Mark Yarhouse | How to Care for a Pluralistic World with the Love of Christ (01/29/2016)
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thank you Steve it is a it is a delight to be with you I did complete my graduate training here and I'm grateful for that education I remember the first one of the very first classes I had in psychology we read an article by a really famous Christian philosopher who was trying to inspire upcoming Christian philosophers about how to how to just be the philosophers of the Christian community and that we had our own questions to ask our own research programs to develop so all of us as young you know psychology students were you know kind of writing in their the word psychologist instead of philosopher and thinking of you know that that we had our own research studies to do in our own questions to ask and research programs to consider that we could become the psychologists of the Christian community you could insert anything you're studying right now education art music business that the Christian community needs Christians who are educated and gifted in those areas to to do that work and I'm grateful for that education and training that I had in psychology so then what would what that looks like for me today is that I study the experiences of Christians navigating questions about their sexual identity am i gay lesbian bisexual how does this work in my life people navigating those questions in light of the faith they were raised in and I studied people navigating gender identity questions and sometimes a distress they feel when their biological sex and their gender identity don't align so in I really am an evangelical Christian psychologist in LGBT studies and if you're saying to yourself I wonder how that's working out for that guy yeah you're not alone okay that's a there's no it's not a lot of us in that that's a niche so anyway I am grateful for that background I'm going to talk today I would say though that that that work has put me in an interesting conversation and position in my own field in Christian discussions in secular settings sometimes explaining people of faith to people who are outside the body of Christ sometimes explaining people of faith to other people of faith within the body of Christ and and so it's given the opportunity to do what I'm going to talk about today which is ways to care in a pluralistic world with Christ's love there is no there's no magical answer to this I think we all know what it means to love people but I will tell you this this is kind of the beginning and end of this talk is that learning to love others is really a byproduct of your life in Christ learning to love other people is a byproduct of your life in Christ I'm not great at this but I can tell you I'm better at this when I attend to my life in Christ when that's at the forefront of my day-to-day life I'm better at loving people so I'm going to talk about three things here I want to talk about discerning the landscape making the decision to love and then dedicating your attempts to love really to God's glory and so when I think of discerning the landscape I think there's three lenses through which people look at LGBT issues in our culture today the first lens through which people look at this I called an integrity lens and it's the lens that evangelicals look at this topic through and theologians who write about this will talk about the theological underpinnings of there's an essential maleness and femaleness that from creation was intended to be brought together and when it's brought together in in a union lifelong commitment between two people it sort of lays the parameters then for what's morally permissible and so that that underpinning for many evangelicals is how they look at these issues as they as they come up in our culture a second lens is one I call disability and this is a lens that's may not be a great word but it's a lens that if your secular you tend to think about these things maybe as things that would occur in nature over time so maybe something's not the way it is for most people but these are variations that are non moral issues and so when there is gender and congruence for example it's just a variation in nature over time it's a rare phenomenon but it does happen something like that Christians who adopt that framework tend to think of those variations as resulting from the fall but in either case people who are coming out of more of a disability understanding or that understanding would say they draw more compassion in these discussions they tend to be relating to people with an understanding that this is not something this person chose and this is something that they find themselves navigating and there's really very challenging questions for a person of faith navigating questions of same-sex sexuality or gender dysphoria and so there's a lot of compassion from from that framework a third framework is really where the rest of our culture is where our culture has rapidly moved towards which I call a diversity framework and I think from this lens the people who are seeing these issues through that lens would say these differences based on attraction when you're attracted to the same sex or the opposite sex are both distinguished categories of people and whether you're you have a gender identity that aligns or one that doesn't it signifies a kind of person and a culture to be celebrated now the reason that I point these three lenses out when I say that the beginning of love and in a sense is to discern the landscape is that you could be wanting to love people but be talking right past them because they see this issue through a different lens than you do this came to light to me one time I was watching a Barbara Walters special she was interviewing a young transgender child maybe you've seen the reality show I am jazz and years ago Barbara Walters was interviewing jazz jazz is a biological male who's been raised as female since about age four or five and Barbara Walters was interviewing jazz and jazz older sister and twin brothers and said to the older sis to the siblings how do you how do you talk about jazz how do you explained jazz to your friends and the older sister said well I tell them it's a disorder and it's not something that she chose and Barbara Walters looked at jazz and said jazz what's it like for you to hear your sister talk about you that way and jazz says well I don't like that word disorder I think of myself as special or unique because that's who I am so right there in a family that loves each other there's no doubt about that the older sister is looking at these issues to a disability lens to draw compassion from her peer group don't hate my sister love my sister and uses that as a reference point to pull compassion and jazz says I can't flourish with that language and way of thinking about myself and so she would prefer a diversity lens to understand how she experiences and navigates the world now you could imagine if they also had parents who came at this maybe from a different lens that maybe in lens of integrity or something like that they would speak past one another and have a lot of unintended consequences that come out of that you know friends we do that in families we do that in churches we do that at Christian colleges we do that in denominations and we're doing that in the larger cultural wars around these issues so what I'm suggesting is when I begin thinking about loving people first I attend to my relationship with Christ and then I discerned the landscape I don't want to talk past somebody at one of even where we disagree I want to at least understand the lens through which you see these