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This article originally appeared in the January 21, 1990, Pentecostal Evangel

The revival we need (May 27, 2001)

Revivals 65 years ago (March 18, 2001).

A 1908 Valentine's story (February 11, 2001)

We must tell them (August 11, 1997)

Christian = bigot? (January 21, 1990)

Touch Him where you can (August 28, 1983)

Paranoid Christians (June 7, 1970)

A code to live by (July 12, 1964)

The story of two sons (January 17, 1948)

Little talks with the office editor (January 1, 1916)


Christian = bigot?

By Richard G. Champion

Some circles seem to delight in propagating the equation that the terms evangelical and bigot are synonymous. Whether the subject is abortion or pornography or attitudes toward homosexuality or a host of other social and moral issues, evangelical Christians are frequently portrayed as having closed minds, wanting to force everyone to accept their narrow positions.

Jesus never promised that our positions would be popular and that the world would be hanging on our every word, looking to us for moral and spiritual guidance. The wisdom of this world never has been compatible with the wisdom from above. Still Christians have a right to express opinions, including opinions contrary to the prevailing wisdom of the world, opinions contrary to what columnist George Will in another context called "an aggressive and trendy minority."

But part of our bad publicity may be deserved. Some Christians — and some non-Christians — are indeed bigots. They do not think their positions through clearly, and they are unwilling to give their opponents the same freedom they demand for themselves. So it might be helpful to suggest some ground rules for when we need to make our voices heard.

First, choose your cause prayerfully. With the multitude of ethical, moral and social issues facing our world, there will always be more causes and crusades than you have time and resources for. And there will always be people who believe so strongly about an issue that they will attempt to make you feel guilty if you fail to go along with them. Be careful. Don't be drawn into a battle just because someone else thinks you should be. Be sure of the guidance of the Holy Spirit: What does He want you to do, and how does He want you to do it? Some crusades by sincere Christians are misdirected, misleading, inappropriate and do more harm than good. Everything we find distasteful and wrong is not necessarily illegal or to be banned.

Second, respect the rights of others. Remember that freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion are all cut from the same piece of cloth — the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The arguments we use for infringing on the freedom of speech of others can easily be turned back at us as arguments against freedom of religion. When we respect people as being free to disagree with us, that may open the door for them to listen to our side.

Third, earn the right to be heard. Why should someone listen to what we have to say? If both sides are shouting slogans at each other, that generates a lot of heat and very little light. We have valid reasons for our beliefs. But people need to respect us as friends or neighbors or citizens before they are willing to listen to what we are saying. Showing Christian love in our actions may win more converts than all our arguments.

Finally, keep the focus on Christ. Our main task never has been to reform the world or to make it see the rightness of our positions on all kinds of moral, social or political issues. Our primary task is to be witnesses for Christ — through our words and through our lives. Getting caught up in issues can result in our losing sight of our main mission. We may win skirmishes but alienate people we need to be reaching with the gospel.

The world needs to hear Christian positions. We dare not soften our voices against sin and injustice. But people outside the church also need to see in us that Jesus loves them. They need to hear from us that Jesus died for their sins. And we owe it to them to present the message in such a way that they will be listening when we say it.

Richard G. Champion (1931-94) was editor of the Pentecostal Evangel from 1984-94.

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