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Chalk this LifeLetter up …
under the category “Missed Opportunities” and feel free to characterize it’s overall message as being in sync with Pastor Chris Hodges’ wise quotation, “You first have to connect before you can correct .. “.
Is it wrong to have clear moral and Biblical convictions as a Jesus-follower in this oh-so-sin-broken and rebellious world? Of course not! This favorite passage comes to mind, “Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are my constant guide.” Psalm 119:97-98 . . and it is closely followed by, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD and in His law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2
Yet when I review these treasured sacred texts, no where do I find the necessity of forcing God’s ways down the throats of those who have yet to repent (change their minds and their lives and come into agreement with what God requires).
And while the CBN’s and Christianity Today’s of the world celebrate the courage and convictions of the likes of Baronelle Stutzman (a Christian florist in the Tri-Cities area of Washington State) and Melissa Klein (a Christian baker in Gresham, Oregon), I find their business decisions to be greatly lacking in wisdom and not so beneficial in extending and growing the Kingdom of God.
Do I believe any business owner should be forced by government to serve any and all (including homosexuals)? Absolutely not – by nature any and all business discriminates subjectively on multiple levels: pricing, marketing, volume, offensive client behavior etc. And I am not suggesting that Baronelle and Melissa should have concocted some form of a “one-off” business reason for choosing not to assist loyal gay customers on the day of their weddings.
What I am saying is we have confused association and even participation (on a business and personal level) with approval of a lifestyle that runs contrary to God’s Word and His very best for our lives as families and communities.
While the Church in general and individuals like Stutzman and Klein have done well in drawing circles around certain sins that “cross the line”, what we have failed to remember is that there is a reason why Jesus was mocked and criticized by the religious leaders of His day for being not only a friend, but a close friend, of tax collectors (crooked business people) and sinners – because they were about a “look at me” religion that cleans up well on the outside but is cold and lacking in a heart for the things of God on the inside.
Jesus repeatedly reminded his criticizers that He was all about reaching out to the one sheep who was lost, even at the expense of appearing to have left behind the ninety-nine who are already in safe pasture. The Apostle Paul did not miss this and declared that “I have become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I might save some of them. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 Check out how the NLT translates this verse, “When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.”
Perhaps THE reason …
the 21st Century Church is in sharp decline and in need of complete renewal and revival is that we have castigated the unbeliever for acting like . . an unbeliever. How else are they going to behave until they are filled and overwhelmed with the love of Christ.
Here again, Paul did not miss a beat – rather than being obsessed with underlining and highlighting certain sins of the ungodly as crossing a line just too far from God, He instead humbly and often declared that he was the worst of all sinners . . and if he could be a recipient of God’s grace and mercy, so could anyone and everyone . .
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:15-16
Not only has the Church confused personal association with approval, we have tried to replace the Holy Spirit, who last time I checked, holds the office that “will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8) . . and in so doing have lost focus on our one singular great calling: to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39)
I can hear it now – some may say that the most loving thing a parent can do is say “no”. True, but that works best within the confines of custodial relationship. Yes, we do need to be wise enough to say no at times to the invitations of the world, but we also need to avoid if at all possible, condescending self-righteousness that cuts the cords of friendship with those who desperately need friendship with God.
My wife and I have personally served, on a multitude of levels and occasions, dozens and dozens if not hundreds of gay couples in the world of boutique luxury hospitality and I can assure you that we have no regrets for the smiles, the warm welcomes, the gourmet meals and more . . because those may be the only tangible ways certain lives see AND experience the love of Jesus. Our mantra when we extend hospitality without discrimination (except for disruptive and destructive behavior) is simply this: “bake the cake”.
Chip and Joanna Gaines …
have not only chosen to be in business, but to do it in a way where they can demonstrate their faith on a very “out loud” level – but their faith did not not become prominent by drawing lines in the sand, but by extending cords of hospitality, warmth and love.
By now, you have probably seen one or more episodes of their HGTV hit show “Fixer Upper” – and with the fame comes the critics, perhaps none more adverse than BuzzFeed who chose to lambast the Gaines in November of 2016 for attending Antioch Community Church in Waco, TX, a church pastored by Jimmy Siebert that has been labeled “anti-gay” and “anti-gay marriage” in it’s stance.
What I love is how the Gaines responded – in early 2017 Chip wrote on his blog the following,
“If there is any hope for all of us to move forward, to heal and to grow – we have got to learn to engage people who are different from us with dignity and with love. Joanna and I have personal convictions. One of them is this: we care about you for the simple fact that you are a person, our neighbor on planet earth. It’s not about what color your skin is, how much money you have in the bank, your political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, nationality or faith. That’s all fascinating, but it cannot add or take away from the reality that we’re already pulling for you. We are not about to get in the nasty business of throwing stones at each other, don’t ask us to cause we won’t play that way.
You wanna talk about how to build bridges between people that disagree? We want to be a part of that conversation. Do you want to talk about healing and compassion and kindness and restoration? We’re in the restoration business, we can for sure make time for that.
Also, let’s cut each other a little slack. This living out loud thing is not for the faint of heart. Jo and I don’t want to hide, we want to live brave & bold lives and we wish that same thing for you as well. But words can cut deep and having someone misunderstand your intentions can hurt as much as just about anything. If I misjudge people and am wrong, I want to be wrong having assumed the best about them. The bottom line is, I would rather be loving than be right.
We propose operating with a love so real and true that you are willing to roll up your sleeves and work alongside the very people that are most unlike you,” he wrote. “Fear dissolves in close proximity. Our stereotypes and vain imaginations fall away when we labor side by side.”
Oh, and by the way, Jimmy Siebert and Antioch Community Church are a solid model of grace and truth, where any and all are welcomed and embraced as precious to God, and where an unflinching stance and expression of God’s design for the family is clearly and lovingly communicated in word and deed – from the church’s website …
“Our passion and purpose has always been and will always be JESUS – the One who takes away our sins, binds up the brokenhearted, gives hope to the hopeless, heals the sick and delivers the captive – the One who is LOVE
God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, protect and lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband, even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God, as is her husband, and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his companion in managing the household and nurturing the next generation. Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and gift from the Lord. Parents are to demonstrate to their children God’s pattern for marriage.” Genesis 1:27-28; Genesis 2:20-25; Genesis 1:27; Ephesians 5:25; Ephesians 5:24; Genesis 2:20-21; Titus 2:4-5; Psalm 139:13-15
The proof is always in the pudding, and no better pudding than the family of businesses developed in Waco by the Gaines’ under the brand Magnolia.
Today, like all others, hundreds, even thousands of people, each unique and uniquely in need of God’s love and mercy, will stroll through the grounds of the Magnolia Market at the Silos, or refresh for a meal at Magnolia Table or even stay for a few nights at the Magnolia House . . and what all will sense sooner than later is a warm welcome, a sense of home, a feeling of belonging and mattering . . all because Chip & Joanna have not only chosen to follow Jesus, but have bought into this one simple mantra with hook, line and sinker . . “bake the cake”.
How is God encouraging you today?