Former President Donald Trump spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday, criticizing President Biden on a variety of issues and pledging not to create a new party. In other news, Chadwick Boseman won last night’s Golden Globe for Best Actor in a motion picture-drama, six months after he died of colon cancer at the age of forty-three. And Emma Corrin paid tribute to Princess Diana after winning a Golden Globe for portraying her in Netflix’s The Crown.
While these stories are leading the national news this morning, another story received only local coverage in my area but deserves our attention.
When winter storms devastated our state recently, First United Methodist Church of Denton (north of Dallas-Fort Worth) started a GoFundMe campaign to help the Islamic Society of Denton pay for repairs to its building. This is just one expression of what a minister at the church calls a “longstanding friendship” with the mosque.
Did the church’s action endorse a religion that expressly rejects the Trinity (Qur’an 4:171) and deity of Jesus (Qur’an 5:72–73)? Did it send a signal of doctrinal compromise and unbiblical tolerance? Or did it build a relational bridge across which the gospel can travel, bringing the good news of Jesus’ love to Muslims in our region?
I do not know the Denton church, but I am confident that the third option is true. If so, these believers are following in the steps of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), Paul with Greek philosophers (Acts 17), and a host of other biblical and historical examples.
The lesson is both simple and profound: to win people to Jesus, we must love and serve them where they are, not where we wish them to be.
Why a gay writer opposes the Equality Act
This principle is on my mind in light of the House of Representatives’ adoption of the so-called Equality Act last week, legislation which has been called “the most invasive threat to religious liberty ever proposed in America.” It amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act by forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, it also forbids appeal to the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act on the part of individuals and organizations.
As a result, faith-based hospitals could be forced to provide gender-transition therapies. Children could change their gender without parental knowledge or consent. Faith-based adoption agencies could be forced to assign children to same-sex couples. Biological females could be forced to compete with biological males in sports and to share bathrooms and locker rooms with them. And the list goes on. (For a larger discussion of the Act and its consequences, please see my latest website paper, “The Equality Act: What Christians need to know.“)
I am adamantly opposed to the Act, as you might imagine. But this is not only because of my concerns regarding religious liberty. It’s also because I am convinced it is bad for those it is intended to protect.
A gay writer notes: “This bill will not protect our rights but destroy them for many members of our communities and society at large.” He observes that the Act will “lead to the erasure of women by dismantling sex-specific facilities such as bathrooms, locker rooms, prisons, battered women’s shelters, and other vital female-only spaces” and notes that “the same would apply to men.”
He warns that “mixing the biological sexes in such a way will enable and facilitate sexual harassment and assault.” For example, he cites a transgender person who “preyed on women at two Toronto shelters. He has been convicted of sexually assaulting a girl as young as five years old. His victims include a deaf and homeless Quebec woman and a Toronto survivor of domestic violence.”
How Christians impressed Romans
Experts agree that the Equality Act jeopardizes parental rights, women’s rights, and children’s rights. And, as constitutional legal scholar David French notes, the Act contains core substantive flaws. He states, “It is possible to protect LGBTQ Americans from invidious discrimination while still preserving religious liberty and recognizing material biological distinctions.”
Here’s my point: Christians should go beyond opposing the Equality Act on the basis of religious liberty. We should also make clear our concern for those it would harm, including the LGBTQ individuals its supporters claim to be protecting. And we should respond to these supporters by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
Jesus taught us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). He demonstrated his compassion by washing the feet of men who would abandon, deny, and betray him (John 13:1–12), then he called us “to wash one another’s feet” (v. 14). Paul grieved for the Jews who rejected his message (Romans 9:2) and even testified, “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (v. 3).
Eusebius, the early church historian, records that when plague afflicted Caesarea and Romans fled the city, Christians stayed behind and “tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.”
Such compassion so impressed the pagans that the Christians’ “deeds were on everyone’s lips, and they glorified the God of the Christians. Such actions convinced them that they alone were pious and truly reverent to God.” A few decades later, the pagan emperor Julian the Apostate observed that Christians “support not only their poor, but ours as well.”
How to know if you’re a true servant
I plan to say more tomorrow about specific ways we can support religious freedom while extending biblical truth and compassion to LGBTQ persons. For today, let’s decide that we want to do both. Let’s decide that we want to emulate the One who “came not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). Let’s pray for those with whom we disagree, then seek practical ways to be the answer to our prayers.
The great British preacher Charles Spurgeon observed: “I think you may judge of a man’s character by the persons whose affection he seeks. If you find a man seeking only the affection of those who are great, depend upon it he is ambitious and self-seeking; but when you observe that a man seeks the affection of those who can do nothing for him, but for whom he must do everything, you know that he is not seeking himself, but that pure benevolence sways his heart.”
Here’s a shorter version of the same truth: to see if you’re a true servant, watch how you respond when someone treats you like one.
Will you be a servant today?