3 Biblical Reasons Why Christians in Fayetteville Should Vote For the Uniform Civil Rights Ordinance – Even If They Believe Homosexuality Is a Sin

For the second time in as many years, Fayetteville is being torn apart by a civil rights ordinance that codifies protections for LGBTQ people. If passed, the ordinance will allow for LGBTQ people to be guaranteed the same rights and services as all Fayetteville residents. A landlord will not be able to refuse to rent to a man simply because he’s gay. A trans woman won’t be able to be fired from her job simply because of her gender identity. A lesbian couple will be able to buy a wedding cake from any bakery that serves the public.

gay-flag-churchNot surprisingly, many Christians in Fayetteville have risen up in opposition to the Uniform Civil Rights Ordinance. They have expressed fear that predatory people will use this law to molest women and children in public bathrooms. They have expressed dismay that they may be forced to violate their conscience by aiding someone in an event they believe to be immoral and unbiblical. They have expressed outrage that their religious liberties are being infringed upon by the bullies and enemies in city hall.

Nonetheless, I believe that all Christians in Fayetteville should vote for the Uniform Civil Rights Ordinance, even if they believe homosexuality is wrong.

It is my opinion that a Christian can interpret Scripture to believe that same-sex orientation and/or activity is inherently sinful AND STILL support the passage of these protections for the LGBTQ members of our community.

There are three biblical reason why.

 

1. The gospel teaches us that our rights are to be willingly surrendered.

So many of the arguments I hear from Christians opposed to this ordinance are rooted in their rights as Americans. “I have the right to exercise my religion.” “A Christian business owner has the right to follow the dictates of his conscience.” “Why should the rights of LGBTQ people circumvent my rights?”

Yes, all Americans have Constitutional rights. And I’ve found that many Christians seem most concerned with protecting their own rights. But biblical Christianity teaches that there is something much more precious than our rights – serving other people.

Jesus is the example. In Philippians 2.5-8, Paul lays out the heart of the Christian gospel:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Jesus had every right to be seen, revered, and worshipped as God. He had every right to assert how he should be treated as God. And yet, he willingly set those rights aside so that he could have the opportunity to serve people – people who disagreed with him, misunderstood him, took advantage of him, rejected him, even killed him.

For Jesus, there was something more precious and important at stake than his own rights. It was love expressed in the service of others. And so, he was willing to put the rights – even the misguided rights – of other people ahead of his own.

This has me wondering – if Jesus was willing to give up his rights as God, why aren’t we willing to give up our rights as Americans?

A Christian who believes that homosexuality is wrong could vote in favor of Fayetteville’s Uniform Civil Rights Ordinance as an act of faith, following Jesus in what theologians call his kenosis, and seeking to obey the Bible in having the same mindset and attitude of Jesus – putting the service of others ahead of his or her own rights.

 

2. Jesus told us exactly what to do when the government forces us to do something we don’t want to do.

One of the main arguments against Fayetteville’s Uniform Civil Rights Ordinance is that it may force a person of faith to violate his or her conscience by providing goods or services in an scenario to which they are morally opposed. It’s the now-classic Cake for Gay Wedding argument: if I believe same sex marriage is wrong, why should I be forced to participate in a gay wedding by making a cake for one?

The policy question here is whether or not a government can force a business owner not to discriminate. My libertarian streak makes me bristle at the thought of government interfering with the operations of a local business. However, when I think of the lunch counter protests of the 1960s, I’m convinced that sometimes government intervention is a necessary evil.

But … I’m more concerned with what the Bible has to say about this conundrum than even examples from American history.

Thankfully, Jesus, in Matthew 5.38-42, very clearly told his followers what they ought to do when the government forces them to do something they don’t want to do:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

One of the scenarios Jesus describes here is of a Roman soldier forcing a first century Jewish person to carry his gear for one mile. As an occupying force in Palestine, Roman soldiers could legally compel a Jewish person to violate his own conscience and even certain Jewish laws by undergoing the humiliation of becoming the Roman soldier’s pack mule.

How does Jesus tell his followers to react in this kind of situation? Fight back? No. Refuse? No. Assert his unalienable rights of conscience and religion? No. Jesus told his followers to willingly and lovingly go – not one – but two miles with the Roman soldier.

Do what you don’t want to do. Be humiliated. Support your enemy. Say yes, not no. Be gracious.

Applied to our own day, this biblical principle may be inviting the Christian baker not just to bake a cake for a lesbian couple, but to bake the best cake he’s ever made – and give it to them for free with a smile on his face!

Christians in Fayetteville who don’t believe in homosexuality should not resist the opportunity to obey Jesus in this way by voting against the Uniform Civil Rights Ordinance. They should vote for it and give themselves ample occasions to apply the truth Jesus taught.

