Late last month, nationally syndicated columnist and noted gay-rights activist Dan Savage made headlines for his abrasive (abusive?) anti-Bible comments at a high school journalism seminar. He encouraged students to "ignore the [expletive] in the bible about gay people" just like they do about virginity, masturbation, and a few other subjects. Then when offended students began leaving he called it a "pansy [expletive]" reaction.
This past week, Rick Reilly wrote a column at ESPN.com lambasting a Christian assistant football coach at the University of Nebraska for his view on homosexuality. He took special umbrage to the idea that the coach would use his platform at a large university to spread his views. Reilly referred to it as "campaigning for the right to discriminate."
Understandably, these comments, especially Savage's, raised the hackles of Christians. Even as I write them they bother me. The Christian response to them on websites, blogs, and social media has been strong, decisive, defensive, and, dare I say … wrong?
Let me go stream of Bible consciousness for a second (because I don't agree with Mr. Savage about the ignorability of Scripture):
"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account" (Matthew 5:11).
"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18).
"Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name" (Acts 5:41).
Huh? Where does defensiveness fit into this paradigm? As followers of Jesus, we are called to suffer, to be reviled, and to do so with rejoicing. We were promised with great clarity that suffering would come and that the world would see the gospel of Jesus as drivel. So why do we get so up in arms when it actually happens?
Defending the truth is right and biblical. But defending the truth is different than public displays of defensiveness. What Christians are doing by firing back at Savage or Reilly is, as Jesus says, throwing "pearls before pigs." In that same verse He says that those pearls will be trampled and the pigs will turn on us to attack. Jesus is saying that response, defense, and judgment are not always wise and will often be harmful.
It is not our strong defenses against blow-hard anti-Christians that will lead people to Jesus. It is the exemplification of a Christ-like life and the firm proclamation of His gospel. Our spar-and-parry articles will not overcome the influence of Dan Savage, Rick Reilly, or those like them. We cannot win this cultural war of words. But, through our lives and testimony, the Spirit can win the war for souls.