One voice can make such an incredible difference.
Sometimes that line can sound almost like a platitude. But it’s a truth amply backed up by the Bible, and by history: somehow, amid all the din of daily life, one clear voice breaks through the ceaseless commotion … draws our focus … clears away the mental debris … condenses a thousand ideas and opinions into a single truth.
I heard one of those voices last week, and was reminded of another from long years back. The first came from a man I admire from the U.S. but encountered on the far side of the world. The second came from a woman I respected and even knew briefly more than a decade ago, whose impact is still being felt in communities all over America.
The friend’s voice I heard in Rome. If all you’ve heard about the international colloquium on “The Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage,” held last week in the shadow of the Vatican (and with the avid participation of Pope Francis) are the somewhat hysterical reports raging online, you’re probably pretty confused about what really happened at this remarkable pro-family gathering.
The colloquium drew religious leaders from 23 countries and 14 very diverse faith groups – many but not all of them Christian – to dialogue specifically, exclusively on the Creator’s plan to bless mankind with marriage. More than 30 faith leaders who differ profoundly on any number of theological questions found that we all agree on this: marriage between a man and woman is a source of grace and beauty; conforms with biology, science, and natural law; offers a way out of poverty; and is a core teaching of all of our faiths, whatever our diversities on other doctrines.
One of the most effective of the 30 speakers was Pastor Rick Warren, renowned senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and best-selling author of The Purpose Driven Life. Reminding us that Hebrews 13:4 says “marriage is to be honored by everyone,” he added:
"It is a myth that we must give up biblical truth on sexuality and marriage in order to evangelize. In the end we must be merciful to the fallen, show grace to struggling, and be patient with the doubting. But when God’s Word is clear we must not – and we cannot – back up, back off, back down, back out, or backslide from the truth."
There it was – a clear, concise, biblical directive for defending marriage and family in an age deafened and dominated by a false sense of compassion, an unworkable concept of tolerance, and within Christianity, a strange kind of subjugated “grace” that is determined to detach itself from the revealed truth of God. Yet Scripture tells us (John 1:17) that grace and truth meet in Jesus Christ – and in Him, these two are inseparable.
Among all those speaking out boldly in Rome for a return to biblical foundations for marriage and the family, Pastor Warren’s was a particularly clear and penetrating voice – in a time when clarity and courage are increasingly rare and precious things.
The other voice in my memory was of Annette “Polly” Williams, a 10-term Wisconsin legislator who was one of our nation’s most outspoken promoters of educational choice. Thirty years ago, she cut through all the social uproar and government infighting between teachers’ unions, activists, civil rights groups, and politicians to demand / push for / legislate new and better educational opportunities for those needing them most – the black children of inner-city Milwaukee.
Ultimately, her heroic efforts not only helped those children, but paved the way for other educational opportunities and reforms that have benefited families of all faith, racial, and economic backgrounds all over America. Early on, Alliance Defending Freedom was privileged to have a part in that great effort, funding a case that arose directly from Ms. Williams’ work, and even now successfully representing parents in major cases in other states who continue to push for better education alternatives for their children. We were also privileged in 2001 to have Ms. Williams speak during Allied Attorney training at one of our ADF Academy sessions; in fact, her daughter, Krystal Oby, is herself one of our Allied Attorneys.
Polly Williams passed away on November 9, but as “the Mother of School Choice,” she leaves a remarkable legacy that changed the educational landscape of America – and expanded religious freedom for families coast to coast. It was a privilege to have known this remarkable woman.
I hope you will join me in giving thanks for these two extraordinary individuals whose voices God has used in such a powerful way to speak the truth with boldness and to great effect. And pray that each of us, in our own areas of influence, will find that same courage to speak the truth in love to those yearning for a clear word amid these tumultuous times. Together, may our voices make an eternal difference.