Houston is much in the news these days. In May the city council passed a nondiscrimination ordinance (known as HERO). Opponents worked to have the matter put on the November ballot for a vote, but the city government resisted. A lawsuit was filed. Subpoenas were issued to five Christian leaders. Suddenly what’s happening in Houston is at the center of the church-state, religious liberty debate.
What do we as church leaders need to know and what should we encourage our people to do? In an upcoming seminar (“The State Comes to Church,” December 4) church-state attorney Steve Lewis will talk with us about what the church needs to know and do to protect itself. You will find this conference informative, practical and very helpful. I encourage you to register and attend.
Another question we should be asking is, what does all this mean? The mayor, under intense pressure, withdrew the subpoenas, but what does it mean that the subpoenas were issued in the first place? (By many accounts, this action was unprecedented in American jurisprudence.)
I see it as an indication that our culture has significantly changed in the last fifty years. I was born in 1950. I came of age in the 60s. (Some would say that makes me old. I believe it provides me with a valuable vantage point.) I’ve witnessed firsthand the shifting cultural landscape. I’ve also witnessed the various ways the church has responded, and they have not all be good or helpful.
I believe the church needs to speak biblical truth to culture and cultural leaders. We should never back down from what we believe the Bible teaches. In doing so, we must speak truth in a way that exemplifies graciousness and extends grace. Remember: how we approach people and issues is as important as the positions we take.
We might benefit from reflecting on the Old Testament story of Daniel (one of my heroes) as we think about responding to our changing culture. Daniel lived in exile, in a culture that was foreign to him. There was pressure put upon him to change his name (identity) and the way he lived. Daniel did not respond in kind. He was open and unapologetic about his beliefs, but he never tried to force his values on the Babylonians. He lived what he believed. As a result, the clear distinction between his life and the results it produced and the lives of his critics became his best argument for his values. The added benefit for Daniel was that he gained recognition and was able to shape and influence the decision-makers of his day.
Christians should never back down from what they believe the Bible teaches. When we stand up for what we believe, we must do so in a way that promotes civility, engages in dialogue and brings respect to the church while demonstrating the love of Christ to all.