 
3. Jesus told us not to go around being the morality police.

Christians today seem completely obsessed with what everyone else is doing in their lives. So many seem so concerned about the choices and lifestyles of other people. For many, winning the so-called culture war has become the greatest battle of life.

But over and over again, Jesus by his example and his teaching told his followers specifically NOT to be obsessed with what everyone else was doing. He did not want his followers to be like the Pharisees who fashioned themselves as the enforcers of right and wrong for everyone else, whether they wanted it or not.

In fact, the one biblical instance we have of Jesus bringing something to a wedding (John 2.1-11), he doesn’t make any kind of commentary on the morality of the participants or attendees. Not doubt after exhausting all the wine, some people at that wedding were drunk, in violation of biblical mandates and morality.

But does Jesus refuse to serve them? Does he limit the recipients of his gracious miracle only to those who have made the right choices? Did Jesus worry that the morality police of his day would accuse him of aiding and abetting the sin of other people? No. He just turns water into really good wine so that the party can keep going on.

What would happen in Fayetteville if more Christians stopped obsessing about the sins of others and started looking for ways to help, serve, and love them instead? What would happen if just for a day – say September 8 – Christians in Fayetteville cared more about the happiness of other people than their own fear that someone might be doing something wrong?

 

I know that many Christians on September 8 will vote against the Uniform Civil Right Ordinance, thinking that they are doing the “biblical” thing. But maybe, just maybe, the biblical thing is to vote for it.

 

Love Your Enemies … Unless

Love your enemies, unless they are your political enemies.

Love your enemies, unless they are a famous person who said something offensive.

love your enemiesLove your enemies, unless they really hurt you.

Love your enemies, unless they are racist, bigoted, or homophobic.

Love your enemies, unless you’re posting online.

Love your enemies, unless you’d rather call them names.

Love your enemies, unless you’re just fed up.

Love your enemies, unless they are a blowhard on the TV or radio.

Love your enemies, unless you’ve got something really clever to say.

Love your enemies, unless they are fundamentalists.

Love your enemies, unless they are Evangelicals.

Love your enemies, unless they don’t love you back.

We have so many excuses not to do what Jesus told his followers to do. It’s quite simple but also tremendously difficult. Love your enemies.

Without excuse or qualification. Without equivocation or minimizing. Without sarcasm or self-importance.

Just love the people who oppress you, oppose you, hurt you, and annoy you. Love the people who are your enemies by chance or birthright or ideology. Love the people who have made themselves your enemies through their choices. Love the people that you have marginalized or dismissed through your own choice. It doesn’t matter why they are your enemy. Just love them.

Love them by trying to understand their story. Love them by refusing to project bad motives upon them. Love them by practicing suspended judgement. Love them by refusing to dehumanize them through demonization. Love them by refusing to call them names. Love them by being kind even while you are disagreeing. Love them by praying for them. Sincerely praying for them.

But don’t expect it to be easy.

They might misunderstand. If they notice at all. They might read your love as self-righteousness and use it as an excuse to heap more insults upon you. They might take advantage of your love. They might not love you back. But keep on loving them.

But don’t confuse love with good boundaries. Love is not weakness. Love is not being wishy-washy. Love is emotionally and spiritually healthy. So be clear and be strong.

And also be kind. Because your enemy is probably acting out of his or her weakness or hurt. There is a reason they can be so judgmental or abusive or difficult. You’ve been in that boat before, haven’t you? You’ve lashed out in anger. You’ve probably gone too far at times. You’ve been surprised by your own vitriol, only to realize later that it was coming from a place of deep pain.

Imagine what it would have been like if someone understood that pain you felt. Imagine how that might have made a difference.

That’s love.

Without agenda. Without strings. Without condition.

There is no “unless.” Love you enemies.

 

Women Are the Leaders the Church Needs: Reflections on #TakeDownThatPost

Here is my column from today’s paper in which I discuss the Leadership Journal / #TakeDownThatPost controversy from last week. Spoiler alert: I think the great lesson learned is not the power of social media, but rather the power of female leadership.

Last week, a prominent Christian journal for pastors published an online article about a former youth pastor who is now in prison for statutory rape. The first-person tale told the story of how its author developed a growing youth ministry while also getting involved sexually with one of the female students in the church.

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Duck Taping Our Mouths: free speech, Phil Robertson, Jesus, and gay sex

I watch Duck Dynasty. I know that it is painfully scripted, and my kids will have no part of it, but Vanessa and I will often turn it on for a couple of silly laughs. I find Duck Dynasty amusing.

I’m also amused by the people who take Duck Dynasty way too seriously.

You know who they are. They are the ones sporting the Duck Dynasty gear they picked up at Walmart. They are the ones who post on Facebook about how members of the Robertson clan should run for President. And they are the ones freaking out about the latest controversy over Phil’s comments in GQ.   Read More…

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