“Everyone should have the chance to love whomever they wish.” “Why are you so bigoted towards gay people?” “Who are you to tell women what they must do with their bodies?” These are resounding cries heard from those who are steadfast in their assertion that conservative Christians are hateful bigots.
The Cultural Conundrum
It has become evident in recent years, that no matter how we behave as Christians, when we stand on the truth of God’s Word, many in society will see us as bigoted or hateful. The cultural jury has already made up their minds regarding Christians. If we don’t want our children exposed to worldliness through media or the school system we are haters of free speech and differing opinions. If we declare that the biblical view of marriage is the only true form of marriage we are narrow-minded murderers of true love (nod to Dan in Real Life). If we attempt to protect the unborn we are spewing hyper-patriarchy filled venom towards women.
Despite the fact that we may never in fact shown hatred towards a single person, we are nonetheless considered hateful bigots. This conundrum should cause us to reflect upon our stance towards these social issues. A recent article from the CNN Belief blog reveals that many Christians still hold to traditional biblical views of hot-button issues like marriage and abortion, yet they are afraid to speak out publicly about their beliefs for fear of being labeled as narrow-minded or hateful. Others, who formerly held to traditional Christian beliefs, have simply jumped ship, straying from orthodoxy. Still yet, there are those who seem to wear the term bigot as a badge of honor, as demonstrated in their continual public protests against anything and everything. The question naturally arises, “Should we be concerned with declaring the truth, or with showing people love?” Many Christians seem to think that we must choose one or the other.
The Necessity of Love and Truth
As so often happens in conservative Christian circles, people seem to feel they have to pick one extreme or the other. If one feels that he has been too hateful in his speech towards those with whom he disagrees, he will swing the pendulum completely to the other side and stop declaring any truth that may be perceived as offensive. The same could be said of those who feel like they love too much. I believe what God calls us to is not all truth and no love, or all love and no truth, but rather truth and love. This truth and love is not like an Arnold Palmer drink (half tea and half lemonade), it is one hundred percent love and one hundred percent truth.
We see a picture of this type of love in the first letter to the Thessalonians. Paul, Silas, and Timothy were missionaries to the city of Thessalonica. After many were converted, a church was planted in the city. Paul, Silas, and Timothy continued to visit the infant church and encourage them in their walk. The background of those in that city was completely pagan. They had no Christian heritage. The ways of God were foreign to them. Yet, Paul and the other missionaries spoke the truth to them in a loving manner. They did not water down the gospel message at all; they declared the gospel with an aim “…not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). Neither did they “seek glory from people” (1 Thessalonians 2:6). Yet, they were also completely loving to the Thessalonians, treating them “…gentle…like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).
The call to preach the gospel faithfully and accurately is repeated throughout the pages of Scripture (2 Timothy 4:2-5; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Romans 1:16). We cannot waver on truth. The gospel is unchanging, no matter how much the culture changes. We must be stalwart in our stance on the unchanging truth of God. Simultaneously, we must also share the truth with an inundating love that comes only from genuine followers of God. Jesus said the world would know His followers by the way that they loved one another (John 13:35). The way in which we are to worship God is guided by love (Mark 12:30). The second greatest commandment is to love our fellow image bearers (Mark 12:31). Paul tells us that the greatest Christian virtue is love (1 Corinthians 13:13). The Bible has much to say about love, which cannot be ignored. The faithful Christian must have a full dose of both truth and love.
One Mind at a Time
We Christians have so often been known for what we are against rather than what we celebrate. We cannot help but be known as hateful bigots when the only time we open our mouths is to say, “You’re going to hell!” or “God hates gays!” or “Baby Killer!” Dr. Russell Moore points out how we have erred over the last several decades. While we want to stand on truth, we must not look at our culture and proverbially say, “you kid’s get off my lawn.”
At the moment someone finds out an individual is a biblical Christian, they often assume that person is a hateful bigot. Sometimes that assumption is justified; many times it is not. The task of changing the mind of the culture at large is probably unattainable. The natural effect of the Fall is for the culture to reject the ways of God. However, I believe if the perception of Christians being hateful bigots is to be changed, it will take place one relationship at a time. Perhaps when a Christian reaches out to that homosexual who has been rejected by his family, that homosexual will realize while the Christian disagrees with him, he still loves him. Maybe when the free-spirited nineteen year old college woman experiences the grace-filled compassion of a Christian classmate, she will realize that classmate may be against abortion, but she is not against loving every person no matter their beliefs. We may not be able to control being labeled a bigot, but we can control whether or not we show love.