Yesterday my Facebook news feed exploded with celebrations and laments regarding the latest SCOTUS decision regarding homosexuality. I have a rather diverse friend base, so my Facebook friends run the gamut of possible reactions. Since I am a United Methodist pastor, I have quite a few clergy friends also. Over and over, many of them are asking one question: how do I talk about this decision on Sunday, and how do I deal with it when people are reacting on the other end of the spectrum than I am?
My plea to you, both clergy and laity, is to remember this week that most people in your church, whether they agree with you or not, are faithful Christians attempting to interpret Scripture and follow what God has called them to do to the best of their abilities. To my Progressive/liberal friends, that means that your Conservative/evangelical parishioners and colleagues are NOT usually opposing gay marriage because they think gay sex is icky or because they are hateful. They are honestly interpreting Scripture in the best way they know how with the hermeneutic that they believe is best. To my Conservative/evangelical friends, that means that your Progressive/liberal parishioners and colleagues are NOT usually supporting gay marriage in order to destroy Scripture or marriage. They also are honestly interpreting Scripture in the best way they know how with a very different hermeneutic than you. They don’t hate Scripture any more than you hate LGBT people.
Now there are exceptions to what I just said, you know this as well as I do, but the fact is, if you approach those who disagree with you with the aforementioned understanding, maybe, just maybe, you will actually be able to minister in love to and with them. In the words of one of my seminary professors, the great failing of many academic and thinking people is that they believe anybody who is well-educated and thinking will obviously come to the same conclusion they did. Let’s be realistic here, they won’t! But here’s the thing, you may disagree with them—there are certainly people I believe are dead wrong on this issue—however nastiness, name-calling, and posting on Facebook about how they aren’t Christian is neither helpful, loving, nor necessarily true. This may be a vital issue for you, either because you see it as a justice issue or you see it as an issue of the authority of Scripture and sin, but spewing hateful and divisive language is not going to help you convince others of your position. All it does is convince them that they are even more right because the other side can't act in a loving way.
So, how do we minister to and with those with whom we disagree while keeping our integrity? I would urge a few things based on our General Rules (Three Simple Rules).
First, do no harm. Stop the name-calling and accusations. Stop the hateful speech regarding those who disagree with you.
Second, do good. Acknowledge the fears of those who disagree with you. You may think they are unjustified, but here’s the thing, we live in a sinful world where people will do anything to hurt others. Look at the Westboro Baptist Church. Look at the Freedom From Religion organization. Somebody out there is willing to cause pain to get their way.
Also, speak what you believe in the appropriate and loving context. I am not telling you to hide what you believe. I am urging you to engage in loving, respectful dialogue. Loving respectful dialogue does NOT involve belittling, name calling, or accusations.
Finally, stay in love with God. In the midst of all this, continue to pray. Pray for your friends and your enemies. Continue to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Continue to invite all to Holy Communion. Continue to baptize. Continue to spend time with sinners. In all words you speak, Facebook posts and blogs you write, sermons you preach, Bible studies you teach, ask the following question: how does this give glory to God?
So, let’s move forward and go make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.