On Saturday, June 25, a Shelby Country Pride Parade and Festival will take place in the city of Shelbyville, KY. The event includes a Spiderman meet and greet for the kids, a “drag strut contest,” and an after-hours party. How should Christians respond to an event like this during “Pride Month?”
In Matthew 10, Jesus sends the 12 disciples into the world for the purpose of reaching the “lost sheep” of the tribe of Israel. As he sends them out, Jesus instructs his disciples to conduct themselves in two ways: they are to be 1) wise and 2) innocent (Matthew 10:16). To be certain, even if they enter the world with wisdom and innocence, they will still experience persecution at the hands of non-believers. But that does not negate the direction given by Jesus. Be wise and innocent.
How does this command to the disciples help us during Pride Month? Each individual Christian and each local church will have to decide the way of wisdom for shining light into a world of darkness. There are a variety of approaches we might take to confront sinfulness, some will be better than others. Here is what a wise and innocent approach might look like.
A wise and innocent approach will seek to embody the incarnational description of Jesus in John 1:14; he was “full of grace and truth.” Christians must resist the temptation to appear ambivalent toward the LGBTQ+ lifestyle, even when attempting to build relationships with those in that community. The church of Jesus Christ has stood firm throughout its history on the nature of God’s design for human sexuality, and our commitment to truth in this culturally-confused climate is more important than ever. Likewise, the church must not waiver in its clear stance on truth because of fear that those in our congregations who are sympathetic to the LGBTQ+ movement might leave the church. Speaking truth is an act of love, even when it is difficult. But the means and manner in which we discuss our commitments and convictions are to be “full of grace.” Fear should not keep us from speaking the truth. But a commitment to that truth should not keep us from demonstrating grace.
A wise and innocent approach will insist that any interaction with the LGBTQ+ community be in step with the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The fruit of the Spirit is to be the mark of every Christian in all circumstances. A Christian does not have the option of suggesting that gentleness or patience or any other characteristic is not part of their personality type. This isn’t about who we are by nature – this is about who the Spirit transforms us to be in Christ.
A wise and innocent approach will remember that all people are created in the image of God. Among other things, being created in God’s image means that all human life has value and worth, which in turn must direct Christians to love and serve all people. This also means that Christians must not affirm, endorse, or participate in any activity that denies the goodness and truthfulness of God’s design for humanity, including his design for human sexuality. Thus, the Imago Dei prevents Christians from being neutral or affirming of an event like the Shelby Country Pride Parade, but it also prevents Christians from behaving in a way that undermines the value of human life.
A wise and innocent approach will understand the power of the church’s witness through worship. Although there are many important ways in which a church should connect with the community and share the message of Jesus, our fundamental calling is to be a people of worship based on the word. Tony Reinke has recently written in his book God, Technology, and the Christian Life that “Our worship ‘has nothing to do with pietistic retreat from the public world. It is the source of resistance to the idolatries of the public world.’ Christian worship is public resistance.”
If we bring these things together, what does this practically look like for a Christian? Again, opinions will vary on the best methodology, and we want to be open to different points of view among Christians as to how to best engage. Here are some of my thoughts:
- Christians should not attend or participate in a parade, rally, or event that celebrates sinful lifestyles that are contrary to God’s word.
- Christians should be ready and willing to speak the truth about a Pride Rally, but must do so in a way that uses words and attitudes that are consistent with the grace of Jesus. For example, if you use explicit language to describe how much the LGBTQ+ community disgusts you, then you are not faithfully speaking with grace.
- Parents must speak openly and honestly with their children about biblical sexuality and the confusion of sin in the world on this topic.
- Public statements of concern are very appropriate (such as this blog article), but those statements are best written by a person’s own hand, from the heart, and with a desire to reach the heart. Copy and paste sentiments are largely worthless, and public postings that simply cause those who already agree with you to give a “thumbs up” while further alienating those who disagree with you are also unwise. Ask, “how can I post a statement of truth that is clear and understandable while also providing room for dialogue to ensue?” We are here to convict, not to crush.
- Should Christians protest with signs, hand out tracts, and preach on the corners at a Pride rally? This is a question that has no right answer. I believe there are times when Christian protest is appropriate. I appreciate the courage and conviction of those who embrace this particular option. The problem is that more often than not, the confrontational manner of public protests at an event like a pride rally leaves the name of Christ stained, the local church’s reputation harmed, and the targeted group more determined than ever to live their own way. Is this a wise direction? Furthermore, Christians should seek to be well thought of by those outside of the church. In fact, this is a qualification for pastoral ministry (1 Timothy 3:7). For me, the risks of disobeying Scripture and the potential harm associated with confrontational protests cause me to keep my distance from that kind of response. Nevertheless, to reiterate, I know there are some churches and groups that are able to take this approach with faithfulness and grace, and I applaud their efforts.
- If Christians are worried about the cultural impact of sin, then an absolute commitment to the local church is a necessity. For the Christian who is outraged by a Pride rally but allows every cultural activity to keep them and their kids away from the church’s worship is to demonstrate a false sense of outrage. It shows how there are some particular movements in our culture that we simply love to hate, but we are conveniently acclimated to the other demands of our culture that says faithfulness to worship is optional if something else comes along. More than anything else, the Pride rally should cause all Christians to evaluate our own standing and priorities before the Lord. Let’s take a good look at the log before we are prepared to remove the speck.
Different Christians will reach different conclusions on issues such as this. We must be patient with each other as we work through the best response. We must remember that we are dealing with people here, not an abstract, philosophical idea. Truth will be better communicated when we are broken and grieved for others rather than just outraged and angered by their sin. May the name of Jesus Christ be magnified!