Lessons from the Phil Robertson / A&E Controversy – Part 2

phil robertson

Phil Robertson

A few days ago, I posted a blog about some lessons I’d taken away from the controversy surrounding Phil Robertson’s suspension from Duck Dynasty by A&E. As events have continued to unfold, I have read numerous comments and articles by people from all perspectives about Phil’s comments, A&E’s response, the outpouring of support, and the outrage of people opposed to Phil. While I’m happy, happy, happy that A&E has decided to reinstate Phil, I do not think this is the end of the issue. There are much bigger issues at stake than whether a rich redneck Christian gets to stay on TV. Some additional thoughts:

Christians should pay as much attention to other sins as they do to homosexuality

One of my more liberal Facebook friends linked to this article by Rachel Held Evans. Although I don’t know anything about Evans, and I don’t agree with everything she says, she makes a number of valid points. Conservative Christians tend to focus on the “big” sins like homosexuality and abortion, but say little about “little” sins such as gluttony, greed, gossip, or divorce. Evans wrote:

While there are certainly important hermeneutical and cultural issues at play, I can’t help but wonder if something more nefarious is also at work.  I can’t help but wonder if biblical condemnation is often a numbers game.

Though it affects more of us than we tend to realize, statistically, homosexuality affects far fewer of us than gluttony, materialism, or divorce. And as Jesus pointed out so often in his ministry, we like to focus on the biblical violations (real or perceived) of the minority rather than our own.

In short, we like to gang up.  We like to fashion weapons out of the verses that affect us the least and then “clobber” the minority with them. Or better yet, conjure up some saccharine language about speaking the truth in love before breaking out our spec-removing tweezers to help get our minds off of these uncomfortable logs in our own eyes.

Here’s the point: Don’t judge others just because they sin differently from you. We all sin, we all fall short of the glory of God. The sin of homosexuality is no more offensive to God than the sins of gossip, gluttony, or pride. All sin offends God. All sin condemns us to death. And all sinners need to receive forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ. Rather than focusing on a person’s homosexuality, perhaps we should focus on sharing the good news that all sin can be forgiven through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Perhaps we need to work a bit harder at removing the log from our own eyes before trying to remove the speck of homosexuality from someone else’s eye.

How we speak the truth is important.

One of the biggest criticisms of Phil Robertson’s interview with GQ is how he said what he said. Phil used some rather crass language to describe homosexual acts. He is quoted (out of context) as saying blacks were happy during the pre-civil rights era. The liberal media, gay rights advocates, and race-baiters jumped all over him. Never mind that Robertson was factually correct. The problem was the way he said what he said.

I’m sure that most of the blacks Phil picked cotton next to were basically happy people. This doesn’t mean Robertson supported Jim Crow laws, or that blacks were happier before the civil rights era than they are now. It just means that, from Phil’s perspective as a poor white man working next to poor blacks, they were basically happy people, in spite of their circumstances. (Yes, believe it or not, people can actually be happy, despite bad circumstances.) Since Phil’s comments were printed out of context in a side bar, we don’t know what question he was responding to. Neither do we know if his comments were edited, making them appear worse than they really were. However, if Phil had chosen his words more precisely, the controversy over them would not exist.

Phil is also correct that the Bible clearly defines homosexuality as sin. Any time a Christian points out sin, someone will be offended. However, by using vulgar language to describe homosexual acts, and by not choosing his words more carefully, he unnecessarily gave people looking for an excuse to be offended exactly what they were looking for.

Telling someone they are wrong does not mean we hate them.

There’s a meme floating through cyberspace with a quote attributed to Phil Robertson (although it’s actually by Rick Warren):

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

Rick Warren QuoteFrom a Biblical perspective, all sin leads to death and Hell, whether it’s the sin of homosexuality, or some other sin. It’s not loving to know someone is headed for an eternity in Hell, and not tell them why they are headed there and how to spend eternity in Heaven instead. Sin is self-destructive. If we were talking about other self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse, nearly everyone would recognize that the loving thing to do would be to confront the individual about the behavior, and help them find a way to beat the addiction. Substance abuse destroys the temporary body, but sin destroys the eternal soul. The loving thing to do is to do whatever we can to help people realize their sin, to repent, and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

The flip side, however, is that some so-called Christians do hate homosexuals. There are those who misuse and distort the Bible to attack those they hate. Groups like Westboro Baptist Church ignore most of the Bible and distort the meaning of other passages in order to justify their self-righteous bigotry and hatred. Lumping all Christians together with Westboro Baptist “Christians” is a logical fallacy. Fred Phelps no more speaks for all Christians than Jeremiah Wright speaks for all blacks or Dan Savage speaks for all homosexuals.

Christians are called to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15). Yes, the truth is offensive to those who do not want to hear it. But, if Christians truly love their neighbor as the love themselves, we will speak the truth in love, meekness, and fear, whether people get offended, or not.

Am I more interested in speaking the truth, or in extending grace?

Something I struggle with is pride. Sometimes, I’m more interested in winning a debate than in being used by the Holy Spirit to win souls for Jesus Christ. Sometimes, I pridefully think my logical arguments and insight will bring people to Jesus, rather than the Holy Spirit drawing people to Himself. I am a skeptic by nature, and am often more interested in arguing the facts than in extending God’s grace.

For this, I ask for forgiveness.

Grace without truth leads to false religion. Truth without Grace turns people off or turns them into legalists. Jesus, however, came in grace and truth (John 1:14). I’m beginning to realize, despite being a thick-headed sinner, that I need to focus more on extending God’s grace to sinners than in convincing people they’re wrong.

Final thoughts

Here’s another meme I found on Facebook – source unknown:

May each of us who calls ourselves followers of Jesus Christ share the truth with non-believers, in love, meekness, and fear.

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