daily Broadcast

Let’s Talk about the Hard Stuff

From the series Not Beyond Reach

Is it possible to discuss hot-button issues – like politics and sexuality – with those we love without starting an argument? As he winds down his series Not Beyond Reach, our guest teacher Aaron Pierce says: Absolutely! Don’t miss how we can engage people on these sensitive subjects and clear the way for the Gospel to pierce people’s hearts.

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Message Transcript

These issues, these topics of politics and sexuality are very divisive and they are very, kind of, intimidating topics, they are also incredible opportunities for the Gospel. They’re moments in which we can connect and actually rather than seeing them as things to avoid or putting them in that box of politics, they are actually opportunities to connect on a deeper spiritual level with people.

And so, part of it is reframing in our own minds these things that are not scary topics, but these are actually opportunities if we approach it in a different way. And so, that’s part of what I want to talk about is how do we approach this in a better way?

Starting with the idea of politics. So, politics has ruined more than a few Thanksgiving gatherings. We all, like, that’s like the thing that you hear today, right? Like, a lot of times there’s a tension, often between the dad and one child on some political issue. And we have this hyper polarized world.

But I think that part of it is that there’s an opportunity here that we can reframe this. And that’s what I want to talk about, specifically through the political lens. Now, one thing I want to make very clear as we talk about this is that this is in the context of how to develop relationships and engage in spiritual conversations with secular people.

So, we’re not making political statements or saying how Christians should or should not engage in the political process; that’s not what this is about. So, remember the context of this. So, the first thing we have to understand is the concept of fear and the political savior. And this is an issue that we have as Christians in the Church.

So, much of the Christian response to the decline of Christian influence and the moral decay of society has been characterized by fear. Alright? So, what happens is is when we have a culture of fear, we see secular people as the enemy. And then we adopt a zero sum game of winning and losing. Right? That becomes the mentality.

So, in a game of winners and losers, the end goal, the end goal of defending Christian values, of saving our country from the enemy justifies the means of achieving that goal. Right? Even if those means are completely anti-Christian in attitude and approach.

It justifies it because the consequences are so severe, right? And so, that is the mentality. And so, this fear has led many Christians to look to a political savior, to a political power. Which is ironic, right? Because that’s what the Jews wanted when Jesus came. Right? And so, it’s the very antithesis of what Jesus did while He was on earth.

And so, the big paradigm here is that followers of Jesus, of all people, should not be known for fear but for hope. Right? We should be known for hope. And we have a hope that is unshakeable by circumstances exactly because we do not put our hope in earthly things. That is why we have an unshakeable hope, because it’s not put in a political party or a politician or even in our religious freedom that our country provides. That is not where our hope is. Our hope is in Jesus and only Jesus.

So, if our country collapses and Christians are persecuted like first century Christians in Rome, by the way, I hope that does not happen, right? But if that does happen, we still have hope because we know that we are but sojourners in exile as it says in 1 Peter 2:11 and that our citizenship is in heaven as it says in Philippians 3:20. We still have hope if everything collapses around us. And that is why our engagement in the political process, but also in engaging non-religious people should be hope-driven, not fear driven.

That’s a big, big paradigm shift in how we approach this, because that shapes the way we engage, that shapes the way we see everything. It’s hope-driven, not fear-driven. And so that impacts the way that we see them.

“Them” is a big issue today in our culture, right? Because we live in this hyper-polarized era, unlike any time in history and it’s us versus them, even if “them” is an exaggerated caricature that bears little resemblance to the, kind of, the complex nuanced reality of who we are, right?

And we like to put these cartoon characters of the other side that we can easily dismiss. And so, it’s easy to hate people that are on the other side because they are no longer image-bearers, they are the enemy, right?

Do you envision real people with hopes and fears just like you? Do you see them as people that Jesus loves so much that He died on the cross for them? Or do you envision nefarious people with malicious intentions out to get you? Like, what do you envision when you consider “them?”

