In Defense of Respectful Dialogue {Part 1}

dialogueThere is so much on my heart tonight.

I’m wading out into these controversial waters with trembling.  I know some of you will disagree.  And I’m 150% OK with that.  You are always welcome here, disagreements and all.  I will never punish anyone by withdrawing relationship simply because we disagree.

Living and serving outside of the USA for much of my adult life has afforded me a perspective on my own home culture I don’t know how I would gain any other way.  It makes some things clearer and makes it harder for me to fit in neat, presupposed cultural paradigms.

You have probably heard the news.  The Supreme Court released its landmark ruling in defense of the rights of the LBGTQ community to marry civilly if they so chose.  I’m not here to talk about the merits of that ruling except to say there are possibilities surrounding its interpretation and application in days to come that may quickly erode the civil liberties of those who disagree with gay marriage on faith-based grounds. We have seen the hateful targeting of dissenting opinions on both sides of the fence.  Calling names is never a helpful solution.

I believe Church we have a tremendous opportunity to model Jesus and begin to forge a relationally-based, respectful dialogue with those who disagree with us. On MANY topics, not just this one.  It is pretty clear in the Gospels Jesus didn’t withhold relationship even when He was betrayed.  Aren’t we glad?  I know I am.  It doesn’t get more disagreeable than that!

I believe in religious freedom, freedom of speech and the separation of church and state.  I believe the ability to have a respectful national discourse and an educated, engaged citizenry are hallmarks of the democracy upon which our nation was founded.  When we start calling people with whom disagree haters, bigots or other demeaning slurs while demanding their noxious opinions be silenced, we are essentially signing away our rights to have our own opinion heard as well.

Church, we are no longer a Christian nation, if we ever were to begin with. We are a pluralistic nation and the 4th largest unreached nation in the world.  We are the mission field.  While I believe God raises up some who are called into government, the primary answer the Church needs is not political.  It is spiritual.

As a democracy, engaged voters vote the soul of a nation into office.  The answer to changing the nation lies within reaching the soul.  It is less about reaching the political field and all about serving the mission field.  And I do know a thing or two about that. 😉 So here goes.

If things ever come down to the government forcing churches to perform marriage ceremonies in opposition to their beliefs, we are going to have to choose to respectfully but firmly stand the ground of our beliefs and our right to practice them knowing we may be persecuted for doing so.  I hope it never comes to this, but my gut feeling is it will.  If not on this issue, another.

Let me say this again.  We do not live in a Christian nation.  We do however live in an amazing mission field.  We will never be successful in sharing our faith by hurling vitriol nor will we be if we bow at the altar of political correctness. It isn’t about appeasing the PC police, it is about operating in love and honor especially for people with whom we disagree.  So I want to set that as a baseline.

If we are missionaries, it is time we start thinking like missionaries and stop expecting our society to get on board with our beliefs many times in the absence of any meaningful relationship with us and more importantly with Him.  I believe God is calling all of us to spend enough time with Him personally that we have some understanding of how He would have us respond to this issue and even more so the people who are often marginalized by it.

Case in point. I was involved in the wedding industry as a photographer before I moved to Africa.  I loved the artistry side and hated the stress of it. I lasted about 6 months.  But having worked in that space, this ruling has given me great pause to prayerfully consider if in any future date I step back into a differing part of that industry.

I have heard about Christian business owners who have lost their business after refusing a same-sex couple’s wedding business.  I don’t know the whole context but I 100% back the need for freedom of speech protections.  I do not condone Christians being targeted because of their beliefs.  But I’m not surprised by persecution.

Sometimes I wonder if some of the “persecution” comes especially on this issue because having an open, honest and honoring discussion rooted in God’s love is so rare.  I wonder if we have lost the art of passionately disagreeing on the issues but with the understanding that we can agree to disagree agreeably.

I would handle similar situations differently.  I view business as a vehicle of outreach for serving the community around me, which is a mission field every bit as real as South Sudan was.  I didn’t withhold relationship from people who made all sorts of life choices or held beliefs different from my own there.

If I were still in the wedding business {providing products or services not officiating the ceremony}, I would absolutely serve same-sex couples.  Church, how is anyone able to see Jesus in us if we punish people by removing our relationship, demeaning their personhood or calling them names.  Jesus doesn’t do that.  It is His kindness that leads us to repentance.

I  served heterosexual couples who had been living together before getting married.  Living together outside of marriage is “unbiblical” too. Just because I have a business client, doesn’t mean I approve of or even know every area of their lives.

We need to be so so careful that our language, our reactions, the way we engage this issue is respectful and genuinely rooted in the heart of God.  More to come on all this (Part 2 & 3).

Please know you are loved extravagantly by your Father in heaven. So much to come friends!  Can’t wait to be sharing all the fun in the days ahead. ❤ Michele