation.
Those who have been at the forefront of such change have been heralded as true Christians for demonstrating genuine love and acceptance of everyone no matter their sexual orientation. Those on the opposite side who hold a more “biblical” or traditional view have been denounced as bigots and haters because they rigorously stand for what they believe is clear and decided from the Bible.
Interestingly enough, when one looks at Scripture almost all the textual evidence presented on the subject of homosexuality suggests in no small way that homosexual practices amount to sin. Many suggest this surface reading is not what is really meant by the text. Traditionalists choose to take it as it reads, sensing that if one were to try to understand what Jesus really meant when He stated one thing while actually implying the opposite, one could come up with an excuse for any behavior needing justification.
The simple fact is this. Christianity’s message towards same-sex practices amounting to sin is not popular and never will be. Some would try to change its message by suggesting that Jesus was more open to a gay lifestyle than He let on, but this line of reasoning might only prove to discredit the rest of Scripture too. So the problem remains, Christians who don’t conform to these new cultural interpretations are considered to be some of the most hateful people on the planet—and society’s belief is that it would be better off without such individuals.
But why should Christians or scholars be forced to jump through hoops or twist the texts through a routine of mental gymnastics to arrive at a more popular or politically correct understanding? Why does the message of the Bible have to change just because the majority show more support against its message? Christians should not be expected to change their stance of Scripture on morality. But, they should be expected to enter the dialogue with tact and kindness just as the Bible teaches (Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6; James 1:19).
It is important for Christians to embrace the entire message of Scripture, not just the parts that seems to fit a particular worldview. Those who stand on college campuses, street corners or engage in any other “hate-speech” that preaches hell fire to unrepentant sinners should stop. While they may be correct in their understanding of sin they err by not understanding the love of God.
While the Bible is clear on its definition of sin, it is also clear that God loves all of humanity. Jesus didn’t condemn in harsh tones those who lived in open sin, but He didn’t water down his message of sin either. The woman caught in adultery is a prime example of this. While Jesus didn’t condemn her he told her to go and sin no more (John 8:11).
Equally important for Christians to realize is that God has given each person the right to choose how he/she will live. His love necessitates this fact. We could not consider God to be love if He were to force people to love, worship, or follow Him. Coercion is not love. This leaves it open for some to choose not to follow God but that doesn’t negate His love towards them (Romans 8:35-39).
So if God loves sinners who don’t obey Him then Christians should also do the same. This doesn’t mean the message of sin needs to be updated or changed. It just means that Christians should still be kind, loving, and respectful towards people who chose to live a different lifestyle.
It is not the job of the church to condemn people for their sins or perceived sins. It is the job of the church to proclaim a Biblical message of morality and the solution for sin. Once that has been accomplished people are free to make up their own mind either way. Those who choose to disagree can still be respected as equals.
In this sense Christians don’t need to condemn or dehumanize those who live an openly homosexual lifestyle. The church most definitely should stand against it as unscriptural and sinful but should still be able to love those who have chosen a different path.
This discussion also has ramifications that extend into the political arena. Christians should respect the freedom of choice for those who do not believe in God and not try to legislate their beliefs on the rest of the population. Politics have no place in the pulpit. The church is above politics. The church will be able to identify sin and call its members out more effectively than a legislative process ever could.
While people are free to vote their conscience they should never feel guilty or condemned by their church for supporting the right of people to choose same-sex marriage or any other hot issue that stands against Scripture.
While culture and politics change, the message of the church should not. Congregations should be taught how to enter public conversations in a respectful manner and support the right to respectfully disagree. This is the common ground Christians can find with unbelievers and protect the reputation of the church for the future.