And I don’t mean to be naïve, but approaching the world through a lens of conspiracy theory or malicious intentions doesn’t help you foster a love for people. And so, we need to remember who the real enemy is. Right? We are in a war. We are in a war, but it’s not against people. It’s against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, as it says in Ephesians 6:12. And it’s a war for the souls of a generation who have been deceived.

And so, I prefer to approach people using this thing called Hanlon’s Razor. And Hanlon’s Razor says never attribute malice to that which can be adequately explained by ignorance or deception.

And so, maybe, maybe you’ll be duped every once in a while, but at least you’ll continue to foster a love for people and see the best in people. So, let me illustrate this with a well-known verse; you’ve probably seen this verse before.

It says, “When I saw the crowds, I was angry and defensive with them because they were malicious and plotting to hurt me.” Right? You’ve heard this verse, right? No! This is what it really was. “When He,” Jesus, “saw the crowds He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.”

That should be our approach to people, right? Rather than these malicious, nefarious people that are out to get us and this fear and hostility and fists up, we should see them as people that are confused and helpless and, like Jesus, have compassion on them. That should be our approach.

And so, the thing to remember is that often people’s motivation, politically or otherwise, is technically good when you consider their underlying assumptions, right? They are operating on an assumption and on a worldview where, to them, they believe they are doing right. Right? And so, the challenge is not what they are doing, it’s the worldview that they are operating under.

So, that’s the first thing. It’s our approach to other people. What is our approach or how do we feel and look about them?

The second thing is that we can’t make secondary things primary. Don’t make secondary things primary. And it sounds obvious, but our goal is not to – our goal is to win people to Jesus, not our political perspective. And they are not the same thing. And, often, it seems that Christians are more passionate about their political affiliation than Jesus. Like, the things that they are most getting passionate and worked up about on social media is their political stuff, right?

And there’s some of those issues, to me, that are so secondary and so, like, good Christians can have different views on it. But we are so passionate about it, right? We often get stuck in these downstream battles and secondary issues rather than introducing people to Jesus. Right?

And in terms of societal influence, the law is actually very limited, almost useless, in shaping worldview or changing someone’s heart, right? And so, we need to not confuse political power with societal influence. Right? We, and frankly, we are kind of there right now. We have actually, some of the right-leaning morality, we have kind of “won” in some ways, politically, but I don’t think we have had a lot of societal influence in other ways. Right? So, we have to make sure, again, we separate that. And let me be clear again. This is not about how Christians should engage the political process. This is about: how do we reach secular people? Right?

So, we need to remember that so that as we engage with people who have different political perspectives, we need to make sure we are doing our best to get out of the political box like we talked and avoid debating secondary or symptomatic issues and instead our goal is to point them to Jesus, right?

Now, again, I’m going to say it one more time. We are not advocating political apathy or abstaining from the political process, but as Christians, we should seek to engage and influence every sphere of society, but not from a place of fear and not as our ultimate source of hope. Right?

If politics is not our ultimate source of hope, then we are not going to, like, adopt that win-at-all-costs mentality, because that’s not our ultimate hope. So, that is my key point.

So, next thing about politics. We live in an activist culture and I think this is awesome, because this activism really operates on a framework that connects to the gospel in a powerful way.

We talked a lot before about filtered reality and how we kind of project ourselves. And one of the projections is that we are activists, that we’re making a difference. Often, it’s pretty superficial and, you know, amounts to nothing more than a social media post and wearing a bracelet.

But none the less, there is a desire, right? to fight for something, to be part of something bigger than myself, to care for the oppressed and the marginalized, right? to meet the needs of the voiceless. Like, to stand for what is right. All of these things are good, biblical things, right? In fact, the reason this is in them is because they were created for good works in advance. Right? Whether they know Jesus or not. And God has put them in them.

Like, a more fair way to live out a secular humanistic worldview is just to live for yourself. Right? It’s just to get what you can, right? And it’s about pursuing pleasure and happiness, but an activist culture is about laying your needs down for the sake of others.

