When did believing the Bible become a bad thing in America? Yesterday, Tim Tebow announced that “due to new information” brought to his attention, he could not longer speak at First Baptist Church in Dallas as part of the opening for the church’s new $130 million campus. According to the church, Tebow notified their pastor that “for personal and professional reasons he needed to avoid controversy at this time, but would like to come to First Baptist Dallas to speak at a future date.”
What “controversy” did he seek to avoid? According to The Huffington Post, pastor Robert Jeffress is “anti-semitic” because he has stated, “you can’t be saved being a Jew.” Another sportswriter describes Dr. Jeffress as “anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-Mormon, anti-gay, anti-President Obama.” A columnist for CBS Sports claims that “Jeffress speaks hate. Robert Jeffress wouldn’t have saved Mary Magdalene. He would have stoned her.” The writer later claimed, “I’m intolerant of hate, and of hateful people.” (Apparently he didn’t see the irony.)
So this is where we are: if pastors state their theological objections to other traditions or beliefs, they “hate” them. Paul agreed with Dr. Jeffress that Jews need faith in Jesus for salvation (cf. Romans 9:1-4); was he “anti-semitic”? Three Catholic adoption agencies have been forced to close because their beliefs about marriage were deemed unacceptable by their jurisdictions. When Christians articulate biblical views on homosexuality and marriage, they are now unwelcome at presidential inaugurations. Are those who defend biblical truth no longer welcome in the public square?
How did Dr. Jeffress respond? He told Fox News, “To me, the real issue here is the controversy this has generated. It’s amazing that a church that believes faith alone in Christ is what saves a person and that sex should be between a man and a woman in a marriage relationship—that somehow those beliefs are considered hate speech? That is historic Christian doctrine for the past 2,000 years.”
I encourage those who characterize the pastor as someone who “speaks hate” to meet him before they castigate him. I have been grateful for Dr. Jeffress’s friendship since he moved to Dallas in 2007 and have found him to be a gracious and genuine servant of the gospel. For example, here was his response after Tebow called to withdraw: “He felt pressured. It was a very affable conversation. I think Tim is a wonderful Christian and we are not going to disparage him at all for this.”
Jesus warned us: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own” (John 15:18-19). When last did it cost you something significant to stand for Jesus?