When you’re “The most interesting man in the world,” you can sell beer in four words: “Stay thirsty my friends.” No doubt, the fictional man in that commercial connects with his intended audience. In contrast, picture a nun standing four-foot nothin’, giving D.C. politicians the haranguing of their lives. Would her message connect? Surprisingly, in real life, yes.
After her scathing speech at the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast, the crowd (even people she critiqued) gave her a standing ovation. Why was she so well received in a pro-choice town talking about the rights of the unborn? Because when Mother Teresa spoke, people viewed her as a lover of souls, not a judger of behavior. Her life of compassion was loud and clear.
Disagreements over gay rights (the cause célèbre) have also been loud and clear, but hardly compassionate. Each side lobs opinions into the public square like grenades. One side pulls for behavioral norms and the other side for individual freedoms. The media only recognizes these two camps.
- Where is the place for a lover of souls?
- Who, like that famous petit nun, maintains boundaries AND compassion?
According to David Kinneman in his book, UnChristian, many people outside the church regard church people as bullies and gay people as victims. This perception means people experience churches too much as institutions too little as a communities.
Oppenheimer said, “The best way to send a message is to wrap it in a person.” That’s a portrait of the New Testament: grace and truth, wrapped in a person, sent for the benefit of people far from God. You need not identify with Christianity to see the beauty here. When lived authentically (e.g. Mother Teresa) it’s compelling.
People need to know you stand for them if you want them to listen to what you stand against. Any defensive person can stand against a gay lifestyle and call it truth. Any passive person can tolerate a gay lifestyle and call it grace. Christians follow a man who took initiative as a lover of souls, not just standards or lifestyles. Loving as Jesus loved is more challenging than distant judgment and more robust than wan tolerance. Grace and truth together is difficult.
Two places to start:
1) Lend an ear
Families dealing with same-sex attraction become isolated, even with all the support for homosexuality in the media. What if the church loved the soul of the parent?
Homosexuality is not the “super sin.” In scripture, it shows up in Greek vice lists alongside gossip. That’s not to trivialize sexual confusion but to elevate the fallen condition we all share. What if churches were known–even by people at a distance–for their lovers of souls?
Rebecca Deeg says
Thank you Tim. This was a reminder to us that how we present ourselves to others can make the difference and give us credibility with those who do not agree with our stand on biblical truths.
Thanks for the comment. Exactly right Rebecca. Let’s remember that when anyone reaches out across a divide, credibility is a bi-product of doing the right thing, not the goal. That’s an important distinction in an our cynical age.