Leonard Pitts Jr.
Handout photo
Leonard Pitts Jr.

Christianity’s ‘radical compassion’


In a column published last week, Leonard Pitts Jr. complained that Christians bring up the rear on social issues. As an example, he quoted World Vision President Richard Stearns, who said that Christians “at first” perceived AIDS as a disease of homosexuals and drug users, and, therefore, “had less compassion for the victims.” Pitts also cited the church’s “late” apology for racial segregation.

First, AIDS was and still is a disease predominantly of homosexuals and drug users, and Stearns’ opinion about Christians having less compassion doesn’t make the statement true for all. Second, government-mandated racial segregation and the church’s complicity in it aren’t comparable to redefining marriage to include two people of the same sex, which seems to be Pitts’ point. In reference to World Vision’s reversal on hiring employees in same-sex marriages, Pitts wrote:

“… 20 years from now, Stearns or whoever has his job by then, will reverse the reversal and struggle to explain—again—why so many people of faith were the last to get there.

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“Why is Christianity so often so slow?

“Maybe it’s because there has grown up among us an unfortunate tendency to equate Christianity with conservatism. The effect has been to shrink the gospel of Christ—a radical compassion that touched prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors, adulterers, women and other third-class citizens of his time—to a narrow and exclusionary faith of narrow and exclusionary concerns: criminalize abortions, demonize gays and that’s pretty much it.”

As Pitts should know—if he’s familiar with the Bible—Christ’s “radical compassion” wasn’t without judgment. His benevolence included a call to repent from sin. When He saved the adulterous woman from stoning, for example, He demonstrated that we’re all sinners. He told the woman to go and sin no more. Christians are to imitate Christ and show compassion, yes, but we’re commissioned to share the gospel and warn the world of the coming wrath. Christ wasn’t a peace-loving, let’s-get-along hippie who came to spread cheer. He is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world who’ll return to deliver His Father’s wrath. What kind of compassion leaves out this dire message?

Regarding Pitts’ claim that conservative Christians shrank the gospel, Christianity is narrow and exclusive in the sense that there’s only one way to the Father. Christ Himself said no one comes to the Father “except through me.” But it is inclusive of the kind of men who will partake in the redemption. Among God’s own are the homosexuals, liars, adulterers, and murderers of this generation of all races and both sexes. The unrepentant sinner, even if we show him Pitts’ brand of “radical compassion,” will not pass through.

One reason for Christian conservatives’ high-profile opposition to abortion and homosexual behavior is these groups have in-your-face lobbies. If other sinners, such as liars and adulterers, organized themselves and attempted to change laws, undermine marriage and the family, and slaughter the unborn, Christians would loudly oppose those groups as well. To all we say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

La Shawn Barber
La Shawn Barber

La Shawn writes about culture, faith, and politics. Her work has appeared in the Christian Research Journal, Christianity Today, the Washington Examiner, and other publications


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