So, it’s a really interesting thing. And so, even though a lot of the things that people get into like environmentalism, racism, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ, sexuality, feminism, mental health, suicide prevention, and economic injustice – these are the hot topics, these are the things that culture cares about, even though a lot of these things either are outright anti-biblical or get twisted, right? It says something about people. What it says most importantly is that they believe the world is not as it ought to be.

And that is that, remember when we talked about spiritual conversations, finding a truth that they believe and affirming that? Those that are politically active, that is a key truth that we can hold, that we can affirm in them.

And then the question I would say, how do we solve it? How do we solve these problems that we’re dealing with? Is it really a political thing or is it something bigger and deeper than that?

And so, my challenge to you is we have, these things have often evoked a lot of angry, political, “them” reactions. And my challenge to you is: see them as opportunities to connect and to affirm and then have a conversation seeking the truth together.

Like, how do we take care of this planet? Like, how do we see racial equality? How do we treat, where does love come from? How do we create, how do we treat people who are different with dignity and love and respect? Right? How should women be treated? Can we acknowledge the fact throughout history that there has been a ton of marginalization? And can we, what do we do about that? And, of course, Jesus was so radical in the way He treated women, right? And so, see these as opportunities, not as political conversations. Alright?

So, I’ll give you an example of this. This was last year, I ended up meeting a couple of these guys. They are kind of tough looking, tattooed people. And I saw them and I thought, Ah, they kind of look interesting. So, I went up to them and I said, like, “Hey! What’s – how are you doing?” And then I said, “What do your tattoos mean?” Because tattoos are personal and they are easy things to connect on.

And so, I said, “Yeah, what do your tattoos mean?” And he looked at me, the guy in the back there and he said, “Well, which one?” And I said, “Um, that one.” And I pointed to one that was a circle with three downward-facing arrows. And I found out later that that actually was a symbol representing Antifa, which is a leftwing political movement, with some extreme and sometimes violent elements to it.

But he said, “Well, it means anti-fascist, anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian.” And I was like, “Ooh, okay.” And so, I asked him, “Like, why do you, what does that mean to you? Why do you believe that?” And he talked about, like, kind of the corruption of the system and how you’ve got all these billionaires and their yachts while the poor are struggling and how that is unjust and all this kind of corruption and political stuff.

And then he began talking about, passionately, about implementing his, kind of, socialistic, almost communist system in order to bring about equality. And at that point a well-meaning Christian man that was there doing outreach with us began to have an argument with him about capitalism versus socialism.

And hopefully we realize by now, like, that wasn’t the moment for that. Right? Like, that wasn’t, frankly, he completely missed the point of that moment and that this was not the time to argue about capitalism and socialism, blah, blah, blah. This was a moment where we could connect.

And so, I kindly but firmly took over the conversation and I followed basically a process, a process of first of all affirming in him some good things that I saw. So, I said, “Man, I respect you, because you see the brokenness of this world, you see suffering, and you’re not willing to just stand aside. You want to do something about it. I respect that, because I agree with you that the world is broken as well. And I am an activist too. I’m a Jesus activist.” So, I’m connecting on his playing field, right?

But then I reframe it. And I said, “But the problem is that no matter what economic or political system we seem to put in place, we can’t get rid of the corruption, we can’t get rid of the evil and the suffering. And that’s because I believe the core problem is a corruption of the heart,” I was using his language, “and that there is no political system that can solve that.” And then I challenged him and I told him that as a follower of Jesus, I believe that we can’t fix ourselves and that the only solution was a spiritual renewal and restoration found through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

And then we ended up having this really deep, long conversation and eventually he ended up opening up and he said, “Well, you know, yesterday I was at a funeral and the pastor came up to talk to me and he was talking to me about this stuff too.” And I said, “Well, man, I think God is pursuing you.” And he said, “Yeah, I think you’re right.” And it was a pretty amazing conversation with an Antifa guy that wants, you know, that for most people it was like the enemy that we should stand against, right?

