On Wednesday morning, A&E Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson was suspended indefinitely from the show for comments he made in an interview with GQ magazine over his views on sin and homosexuality (you can read the whole interview here, as well as the suspension details from both a Christian and secular perspective).
After being asked the question, “What, in your mind, is sinful?” Robertson responded by mentioning homosexuality, along with other practices, while citing 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. …Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.
The A&E network responded by suspending him from appearing on the show for an indefinite period of time:
His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.
In light of the recent beheading of the “Duck” patriarch of the “Dynasty”, how should Christians respond? Those of us who hold to the teaching of Scripture as our authority on sin and righteousness, how do we deal with comments that we are “anti-gay”, “homophobic”, or “hate-speech advocates”? How can we respond in a way that both communicates the harsh reality of sin, but also the great hope of grace?
Be mindful of the non-believer within your midst
In the book of Titus, Paul writes to a young pastor, Titus, to defend the Gospel in the midst of false teachers who were dividing his church. He describes the problem of these teachers who were dissuading members of his church from the Gospel, and leading people astray (Titus 1:10-11,13-14). He then mentions how Titus is to respond to them and defend the truths of the Gospel:
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. …in your teaching, show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
In Paul’s charge here, he calls Titus to watch over how he teaches – not for the believer’s sake, but for the non-believer’s. And though Titus’ teaching was indeed intended for the believer within his church, Paul is greatly aware of the “opponents” who would be criticizing Titus for his beliefs and his teachings.
The first thing we can draw from Paul’s charge, is that Christians are to be mindful of the opponents of our faith who are watching and listening to us. We forget that we live in an “un-Christian” society, the majority of which who do not think like we do. We rightfully make a stand; but we wrongfully forget that there are other people in this world besides our Christian buddies who sit next to us in church. So we post on Facebook, Tweet, and spew out comments that are unnecessarily offensive to those who disagree with us – those whom we are called to reach with the Gospel.
Respond with integrity and dignity
This isn’t to say that we should not voice our beliefs at all. This would go against the very nature of the call of the Christian to “proclaim” repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations (Luke 24:46-47). Indeed, there is no Gospel message without the public communicating of the truths of sin and salvation. But there’s a way to do so that is appropriate, fitting with the Gospel (2:1, “teach what accords with sound doctrine), and can communicate not just the message, but the grace of the Gospel.
The words Paul uses in Titus 2:7-8, “dignity,” “integrity,” and “sound speech,” refer not as much to the content of his message, but how he communicates it. These words (especially “dignity”) were often used by Paul to describe how the Christian was to conduct his life. Here, however, he uses them to describe how Titus was to teach and communicate the Gospel. The sense is that Titus was to teach in a way that garnered respect – both for how he communicated, and for how his life matched up with it (as the preceding verse might imply). Peter uses similar language when he calls believers to defend their faith with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
What this means is that believers, when called upon to communicate our convictions and beliefs, are to do so in a way that is commendable and respectable – not just by Christians, but by our opponents. The desired result of Titus’ teaching was that his opponents would “have nothing evil to say about us” (Tit. 2:8). So our hope should be that though our “opponents” might still disagree with us in the content of our message, they will have nothing to say against us for the communication of our message.
In our zeal to defend the Gospel and our Biblical convictions, we can come out guns blazing against our opponents. There are times that we care more about winning the argument out of a fit of emotional rage, rather than making Jesus admirable. And though we may feel we’ve defended our stance with gust, and won the logical battle of the argument, we’ve in fact, detracted from the glory of our God.
There will always be critics of the Gospel, for Jesus said that the world will hate us on account of Christ (Matt. 10:21-22). But if people are criticizing us for how we communicate it, then we’ve lost the intent that Paul had for how the Gospel should be communicated.
Unfortunately, our culture is heading down a road where simply voicing one’s opinions and beliefs – no matter how it’s communicated – is still grounds for judgment (as we’ve seen in Phil Robertson’s case). But the idea for Paul in Titus is that Christians can and should communicate our message in a way that is level-headed, respectful, dignified in our tone and demeanor, and logical in argument. And in return, though our message may still be labeled as “hateful” and “narrow-minded,” our lives and words will prove otherwise and “put to shame” our opponents.
Speak up and be consistent
For those of us who are all too aware of the non-believer around us, who are all too afraid of “offending” someone and go into hiding, Paul has something to say for you as well: “speak what accords with sound doctrine” (the word translated “teach” here in 2:1 can more literally be translated, “speak”). The only reason there were false teachers and opponents of the Gospel at Crete was because Titus and the believers were speaking up about their faith and beliefs.
Christians are to be mindful of the non-believer within our midst. We are to communicate it in a way that invites discussion, not distance between us and them. We should defend our case with integrity and dignity, gentleness and respect. But we must speak. There is no way around this. Eventually someone is going to ask you what you believe about homosexuality, or abortion, or hell, or sin. And we will have to give them an account for why we believe what we believe (1 Pet. 3:15). To refuse to do so is to refuse to proclaim the Gospel that is far more offense than a traditional (Biblical) view of marriage.
This isn’t to say that we are to define ourselves by our stance on gay marriage. Rather, if we are to be consistent with our confession of Jesus as Lord, the Bible as inerrant, and man is in need of saving, we cannot sit back and not comment on the sin of homosexuality when asked upon. And yet we can do so in a way that is not hostile, but inviting. As Paul spoke to the Corinthians:
Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
Though Paul saw a need to call out the Corinthians for their sin, he did not divorce it from the call of the Gospel – the call to repentance, belief, and new life.
We will be called upon for our opinion in class; we will be asked what we think at work. We might be attacked, accused, and name-called for our beliefs. The world will hate them – and that shouldn’t surprise us (1John 3:13). But let them hate us for the content of our message, not an angry, heated, prideful, un-compassionate communication of that message. Stand for the truths of Scripture; but make it our priority not to win the argument, but to win the person to Christ and seek to make Jesus beautiful.
Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. – 1 Peter 3:14-16