“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”—John 13:35
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.—1 John 3:18
I don’t get it.
Sometimes we just have to admit that other people are very different from us. That doesn’t necessarily make them wrong, it just means we have a hard time relating to them. So let me start by talking about me for a minute: I have never been a protester, or understood the mentality of a protester. I’ve never carried a picket sign or marched for a cause. I don’t think this is because I’m ashamed of my convictions, but because I honestly don’t believe those things accomplish anything. They don’t change minds, and they usually don’t change laws. I think when all the marching and shouting is done, the world is exactly the same, just angrier and more divided.
I know there are exceptions. The large-scale marches during the Civil Rights Movement were important, and really made a difference. But for the most part, I think those kinds of things are just noise. The only bumper sticker I have on my car is for a surf shop, and that’s only because my family complained that they couldn’t distinguish it from the million other generic-looking Subarus in this town. I have opinions about social issues, but I don’t think bumper stickers change people’s minds about politics or religion or morality or anything else. The only thing they change is the way we feel about the person who has the bumper sticker, and usually not for the better.
I think it’s a joke when people post online that they “stand with” the victims of such-and-such situation, when they are literally sitting on their couch eating Cheetos as they type words into a screen. I have a friend who calls this “slacktivism.” It costs you nothing, and accomplishes nothing, except to annoy the people who connected with you online to stay in personal contact, not to hear you rant about issues.
That being said, I had better stop ranting myself and get to the point: this past week in our community, we had an unfortunate incident between two parties who, in my opinion, are both misguided. A local organization displayed a pride flag as a way of saying that they “stand with” those who adopt an alternative sexual lifestyle, or identity, or however I’m supposed to say that this week. Now, before conservative Christians get their hackles up, let’s try to see this for what it really is: a misguided attempt to show love.
Yes, our society is a sexual train wreck right now. Yes, all sorts of sinful, destructive choices are being affirmed, and all sorts of nonsense is being taught and believed. People are saying black is white and white is black, and it’s hard for those of us who see the beauty and wisdom in God’s original design to keep from being angry. We see children being lied to and making choices that will lead to regret and heartache, and we want to put a stop to the madness.
But not everyone gets it. Non-believers, people who don’t acknowledge the authority of the Bible, who don’t have God’s Holy Spirit inside of them to guide them into the truth, don’t see or won’t admit the damage caused by sexual sin. All they see is that people are being treated poorly (sometimes by Christians) and they want to come alongside them and show love and support.
Now, of course, they’re wrong on several fronts. They have believed the lie that loving someone means affirming them in all of their choices, no matter how wrong or destructive. We all know this is not how to show love to someone who is addicted to a substance, but this is because we know the destructive power of drugs and alcohol. As a society, we have been unwilling to admit the destructive power of sexual sin, so we affirm any and every choice, with tragic consequences. These people also think that flags change the world, which, again, I don’t. But the point is that they’re sincere. They think they’re showing love, and they don’t understand why anyone would object to it.
So let’s talk about the other side. In response to the flying of this flag, someone in our community spray-painted graffiti on the side of the building. Now, again, I have to say that I can’t relate. I could drive by a hundred pride flags and not have the least desire to do anything about it, because to me they are just noise, a symptom of a much deeper problem that has to be addressed with gentleness and wisdom at the level of the heart. But this person took action, thinking they were really standing for something. And then, of course, the people on the other side took offense, the levels of anger rose on both sides, and the divide became even wider. Mission accomplished.
Rightly or wrongly, this act was blamed on Christians. (I’m guessing the person who did it would call themselves a Christian; the question is whether or not Jesus would). Maybe it was unfair to just assume that a believer was responsible, but it’s certainly revealing that the people of our world are quick to associate something like this with the church. And it makes me sad any time the words “hate” and “Christians” are used in the same sentence. Jesus said His followers would be known by their love. Are we? Are you? Do the people in your world know that you love Jesus, and do they know that you love them, and do they see the connection between the two?
The people flying the pride flag are misguided about what love is. (And as much as they wouldn’t want to admit it, they certainly don’t love the people who disagree with them). The graffiti people are also lacking in love, loving only the people who are like them. True love, God’s kind of love, means you love the person who is not like you, the way Jesus (the innocent One) loves me (a sinner). And in my opinion, both parties are spending their energy on things that don’t really make a difference. Your flag doesn’t change the world, any more than a bumper sticker changes who’s in the White House. Your graffiti doesn’t make people think differently, it just makes them think you’re a jerk. True followers of Christ don’t have time for such nonsense. They are too busy loving people in ways that matter.