So, how are we going to engage the political process in a different way? That’s our challenge.
Sexuality is undoubtedly the issue that draws the most hostility from secular culture, right? towards the Church. And if you’re going to be actively engaging in secular culture, the topic of LGBTQ+ is unavoidable. Like, it just comes up.

And societal attitudes have changed rapidly in the last few decades, right? That those identify, we talked about this, those that identify as LGBTQ has grown exponentially with each generation.

And so, it’s a crazy thing. And in today’s culture, there’s very little room for rational conversation that challenges the mainstream narrative. It’s tough, right? Because discussions about LGBTQ rights are emotionally charged and they are drawing on themes of justice and equality connected to the civil rights movements of the fifties and sixties. That’s what makes it so hard, right? Because you don’t want to be on the wrong side of history and anything less than total affirmation of all things LGBTQ is quickly labeled as homophobic and bigoted.

And it’s a big challenge. Secular workplaces celebrate Pride Month with no regard for anyone that might not agree with it. Like, it’s a really tough context. And their allies, frankly, are the most vicious in their defense, right?

So, this is a really challenging time for Christians who hold to a traditional, biblical sexual ethic. It’s hard. And the thought of engaging these conversations can be terrifying and paralyzing.

And so, the challenge is, and what I want to begin to unpack is how should a faithful follower of Jesus live in a Pride Month world? How do we do that? And so, let’s talk a little bit about some key assumptions.

The first step in engaging this topic is to recognize that beneath the mask of, like, intense moral conviction there is actually deep confusion and brokenness. At the core of the confusion today is the circular statement, “love is love.” Right? Now, and this statement, as you know, is a banner for LGBTQ rights and it implies that people should be free to love whoever they want, however they want.

But the question, of course, is: What is love? Right? And pop culture messages on love are so confused and conflicted. I mean, love is sex; love is lust; love is a feeling; love is whatever I want it to be. And the reality is that we’re just confused and we are desperate for belonging and acceptance. That’s the core truth that you can hold onto is that people are desiring belonging and acceptance, but they have no idea where to find it.

Even within the LGBTQ movement itself, there is so much confusion, division, and incoherence. I mean, the “L” the lesbians and old school feminists are fighting with the transgender movement, I mean, because what are women’s rights if there is no such thing as a woman? Right? And mental healthcare is in disarray because no longer are we seeking to align people’s mental state to their physical realities or objective truth, but instead align their bodies to their psychological feelings, right? It’s a crazy, confusing time.

And as we already discussed as it relates to politics, Jesus responds to the confusion with compassion, right? That is always Jesus’ response. When He saw the crowds He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

So, like Jesus, as we engage this topic and, you know, LGBTQ community and their allies, we need to start from a place of radical love and mercy. That’s where we start.

So, part of approaching this with love is approaching it with empathy, which means that we need to understand their reality properly so that we can have a better empathy.

So, while some of the explosive growth in those that identify as LGBTQ is just kind of just a trend and oftentimes when people are looking for a place to connect and belong and be affirmed, they are going to identify this way. And so, there’s some of that for sure going on.

But many people really do experience same-sex attraction and they do experience, you know, gender dysphoria and other things that are confusing as it relates to their sexuality. And over the years, debates have raged about whether you are born gay or whether it’s a choice. And the truth is that the reasons are complex and they are not the same for everyone.

And then we need to make a critical distinction between temptation and sinful action. There’s a, it’s a really clear thing. Because temptation is not a sin, but the action in thought and deed in response to the temptation is.

And we know this because Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way just as we are, yet He did not sin. He was tempted but He did not sin. And so, the truth is that we are all sexually broken, all of us. Each one of us to some degree is the product of sin of others, our own sin, and our fallen nature. And so, that is why we approach this whole topic with humility, empathy, and compassion because we are all in that place of brokenness. And it changes the approach and the mentality that we have when we engage people.

