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Ask A Pastor


Q: How will the recent political developments regarding same-sex marriage impact our religious liberty?

A: Things have been changing quickly in recent days with Supreme Court rulings, dozens of news reports on local cases, and a lot of political fanfare. I do expect that in time these decisions will impact the moral and cultural landscape of our country in meaningful ways and in some cases in ways that create difficulty for those seeking to follow Christ and his Word. Many legal and cultural analysts will know much better than I do some of the specific implications of these developments.

And I don’t want to suggest at all that these broad changes do not matter. We should pray for and work for the flourishing of our country, our city, and our neighbors wherever possible. But we should care about truth because we love our neighbors and our community, not because we fear suffering or persecution. And my bigger concern is what these developments have revealed about my own heart and the hearts of many Christians in our country. What I’ve felt in my own heart, heard in the words, and seen in the actions of others is an antagonistic spirit driven by fear—fear of a crumbling America but more particularly fear of suffering or persecution of various forms that we, or more often our kids, could face.

My concern is that we often get frantic because we have allowed our highest goal to become giving to our children a more economically viable and morally stable nation rather than giving them a vision of a more sovereignly faithful and constantly trustworthy God. And perhaps we want this for our kids because we’ve been holding onto that as our own idol, too. Charles Swindoll once said that our greatest responsibility is to hand the next generation “an exalted view of God.” Do we believe that? It fits very well with the vision of Psalm 145 and can happen quite well in the midst of suffering and persecution because God will still do mighty deeds and will still show himself worthy of our trust.

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Q: Should my high-school daughter have a close friend who is openly homosexual?

A: This question is representative of a number of questions I’ve received regarding what it looks like to be “truthing in love” (Ephesians 4:15) in a variety of instances. We must realize the increasing reality in our communities and in our churches of adults in same-sex relationships and young people struggling with issues of gender identity and same-sex attraction. We know enough now to realize the issues involved can be both remarkably complex and deeply emotional. The Bible clearly calls us not to compromise truth or encourage sin, but it also calls us to love our neighbors and bear patiently with them.

I won’t begin here to answer all the situationally specific questions, and these will each require godly wisdom that seeks to appreciate the hearts of all involved. But one way to begin loving well is by not allowing someone’s sin to become their identity—for us or as we train our children to engage with people, too. Think of this example: Imagine that you raised your children to believe that Auburn (or Alabama) fans were to be avoided, mistrusted, or scorned. Whenever they saw someone wearing those colors, saying those cheers, or supporting those causes, they were to categorize (“identify”) them as “dangerous” and interact (or not) accordingly. Do you see how unhelpful that would be on many levels—to allow one trait or choice to become someone’s identity in the way you relate to them? It would make others less than human; it would minimize the image of God in them; it would identify them with one aspect of their personhood. 

The same is true with moral issues. No one’s identity is entirely as Auburn fan, philanderer, or homosexual. We must see people first and foremost as image-bearers of our Creator. Then we can love them—celebrating the beauty and simultaneously grieving the brokenness of that image in an individual. We must train our children to identify people as image-bearers first rather than by any good or bad trait. This is a particular challenge in engaging with some who desperately want to find their identity in their gender or sexual orientation. But to love people well and engage them with truth at the same time, we must see them as more than one trait.