Many of us who believe in the all-inclusive love of Christ are devastated today after the passing of Amendment One in North Carolina. And we should be – the amendment constitutes an act of hate and a legislation of bigotry, which, despite the arguments of many Christians, does not have a Biblical basis or defense. But many of us who voted against the amendment must share the blame for its passing because we thought that being right was enough.
We believed we could sign petitions, hold up signs at marches, post on our blogs or Facebook pages, sending a message of love for all God’s children, alongside a message of condemnation of bigots. We thought it would be enough to “be the change we wish to see in the world,” but it wasn’t.
And now, the day after, we are putting plans in place to do more of the same: petitions for repeal, calls to keep the faith and speak up for equality, calls to fight the enemy until we win. But it still won’t be enough. We cannot be so right that we change the hearts and minds of those who are wrong.
The people we call our enemy in this battle, the people we call bigots, are our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is true that in our churches, our family members and friends have been mislead for generations by Pharisees teaching a theology of exclusion, a theology that says keeping the Old Law (or at least certain parts of it) is more important than embracing the love and compassion of Christ for all. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are devoted to their faith, but they have been taught falsely for a very long time. We won’t reach them just by telling them they are wrong.
We cannot defeat years of false teaching simply by declaring it false. We have more work to do. And we won’t help anyone by leaving our churches and segregating ourselves. Self-righteousness serves no one. And separating ourselves from sinners is contrary to what we believe, and the opposite of the example Jesus set for us. Also, we should remember that we too are sinners, just as guilty as those we call our enemy.
So we must return to the word of God that teaches us to love our neighbors – even those who sin in bigotry. We must return to the example set by Christ of breaking bread with sinners. We must return to our churches, and love those with whom we disagree. We have to teach, communicate, listen, and serve. If our churches are broken, we should start new ones, and return to an evangelism that reaches out to those who are lost. If we have to build a new foundation based on the old, fundamental Christian belief that we must love God and each other, then we should start right now.
As disciples of Christ, we must carry forward this message of His salvation and redemption for all people to the world. This truth should pervade the books we write, the music we make, the lessons we teach, the way we treat each other. We must labor in love without the expectation of easy accomplishments – our work will take years. We won’t convince anyone with internet slacktivism (have you ever changed your mind on an issue of faith because of a Facebook post?), and we won’t inspire people by vilifying them. We can, however, change our culture, empowered by the Holy Spirit, guided by the Word of God, and redeemed by Christ. As disciples of Jesus, we have more work to do, and that work will be hard. But we should be encouraged by the words of Christ in John 14: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”