And then we can approach it with love in action. We have talked about this in other contexts but one of the lies of our culture is that in order to love someone, I must affirm their lifestyle and behavior. And this is one of the biggest challenges as it relates to sexuality.

And as we engage this topic, particularly if we are engaging people that are hostile as it relates to this topic, this is actually the first assumption that we need to challenge. Like, we can’t talk about, “Is homosexuality a sin?” or “God’s original design for the body.” We need to talk about, “Can I love you without agreeing with you?” That’s actually the first thing that I need to talk about. And so, it’s challenging, right? Because sexuality in our culture has been tied to identity.

And so, a rejection of my sexuality is a rejection of my core identity, which makes this so incredibly tough. So, that is why the best way to challenge this lie – the lie is to love someone I must affirm – the best way to challenge that is not to argue and debate, but actually to prove it by living out that love. That’s the way you’re going to actually challenge that lie is you’re actually going to love them even though you disagree with them.

And, you know, this doesn’t have to just be people that are LGBTQ, it can be someone that is politically on the other side or anyone that might disagree with you. How are you going to demonstrate that you can love them in action while not agreeing with their lifestyle? That’s how you prove it, by doing it.

And so, remember that people are longing for deep relational connection. Like, that is an assumption you need to remember is always true. And so, if you can continue to be a friend and develop authentic relationships with people, you are able to show them Jesus through your actions. And that is often where it starts. And, again, it can be really simple things.

So, it’s the example of showing love, proving that I can love you and not agree with you, proving that. And that doesn’t mean compromising our theological beliefs at all. Okay? And remember that being in a relationship and association with someone is not synonymous with affirming their lifestyle. It’s about challenging that lie that stands in the way of them meeting Jesus. That’s what we are doing.

Now, a couple other key things to understand in terms of just when you’re engaging the topic, because there are some key assumptions.

The key spiritual, kind of, apologetic assumption that you’re challenging, essentially, is related to purpose. Because the question is: Is there a transcendent universal purpose for sex, marriage, and our bodies? That’s the question.

Or are marriage and traditional sex ethics a social construct that can and perhaps should be abolished for the sake of personal happiness?

Like, that’s the question essentially that we’re asking. Now, in the secular world, meaning and purpose is self-defined. So, there is no transcendent designer that has imparted a particular way to live our lives. You know?

And this world views sex, which is now devoid of the consequence of procreation thanks to contraception and abortion is a personal source of pleasure and self-expression, governed only by the concept of mutual consent. Like, that’s the only kind of thing that you’ve got to stay within.

So, sex in any form or context that does no harm to others is viewed as the ultimate expression of freedom and it’s kind of this liberating, unshackling of social constraints that have oppressed our true identities. Like, that’s the worldview that shapes the kind of sexual ethics that we have today.

And so, you can’t be your whole self, this is a quote I heard in this conversation, if you listen to the rules of others. It’s kind of the mindset that you hear. Now, of course, sadly, the consequences of this sexual free-for-all is a completely different story, right? Loneliness, anxiety, depression are at epidemic levels, especially amongst young adults. Sexual violence has been linked to a copious amount of time viewing increasingly hardcore pornography. And sexual satisfaction is plummeting.

So, sexual freedom has instead led to bondage and addiction. Now, in the Christian view, worldview, because here’s the paradigm. We don’t want to talk about what you can’t do, we want to present a positive view of sexuality, a positive vision for sexuality. And in the Christian worldview, we were created intentionally by God. He created our bodies, minds, and souls with a clear purpose and a way to operate them as revealed in the Bible, that will allow us to thrive, to thrive spiritually, physically, emotionally, and sexually.

So, God’s design for sex and marriage and our body is not about control or limiting our happiness, it’s about protecting us from harm and allowing us to thrive. That’s why He has created His way of doing things. And this is true in other ways, areas as well. And this is one of the ways you can kind of make this logical leap.

