By: Joshua Tijerina
Last week the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, (ERLC) put on a national conference on The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage. I attended the conference, and was excited to see if there would be any new ways they were communicating the marriage message in light of recent legal and cultural developments on the issue.
Rightly so, the message was the same, but the tone was sincerely different. ERLC tried very hard to both represent the truth of marriage, and yet try to reach out to the LGBT community. This balance is difficult, but it is right. It requires a delicate effort in order to distinguish policy and person. The policy must always represent the truth that natural marriage—being both creative and diverse—is necessary for society to grow and prosper. But each LGBT person is a life, full of emotion, fear, hope, and struggle. ERLC did not offer an answer to this balance, but the fact that we are now talking about it is significant.
What makes this sincerely difficult is that the LGBT vision for society is not one of tolerance and acceptance as was once purported. Barronelle Stutzman’s presence at the conference is a perfect example of this. Barronelle’s business, Arlene’s Flowers, is being threatened because Barronelle could not comply with a request to turn away from her faith and create the flower arrangement for a same-sex wedding ceremony. What’s more devastating is that Barronelle is being sued in her personal capacity, so she is not just in danger of losing her business, but she could be held personally liable as well.
Now, it is important to note that the same-sex couple was easily able to find flowers elsewhere, but that is not enough. The fact that this suit persists communicates that Barronelle must pay for her non-compliance to the LGBT agenda—regardless of her religious convictions.
But Barronelle genuinely loves the same-sex couple that is suing her. She has served them for years, and would continue to do so. She just can’t participate in something that offends her faith. Do you see the struggle between policy and person? A difficult balance indeed.
For more on Barronelle, you can watch her story here.
The early church might offer some guidance. During Emperor Julian’s reign in Rome, the early Christian community openly stood against Emperor Julian’s attempts at creating a pagan state. Julian levied substantial fines on Christians and removed their religious freedom, but Julian would ultimately lose in the end. The early church did not waver on preaching truth, and the charitable actions of the Christian community changed the hearts of the people. Emperor Julian is often quoted as saying, “The impious Galileans support not only their own poor but ours as well.” He was never able to slow down the growth of the Christian faith that would eventually triumph. They told the truth in policy, but loved in person.
We must never cease in our efforts to defend and promote natural marriage. Marriage is, and always will be, between one man and one woman. This creative and diverse union is unique to all other relationships, and it is the ONLY foundation upon which a society is built—past, present, and future. And we cannot compromise our religious convictions. But this does not mean that we must view LGBT people as our opposition or enemy.
They are not.
The early church did not turn away pagans from their table. Christ did not turn away tax collectors, prostitutes, thieves . . . or you and me. Thus, we are called to that same standard of charity for our LGBT neighbors.
That, for me, was the message from #ERLC2014.
Go out and tell the truth. Preach it boldly.
And let Christ’s love shine so bright that those who oppose you must call you friend.