“When you’re in the arena … just remember who the enemy is.”
(For those of you who saw the movie, this was Woody Harrelson’s character. Also — you should read the books. The movies were great, but the books were far superior. All the intricate details simply cannot fit into a 2- or 3- or even 4-hour movie.)
There were a lot of moving pieces in that story, especially at the point this statement was made. A lot of complications intertwined, many of which Katniss didn’t know and couldn’t understand from her vantage point. Almost all of which she could neither manipulate nor control. Not only were there complications, but there were passions and fears running rampant on all sides. In those situations, it is easy to forget who the real enemy is.
I think the Church has forgotten who the real enemy is.
I didn’t blog last week because I didn’t know what to say. So many complications and thoughts and passions ran through my mind that I couldn’t organize them. I couldn’t grapple any more and so, I stepped back. While I certainly didn’t start the conversation, my contribution, it seems, fueled the opposite of my intent and set fire to fully unexpected paths at rates I couldn’t comprehend. I didn’t — and still don’t — know how to stop the Hunger Games being played out all around me.
I regret that my words may have, for some, justified harmful choices.
I regret that my words were, by some, taken out of context, misunderstood and abused.
In the past two weeks I have been called a bigot. A Pharisee. A hypocrite. A racist. (I have no idea where that last one comes from.) Others have accused me of being an instigator. A legalist. Of sacrificing the forest (starving children) for the trees (inconsequential doctrine).
Let me make clear: My intention never included encouraging people to stop supporting World Vision. We have not ended our support and do not plan to do so.
While most see this whole issue centering on gay marriage or gay rights, I see it as an opportunity to discuss biblical interpretation. My only intention was to encourage people to think about:
- how we read the Bible
- to what extent is the Bible an authority in our lives
- the implications of inconsistent biblical interpretation
I am very sorry that this was not clear.
In the seven years that I’ve maintained this blog, I have written thousands of posts. Of those thousands of posts, hundreds — literally hundreds upon hundreds — talk about love and grace. Only two talk about homosexuality and both of those also mention love and grace. Neither were ever supposed to start — or even slightly encourage — any kind of bloodbath.
Talking about the Tough Topics
It is indescribably difficult to discuss controversial topics on the internet. And that’s the thing — these topics should not be relegated to online conversations with strangers. We should be talking about these topics face to face with friends and neighbors. It makes absolutely no sense to take tremendously personal struggles to sterile computer screens and broadcast dialogs.
Personal topics need to be handled personally. In real life, with real people we can see and touch and connect. Too much of conversation happens outside of words. Too much goes missed or misunderstood in this limited form of communication and, in the process, people are hurt. Friends, family, brothers and sisters are shredded by unkind remarks, unthinking actions. Out of fear or limited perspective we destroy our allies. We destroy the Church. We burn bridges we need to cross to reach the world for Christ.
It is critical that we talk about the hard topics. We need to talk about homosexuality … pornography … addictions … divorce … abuse … injustices. We need to talk about real issues that touch so many of us! We can’t just brush them under the rug of propriety or pretend they don’t affect believers. They do. And we need to wrestle with them and what God says about them.
But as we do this, please, please … Remember who the real enemy is. Our brothers and sisters chasing after God are not the enemy. We’re on the same team, remember? We’re all striving to learn and love and serve and glorify Him. Let us do it together in unity, with humility and compassion. Let us be honest and transparent thereby creating a safe place to have these discussions. Let us remember the grace that has been showered on us and overflow that grace to others.
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.
The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
— Matthew 22:36–40 (emphasis mine)
The greatest commandments were not to know or defend Truth. They were to love. And all the Law, all of God’s expectations for us, sit on these two commandments. If we fail to love, we’ve missed everything.
Here are a few posts that further reflect my heart on this matter:
- Where I Stand (by Jen Hatmaker)
- What distinguishes YOU as a Christian? (by me)
- Is it better to be right or kind? (by me)
- Parents, let’s give our kids the greatest gift of all: the freedom to love. (by Matthew Paul Turner)