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Last week I wrote a blog post questioning why so many confessing Christians support same-sex marriage. It sparked a long tail of comments both speaking against and defending such actions. For the most part, the conversation was civil ... until I started receiving crit mail about my original post. Which surprised me.
To be honest, I sort of dismissed it. And then I got a personal e-mail from the director of gender issues for Focus on the Family, Melissa Fryrear. In a very gracious and humble way, Melissa said I really didn't represent well the "tremendous message of redeeming grace" to complement my strong message of biblical truth on homosexuality.
And after re-reading my post, I agreed with her. So I took it down. Then I asked her to write a post on balancing truth and grace when speaking about homosexuality.
Here's what she wrote:
What comes to mind when you consider the concept of Truth? Perhaps synonyms like fact, reality, certainty, precision, or exactness. What about Grace? What comes to mind when you consider this concept? Perhaps synonyms like kindness, mercy, benevolence, leniency, or compassion. Without a doubt, what does come to mind is intricately connected to your worldview.
Because Focus on the Family is a Christian ministry, for us Truth refers to God's reliable message and Grace refers to the undeserved goodwill God extends to humankind. It other words, Truth and Grace always need to go together. This is especially important for Christians to keep in mind when they participate in dialogues related to homosexuality.
OK, now that I've mentioned one of the most ardently debated and emotionally charged issues of our day, let me first share why issues related to homosexuality are so personally significant to me.
Twenty years ago I was a liberal, anti-Christian, card-carrying feminist who celebrated a lesbian identity (and subsequently lived homosexually for a decade). Today I am a conservative, evangelical Christian woman and heterosexual. (Yes, you read all that correctly!) I'm also privileged to serve as the director of Focus on the Family's Gender Issues Department which, among other responsibilities, hosts Focus' Love Won Out conference. It probably comes as no surprise then why I have such a keen interest in issues surrounding homosexuality, especially as those issues relate to Christianity and to Christians in particular.
Through the years I’ve seen Christians respond to issues surrounding homosexuality either by forfeiting truth or forfeiting grace. In other words, some Christians lean so heavily toward God’s truth that they lack any compassion for those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction or those who identify as gay or lesbian. Or other Christians lean so heavily toward God's grace that they abandon the biblical mandate regarding sexual behavior. Both of these extreme responses are less than ideal.
There is a better response and Jesus Christ, of course, provides the perfect example.
You may recall in John's gospel that he describes Jesus as being full of both truth and grace: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). That's the best response -- balancing both truth and grace.
Given that I have a personal history related to homosexuality, I am especially passionate about sharing unashamedly what Jesus Christ has done in my life -- first for eternally saving me and second for so radically transforming my life.
I'm also passionate about helping Christian families that are directly affected by homosexuality -- moms and dads who have a son or daughter living homosexually; men and women desiring to overcome unwanted same-sex attraction; and other family members and friends who have a loved one identifying as gay or lesbian.
It's also my heart's cry that those who do not yet know Christ personally will hear and learn about Him and as a result one day make the most important decision of their life by accepting Him as their personal Savior and Lord.
And I am committed to helping equip Christians to balance biblical truth regarding sexuality with Christ’s compassion toward those who are living outside of it.
And here we come full circle.
Christians have a right, even a responsibility, to proclaim (and sometimes defend) the biblical sexual ethic meaning God's created intent for gender, sexuality and marriage. And how Christians do this is just as important meaning our attitude and tone must be one of gentleness, compassion and love.
Lest Christians forget ... we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way (Isaiah 53:6) and it's God's kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). As God has been gracious to minister the truth of His Word with compassionate love in each of our lives, may we emulate Him and minister to others in similar fashion.
We can never forfeit one for the other; the answer is always both truth and grace.
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Comment by Jo:
Excellent post. I don't remember finding anything particularly offensive about your original post Motte, but this one shows a lot of humility and yep - grace. Love Melissa's article too, and I agree 100%. Finding that middle ground and sticking to it when the extremes are seeking to tug us in opposite directions is hard, but so important.
Comment by Randy:
Nice try. I'm not buying. The thread was shut down because too many people defended the homosexuals' desire to have the ability to marry. That was embarrassing to FotF, which is seeing significant erosion in support for its anti-homosexual positions even amongst the conservatives it caters to. Since opposition to homosexuality is one of the 2 main pillars of its agenda (the other being opposition to abortion), losing that grip represents a very real threat to the organization. And so the thread was removed.
