You have seen them. On the news; members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, the independent Baptist church from Kansas known for picketing at the funerals of U.S. servicemen, desecrating the American flag and carrying abhorrent and repulsive signs that read things such as “God hates you”, “Pray for more dead soldiers” and “God hates fags.” I almost crossed paths with these ridiculous people back in 2009. In October of that year, I had been asked by the courageous campus ministry of the Central Jersey Church of Christ to give two lectures at Rutgers University on Homosexuality and Christianity. Just prior to my arrival, this so-called “church” demonstrated with their hate filled signs and vitriol on the very campus at which I was soon to speak.
Students and faculty of Rutgers came out in huge numbers to peacefully rally against this group, carrying their own signage of peace and love: sentiments that actually do embody the true Christian message. I applaud their efforts!
However, by the time word got out on campus that a Christian Evangelist from Canada (me) was coming to speak on Christianity and homosexuality, the immediate assumption was that I would be coming with my own message of bigotry in the same manner that they had just experienced; which of course was the farthest thing from my heart, my mind and my message.
I had been wrongly stereotyped, and that set the stage for a somewhat dramatic evening with angry protestors attending my event to picket.
The Nut Jobs
I’ll tell you in a moment how that went, but what are we to make of this Westboro group? Well, I’ve already used some adjectives in this article that I think explains how I feel about them. What about “radical”? They certainly are that. But just because one claims to come in the name of Christ does not of course mean that they do, and most would not need but a second or two to correctly conclude that these people are hardly ambassadors for Christ as they spread a message that is not even close to being representative of the Lord’s message of love, compassion, mercy, acceptance and non judgmentalism. In a nutshell, (no pun intended) these guys come across like a bunch of nut jobs. Radical, yes; representatives of our Lord; not even close.
Jesus: The True Radical
Of course, Jesus never approved of the sinful behaviors that people involved themselves in, but the narrative of Christ’s life shows us that he always accepted people and then loved them, regardless what they had done, for there is a world of difference between approval and acceptance. Certainly all of us would have to confess that there are plenty of things each of us do and think daily that God would never approve of, yet he does lovingly accept each of us. I think we should all be very grateful that the Lord is this radical!
One of the most moving episodes of Jesus’ life is found in John 8 as the Lord came face to face with a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. As she was dragged through the streets, about to be stoned to death, she was brought first to Jesus to see what he would do with her. We all know the story, and in it, we can learn from our Saviour how we should treat our gay friends and neighbours.
Upon setting their trap, the scribes and Pharisees insisted on an answer from Jesus--and they got it. Jesus said in effect: “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8:7)
Of course, there was a silence--and then slowly the accusers drifted away. So Jesus and the woman were left alone and Jesus said to the woman: “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:10-11)
Level headed, kind, merciful, direct, profound, all the while believing that this broken, yet precious soul could change the direction of her life forever. No rebuke, no harsh words, no signs, no pickets, no protest, no condemnation, no self righteous attitude . . . . radical!
Paul Sets A New Standard of Radical
The book of Ephesians is a helpful example in showing us what being radical is really all about. Paul spends the first three chapters reminding us of the mind-blowing plan of salvation that God had concocted and put into action through Christ. From triumphant verse to triumphant verse, Paul trumpets some of the most awe-inspiring truths of the Christian faith; predestination, spiritual adoption, the power of the Spirit within us, the supremacy of Christ, reconciliation, the Church, and the ancient spiritual mysteries finally made known; I mean, this stuff is truly astounding!
Then, in chapter 4, verse 1, he says: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received…”
Upon reading that verse, considering the mind boggling spiritual truths just spoken of, you can’t help but prepare for the obvious call to action; to be radical for Christ. Alright, Paul, hit me; I’m ready; lay it on me.
And Paul does. He tells me to, “…Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
Hold on. What? What about move anywhere, sell everything, share your faith till you can’t speak any more? What about confronting sin and discipline and sacrifice? You mean being radical is to be humble and bear with one another?
And if that’s not enough, if you keep reading down to verses 22-24, Paul get’s to the real radical stuff; Ephesians 4:22-24 says:
“…to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
These passages, and a lot of others like them, seem to be saying that the Christian life is, by nature, radical!
When we are kind to those who persecute us, when we are hospitable to those we disagree with, when we stand for those in society who have been marginalized and counted unworthy, when we love those whose actions we would never approve of, yet like Christ, we accept them anyway; that is radical.
How This Applies to Dealing With The Gay Community
In facing the topic of homosexuality in our communities today, let us be radical. What does that look like, practically? Let’s be radically honest about what we understand the truth to be, let’s be radically honest when we don’t have a definitive answer available today. Let us be radically honest when the answer is not popular, but let us radically serve and love and accept those who disagree with us. Let us make it clear that we are here to serve people, let us show that we’re here to do good even when we are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Back to my situation at Rutgers. Throughout the evening, as I presented my two presentations, it was amazing to see how the Holy Spirit worked; softening hearts and minds. People who had arrived, ready to argue and protest were shocked to hear the true radical message of Jesus. Not a radical message of hate and venom, but a radical message of Biblical truth, love, compassion and mercy. It is only through this message that those in the gay community (and everyone else, for that matter) will ever be reached for Jesus. Now that’s radical.