In Lake Shastina, California, there is a church called Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church. At this church, a sign was posted that stated, "Bruce Jenner is still a man. Homosexuality is still a sin. The culture may change. The Bible does not." As you might expect, a lot of protesters came out to demonstrate against the sign. These people vehemently opposed the sign, and many of these protesters were, in fact, Christians. During this time, the sign was vandalized. Some letters were stolen, the plexiglass was broken, and the power box was busted. Here comes the twist in the story. The people who were there to protest denounced whoever vandalized the sign and planned another event to raise money to have the sign repaired.
“It’s not what you said. It’s how you said it.”
“It’s not what you said. It’s how you said it.” How often have we heard this statement in our lives? Maybe it’s been you saying it or maybe it’s been said to you. Regardless, we all understand the meaning behind that statement. There are times when we can say things that are factually true, but do so in a way that is hostile, provocative, and well...unloving.This blog is not for the purpose of reporting a news story. It’s not for the purpose of pushing some sort of political agenda. I am not writing this because I want to show support to one side or the other. This blog is written for the simple purpose of speaking to the everyday Christian about following the example that Jesus gave us in the way he lived his life and in the way he dealt with sinners...because we need to remember, we are all sinners who have simply been forgiven. I referenced this story, because I believe it serves as a real-life parable. Let me ask you this question, in this story, who showed more love? To really know the answer to that question, we would have to know the answer to another question. Did the pastor who posted that message on the sign really believe that those words, posted in that way, would draw people to repentance or was he doing it because he felt like the world told him he wasn’t allowed to say those words and he was fighting back? “Fighting back” is not loving, it’s carnal. In fact, it’s contrary to what Jesus (speaking about persecution) instructed us to do.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.” Matthew 5:38-40
From Daily Wire: “According to Hoke, he was inspired to create the sign after seeing the news story in which a biological male who identifies as female "threw a fit because a clerk had accidentally referred to him with the masculine gender [pronoun]." Hoke said that because "the culture has drawn a line in the sand and dared [Christians] to step over," he came to the conclusion that the church should accept the challenge — not with hate, but by simply preaching "the gospel."
So according to the pastor, he posted the sign because he was inspired by a news article and felt like the world was daring him to step over a line. I don’t believe this was done from a position of hate, but it doesn’t appear to be that he felt it was the best way to draw people to Christ...so was this done out of love or out of fleshly “fighting back?” It appears to be the latter.
Now, before anyone starts jumping onto “their side of the fight,” let me address “my side” of the religious aisle. Is it loving to tell a sinner that they are a sinner? The answer is, sometimes. In the Bible, the Pharisees were proud to tell everyone how badly they were all breaking the Law, yet Jesus clearly stated they were without love. As a matter of fact, almost the entire 23rd chapter of Matthew is an open rebuke of the Pharisees where Jesus states that even though the Pharisees were factually correct about the law in their words, they were not living in the way they were teaching. He even reprimands them by stating that they have neglected justice, mercy, and faith.
Just like the person who stands on a box in the park shouting at everyone that they are all filthy rotten sinners going to hell, these Pharisees accused others in order to make themselves look more righteous and holy, and Jesus called it out for what it was. The man on a box in the park, and even the Pharisees, might be speaking the truth, but it it’s not being done in a way that’s loving.
Is it loving to tell a sinner that they are a sinner? Again, the answer is sometimes. Clearly, the way the Pharisees did it was not loving. Jesus, however, used a completely different approach. Jesus, unlike anyone else, actually COULD tell everyone every sin they had committed in their lives and do so from a position of moral superiority. Unlike anyone else, Jesus didn’t sin. So, if we are going to call ourselves followers of Christ, we should look at how Christ dealt with sinners.
In a previous blog, I dealt with the example of the woman caught in adultery. She was brought before Jesus by religious people who were demanding that Jesus condemn her so they could stone her to death for her crime. They were correct. She had broken the law. The law demanded a death penalty. Still, they were not being loving. Jesus correctly pointed out their hypocrisy by saying the famous phrase “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Jesus never said the woman’s sin wasn’t sin. In fact, he clearly did address her sin, but only after he had shown love to her.Another example that comes to mind is that of Zacchaeus. He was a thief, a liar, and despised by people because of it. Jesus could have called him out for all of his sin and would have been justified in doing so, but he didn’t. Jesus simply tells Zacchaeus that he will be going to his house to eat. Nowhere in that entire passage do we read of Jesus condemning him, yet he comes out of the house repentant.
Yet another story comes to mind of a woman with a terrible reputation as a sinner who comes to Jesus and begins to pour out precious ointment on him and even wipes his feet with her hair. Jesus didn’t call out her sin and tell her how bad she was. He acknowledged her sin, but only after he had shown her love by defending her against those who were calling out her sin in an unloving way.
Jesus often had encounters with people who were known for their sins, yet Jesus met with them, loved them, ate with them, healed them, and showed them in a real way that he loved them and wanted the best for them. It was only after he did these things that he dealt with them about their sin.
Jesus actually had a reputation for doing this exact thing. The Pharisees accused him of being a “friend of tax collectors and sinners.” The reason is because he refused to shout truth at people from a distance and chose, instead to speak truth to them from a position of love. This is the way Jesus showed his love to people and it’s the way the church is called to show love to people, as well.
Was the church sign factually correct? I believe it was. Was it loving? No, I don’t believe so. Is the church called to preach the truth? Absolutely, but we are called to do so from a position of love. Love people first. Let them know that God loves them. Build a friendship with them. Then, they will understand that the truth you speak is for their benefit and not coming from a position of judgment.
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 1 Peter 3:15
I’m not saying that we are not to speak the truth. In fact, we are commanded to do it...but we are commanded to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Love is messy. It gets down in the dirt with people, it shares their burdens, it makes sacrifices, it puts another’s needs before your own, it forsakes reputation and it is very hard...yet that is how we are supposed to treat people.
By contrast, shouting the truth at people from a distance is not loving. It’s lazy, it’s impersonal, and it’s self-righteous. It sends the message, “I am defining who you are by your sin.” Is homosexual activity a sin? Yes, but so is heterosexual activity outside of marriage. For that matter, so is your sin and my sin. It’s true that sin is sin, but mercy is also mercy, grace is also grace, compassion is also compassion, and love is also love. If you haven’t earned the right to speak into someone’s life, wait until you have. You’ll never change someone’s heart until you’ve touched it.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Hopefully, you will find it beneficial. God bless.