After making a lengthy Facebook statement the other day about a certain media event (which I promised not to mention again) that seems to have taken over this particular Christmas season, I sat back and paused. Radene and I have talked back and forth on this matter privately in our home. I love her. She usually pulls me back to earth when I begin pontificating too highly. She loves Jen Hatmaker, and she’s frequently reading things to me from Jen’s blog or from her books. I guess I like Jen as well. It’s good when we find an author that we both like.
Of all the questions that we bounced back and forth, one has risen to the top for me. At the end of the day, what needs to be a Christian’s guiding principle for coexisting with people who live lifestyles that are Biblically wrong? Contrary to how we see some behaving, Christians are called to peaceful coexistence with non-Christians. The Word says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18) And elsewhere, “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).
Peaceful coexistence does not mean agreeing on everything. It does not mean having the same points of view or even the same agendas. If my neighbors were diametrically opposed to everything I believed in, would I still shovel their driveways when it snows? Would I still lend them a hand when help is needed? Would I invite them over for a BBQ on Sunday afternoon? The answer better be yes on all accounts.
This transcends the homosexual debate that is burning white hot in our culture at the moment. What if your neighbors were a different religion? What if they were radically different in political ideology? What if they are just plain annoying to you? Living peacefully with your neighbors, and all other people for that matter, is something that starts with you. You can call it a virtue of being a good citizen, you can call it paying it forward, but as Christians we call it something else: a command.
the world may hate us for what we believe, but they should never hate us for how we behave
The world is never going to fully embrace Christians. In fact, prophetically speaking we will become more despised. So here’s the guiding principle: the world may hate us for what we believe, but they should never hate us for how we behave. We should represent such a great contradiction to our lost neighbors, friends, and loved ones. They can’t stand what we believe, but we keep giving them birthday presents. They hate what we preach, but they are blown away by how we will watch their kids while they have a date night.
What most people are observing is an increasing divide along the issues. We are polarized, comfortably entrenched in our positions, bunkered down in our socio-economic, cultural, political, and religious fortresses. We’re all circling the wagons preparing for a battle to the death. This kind of reckless zeal, though, betrays the immaturity that lies beneath. The path to which God has called us is one of peaceful coexistence, so far as it depends on us, to have the respect of outsiders. God is the judge of the wicked, not us. We are his ambassadors of reconciliation. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20) Call sin, sin, but don’t stop there. Demonstrate the love of Christ in tangible ways. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)