Humans spend billions of hours in the oceans each year, yet only three people died from shark attacks last year. That’s good news, unless you’re the next victim. Their unseen and deadly nature makes sharks our third-most-feared predator, according to a recent survey. What are numbers one and two? Snakes and alligators.
A healthy fear of snakes is reasonable, given that venomous snakes bite around 8,000 people each year, according to the CDC. Our fear of alligators is less rational—they have killed just 16 Floridians in the last 25 years. Bees come in at #9, but should be ranked higher—they kill about 100 people in the U.S. each year. One conclusion from the survey: we don’t know what we should fear. Or what to do about our fears.
Now consider the rising tide of secular extremism in our culture. Most experts believe the Supreme Court will legalize same-sex marriage soon. What will be the legal and social ramifications for churches and religious organizations that uphold biblical marriage? Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today, recently proposed ways to “calm the stormy waters around gay marriage.”
Galli suggests that we remind people on all sides that liberty of conscience is at stake for all Americans. Christian bakers are under fire for declining to make a cake for a gay wedding. But a gay baker should not have to decorate a cake with a message such as “God Hates Gays.” Galli notes that liberty of conscience “protects gay people, agnostics, Mormons, Muslims, or whomever.”
Imagine someone from Westboro Baptist Church asking a gay sign painter to make a placard for one of the church’s hate-mongering protests. Or a Muslim being made to photograph a contest for cartoons depicting Muhammad. Freedom of conscience is important for all of us, and should be defended by each of us. (Tweet this)
Galli also suggests: “Regardless of what happens in courts, we can continue to reach out to our gay and lesbian neighbors in friendship.” He cites the model of Palau Association president Kevin Palau, Chick-fil-A‘s Dan Cathy and others: getting to know our LGBT neighbors. Such engagement led Palau to work with the gay mayor of Portland, Oregon in mobilizing 26,000 volunteers to aid in charity activities.
Fear evokes our “fight or flight” instinct. If we fear those with whom we disagree, we will engage in a “culture war” that demeans our witness and antagonizes the very people we are called to serve in Jesus’ name. Or we will avoid them altogether, keeping our salt in the saltshaker and our witness hidden. Neither is Jesus’ way.
Galli concludes by citing Paul: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). He notes, “That biblical command is still possible to live out, even in our day.”
With whom is God calling you to “live at peace” today?