Because the more scientists discover about the body, let’s say, as it relates to nutrition and exercise, the more we can align ourselves to that truth, right? Like, there’s certain foods that we are learning, well, this is not really good for us so I should stop doing that so I can live in alignment with the truth of how my body was designed to operate.

And that is a truth that secular culture will buy into, by and large, right? And it’s the same truth as it relates to our sexuality. Because what happens is we are trying to approach someone with love and we want to point them to Jesus, but inevitably, you’re going to have someone say, “Well, is homosexuality a sin?” “Do you affirm homosexuals?”

And dodging that question at that point is just unhelpful, right? So, what do you do in that moment? Here’s how I think you should handle it. First of all, I usually respond, “Well, do you really want to know?” And what I’m begging the question there is do you really want to hear what I have to say or are you just kind of looking to fight me?

And even by asking that question it makes them go, “Okay, no, yeah, I do really want to know what you have to say.” And then the second thing I’ll say is, “Okay, well, if you want to understand my view on sexuality, you need to see it in context.” And too often, we kind of just take it out of context and we don’t understand where that all fits in.

So, if I’m going to explain it to you, let me give you the context. So, the context here is that I believe that every one of us has incredible value because we were created by God, that He loves us and knows us and that He created us for a purpose and that because of that, no matter how I live my life, every person deserves to be treated with love and dignity and respect.

So, I’m challenging the first narrative already, right? in that. And I’m also giving a basis for human value and dignity that the secular worldview does not have. Right? And then I say and because I believe that we are created by God on purpose, that He created us, like we’ve talked about, to live in a certain way for our good. That His rules are not about control or limiting our freedom or fun. It’s about – He wants, He’s like a good dad that wants the best for us and that when we live in alignment with that, it’s how we thrive and how we are healthy.

So, my view on sexual ethic fits there. Now, you may not agree with it, but you understand that it doesn’t mean I hate people and it doesn’t mean that I want to take away your fun. But I actually want what is best for you. And that is the basis why I believe that sexuality is intended between one man and one woman in the context of marriage. That is how it is for our good.

Now, that’s the context from which I can explain it. Now, they may still be offended or they may still not like it but at least they understand the context, right? So, that is my encouragement is that that’s the way you can approach that question if it comes up.

Now, last thing. It’s Jesus first. Sexuality and behavior and discipleship second, right? The goal here is that we are introducing people to the person of Jesus and as they get to know Jesus then the secondary things of their behavior and their sin will be dealt with afterwards.

So, one of the challenges for the LGBT community and secular culture in general, especially those that grew up in the Church, is they have a very legalistic view of Christianity, right? They – and the LGBTQ in particular believe that to become a Christian I have to act and behave a certain way first. And that’s not true, right? They don’t understand God’s grace and unconditional love. And what they don’t understand is that submitting my sexuality to God’s design is a discipleship issue based on trust that God is good, right? And which means I know Him, I trust Him, and that His ways are better than my ways.

And that until I have an encounter with the living God, made possible by Jesus’ death and resurrection, and I surrender my life to Him, and invite the Holy Spirit to live in me, none of that will make sense, right? It doesn’t make sense to give up my sexuality unless I know a good God who I trust and who I will submit to.

And so, that’s why they need to encounter Jesus. And so, as with anyone, the goal is not to convince them to adopt your moral framework, but to introduce them to the person of Jesus. And Jesus is the ultimate answer to the intimacy that we seek. He’s the only one that will satisfy our deepest desire for belonging and acceptance.

And when I experience the profound love of Jesus and understand the beauty of who He is and what He has done for me, all that the world has to offer pales in comparison.

I love the song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” that says, “And turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full into His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

So, rather than focusing on their behavior, focus on introducing them to the person of Jesus. And surrendering their life to Jesus, they are convicted in power by the Holy Spirit to make Him Lord of every part of their life, including their sexuality.