My heart aches. Friendships everywhere are shattering.
Last night, I spoke to some dear friends. One described how his parents confronted him over the marriage issue. They had read one of my articles and asked: “Is this what you believe?”
The other said that her sister in Brazil, and a long-time friend in Mexico, are angry for her Christian beliefs about marriage: “LGBT people are born that way, but you choose to be a Christian!”
Yesterday my daughter described a group chat where friends rage against Christians for their convictions about LGBT issues. It is excruciating for her.
A lady in my church told me how angry her husband is about these things, and she can no longer talk about her faith at home.
Another person in our church has decided to leave us. They are loved, but they have a different view about marriage and feel that they can’t stay.
These are five drops in an ocean of broken relationships, and every drop is bitter.
It doesn’t matter how often we say that we don’t hate anyone, and that we can disagree without hating. It doesn’t matter how often we show by our actions that we love and don’t hate.
Australia has made up its mind: if you won’t accept the LGBT program, then you are hateful and you deserve to be put in your place. Old and precious friendships lie wrecked.
And here’s another thing. Christians are no longer being left alone with their beliefs. We are now asked about them; people want to know. “What do you think about marriage?” We must make our beliefs known, and be treated accordingly.
It’s going to get a lot worse. Opinion in our society is accelerating, it is becoming more intense, more polarised. Disagreement is felt instinctively to equate with hatred and unreasonable bigotry, and a corresponding outrage erupts.
I am not saying that relationships are going to fracture—they are fracturing right now. The shards of splintered attachments are raining down hard around us.
And so the words of Jesus, that we have heard two-hundred times, now emerge into deeply disturbing reality.
“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my father in heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn, ‘a man against his father, and daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household’” (Mat 10:32-36).
Jesus said that he would divide humanity, and now we live that. And the LGBT movement has apparently become the touchstone for this division.
Let me explain what I mean.
Jesus’ total plan for sex and marriage and family is distinct and unambiguous: “A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mat 19:5-6).
LGBT sex, marriage, and family ethics flatly contradict Jesus’ plan. To be a Christian, therefore, is necessarily to stand distinctly against LGBT ethics.
We are at heart dividing over Jesus, and this means dividing over two distinct world views and a constellation of differences. But Jesus’ sex, marriage, and family design is the most prominent boulder on which the society’s cultural and ethical river breaks, to roll and rage its separate ways.
This has become especially clear to me with the Baby Boomers. Even those who are not LGBT have come to be angered with those who reject the LGBT ethic. Why, when even just five years ago it was something that they hardly gave a thought to? Because it has become a flag that stands for their whole world view: a standard for their autonomy, self-determination, and self-constructed spirituality; of all the things that Jesus demanded we repent of.
Whether I’m right or wrong about this, the division that Jesus promised is here. How do we respond?
Be glad that the fog of complacency is blowing away. Ten years ago no one really cared about God and the Bible and Jesus. No one wanted to talk about it. People were dying in droves having given barely a thought to God and judgment and eternity. Now these are hot topics: these are the beliefs that deeply offend and anger. Rejoice for conversations about Jesus, as thorny and rugged as they might be.
Don’t trade Jesus’ truth for friendship. The greatest need for people in our lives is not our friendship, but Christ. The greatest need is not peaceful and quiet relationships, but Jesus’ saving death. Yes fight hard to keep your relationships, but never at the expense of truth, or by keeping the kind of silence that communicates ambivalence about the truth.
Yes we must speak wisely and “with gentleness and respect.” But forget clever and sophisticated-sounding arguments that try to salvage common ground where there is none. There is no give and take when it comes to Jesus. “He who is not with me is against me” (Mat 12:30).
Accept with sorrowful hearts that many of your relationships will break. Jesus promised it. It is a sign that his truth is being heard and wrestled with. And though we should weep for lost friends, we should never despair. Our friendships may one day be restored, bringing about something far better.
Expect to be shamed. It was not enough for Jesus’ enemies to do away with him. First they had to spit on him, regale him in a purple robe and a crown of thorns, strip him, nail him to a cross, and hurl insults at him. Jesus told us to expect the same shame (Mat 10:25). It’s one thing for someone to hurt you or shout at you. Shame brings a whole different realm of bitter feelings. Expect it, and prepare to respond with surprising joy:
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mat 5:11-12).
Let us honour our parents, sacrificially love our wives, submit to our husbands, work hard for our masters, and treat our children with patient tenderness. But love Christ first—for this is right, and is the most loving thing that we can do for those around us. And if loving Christ and submitting to his teaching means shattered relationships, then we must not be surprised, but weep and pray and leave it in the hands of Him who knows best.
And he will do wonders.