Social networks are vibrating at a fevered pitch as Christians run to the defense of Phil Robertson, who was dumped by the A & E television network for his statements about homosexuality. While homosexuality is an important and relevant topic to discuss in the public square – one we must approach with Biblical grace and truth (click here and here to see my attempt to do so), I’m concerned with the way many Christians are responding to these events. Most, if not all the pithy sound-bites I’ve read from Christians focus on free speech rights that may have been violated, and/or a cynical focus on how our culture hates truth. Both these issues are legitimate, but their over-emphasis in this case betrays a misunderstanding of the Gospel and the Christian’s role in culture, in addition to a lurking idolatry that compels many Christians to worship man-made institutions rather than God.
Regarding the nature of the Gospel and the role of Christians in culture; Jesus calls us to be salt and light in a world that needs Him most of all. He, not moral living, is the Gospel. Jesus does not call us to encourage or force people to be good, because they can’t be. Instead, He calls us to point others to Him, the One who can make them new. Christians are not called to be the moral police of culture, but beacons of light pointing our culture to Him. My point? if you are more concerned about getting someone to stop having homosexual sex than you are about inviting them to know and follow Jesus, you are no longer preaching the Gospel or fulfilling your role as a Christian in the world. I am not arguing one way or the other about Phil Robertson’s intentions. I am affirming the positive role of Christians to live and proclaim the Gospel in culture: to point people to Jesus, that they might find their life and hope Him.
What about that idolatry? Jesus told us not to be surprised or concerned when the world that rejected Him rejects us who are His as we stand for Him. Our hope is not in this world, but in the One who has overcome the world; the One who will return to judge the living and the dead, and create a new heavens and earth in which He reigns supreme and only righteousness dwells. Jesus, not man-made laws (not even the U.S. Constitution which many American Christians seem more ready to defend than the Gospel itself) is our final hope. Not that we shouldn’t try to be free so the Gospel can advance freely; but if your first reaction to this story was, “that’s not fair; Phil has the right to say what he wants,” you may be looking in the wrong direction for your hope and fighting the wrong battle. The freedom we have enjoyed in the U.S. is an historic anomaly not available to the majority of Christians who have walked the earth. To place our hope there is to misplace our hope. To hope in political freedom more than God and His Gospel is to worship and serve a false god. Which is the greater tragedy? That someone’s “rights” may have been trampled, or that, too often, Christians are more concerned with self-preservation and the “right” to be heard than they are with proclaiming the truth in love, in a way they will be heard by all whom God is drawing to Himself?