What a remarkable time in which we live?!
Many Republicans see the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage in every state and the continued shift in our culture towards “Just Be You” (whoever that may be) as truly bad things.
Many Democrats see this as a time of great victory for all humanity.
At the same time, tragically 9 innocent men and women were shot and killed in their church building in Charleston, SC because of the color of their skin. Since then several churches have been burned in Southern States such as Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
What do we do in a world that is more and more diverse?
How do we live, serve, and even reach out when people are so divided?
As a pastor who has served and lived in Seattle, Los Angeles, and now Austin, I have lived and worked in some very progressive places.
As someone who counsels people from all sorts of backgrounds and with all sorts of sexual struggles and brokenness, I can tell you that this summer may be a sign that talking about racism along with sexual preferences and gender fluidity has become more mainstream across the United States, but in some places these are not new topics or issues.
In 2007, I published a book originally called Peppermint-Filled Pinatas. It was republished as Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World in 2010.
Some places in the U.S. are just now going through what we experienced on the West Coast years ago.
In my book, my original chapter titles included the following:
- Why Homophobia is So Gay (a titled changed by the publisher to Lots of Sex in the City: Engaging Others in a Post-Sexual Revolution World)
- Compassionate Conservatives and Loving Liberals: Reaching Across the Idealogical Aisle
- White Men Can Jump (Just Not As High): Seeing Past Stereotypes
So what can we do? Whether Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or politically indifferent, what can people of faith do?
With friends on both sides of this issue, and with my own personal convictions, I thought I would offer a few thoughts to consider as the dialogue heats up:
1. It is possible and in fact imperative to love people – even those with whom we disagree.
2. We have the opportunity to involve and include people in our lives and in our churches – even those with whom we may disagree. (All are invited to be a part of our community at Gateway Church in Austin – no matter who they are or what they believe. At the same time, we have an intentional process to become one of our leaders overseeing the lives of others.).
3. Christians should not expect non-Christians to act as if they have the same standards, especially since even Christians have a hard time living up to them. The Spirit of God can truly change people when people want to be transformed.
4. We cannot influence others we have pushed away. This includes those who are struggling to figure out what to do with their sexual desires. Too often, churches have been incredibly judgmental about some issues and ignored other struggles that are too close to home. We need to be willing to help all who want help – no matter their issues or struggles.
For far too long, Christians have been known for who we hate rather than how we love. This moves us out of the conversation and polarizes those involved so quickly no progress can be made. Most people disconnected from God feel like God will judge them. Too often, they don’t realize that God offers to love and forgive them.
5. Politics is not the answer to our world’s problems. A transformed heart through a relationship with Jesus is what we need!
Often we change the laws to change the people. I think it is remarkable the way the people of Nineveh turned to God and away from their wicked ways just before the King made a proclamation asking them to do so (Jonah 3:3-7). The passage reminded me that often politicians are reactionary and true change must come from the ground up.
Abraham Lincoln once said: “With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. He who holds public sentiment goes deeper than he who erects statutes or pronounces decisions.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. similarly mentioned how the Civil rights Act was written on the streets before it was ever written in the halls of Congress.
7. My goal as one who follows Jesus is to point people towards a real and vibrant relationship with God – no matter who they are or where they come from or what they believe. I am not trying to change anyone who doesn’t want to change. I am only offering new life to those who want it!