By / Sep 16

NOTE: Rosaria Butterfield will be one of the speakers at the ERLC National Conference: “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.” The conference is designed to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families and their churches. This event will be held at the iconic Opryland Hotel on October 27-29, 2014. To learn more go here.

Lindsay Swartz sat down with Rosaria Butterfield to discuss how Christians should speak (with convictional kindess) to our gay neighbors.

Butterfield is a former tenured professor of English at Syracuse University. After her conversion to Christianity in 1999, she developed a ministry to college students. She has taught and ministered at Geneva College, is a full-time mother and pastor’s wife, and is author of Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

By / Aug 14

It’s hard not to weep as I watch the continual coverage of events unfold in Ferguson, Mo. Once again, a life was taken by an authority figure. The eyes of our nation turn in one of two directions: toward the injustice or away from it. In the ocean of social media, I’ve noticed waves of Palestinians providing American citizens with counsel on dealing with tear gas while droves of Protestants remain serene and silent.

It’s in these exact moments, when ethnic minority evangelicals are looking for support from other minorities and majority culture brothers and sisters, that we need to come together and minister to the hurting souls in our community. But we often find that many of our brothers and sisters are sitting on the sidelines paralyzed by the fear of not knowing how to engage.

I want to unveil to those saints on the sideline how they can engage in front line participation before, during and after national moments of social injustice arise. The reason why we, as the Body of Christ, must engage is because acts of social injustice are direct attacks on the gospel.

Personal justification is wrong

Luke 10:25-37 is a passage that speaks directly to issues of social injustice and how God expects his children to respond. In this text, a lawyer approached Jesus with a question regarding how one inherits eternal life. Jesus asked the lawyer to provide his interpretation of the law. The lawyer complied, and Jesus informed him to live out the two summary realities of the law: Love God holistically and love your neighbor as yourself.

The lawyer’s follow-up question, “Who is my neighbor?” was one of personal-justification because he sought Jesus’ affirmation of his already-proven love for his neighbor. Being omniscient, Jesus knew the lawyer’s interpretation of neighbor was in sync with the religious community of his day. Neighbor was defined as those who were Jewish and a part of the local religious community. This narrow definition excluded Samaritans and Gentiles.

Jesus masterfully interjects the story of the Good Samaritan and asked the lawyer which of the three responses proved to be neighborly. The lawyer responded, “The one who showed mercy.” Jesus told him to “go and do the same.”

We must personify reconciliation

Jesus’ response rings just as true today as it did during the first century. It seems as if many in the Church are selective in identifying who our neighbor is. With ease, we employ our definition of neighbor as Christians who look and believe like we do, all the while neglecting those differing from us denominationally, ethnically, economically and religiously.

The reasonable response the Church must offer the world today is one that reflects ongoing gospel-centered reconciliation. I believe we will achieve this when local churches implement the following five principles:

1. Remember the greatest act of social injustice is the means to reconciliation.

The crucifixion of Jesus was and is the greatest act of social injustice humanity will ever see. Yet, Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection were all necessary for sinners from all ethnicities to have equal opportunity to be lavished with forgiveness and redemption (Eph. 1:7). Embracing the work of Jesus allows sinners from every walk of life, who are separated from God, to be reconciled to him in a right relationship through Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  

2. Realize the gospel turns conversations from “us and them” to “we.”

The Bible teaches that every human being, regardless of culture or ethnicity, is an equal image-bearer of God (Gen. 1:27-28). Paul added in Acts 17:26 that there is one race–the human race–that traces its lineage back to one man, Adam, from whom we all equally inherited our sin nature (Rom. 5:12). The gospel message places all of humanity on an equal plain; we’re all fallen (Rom. 3:23), we’re in need of a Savior, and Jesus is the only qualified Savior (John 14:6). Sin shows no segregation regarding ethnicity and neither should the stewards of God’s gospel message (Gal. 3:28).

3. Render holistic investment in communities.

After the TV cameras pull out and the trending hashtags are replaced, our cities need churches to remain actively involved in the arenas of community life. Our pastors must help our people realize they are missionaries commissioned by Christ to make disciples of all ethnicities in their immediate location (Matt. 28:19-20). We must engage our community where our lives intersect in the realms of education, medicine, commerce and recreation. When the crisis has come and gone, Christ’s people must remain, making disciples who, in tun, make disciples.

4. Regularly pray for our authority figures.

We’re commanded to pray for everyone, especially those who are in authority (2 Tim. 2:1-4). Our command to do this is not dependent on the attitudes or actions of those in authority. The gospel reminds us that if our authority figures do not know Jesus, it is our privilege to pray for them and present them (if possible) with the gospel message.

5. Refrain from extreme reactions.

The world usually responds in one of two extremes: rioting or remaining silent. On the other hand, we are to contribute solution-based ministry that parallels the reality of Romans 12:9-21 while we work for justice to be given to our fellow humans who are in need and oppressed.

