A few days ago, it was reported that Amy Grant and Vince Gill were going to host a same-sex wedding for a family member on their farm. I came across this news on Twitter when Franklin Graham made the following post:
Graham, the president of Samaritan’s Purse (an international Christian relief organization) and the son of the evangelist Billy Graham, went on to make the following comments:
To be clear, these are NOT inflammatory comments. Graham simply makes the point that to conflate Christ’s command to love others with a wholehearted acceptance of sinful behavior is to ignore the same Christ who commands obedience. Graham never attacks anyone with his comments. He simply maintains the traditional biblical perspective that homosexuality is a sin. Moreover, his follow up comment is hardly an angry diatribe directed at the homosexual community. Rather, it seems to me that his aim is to simply remind the church to bear witness to the authority of God’s Word. He even prefaces his statement with a “for me” — meaning that he’s stating his perspective on what it means to truly love someone.
Of course, the response to this on Twitter was swift. Immediately, Graham was accused of being judgmental, for failing to show the love of Christ, for participating in shameful and self-serving PR from which he (somehow) benefits financially. I know, I know … Twitter comments are typically the lowest form of human communication. But still. The guy was absolutely TORCHED for taking the position that a conscientious Christian might have reasonable and faithful reasons to NOT host a same-sex marriage for a family member.
In the days since coming across this, I think it’s indicative of where our culture is headed. Anything short of a complete endorsement of a person’s way of life is deemed hateful and bigoted. Period. It’s the fast track for being labeled a “fill-in-the-blank-phobe” (in Graham’s case, a homophobe). And when a Christian voices this kind of objection, the immediate response is something along the lines of, “You hypocrite. Jesus said ‘love others’ but you’re full of hate.” In this way, this controversy is, to borrow a biblical phrae, a sign of the times.
I’m sure Franklin Graham knew all of that before he made his post. And, in fairness, many commenters were incredulous that Graham could condemn Amy Grant’s actions after he has been so enthusiastic in his support of President Trump — a man who doesn’t embody anything even closely resembling Christian morality. That’s a fair point. But that aside, I appreciate Graham’s willingness to take an unpopular position on such a lightning rod issue. Whatever his personal politics might be, I appreciate Graham’s boldness for the sake of biblical truth.
To conflate Christ’s command to love others with a wholehearted acceptance of sinful behavior is to ignore the same Christ who commands obedience.
I think we have a few problems.
For starters, we have a very limited way of thinking of love. Our culture has defined love as wholesale acceptance of someone, including their lifestyle choices. If you fail to affirm everything about me, you don’t love me. That would be bad enough. But in our extremist culture, we’ll assign the motive of “hate” to such a person. It’s as if we don’t even have a category for the kind of love where two people might have a difference of opinion or see things a bit differently. And that’s a problem.
And then there’s the problem with a Jesus who “commands” us to do certain things and NOT do other things. It seems that many people — Christian or otherwise — don’t have a category for a Jesus who would dare to tell us how we ought to live. But the Jesus in the Gospels does this sort of thing all the time. His teachings repeatedly emphasize this. And so our problem is a failure to see Jesus in His fullness. We see Him merely as Savior — as the One who lovingly died to give us life. But we don’t see the fullness of this if we fail to see that Jesus died to save us from our sins. And then there’s another failure: failing to see Jesus as Lord — as the One who calls the shots, the One who bids us to leave our life of sin behind and to follow Him into a life of holiness. Generally speaking, I think we fail to see Jesus this way.
And that brings up another problem: our problem with the whole idea of obedience. There was a time when the Christian gospel emphasized obedience — maybe even over-emphasized it. But today, you could spend a decade in church without hearing the word. But as Graham reminds us with his tweet, Jesus equates obedience with love. John 14:15, If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And for people like Graham (and myself), obedience is an important part of following Jesus. Sure, we won’t obey perfectly. But part of spiritual maturity is growing in obedience. It’s leaning into the resources God has given us to aid in our obedience: His Word, the church, the Holy Spirit. These contribute to the great work of sanctification, which is produced in us in real time as we continually submit ourselves to the indwelling Spirit. The fruit we bear in keeping with repentance comes through obedience.
This sign of the times has me thinking quite a bit about all of this.