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FAYETTEVILLE: clarity, compassion, Christ

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (BP) — Word began circulating around our community that our city council was considering an ordinance promoting the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) agenda. Instead of relying on others’ reports, my wife and I, with our 8th-grade daughter, decided to attend the next council meeting here in Fayetteville, Ark.

It was quite an eye-opener.

After a civil discussion by nearly everyone about an overreaching and broad ordinance, that portion of the meeting was ending. Then a councilwoman, commenting on the pastors and other Christians who spoke against the ordinance, shared her thoughts.

“I am ashamed,” she said, “that there is so much darkness in the hearts of this community.”

Her comments set an uncivil tone for many of the promoters of this ordinance. It would not be enough to disagree; all opposition must be smeared.

How, then, should followers of Christ respond when our elected local government works to legalize and promote immorality while publicly attacking people faithful to Christ and His Word?

Let’s move forward with:

Clarity — Our objections to bad public policy need to be presented as coherently and persuasively as possible. How will we encourage sympathetic city council members or city residents — much less those who are ambivalent or opposed to our view — to vote against bad legislation if we do not give them a reason?

For example, the Fayetteville ordinance prohibits churches from refusing to hire as a receptionist, childcare worker, custodian or any other “secular” position an individual who is transgendered. If a complaint is filed, the church/pastor could be charged with a criminal violation of the ordinance. Proponents of the law dismiss the charges as “only” a third-degree misdemeanor.

Yet, it is not reasonable for a church, pastor or any other Christian in the community to be charged with a crime for living in obedience to their faith. Would a Sikh man be required to shave his beard? Would a Muslim woman be required to eat pork? Why, then, would Christians be required to accept homosexual behavior?

Compassion — When our words, attitudes and actions about divisive and difficult issues consistently reflect grace and love, God uses our obedience during adversity to grow us and others to be more like Jesus. Instead of speaking words which are cunning, crafty and scheming, the Bible instructs, “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

My heart must continually grow to be like Jesus so I will see each person like He sees them. Only when the love of Christ for others fills my life can I show His compassion for every person. Words have meaning, and poorly chosen words can convey un-Christlike attitudes and wound the spirit. The goal should be to “let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians. 4:6).

Showing compassion to each person will not result in everyone saying nice things about us. We may still be slandered and attacked. Jesus was. Paul was. And we will be. We will need to develop a thick skin while revealing a compassionate heart.

Christ — The real problem in my city is not elected officials who attack our worldview or bad laws attacking religious freedom while purporting to protect rights. The real problem is people bound by sin. We are all “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3).

In every way, then, we must proclaim the excellencies of Jesus who called us “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

We do not choose between involvement in the public square to defeat bad laws or preaching Christ; we proclaim Jesus through every endeavor. As we work in the public square, our focus remains on pointing people to Jesus. Christ alone can change the hearts and minds of each person and even the direction of an entire community.