Culture -

Healthy conversations to have about loving the gay community —

By Joe Smith

My favorite time with my teenage daughter is when we’re driving — anywhere.

It doesn’t matter the destination because the fun happens on the way.

We crank the radio (normally to Top 40…puke) roll down the windows, and just have fun! We talk about anything and everything. She really opens up during this time and I don’t have to just be dad. I get to be 50 percent dad and 50 percent friend. I cherish drive-time.

The other day we got to talking about gay rights and transgender issues — particularly when it comes to Jesus followers living in an increasingly post-Christian culture. She didn’t realize that’s what the conversation was about. For her the conversation was about how to live out Jesus’ call to love your neighbor.

 

" If we’re really in a battle, waging war against an eternal enemy, then people can only be prisoners "

That talk has stuck with me. It’s one I honestly didn’t think I would ever have with my children. But the world is rapidly changing. The world I knew is no longer here. We can either rail against that or roll with it. So I gave my daughter a valuable resource to read: “Messy Grace” by Caleb Kaltenbach. If you haven’t read it, stop right now and go order it. Seriously.


The second thing I did was open up scripture with her. We talked through Ephesians 6 and focused on verse 12: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”


People are not the enemy.

 

For as far back as I can remember there’s been this ongoing war in the church against the culture we live in. I remember as a child in the ‘80s hearing about the Moral Majority, and seeing all these TV preachers berating us to stop living in sin and to send in our money. My parents were baby Christians then and that was what church was.


I grew up knowing that as long as I acted, talked, dressed, and looked a certain way that I was a good Christian. Very little of my early faith had anything to do with my heart, outside of feeling guilt.

I learned that even though Jesus loved “them” I shouldn’t be friends with them. I could pray for them. I could give them bible tracts (if you don’t know what those are, consider yourself blessed). I could even witness to them. But hang out with them? Eat dinner with them? Nay! And we shall say it again … Nay!


As I got older I began reading scripture for myself. And I saw a lot of things that didn’t jibe with my childhood faith. This passage in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus was one.

 

I wanted my daughter to wrestle with it, too. I wanted her to know that people aren’t the enemy! If we’re really in a battle, waging war against an eternal enemy, then people can only be prisoners. And no one in their right mind would fight prisoners of war.


So why do we?


We have an opportunity, as leaders in the local church, to make a difference. And because you work with students you can help shape the next generation of church leaders!

 

We’re not called to make or defend the culture. Jesus was never interested in culture change. He was interested in heart change. He was and is after people! His heart was for the downtrodden, for the sick, for the one lost sheep.


When Christians, and the church at large, try to be the morality police and shape culture, we lose. Even if we win, we lose. I believe that our gradual decline of influence can be directly tied to the church trying to legislate morality rather than loving and serving people. Imagine what the church would be today if we had met people with love and kindness instead of laws and picket signs.

 

What will the church look like in 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? I have no clue. But what I do know is that what we do today will have a significant impact on the answer. We can teach our kids to rail against the culture. We can teach them to put their faith in government leaders and to vote their way out of this mess (because that’s going so well).

 

Or we can show them the way of Jesus.

 

Joe Smith is a veteran of youth ministry, having served as lead youth minister in multiple churches over the past 20 years. He’s also served as a senior minister and preaching minister of churches in Florida, and currently serves on the ministry staff at Shift Church in Gainesville, Florida. To contact Joe, send emails to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).