Like millions of Americans, my family and I have been captivated by the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty. We laugh and learn together as we watch their silly antics and get a peek into their lifestyle, one we might enjoy ourselves if given the opportunity. (Who wouldn't want to eat the way those folks do?!)
So it has been with a great deal of interest that I have scanned my Facebook feed, clicking on various articles, reading a variety of opinions and comments, and attempting to figure out an appropriate, God-honoring response to all the uproar. The first article I read was this bit by Matt Walsh, who is like Phil in that he doesn't mince words or worry about whom he may offend. Then I read this one by a blogger I've only scanned a couple of times on adoption topics, followed by the Robertsons' official statement about the issue. Then I decided to read the original article that started the whole kerfuffle, with salty language that is possibly at least as offensive as Phil's actual comments. Next up was this excellent treatise by Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr. To round out my reading, I decided to read a link with the intriguing title "The Sin of Being Offended."
All of this has served to illustrate, at least a little, the truth of Proverbs 18:17...
"The first to present his case seems right, 'til another comes forward and questions him."
I saw at least two people on Facebook who initially expressed frustration with the idea of Phil being censored/rebuked for his viewpoints only to backpedal a little bit because they didn't want to portray the idea that Christians aren't loving toward homosexuals. Fair enough. We are Christ's ambassadors, absolutely, and I agree that we must love all people.
But wait a minute. Didn't Phil himself say that?! From the original article:
“You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around.”
“We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”
That doesn't sound judgmental or hateful to me. It sounds pretty...Phil. Direct. Folksy. Old school. Anyone who watches the show with any regularity can easily hear Phil voicing these words. And, truth be told, it's easy to hear him saying the specific words that caused the uproar. He's just kind of plain spoken that way.
Am I excusing what he said regarding specific body parts? I think Dr. Mohler put it best: "Phil Robertson would have served the cause of Christ more faithfully if some of those comments had not rushed out. This is not because what he said was wrong; he was making the argument that homosexual acts are against nature. The Apostle Paul makes the very same argument in Romans 1:26. The problem is the graphic nature of Robertson’s language and the context of his statements."
Given the fact that Phil Robertson is a public figure, I think it's fair to hold him publicly accountable for what he says. At the same time, I think it's also fair to raise the point that there is a definite double standard in this country when it comes to speaking one's mind on issues like this.
Still, I'm not here to discuss freedom of speech or religion, the state of our country, etc. I have plenty of opinions about those things, to be sure; but first and foremost I am a citizen of God's kingdom, and I'm more concerned about what I can do to be an ambassador for Christ Jesus. As an American, I'm saddened by the treatment of those who identify sin as sin. As a follower of Jesus, however, I'm completely unsurprised by it. Jesus Himself said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first" (John 15:18).
One issue that has captured my thoughts more than anything is this statement on one of the blog posts linked to above: "But Phil depicts gay people as deviant, and that’s a big problem. And if his words above represent 'Christian values' then we need to have another look at Jesus."
On the surface, this sounds like a nice thing for me as a Christian to agree with and share. As this blogger said, as Christians, our greatest charge is to LOVE. But love and truth go hand in hand. The message of the gospel is a message of love, yes, but also a message that contains the truth of our sinfulness.
What bothers me is the fact that speaking the truth in love these days is hardly ever acknowledged as such. People will focus on the truth you are trying to speak--in this case, Phil's assertion that homosexuality is against God's design for sex--and ignore or twist the fact that it was spoken in love.
What? Love?? How can telling someone his or her lifestyle is wrong be a loving thing to do?!
That's a question the world would ask, not understanding that this is absolutely the way to love those who are sinners (in other words, everyone!).
Christians, I'm afraid we're going to "love" our neighbors to hell. Here's what I mean: we're so consumed with the idea of not offending anyone, of not identifying with the wackos out there who discredit the cause of Christ, that we go overboard the other way. By trying to prove our love for everyone, we stop talking about what is truly offensive: a holy God crucified on a cross for unholy people. Deviant people. And that's ALL of us: gays, straights, adulterers, happily married people, divorced people. Liars. Thieves. Addicts. Gluttons. Gossips. Slanderers. Murderers. Cheaters. Even..."good" people.
"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves, nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, emphasis mine). The writer of this epistle, the apostle Paul, is speaking to a primarily Christian audience. What separates them from the wicked who will not inherit God's kingdom? Changed behavior? No. Accepting Jesus Christ as their Sovereign Savior.
"They [those without Christ] are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:18-24, emphasis mine).
The above passages are pretty clear about what God says about "deviant" people and behavior--we are separated from Him, utterly dependent upon His grace for salvation. Without the mind of Christ, we are darkened in our understanding. We rant, we rave, we get offended at the notion that we are sinners, that our lifestyle choices (not just our sexual ones) are OUR business and don't affect anyone else. God's Word says, "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight" (1 Corinthians 3:19) and "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18).
The fact is, the world cannot understand Phil Robertson. They don't understand his family. They don't understand anyone who follows Jesus and stands firm on His Word, accepting HIS authority, living according to HIS ways. "The man [or woman] without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).
So for the blogger and others who, in condemning Phil Robertson, say they think we need to have another look at Jesus, I'd like to know exactly what that means to them. The Jesus I love and serve is Love. He is also Truth.
He is holy.
He is pure.
He is righteous.
He is perfect.
Yes, He is forgiving. Merciful. Gracious. But as sovereign, almighty God, He bestows those gifts on us on HIS terms. He is our Creator, the ONLY way to eternal salvation; therefore, we must listen and obey HIS ways.
The Jesus I read about in the gospels brandished a whip and overturned table in his anger at the sin He found in the hearts of those doing business in the temple. He loved on those whom society labeled "sinners" (when the accusers conveniently overlooked the fact that they were also such) and yet told them to go and "sin no more," meaning to leave the sinful lifestyle they were caught in/known for. He preached for people to repent, for the kingdom of God was at hand, indicating that a lifestyle change was expected, even demanded, from those who wanted in. He sent out disciples and warned them of persecution to come, saying people would hate them because of Him. Contrary to the picture we sometimes have of a calm, quiet, passive Jesus, He told them he "did not come to bring peace, but a sword" and to turn "a man against his father, a daughter against her mother" (Matthew 10:34-36).
Yes, some of Phil's words were crude and arguably inexcusable. But his "sin" in the eyes of society--his failure to understand and celebrate the appeal of a homosexual lifestyle-doesn't negate the fact that he spoke truth AND love. If more believers had the courage to do the same, maybe it wouldn't be so radical for the world to hear it.