After Georgia’s governor signed legislation banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, more than one hundred actors pledged to boycott productions in the state. Five film production companies announced they would no longer work in the state as well.
In other news, the Times Literary Supplement recently profiled “new fiction for children and young adults on an LGBTQ theme.” One tells the story of a boy who decides he is a mermaid. Another tells the “gay love story” of two aardvarks. Another is much more explicit than I am willing to describe.
Meanwhile, The Atlantic is promoting a documentary on its platform that claims to describe “both sides of the ‘heartbeat’ bills.” But note the now-familiar options: “Pro-Choice and Anti-Abortion.”
For years, the left side of the culture wars has been astute in describing the other side as “anti,” knowing the psychological advantage of such branding. We’re “anti-abortion” rather than “pro-life,” “anti-LGBTQ” rather than “pro-biblical sexuality,” “anti-marriage equality” rather than “pro-traditional marriage,” and so on.
Any time I can describe you as what you’re not more than what you are, I gain a significant rhetorical and persuasive advantage.
How should we respond to a culture that seems so antagonistic to biblical values?
“We are not our own. We belong to him.”
One of the most important lessons I have learned in recent years is this: God wants us to love the world without needing the world to love us in return.
Jesus clearly taught us to love even our enemies and “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). We are to offer the world the kind of love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
But “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) means loving people enough to tell them the truth even when they don’t want to hear it. When we must choose between being biblical and being popular, it helps to remember that our identity is not found in our lost culture’s opinion but in God’s amazing grace.
In her daily devotional, Anne Graham Lotz recently wrote: “You and I are sinners saved (Romans 3:23–24), blood bought (1 Peter 1:18–19), prisoners freed (Luke 4:18), [and] glory bound (Colossians 3:4).” In short, “We are not our own. We belong to him (John 15:19 NKJV).”
“A rebel who must lay down his arms”
A second principle that strengthens us when our witness is unpopular is the reminder that our lost culture is, in fact, lost.
When our sons were confronted with immorality at school or in society, my wife often reminded them that we should expect lost people to act like lost people. C. S. Lewis explained why: “Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. . . . This process of surrender—this movement full speed astern—is what Christians call repentance.”
Lewis adds: “This repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death, is not something God demands of you before he will take you back and which he could let you off if he chose: it is simply a description of what going back to him is like. If you ask God to take you back without it, you are really asking him to let you go back without going back. It cannot happen.”
Rather than repenting, many who reject biblical teachings on abortion or sexuality are convinced that they are on “the right side of history.” They believe that either the Bible is wrong or we are wrongly interpreting it. They are as convinced that we are mistaken as we are convinced that we are right.
Here’s the point: Many who oppose biblical truth are sincere, though they’re sincerely wrong. We need to see them not as the enemy but as people who are deceived by the true enemy (Revelation 12:9).
“Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die”
A third principle that helps us speak unpopular truth is the fact that our future is not dependent on the present.
Recently, I saw a funeral home website with a striking image: a pier extends partway into a beautiful lake. The sun sets in the distance, casting its reflection on the water. Beautiful mountains and stately forests lie on the other side. A boat is in the water, traveling from the pier to the distant shore.
Here’s the point: This world is the pier. It will come to an end one day. When it does, Christians are transported safely across the water to the shore on the other side.
Jesus assured Martha as she grieved for her brother Lazarus: “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25–26). When believers take our last breath in this world, we take our first breath in the next world. When we close our eyes here, we open them there. We step from darkness to light and death to life.
We are well and we are home.
Paying the gift forward
When we know we are loved by our Father, we no longer need the affirmation of our fallen culture. We are then free to speak the truth people need to hear, whether they want to hear it or not. We do so not because we are better than others but because we are paying forward the gift we have received.
Philip Yancey noted that “grace, like water, flows to the lowest part.” Who do you know who needs the grace of God today?