If you really decided to inject more "grace" into the argument, this can be done without removing the old article, and the more than 100 posts after it. Need a better excuse, guys.
Comment by DannieA:
I really liked what Melissa has to say...and it sounds really GENUINE coming from her!
Comment by marykate:
this post is spot on. thanks, boundless, and FOTF, and especially motte brown for righting a wrong.
Comment by Jeni:
Thank you Melissa. I appreciate your call to respond in both truth and grace. I will endeavor to heed that call. I certainly have "...like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way". I'm thankful for God's kindness that has lead me to repentence. It is my responsibility to extend His kindness to others.
Comment by Hollythesinglenonparentone:
Er.....first, these are very wise words from Melissa and her personal experiences gives them much more power. Thank you.
But there is still no good reason for having eliminated the other post. Please forgive me for my skepticism, but FOTF brings in hundreds of millions of dollars a year in large part by trumpeting opposition to gay marriage (and I'm on the mailing list as a past donor. I get the stuff in the mail. I know what most of the solicitations revolve around.)
A post on a FOTF blog emphasized that the young hold different views than most of your donor base. An author whose salary comes from said donor base's donations pulled the post.
Come on, guys. This is the appearance of impropriety (not that you don't have the right to delete posts -- you do; it's your blog -- but it's awfully hard to believe we're being told the whole truth about why. Dishonesty is the impropriety whose appearance I refer to.)
Comment by RandyThomas:
Excellent balance of grace and truth. I read the post last week and didn't freak out. I knew something was up. However, knowing Melissa, Ted and a lot of other folks there ... I never questioned you all's approach to the issue.
Comment by K:
I guess the explanation doesn't seem entirely genuine to me, either. Motte, does this mean that you are going to go back and delete previous posts in which you make many of the same points?
Comment by MJ:
Holly and Randy,
Have you actually read the whole thing? Melissa called on Motte, explaining that the OP lacks grace and compassion. After that discussion, he saw that she was right, concluding it would be better off that the OP post was removed to right this whole thing. If you don't agree with what they believe, don't read the blog then.
Comment by Nicole:
Excellent post, Melissa. I love how you trumpet both Grace and Truth and use your own life as an example. That is the Gospel - grace and truth. The truth that we have all sinned (including sexually) and that God has shown magnificent grace by providing his Son as our substitute. Al Mohler brings a helpful perspective to this issue when he reminds us that all people who have gone through puberty are sexual sinners and people who identify and live as homosexuals are guilty of no less sin than anyone else. The ground is level at the foot of the Cross.
Comment by Anna:
I think that this is one of the best and balanced Christian views on one of the most highly controversial topics in our world today. I've always been told to love the sinner and hate the sin, since that's the approach that God takes. As Christians we must remember that God sees all sins as equal. By shunning or treating homosexuals different than any other "sinner," we are not living out the grace that God so freely gives to us.
Comment by CanadianAndrewR:
I gotta be honest: I see a lot of flowery language in this post, but I don't see any grace. Nor do I see how the quoted Bible verse was an "example" of Jesus mixing Truth and Grace.
On a slightly related note, did anyone see Tony Perkins on the Colbert Report last night? Great interview.
Comment by SethC:
I appreciate your willingness and desire to have a balanced and Biblical perspective on the issue. It's an emotional and tough topic to discuss.
Comment by khalil:
Melissa's article/comment would have been appropriate as a response to the OP. I believe she wrote a heartfelt, eloquent, and right-on piece. HOWEVER, I do think it was in poor editorial taste and judgment to have removed the the OP (www.boundlessline.org/.../christian-suppo.html).
I feel that it would have been fair to moderate the comments that attack and divide people, but it is a forum where people express and potentially defend their opinions. FoF does own the boards, so it is their call, but in my opinion it was not the right call and I am sorry that it played out that way. If posts are going to get pulled because they become controversial then I don't see why people would want to continue to post.
Yes, MJ, I read the whole thing. I just happen to critically analyze what I read, and if something smells fishy I call attention to it. I don't always believe what I read, especially when there are fairly obvious ulterior motives. I reiterate, there is no necessity to erase an old post and all the comments on it in order to correct a mistake.
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