In one of the best responses to the ugly attacks in the media on Miss California for supporting genuine marriage, David Stokes tries to balance the Christian’s twin responsibilities to be loving toward the sinner while actually standing up for righteousness. He makes a great point about the tendency to give up our principles in the name of “bridge building”:
In my opinion, many younger evangelicals like Jonathan Merritt, have determined to distance themselves from the “religious right-ism” of their parents’ generation, in much the same way as the children of the baby-boom rejected many of the ways of their “World War II” generation parents. I have talked to many of them. They have not abandoned the Bible or the faith; they just don’t want the main message to be about abortion and traditional moral values. In fact, these younger evangelicals remain themselves largely pro-life and believe in heterosexual marriage and Biblical mores.
They just really, really believe they can practice their faith – even share it in love – while avoiding coming across as intolerant and shrill. The idea is that they will reach others by not yelling at them.
What needs to be noted though is that in order to actually reach a person with the gospel, the acknowledgement of sin is essential. So is repentance. Confession comes from a Greek word meaning, “to agree with,” in this case agreeing with God. The Bible term repentance means, “to change the mind.”
Both concepts are essential components of Christian witness. They require sin to be called sin and then to be turned from. How Jesus dealt with the adulterous woman in John chapter eight is case in point. He told her, after the condemnatory accusers had slithered away, “Neither do I condemn you.” But he didn’t stop there – and nor should evangelicals. He followed with: “Go and sin no more.”
Sin was still sin. And it is very important for some idealist evangelicals to understand that people today who celebrate and glorify behaviors that are clearly labeled in the Bible as sinful, will never really take advantage of “avenues of dialogue” until and unless evangelicals are willing to concede that the Bible doesn’t say what it means and mean what it says.
Niceness is a nice try, but the punch – “sin must be acknowledged before grace can flow” – must eventually be thrown. Build all the bridges you want; “they” will never use them.
In fact, “they” will usually blow them up.
While I might quibble with the use of quotation marks around “they”, I do think he makes a legitimate point. It is always challenging to strike the right balance in such issues.