God, in his providence, has positioned us here during this moment of redemptive history. He is calling on his children to represent him well while we steward the gospel message and its implications in our cities, nation and world. For this reason, we must begin to see any fellow human being who is a victim of any form of social injustice as our neighbor and come alongside them with compassion and the hope of Christ.

When this reality is the rhythm of life for our local community of believers, we’ll no longer sit content in silence when unarmed young men are murdered. We’ll no longer see them as names in newsworthy headlines, but rather as our neighbors in need of gospel-centered social justice that’s rooted in a healthy community of believers. And we’ll be committed to doing life with them after the storm is over. Christ has show us mercy and has commanded us to go and do the same.

By / Jul 28

President Obama’s request for $3.7 billion to aid 52,000 young Central America migrants seeking a home here has sparked outrage among many.

Nearly $4 billion is a large amount of money; but what’s concerning is not the expenditure of funds, so much as the question of why the children are here.

Why are the children here?

All of us should be concerned that there are 52,000 children being held in what amounts to refugee centers. Why are they coming to the U.S.? What is bringing them across the border? They aren’t here to get free medical care or exploit our government. These are children, not criminals. Even at 16 or 17 years old, children don’t understand how to mastermind an economic strategy for escaping their homeland and making their lives better or easier somewhere else.

The reason the children are here is because their parents are sending them. These families live in an extremely insecure environment and want a better life for their children. Ironically, a trip to the U.S. doesn’t even guarantee safety. Coyote marketers promise safe passage for the children, but fail to deliver. In the same way we get scammed by telemarketers, these couriers market a better life in the U.S. Oftentimes, the children end up sexually abused, sold into sex trafficking, or initiated into drug gangs. Yet these families are desperate enough to take a chance, even one that seems insane to us.

But we can understand these parents, can’t we? After all, it’s not unique to American society that parents should love and protect their children. A parent who sends their child across Mexico into the U.S. is clearly afraid for their child’s safety. There must be something seriously dangerous in their home environment for them to go to such an extreme. It’s not hard to sympathize with that, whether these choices are ultimately right or wrong.

Parents in East Germany felt this tension during the Cold War. We heard story after story of East Germans doing this, and we were cheering  their kids across the border–illegally, mind you. We sympathized then, and we should sympathize now.

How should Christians respond?

As Christians, we simply need to be more like Christ in how we respond. The children are here and need care.  Let’s not shout from the rooftops, “Send these criminals back!” Such a calloused response is irresponsible and inconsiderate; it simply won’t do.

We don’t punish the children because their parents may have acted negligently or naïvely; we love children that God brought into the world, no matter how they got here. If a woman gives birth and then gives her child away, we don’t say, “That mother is irresponsible! Let the kid suffer!” No, we adopt the child. This situation is no different.

A Christian immigration policy does not have to be an open border policy. Don’t misunderstand. But the Lord will not punish anyone for taking care of children, even ones we erroneously think don’t deserve care. Kudos to anyone seeking to take care of them–even an administration that we regularly disagree with on a variety of subjects.

What about the broader issues?

First, we need to enforce immigration laws on domestic companies. It’s not irrational to assume that we spend more money on trying to shut down drug production than we spend on domestic laws preventing consumption. It doesn’t make sense to spend more money enforcing laws on foreigners than on our own citizens who are creating the illegal market to begin with.

More importantly, there’s an economic invitation to migrant workers. We’re paying at least 12 million undocumented workers extremely low wages and keeping it from the government. Then we say, hypocritically, “Oh by the way, we hate that you illegal immigrants are sneaking across our borders!” We allow this workforce to massively shape our economy while not providing them with basic human protection. Fearing deportation, they're hesitant to go to the hospital when they’re sick or call the police when they’re victimized.

We won’t solve this problem by attacking other countries’ drug lords or sending 12 million immigrants back to their countries. We need to enforce sufficient laws upon domestic companies, to the point of shutting them down. The workers come across the border because the market exists.

Second, we need to create some kind of realistic worker permit system for foreign workers. The truth is, these workers support our economy; we can’t pretend otherwise. Not only do we need these workers to be here legally, but we should go a step further and find a way to appropriately appreciate them for keeping prices low at the local Walmart.

Finally, we need to stop confusing the issues. Documentation problems and criminality are not the same thing. A person can get a speeding ticket and not be involved in criminal prosecution. These immigrants aren’t criminals because they’re immigrants. We simply have an immigration problem.

Moreover, we have to stop confusing non-English speakers with criminals. We shouldn't say, “Well if they aren’t willing to learn our language, they need to get out!” Remember, English is not our language; it’s English. We must be careful how we speak of undocumented immigrants, guarding ourselves against racial insensitivity.

Scripture tells us that if we don’t treat outsiders well, God is not going to treat us well. This does not mean we shouldn’t have reasonable laws and borders that define us, but we should always treat human beings as God prescribes for us throughout all of Scripture–with love and mercy.