I made a mistake when I came home from the 7:30 am Easter service. After celebrating the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and feeling the joy of that occasion, I ruined it by watching “Face the Nation.” This past weekend’s topic was, as you’d expect, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act kerfuffle in Indiana. Perhaps kerfuffle is an understatement. Uproar may be more like it.
I wasn’t particularly disturbed by the discussion surrounding whether or not the law was discriminatory, nor was I by the LGBT activist who espoused that more work needed to be done to put non-discrimination laws in place to protect gender and sexuality. While these things can and do need to be discussed, they didn’t bother me that morning.
What disturbed me was a question to the effect of, “What do religious people need to do now?” One of the panelists, who ascribed to being a person of faith, claimed that religious people needed to be better at wedding faith and compassion.
Of course, one can’t help but hear that comment in light of what happened to Memories Pizza in Indiana. In response to an interview, the pizza shop said that if a gay couple came in and asked them to cater their wedding, they would have to say, “No.” They made no statement that they would not serve pizza to homosexual customers, only that they would not cater a homosexual wedding. And yet they faced such hostility that they had to shut down the pizza store.
So the panelist’s statement takes on new meaning. Does wedding faith and compassion mean that we must rid ourselves of conviction? Does it mean that we must move beyond tolerance and acceptance and into celebration of what we see as sinful? If so, then these pizza shop owners would be considered uncompassionate. This made me think about two questions: Am I really an uncompassionate person for calling homosexuality a sin? And how should “religious people” respond?
I think that Jesus’ life, and especially those events of Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter, can give us insight into answering both of these questions. We see this in the way that Peter frames Jesus’ suffering and death in 1 Peter 2:21-25:
…You have been called [to suffer for doing good], because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
So am I uncompassionate for calling homosexuality a sin? Can we at least say from this passage that Jesus was the most compassionate man that ever walked to earth? Yes, and so much so that he himself bore our sins! So if we can say that Christ is compassionate for healing us by being wounded himself, then let’s also consider what words Jesus said.
Jesus was not silent about sin. Did he hang out with sinners? Of course he did; in fact, a whole world full of them! But he was not silent about sin. He talked about the seriousness of sin, in that it leads to eternal punishment (Matthew 5:29,30), and he talked about the need for repentance so that we don’t face judgment (Luke 13:3,5), which presupposes that we are repenting from something that is abhorrent to God.
Jesus found sin—all sin, not just the sin of homosexuality—so serious that he set his face to the cross in order to die, not for his own sins but for ours! We cannot understand the depth of Jesus’ compassion for us unless we understand that we are sinners in desperate need of God’s forgiveness through Christ.
We cannot ourselves be truly compassionate unless we relay both sides of that message—the message of condemnation and the message of forgiveness.
I was greatly helped by the words of Kevin DeYoung in a recent blog post in light of this very issue. He said:
The fact of the matter is Jesus turned people off all the time. This is no excuse for us to be unthinking and unkind. But it should put to rest the thoroughly unbiblical notion that says if someone feels hurt by your words or unloved by your actions that you were ipso facto sinfully and foolishly unloving.
And secondly, and more briefly, how should we as Christians respond to the changing culture and the hateful speech that will come our way? As Christians, we can follow in the footsteps of our Savior, who did not revile in return, nor threaten others, but entrusted himself to the One who judges justly. This means that, when we are following God’s will and are being slandered and oppressed because of it, we need not worry about vindicating ourselves. For one day, God will vindicate us once for all, and everyone will see the truth of our message. Lord, haste that day!