Taking a stand – or not
Well, it turns out that Pastor Louie Giglio will not be giving the benediction at the Obama swearing-in ceremony. This man, the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, had been selected because of the outstanding work he and his church has been doing to confront human trafficking worldwide. The choice of Rev. Giglio was both acknowledgment of that work and a tip of the hat toward evangelicals by the President.
However this honor is not to be. It seems that some liberal/gay watchdog groups have gone through Rev. Giglio’s sermons and found that, back in the early 90s, some of his messages supported the idea that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin. They have protested that, as such, he should not be included in the ceremony. Rev. Giglio promptly withdrew. His statement is as follows:
“Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration. Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.
Neither I, nor our team, feel it best serves the core message and goals we are seeking to accomplish to be in a fight on an issue not of our choosing, thus I respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President’s invitation… “
I find this reply to be the epitome of grace. He does not complain about being mistreated; he does not back down on what he believes; he continues to emphasize what is important to him; he chooses to not make this a “take a stand” moment. In essence he says that the inauguration is the President’s party and he doesn’t want one small aspect of his beliefs to spoil that party.
Of course, there are Christian voices critical of Rev. Giglio’s decision. He should have taken a stand, they say, and instead he is backing down from the enemy. Well, maybe he is. But I can’t help but think it is a wise and gracious decision. In a society that includes a lot of diverse interests and views, many of them hostile to historic Christianity, the decision on when and where to take a stand is one of the critical choices we can make. It is a symbol of our times that the urge to take a stand has never been higher. Those critical of Rev. Giglio are a prime example. They chose to take a stand over something he said 15+ years ago; something he would never have brought up in his prayer, and make an issue of it. His response was, in essence, “no thanks.” He chose not to fight on that battlefield, and I admire him for it.
I don’t know about you but, thus far, my phone has not rung with a call from Obama asking me to take Rev. Giglio’s place. I am secure in the knowledge that, if it does (and I am not holding my breath waiting), you can find something I have said or done in the last 15 years that is offensive to somebody somewhere. What guidelines should I use if this happens to me? When should I fight? When should I graciously decline? Here are some:
– Whose party is it? I was at my sister’s house Christmas night and her neighbors were, as usual, invited to drop in. One of her neighbors made a statement that I not only disagreed with but I felt was somewhat offensive to Christians. I didn’t want to use my sister’s party as a place to take a stand.
– What do I have to gain by taking a stand? I am convinced that confrontational evangelism; the belief that we are doing evangelism every time we challenge views that we see as unbiblical, is almost always not only a huge waste of time but counterproductive. Rev. Giglio obviously concluded he had little to gain by taking a stand.
– What do I have to lose by being silent? Is this a situation where my faith is challenged? Are there people around who will be led astray if I don’t speak up? For instance, if I am with Christian teens when someone says that casual one-night-stands are no big deal I’d probably speak up. If I am in line at a supermarket checkout and someone ahead of me makes the same comment to the adult cashier I’d probably say nothing. This leads to my last guideline.
– Am I butting in? A comment made to me is different than a comment I have happened to hear. Do I actually have an entrée to take part in a debate? When I look at the life of Jesus I can see He was never timid about saying unpopular or confrontational things. But I see no example of Him saying them in situations where He was not invited to speak.
The decision to take a stand is never easy. But I think that Rev Giglio demonstrated wisdom in seeing that not everything needs to be a battlefield.