One of the challenges of following Jesus is holding together all of our responsibilities. On the one hand, we are required to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to show mercy to the hurting, and at the same time, we must not compromise with the world, we must keep telling the truth cheerfully, we must be immoveable, always abounding the work of the Lord.
In other words, how can we stand for the truth when it comes across as so hateful, so unkind, so ungracious?
The answer is found in the Bible, and the answer is to understand sin and Satan as the great oppressor of humanity. Satan is the Accuser and the Father of Lies, and he intends to drag his slaves down to the pit with him. And he does this with accusations and lies. So like the best of tyrants most of the time, his prisoners want to be under his thumb. They believe the lies, and the accusations seem inescapably true. And this slavery goes all the way down into their souls. We are slaves to sin in our bones, in our minds, in our hearts. We love the lies, we love the sin we are shackled to. And because of our pride, it is “precious” to us. This is what idolatry always looks like. Nobody but the most socially awkward or emotionally unstable decides to worship Satan. There is always a community of plausibility, a faux cover of respectability, civility, order, peace, virtue.
And this is why when anyone comes along and calls the idols what they are, when somebody comes along and names names and tells the truth, it’s offensive, disruptive, and seems hateful.
But what if the Allies in World War 2 had come across a concentration camp full of emaciated Jews in the middle of Germany — and the Jews refused to be delivered, refused to be fed, refused to let their emancipators disrupt their peaceful, orderly existence slurping rations behind barbed wire? Would it be unkind for the Allies to firmly insist that, no, they must come out? Would it be ungracious to tear the barbed wire down, to arrest and imprison their Nazi tormentors and try them for their crimes?
Of course, the Satanic plot is always to undermine reason by exhausting the reductio ad absurdum possibilities. What if somebody has a committed sexual relationship with Binky their beloved dachshund? Who are you to refuse them a marriage license? Sure, that might seem a bit absurd this week, but don’t worry next week, there will be a high court somewhere striking down a state’s right to define marriage as something that is only between human beings. How narrow-minded. How puritanical.
In our Nazi concentration camp scenario, we are fast approaching the absurd as euthanasia continues to gather steam in Europe. If they want to stay in their concentration camp, let them stay in their concentration camp. And since we continue to huff the relativistic fumes like the freshmen in college that we are in order to hump whatever object we like, who are you to impose your moral values on the emaciated Jews? What are you some kind of cultural imperialist? Racist.
And while we’re at it, I insist that fireman … errr, I mean… firefighters only be allowed to help victims who say they want to be helped. Otherwise, your breaking a lot of windows and doors is utterly presumptuous. Cool it with the sirens already and your rushing around town. How do you know they don’t want to die in the blaze, you arrogant prick? If they aren’t conscious, you simply cannot impose your cultural values on them by carrying them out of the burning building. And what if the whole neighborhood has decided it really is best for them. Who are you to object, you statist pig?
But this is the point: grace and compassion look into the eyes of every son or daughter of Adam enslaved to their lusts, enslaved to their idols and proclaims deliverance from bondage in Jesus’ blood. Your same-sex attraction, your porn problem, your adultery, your bitterness, your lies, your envy, your soul-starving obsessions — all of it was paid for on the cross of calvary. But the center of this compassion, the center of this grace is simultaneously the center of our culture war, the center of our spiritual battle.
Because while we offer everyone cold, clean water in Jesus’ name, while we do good to all men, we do so in the name of the crucified lamb of God. We do so in the name of the one who was flogged for their sins. And when they stare in contempt, when they go on making love to their pet idols, cuddling their glass shards, licking their barbed wire fences, pontificating about how God just made them with a natural appetite for water gruel — it is no kindness, no grace to concede the point, to admit that perhaps God did make some people who are just more at home in concentration camps. Yes, now I can see that you really are just a slave, barely human. Not even human really. Go on abusing yourself with Binky if it makes you happy. Go on lying. Go on stealing. Go on with your Hell.
There is mercy for all, grace for all. If a God-hating blasphemer shows up at my door in need, Jesus calls me to serve him, and to see Christ in him. If legislators see ways in which some of the weaker, more vulnerable members of our society can be better protected by law, though they be prostitutes, sinners, and sodomites, then God bless them. But when Christians object to being required by law to participate in the celebration of same sex marriage, we are objecting to being required to bake a cake for the prisoners who want to celebrate being in prison. When we fight over the semantics of defining marriage as one man and one woman, it is a fight worth fighting because we care about people. We care about the image of God. It is precisely because of the compassion in our hearts that we resist. It is the kindness of God that compels us to hold the line.
So let them squawk. Let them rail. Let them say all kinds of things against us falsely for Jesus’ sake. Let them. But we are here with the peace of God. And because we love the broken, aching, bleeding remains of the people in our communities, we will not go along with their games. We will not concede the argument. We will not let them do this to themselves. Yes, there is mercy, and no, there is nothing contaminating about coming in contact with a hardened sinner. But if we fight for the freedom of the slaves, if we fight for life, it is because we were slaves and have been set free. We were dead in our sins, and now we have been made alive.