The Other Part of James 1: World Vision, Gay Marriage, and Fighting Christians

I watched on twitter yesterday as World Vision announced that they had changed an HR policy that will allow for hiring of employees who are in same-sex marriages.

And then I watched twitter erupt with reactions.

Some Christians were overjoyed at the announcement.

Some Christians were outraged at the announcement.

And then, as often happens on twitter, those two camps of Christians found each others’ responses and started throwing stones.

And then others joined in.

And soon enough, I watched a twitter war break out.

Conservative Christians vs. Liberal Christians against each other again in a very public forum hurling Scriptures and words at one another as weapons. It’s like a well-watched reality tv show that depicts a family fighting ugly with one another while the world watches.  My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

We all have convictions.  We all have opinions.  We have all read the Bible, and somehow, we have come out with differing interpretations.

But we agree on Jesus, don’t we?  We agree on the cross.  We agree that mercy triumphs over judgement.  And we believe in justice.  Thank God we believe in justice.  We fight because we know that the world is not as it should be.  But sometimes in our quest for justice we fight mean and wrong.  

And others take notice.

I’m not saying we don’t stand up for our convictions.  By all means, let’s fight for justice and truth.  But how we go about fighting matters.

I’ve seen a lot of James 1:27 quoted in the last 24 hours, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  I love that verse.  It’s a verse that inspires and challenges me to my core.

But we seem to have forgotten the verse just before it: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” (James 1:26).

Social media has given us an outlet and a platform to speak and respond.  It’s a medium that allows us to engage in dialogue (albeit limited to 140 characters much of the time) in real-time.

And this is the danger of social media.

Because we post things in the heat of a moment. And sometimes we do good. And sometimes we mend fences. And sometimes we cause others to think differently. And sometimes we damage someone’s reputation. And sometimes we bully others. And sometimes we wage wars.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t get angry.  We’re humans, so we get angry.  And we are followers of Jesus, so we get angry.  We should get angry at injustice, at oppressive systems, at man-made religious rules, at hypocrisy, at judgmentalism, at sin, and at hate.

But maybe we need to get better at getting angry slower.  Especially when we find ourselves angry at another person and not a systemic ill.

James puts it this way (still in chapter 1), “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20)”

This isn’t about conflict-avoidance.  This isn’t about sweeping critical disagreements under a rug and pretending that our family is happy and healthy and unified.  This isn’t about never getting angry. But it is about pausing. It’s about listening (out of respect, not a cue for a comeback).  It’s about being slow to speak.  And slow to become angry.

I’ve been learning a lot about this lately and doing a whole lot of repenting.

Our immediate reactions aren’t always our realest reactions.  And when we take a moment or a day or a week, we can come the table with dialogue not debate.  Debates rarely change minds and even rarer, make friends.  Dialogue, however, can enlighten us, and can even forge unlikely friendships.

We can challenge in love.  We can disagree without slandering. We can speak out on issues, without calling out individuals.

At the end of the day, whether we like it or not, we’re family. We’re in this for eternity. We need to call each other out from time to time.  We need to have it out on occasion.  But let’s not make individual fights so public. And let’s shame each other less. And most of all, let’s keep doing God’s work of redemption, reconciliation, healing, and welcoming in the world.

This particular issue is very personal to me because we love our sponsored child through World Vision, and because we love our friends who are gay. Fighting hurts bystanders. Fighting hurts the Kingdom. And fighting hurts the Peacemaking Jesus that we follow.

As I hit publish, I’m finding myself humming that old 1960’s song, “They’ll know we are Christians by our Love.”  May that be true one day.

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5 thoughts on “The Other Part of James 1: World Vision, Gay Marriage, and Fighting Christians

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