It is remarkable how divisive morality issues can be. In recent days Chick-Fil-A’s President and COO, Dan Cathy, reaffirmed the company’s stance in favor of heterosexual marriage. Cathy’s statement has provided a platform for a cultural battle over sexuality and marriage, and the battlefield is the drive thru line and the lunch table. Armies on both sides are organizing – the Muppets, in support of same sex marriage, will presumably never eat chicken again, while Mike Huckabee, in support of heterosexual marriage and Chick-Fil-A’s stance, is encouraging us to just eat mor chickin. Who knew that lunch could be so complicated? What’s a person to do?
I am blessed to have a very dear friend who is an internationally known Bible teacher, theologian, and writer. When he teaches and writes, he speaks in no uncertain terms, and he makes no apology for what the Bible teaches. And in all this, he communicates and walks in love.
From time to time, he and I have opportunity to get together for a meal, and on almost every such occasion so far, we have shared fellowship and eaten the always well-prepared food at a Blackeyed Pea in an area of Dallas known for its gay community. When one walks into that restaurant, it is quite clear that most if not all of those working there, along with many of the patrons, consider themselves to be gay. In a number of observable ways, homosexuality is celebrated there.
Now, knowing the Biblical views of my friend, one might think that at his first discovery of that particular element he would leave and never enter that restaurant again. But on the contrary, when he walks through those doors, he is greeted as an honored guest, and he smiles and even jokes with the staff there. He does not show them judgment. Instead, he shows them love. And they take gracious care of him. (And yes – the food is always excellent.)
He does not compromise what the Bible says. After all, no matter how one may wish to soften the text (my friend certainly doesn’t), the Bible can hardly be represented as approving homosexuality (e.g., 1 Cor 6:9-11). But those same texts make it clear that issues of sexuality are not God’s primary concern (He wants to resolve the relationship problem first), and that Jesus loves and died for the whole world (Jn 3:16, 1 Jn 2:2) – including, of course, those who express sexuality in ways inconsistent with the design of their Creator.
I think my friend is simply following the example of his Lord, who was accused by the so-called “righteous” contingent in the first century of being a “gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Mt 11:19). Jesus interacted with those who didn’t know God, and who didn’t walk as He had designed. Jesus loved them, and He ultimately died for them so that they could have eternal life. My friend understands that Jesus’ commission for us is to love, not to condemn. We must remember that Jesus will handle judgment in His own time and on His own terms. He doesn’t need us to do it – and He never asks us to.
Further, Paul reminds believers that while we are to hate evil itself, ours is not to judge those who do not believe in Christ (1 Cor 5:11-12) In fact, Paul acknowledges that some of the Corinthian believers were formerly fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers (1 Cor. 6:9-11), and that they were washed, sanctified, and declared righteous by God (6:11). Jude reminds us to have compassion on people, even while hating sin (Jude 22-23).
How difficult is it to understand that we don’t have to agree with people in order to love them?
So, back to my friend. I have had opportunity to observe him in a number of settings, and on all counts, I have found him to model the principle that Paul taught in 1 Timothy 1:5: “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” He certainly tries to follow that Biblical model. I try to do the same.
Speaking of the Biblical model, isn’t it interesting that much of Jesus’ teaching and interaction with those He loved took place in meal settings? Meals seem to provide the perfect opportunity for communication. Plus, there is the added benefit of not being able to say stupid and hurtful things when our mouths are full. And isn’t it so much easier to listen to someone else’s viewpoint when we have something tasty to chew on?
Now, please don’t misunderstand, this isn’t a “can’t we all just get along” diatribe. The core beliefs on these issues are so strong among these diverse groups that there is not likely to be any middle ground achieved. My exhortation here is to Christians, that we would look to God’s word for our understanding – not just regarding what sexual expressions He designed, but regarding how we are to love and honor people. I marvel at how we often seem to expect people to live like Christ when they don’t even have a relationship with Him. Perhaps we ought to be more attentive to introducing people to Him rather than to trying to change their behavior. How about we share a meal with someone – communicate the love and hope that Christ offers and let Him do the rest. But where to eat…that’s always the tough decision.
Perhaps we can save up a few pennies and have lunch at Chick-Fil-A. I appreciate an organization that is trying to stand on Biblical principles, even if I may not agree with that organization in every detail. From my vantage point it seems that the Cathy family genuinely seeks to be true to the Bible, and to demonstrate love even to those who might disagree with their views. I can support people like that, imperfect though they may be (kinda like me, I suppose).
And later that evening, with our remaining pennies, perhaps we can make a trip over to my favorite Blackeyed Pea. Folks there need to make a living just like everyone else, and their Declaration of Independence speaks of God-given life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, just like mine does. I want to show them that I love them, that I appreciate their abilities and their generosity, and that their Savior loves them and has done more for them than I could ever express. I would hope that the folks at Blackeyed Pea would be able to see as much of His love in me, as would those at Chick-Fil-A.
If they can’t, then I’m not doing it right.