Civility in Contentious Issues

There is no hotter topic these days than that of gay marriage.  Even secular society is concerned with it and you certainly don’t have to be “religious” to have very strong opinions about it one way or another.  And, of course, within the faith community there is no lack of very strong opinions — even to the point of dividing entire denominations with resulting court battles over church property.  Much of the discussion, even among Christians, is unfortunately not very civilized.  The following article by James Watkins which appeared in The Presidential Prayer Team newsletter deals with the the need for civility in addressing the issue.  Actually, the article contains some great guidelines for dealing with any contentious issue.  RMF

ImageImageJames N. Watkins

God, the Gospel, and Gays

ViewpointA Response to Matthew Vines

By James N. Watkins

The fight for acceptance of sex-same unions has moved from the gay community to the media to the states to the courts to “mainline” churches—and now to evangelical churches.

Matthew Vines’ God and the Gay Christian is published by Convergent Books, owned by Crown Group which also includes WaterBrook Press, Multnomah Books and Image Books. The publisher sent out a release announcing the book will “radically change the conversation about being gay in the church. We believe it offers a thoughtful examination of Scripture on the topic of same-sex relationships from a bold, young, evangelical writer whose first calling is to promote a civil, loving, and biblically-based conversation on the subject.”

In a September 2012 interview with The Christian Post, Vines, [said] “The Bible never directly addresses, and it certainly does not condemn, loving, committed same-sex relationships. There is no biblical teaching about sexual orientation, nor is there any call to lifelong celibacy for gay people.” Vine is founder of The Reformation Project, which seeks to reform church teachings on sexual orientation.  [Note: the quote herein is Vines’ and does not represent the position of this blog.  See quote of Albert Mohler, Jr., quote below. RMF]

Needless to say, the book’s release has already created some—can you say—“lively” conversation. So, may I suggest some ground rules for the conversation:

Let the conversation be gracious and loving

“Let your speech always be gracious.” (Colossians 4:6)

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15)

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Name-calling from the “God hates homosexuals” crowd to pro-gay groups labeling opponents as “homophobic” does nothing to further the conversation. Keep in mind, your opponents are not the enemy. There is only one true enemy—Satan—but there are millions of prisoners of war. And you don’t shoot POWs!

Let the conversation be objective, accurate and fair

Teach the message of truth correctly (2 Timothy 2:15)

“But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word…” (2 Corinthians 4:2)

The first casualty of war is truth. The same is true in the culture war. As I’ve taught to college classes and conferences, Christian writers and speakers must be OAFs: objective, accurate and fair.

Objective: Acknowledge that everyone is “biased,” but you can strive to be objective in your conversations.

Accurate: Strive for biblical accuracy in definition of Greek and Hebrew words at the time they were written, respect the literary and cultural context of verses, and seek out the broadest perspective on the subject from the entire Bible. No proof-texting!

Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, notes that Vines “has to sever Romans 1 from any natural reading of the text, from the flow of the Bible’s message from Genesis 1 forward, from the basic structure of sexual complementarity, and from the church’s faithful reading of the Bible for two millennia. Furthermore, his argument provides direct evidence of what Paul warns of in this very chapter, ‘suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.’” (Romans 1:18)

Remember, you need to speak the truth: the Bible condemns any sexual activity outside of the male to female marriage. And, speak with grace: God offers forgiveness and strength to “go and sin no more.”

Sexual orientation is shaped by your role models, how you are treated or mistreated sexually in your formative years, and even bio-chemical disruptions in your gestation. So, I believe that you will not be judged for your orientation but your behaviors. Therefore, for many, making godly choices is going to be much more difficult. But, the apostle Paul writes:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Fair: Quote your sources as well as opposing views fairly and in context.

Let the conversation be free and unrestricted

I fear that “political correctness” and “hate speech” laws will hamper the freedom to express one’s views in an honest, open, free conversation. Both sides have used boycotts to force their views upon employees and businesses.

So, let the conversation within the evangelical community begin. What’s your perspective in the conversation? Please comment below, but please follow the guidelines above. Thanks!

About ronfurg

Former naval officer, federal investigator, forensic scientist, senior executive service member and pastor. In retirement serves as volunteer and life group leader at New Life Christian Church ( Devoted to beautiful wife, kids and grandkids. Looking forward to the time when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
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