Christian = bigot?
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
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
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.
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.
©1999-2009 General Council of the Assemblies of God