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Four lessons from the Gordon College backlash

If you've been following the news, you may have heard that 14 religious leaders sent President Obama a letter requesting a religious exemption in his planned executive order banning discrimination by government contractors against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Michael Lindsay of Gordon College was one of those who signed the letter and has received an incredible amount of local criticism here in Greater Boston. The criticism has come from local governmental officials, his own faculty, staff and students, social media posts and news outlets, such as USA Today, Boston Globe, and Huffington Post.

In 2011, I had the privilege of planting Netcast Church, which currently has a large attendance of students, faculty and staff from Gordon College. As the pastor of a young and growing evangelical church that sits in the heart of a very liberal and post-modern culture, watching the unfortunate chaos unfold has been quite eye-opening. As I wrestle through my own convictions and personal stances on these issues, these are a few things that I have been reminded of:

Jesus is the great liberator.

The reason many people are turned off by Christianity is because, historically, we spend our time fighting for what we are against rather than explaining the liberties we are actually for. By doing this, we take away the beauty and liberation of the gospel message, making it hard for people to see Jesus through the flying bullets. As a believer in Jesus, I want to remember that my liberties associated with the gospel are endless and beautiful. Therefore, shout the freedom and liberation that is found in Jesus as we submit all areas of life, conduct and theological understandings to His authority.

Love will be perceived as hate.

No matter how hard evangelicals attempt to love our neighbor, some neighbors will see that love as hatred and oppression. Jesus came from heaven to earth in order to love his people and liberate them from oppression. He did this by providing salvation through his sinless life, substitutionary death and victorious resurrection. However, the very ones who Christ came to love, perceived that love as hatred and crucified him for it. As evangelicals, we are called to love others by proclaiming Jesus as the means toward a liberty, freedom and joy than can't be found in anything other than our Savior. As I point others to a joy in Jesus by loving them enough to encourage the submission of our sexuality to his Lordship, that loving motivation will often be perceived as hatred. There's very little I can do about it.

Fans can become critics overnight.

Although I don't know Dr. Lindsay on a personal level, I have met with him and admire him. From what I gather, he is a loving father to three daughters and just celebrated 19 years of faithful commitment to his wife, Rebecca. Although he has been criticized for his driven professionalism, he has a strong reputation among his board, staff and students. In addition to that, his work has been admired in a wide range of secular media outlets, and he’s been given interviews with some of our nation’s top political leaders.

From what I can tell, Dr. Lindsay is a faithful believer in Jesus, loves the North Shore of Greater Boston and leads his college with conviction. What amazes me is that, with one stroke of the pen, many of his fans became vocal critics. He went from being a deeply respected and loved member of the community, to being viewed as an irrelevant and insensitive conservative bigot overnight. 

Being misunderstood is expected.

Jesus has made it clear that those of this world will hate us because they first hated him. If Christians were like the world and gave in to every pleasure, sensual desire, cunning doctrine and ambition, the world would not oppose us. If we were silent or conformists when it came to our convictions, the world would not despise us; but Christians do not belong to the world–this is why we are often misunderstood and disliked.

It should be expected that our truths will be viewed as narrow-minded, our love will be viewed as hate and our doctrinal convictions will be viewed as bigotry. However, let’s not forget that some of this points to good news. James argues that trials test our faith, develop endurance in our lives and lead to maturity. Paul reminds us that persecution allows us to share in a unique intimacy with the Lord. In the death and resurrection of Jesus, we see that the most horrific deeds done by men can bring about the most glorious event that the world has ever known.

In a world that seems to be getting increasingly hostile toward orthodox Christianity, Christians must unite together. As we proclaim good news and stand in the face of antagonism, accusation and misunderstandings, we must remind each other that Jesus was merciful and patient as we antagonized, accused and misunderstood him. May we have the grace to respond rightly in the midst of these disputes, and may we model our Lord's example as he cried from a horrific cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

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