In 2015, concern swelled in the Church regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. This year, a different measure has reached the Senate Judiciary Committee, and it raises perhaps even greater concerns for religious freedom.
The Equality Act, if passed, would impact religious communities in ways greater than any other measure before it.
This has naturally generated a lot of fear and anxiety about religious freedom among Christians, as we anticipate the inevitable impacts of this measure on the daily function and structures of Christian organizations. I must admit, I have a hard time seeing how Christian organizations can hold to their fundamental beliefs while abiding by the stipulations laid out in the Equality Act.
Nevertheless, I have an even greater concern regarding the fear-based actions many Christians are taking as they push back against the LGBTQA+ measures being brought before the Senate.
There’s no doubt that the Equality Act will impact every aspect of American life, and that brings great concern. But in our efforts to preserve our religious freedoms, we must be mindful of the unintended side effects this fight will have on our Christian witness.
Here are 4 ways fear for our religious freedom may be hurting our witness.
1. We view the LGBTQA+ as the enemy.
There’s no denying the LGBTQA+ agenda runs in opposition to the biblical understanding of marriage and sexual identity. This reality shouldn’t catch us by surprise, because each of us once lived in opposition to Jesus. It wasn’t until we came to a saving faith in Jesus that we stepped out of darkness and into the light.
Here’s how Jesus put it.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Our eyes were only open to the truth when it was revealed to us in Jesus. It wasn’t until this moment that we realized what the world calls good is evil and what the world calls evil is good.
To the current culture, it seems like an infringement on human rights to set any limits on sexual orientation. I understand this way of thinking. From the perspective of human wisdom, which does not acknowledge God’s design for a better way of life, it makes complete sense. From a perspective only influenced by the fallen and sinful state we were born into, I understand it.
From a redeemed and transformed perspective, we know that indulging in alternative sexual preferences run counter to the goodness and beauty God created for sexuality and gender.
But the enemy is not the person who thinks and is influenced by the world. Their manner of reasoning comes from the world they live in. Apart from Jesus, they can know no other way. We should never view any person who has yet to know Christ as the enemy.
Viewing them as the enemy causes us to build up walls and defenses against them. Rather, we should seek to build bridges and extend invitations for them to see the love Jesus extends to them, just as he did to you.We should never view any person who has yet to know Christ as the enemy. Click To Tweet
2. We are way too comfortable dehumanizing the LGBTQA+ community.
I remember the day I read the story of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man who was brutalized and murdered for being gay. I wept.
As a young kid who grew up in the church, I knew it was wrong to participate in same-sex relations. But on an even deeper level, and with no need for anyone to tell me, I knew it was wrong for a man to be beaten so severely that his brain stem was crushed, and then to be tied to a fence for all to see.
Each person on earth, regardless of their sexual orientation, is created in the image of God and should be treated as such. This is simply something we can’t compromise on, regardless of our religious freedoms being at stake.
I understand most people aren’t committing hate crimes. So you might be tempted to immediately disregard this point. But there are far more people who feel comfortable dehumanizing the LGBTQA+ community by using hateful and offensive slurs.
The way we talk about others matters. The types of words we use to refer to the LGBTQA+ community matters. Words have power. They reveal the truth of our own heart.
We should feel deeply uncomfortable using any type of word that removes dignity and value from another human being. Christians are called to watch our tongues and also to be kind. This doesn’t mean we should fear speaking out against sin or fighting for biblical principles. But we can’t do it at the expense of honoring and dignifying fellow image-bearers.
The fight for our religious freedoms should never lead us to compromise our care for people who are created in the image of God.We should feel deeply uncomfortable using any type of word that removes the dignity and value from another human being. Click To Tweet
3. We spotlight our bias for condemning only specific sexual sins.
One of the biggest blindspots for the Church today is our tendency to become really passionate about calling out the sin of the world, while simultaneously accepting blatant sin within our own communities. And the world has rightly called us out for not holding ourselves to the same measure of moral accountability.
One of the most recent examples would be the overwhelming response to the recent discovery of the late Ravi Zacharias‘ sexual misconduct and abuse. Instead of complete and utter disdain for Zacharias’ actions, much of the Christian response was, “Everyone sins.” Yet the overwhelming response for those who struggle with same sex attraction is not that “Everyone sins,” but that this is a sin that isn’t allowed in the Church.
Along the same lines, the biblical command to remain faithful to one wife and to refrain from any sexual relations outside of marriage is a huge struggle for members of the Church. Pornography viewership rates among Christians are equal to those who profess no faith. Yet, while an overwhelming number of our congregants are falling into this sin on a regular basis, it isn’t the subject of nearly as many sermons and teachings.
The Equality Act is a piece of legislation that I believe we should oppose. But we should also be pushing for legislation against pornography and the exploitation of women with equal passion and vigor. What’s more is we should be working tirelessly to expel it from our own midst.
There are a number of issues that we conveniently ignore in our campaign against homosexuality, including sexual abuse, misconduct, and pornography. Perhaps that’s because those sins are easier to hide. What’s more is that we have seemingly nothing to lose by ignoring them.
Our current fight for religious freedom is spotlighting our hypocrisy. We must change it.Our current fight for religious freedom is spotlighting out hypocrisy. We must change it. Click To Tweet
4. We lose sight of the true mission.
The two greatest commands are to love God and to love others. This is our mission. This is our calling.
Part of loving others means speaking hard truths. Shying away from truth would actually be harmful to the mission of Jesus. Because love requires truth, even when that truth is unpleasant.
But the manner in which we share that truth makes a world of a difference. What good is it if we share the truth until we’re blue in the face, but our tone never reveals the heart of God?
Jesus gave his life for us while we were still sinning. This is the measure to which Jesus went to show the truth of his love for us. Jesus is who we are supposed to point the world to. When we become so entrenched in preserving our religious freedoms, the mission of loving God and loving others often becomes overshadowed. A fight that started with good intentions quickly supersedes the mission itself.
I have benefited greatly from the religious freedoms we enjoy in the United States. In fact, much of what I do in my day to day life, including the very writing of this blog, is made possible because of my religious freedoms. So I’m by no means suggesting that they don’t matter. But we must remember that defending our civil religious freedoms is not our central mission.
Our effort to maintain our religious freedoms can never replace the mission Jesus has set before us.Our effort to maintain our religious freedoms can never replace the mission Jesus has set before us. Click To Tweet
The health of the Church doesn’t hinge on our religious freedom.
Though I don’t know if the Equality Act will be passed, I do know we ultimately have nothing to fear. Regardless of the Senate’s decision, the Church will not die.
God will maintain the growth of his Church regardless of the benefit or lack of religious freedom. History has shown this to be true. We see it in other parts of the world even today.
While it’s not ideal for our religious freedom to be at stake, you can rest assured that God will care for his people. We have no reason to fear the outcome of the Equality Act and its effects.