-Many years ago my wife and I went out to dinner with a visiting Presbyterian pastor and his wife. They had a couple children younger than ours, and the topic was brought up on how to reach the lost of this world for Christ. Without realizing I was broaching a subject that offended him, I shared with him how I was influenced by the evangelical apologist and philosopher Francis Schaeffer who opened up his home to the young adults of this world. The pastor bristled at this and declared quite boldly,
“I would never allow my wife and children to be exposed to a couple who is shacking up, or to a homosexual. I believe we should guard our family from ever being exposed to such things!”
I realize that each of us will have different convictions regarding various subjects that aren’t explicitly covered by scripture, Paul is quite clear on this topic when he talks about the liberty we have to eat meat, but that we shouldn’t do so if it might hinder our brother or sister in Christ, he writes,
“Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” [I Cor. 8:8-13 ESV]
Thus, while on one hand we don’t want to do anything that would hinder the faith of our fellow brother’s and sisters, yet on the other hand, we are definitely called to reach everyone with the gospel, even the homosexuals and couples “shacking up”. How do we do this in a world where many Christians are attempting to shield their entire family from ever seeing these people?
I know of a young woman who was raised in a Christian home who moved out as a teenager and began living with her boyfriend. Her father was severely offended, and he refused to ever allow the boyfriend to visit the family when the daughter came back home for birthdays and holidays. The boyfriend had no inkling or understanding of why the father was treating his daughter in such a manner. For a young man of this world, where “shacking up” is the norm, the only person who appeared to be acting out of sorts was the father. However, because the father refused to talk to the boyfriend, years passed and the young man never understood the father’s Christian perspective on daughters.
After a few years of this alienation between the father and his daughter, the older Christian brother and his wife intervened in a spirit of hospitality to the daughter and her boyfriend. This act of charity had such an effect on the father that immediately following he called the boyfriend and the two of them sat down for the first time ever and had a serious dialogue about the father’s beliefs. It was shortly afterwards that the boyfriend, now understanding better where the Christian family was coming from, married the young woman, and shortly after that made a full confession to Christ and joined the church.
Christian discipleship is messy. We may start out with hard-fast convictions regarding whether or not we should eat meat, but in order to best make disciples of all men, there will be many times that we have to ease up on our own rigidity, and in a spirit of charity, demonstrate hospitality towards those who do not meet our standards when it comes to lifestyle.
One of the areas the evangelical church has all but lost, is in the area of homosexuality. Now, in the 21st century, it is clear the evangelical community has made no inroads whatsoever in addressing this ancient phenomenon that grew like wildfire in the late 20th century.
Many years ago I was sitting with a deacon and a young pastor and the subject of homosexuality came up. Just like with the Presbyterian pastor, I was caught off guard with how visceral these two men were regarding exposing their families to the reality of homosexuality in our culture. I can understand not talking to your young grade-school children about fornication, but these two men were explaining to me the lengths they went to prevent their nearly 20 year old daughters from ever having to encounter a homosexual in society.
Living in the arts and cultural area of Metro Detroit, I can easier avoid running into a Baptist than I can prevent my family from encountering homosexuals! I am constantly reminded of Paul’s admonishment that unless we encounter the people of this world, they won’t be saved, he writes,
“For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” [Romans 10:13-15 ESV].
Real discipleship is messy. It means exposing ourselves, our families, and our lives, to the people of this world who are uncouth, sexual sinners, and the like.
I hadn’t seen the deacon for many years, and as I was putting together this chapter, I stopped at a coffee shop. Much to my surprise, the deacon’s now twenty-something daughter, was a barista at the coffee shop. Apparently, the deacon who had been steadfast to never allow his children to be exposed to the people of this world had some type of awakening; if we don’t connect with our community, how else will reach people for Christ? If we don’t spend time with homosexuals, couples “shacking up together”, and the other people of this world, how else will we fullfil our great commission to go out into the whole world and make disciples of all men?
*stock image Josh Calabrese unsplash.com