With “tolerance” becoming the new litmus test for public legitimacy, perhaps you’re feeling a little intimidated these days. If so, a few quick thoughts on the matter may help when the next verbal “sucker-punch” comes along at the workplace or family reunion.
Punch #1 – A question designed to invoke a negative response. This is where you’re immediately on the defense and sounding like an “anti-whatever” person. For example, “Are you for same-sex marriage?” Of course, saying “no” means you’re a bigot, right? The better way is staying focused on what you’re for, not what you’re against. With the example of same-sex marriage, God’s design for marriage is the best. It doesn’t matter if the challenge is regarding same-sex marriage, open-marriage, polygamy, living-together, or something we haven’t even heard of yet, God’s design is best; one man, one woman, faithfully committed to love each other for life. Regarding social issues such as marriage, race, immigration, etc. what are you FOR?
Punch #2 – “Love” as a Christian standard you’re violating by speaking up. This one is very effective in silencing many Christians. The premise is that if you hold a conviction regarding morality (and speak about it), then you’re not showing Christian love and being judgmental. Of course, most of us don’t want to be viewed as judgmental and uncaring, so it creates a fear of being misunderstood. Don’t fall for it. Love is not God’s only attribute. Yes, thankfully it’s a wonderful, amazing part of who He is, but at the same time, He’s also holy, sovereign, and righteous. To communicate only one dimension of His nature would be theological infidelity and a missed opportunity to accurately frame the high price Jesus paid in order to offer the incredible gift of salvation.
Punch # 3 – Morality verses in the Bible are mostly Old Testament, so they don’t apply to New Testament times. This one is a typical half-truth (which is a whole-lie). Yes, the Old Testament contains the Law given to the Hebrews regarding their way of life; personal, public, worship, family, etc. And yes, we live under the New Covenant, however, that didn’t negate moral principles. For example, murder is still wrong, stealing is still wrong, lying is still wrong, coveting is still wrong, sexual sins are still wrong, and so on. Jesus not only affirmed the Old Testament moral code, he expanded on it to include the heart and not just a superficial appearance of it (such as adultery in Matt. 5:27-28).
As a final thought, it’s good to remember that it’s not about “winning a debate”, but being “ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15). Our job isn’t the outcome; it’s to be prayerfully obedient (and hopefully somewhat ready for the occasional sucker-punch).