issues so I can speak to that rather than just declare my perspective I mean the integrity lens resonates with me as an evangelical but I would say that if I just say integrity integrity integrity to people for whom their lenses diversity love is going to be the last thing that is going to characterize this relationship and so I at least begin by discern the landscape then I decide to love and that's no big secret Matthew I'm going to talk about loving people outside the body of Christ and loving people within the body of Christ and we get direction a little bit of direction in both of these areas Matthew 5:44 says love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you Preston sprinkle says that Jesus's command to love your neighbor was actually quoted by 10 different writers in 28 different places it was the most cited verse pre ad 330 if there was a Twitter feed it was trending okay so the idea of loving loving people I'm not positioning this as though people outside the body of Christ are the our enemies but I am saying that there are people who experience my point of view my perspective as an enemy to their point of view and I'm to love them and be in relationship with them insofar as it's up to me in Romans 12:18 it says if it's possible as far as it depends on you live at peace with everyone Hebrews 12:14 make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy now John Calvin reminds us that we have to weigh those efforts at living in peace against a willingness to undergo the hatred of anybody for the name of Christ you have to be willing to not be liked if it comes down to it being about who Christ is so I don't want to have being courteous mean that we're complicit in things that are morally concerning but that is the rub how do i discern I want to make sure that if I'm disliked it's for the right reasons and that is something that's very sobering for me to think about making sure that I'm the kind of person where I'm not giving people cause to hate me and I make sure that people who see me as enemy see it because of being about Christ not about me I would say that in my field LGBT studies what's helped me is to demonstrate convicted civility Richard Mao uses this phrase to describe a challenge for Christians in our culture today he says we need Christians who are strong on convictions and remarkable and civility but when you look around you do see Christians talking about this topic who are strong on convictions but you really don't want them representing you to a broader culture because sometimes they're just not gracious and how they interact with people but then you have other Christians who are so strong on civility you have no idea what they believe and so you need Christians with convicted civility and the only thing I would add to that is I would seasoned that convicted civility I would seasoned it with compassion a willingness to see through the eyes of the other to recognize the different lenses that may be in play and how we understand these topics one time I had a local activist was coming to my university to protest me I was giving a talk on my own research at my own University it was kind of interesting dynamic and I was thinking about what is convicted civility seasoned with compassion do with something like that and I was talking with a friend a mature Christian about this I don't make too many decisions like this on my own and so that's another suggestion is to do it in relationship with a community of other mature believers but we decided it might be best to call the person and invite them I mean they're coming anyway so I so I called the person and I said like you to be my guest and and I'd like to have some time with you to develop the kind of relationship that would thicken the plot of maybe how you see me and he took me up on that I mean he did come he had put out a YouTube video calling all of his friends to come and stare down this son of a gun I'm editing it slightly for this audience but and they did they filled the first three rows and they were they were wanting to make sure what I was saying was respectful to people they cared about and so we talked afterwards about these things and I met with him and other people for a few times and he actually got back and made a video and said you know it wasn't what I thought it was going to be he was more respectful than I was expecting and I don't agree with everything he said but I have to acknowledge this and I would say that he said to me over coffee later that he was really widely criticized for not using that opportunity to criticize me publicly in a more aggressive way and he was really frustrated with the cultural wars around these issues and he actually has shared with me he's kind of pulled out of that just for him he's just not this is not what he wants to be about anymore another person shared with me who was protesting me we went out for coffee and sorry I don't know how else to say it but we were having coffee and he he said you're not at all what I thought you'd be like I thought from what people talked about you you'd have horns coming out of your head and smoke coming out of your nostrils you're really a nice guy now this person was raised in the church and he was so impressed with how Christians interacted with him at this event and beyond that he decided to revisit the faith of his childhood and he has sense rededicated his life to Christ and he's now that doesn't you know that doesn't answer a lot of complex issues about his same-sex sexuality and and where he goes with that and how he navigates that terrain but it wouldn't have even been possible for him to reconsider a life in Christ had he continued to have the interactions he had had with Christians growing up do you see where I'm going with that now most people that I interact with don't have that kind of a radical revisiting of a faith they were raised in but it's not even possible if you don't have a relationship with people premise 2 on a spirit of love towards people who believe you to be their enemy and I would say that opportunities to talk about faith often come after you listen to people and enter into a relationship and people are talking past one another in our churches and in our culture and I get that people want to protect people that they love people want to defend the Word of God that they feel is being pushed to the margins people want to protect youth they feel as especially vulnerable people feel silenced because they don't know how to say what they believe without being called all kinds of names a few summers ago people didn't know where to buy their chicken sandwich you bought it at one place you protested at another place and you remember this summer I remember it distinctly because I was in a group of people who were working together to address the concerns facing LGBT people in Corrections and this was the summer of the chicken sandwich and I and everybody in the room was saying how much they hated this one company and I was like I kind of like their chicken sandwich I mean it was the I don't know what the dude what do you do so and the reason I got into that was a really interesting discussion I was at my desk and I got this phone call from the National Institute of Corrections and someone was asking me to be a subject matter expert in a group thinking about how to work with LGBT people in Corrections I said look you got the wrong I'm sure you've got the wrong person I thought what I do I work I really work with Christians navigating questions of sexual and gender identity and the person said oh no you're the right person and I said okay I'm really trying to get off the phone at this point I don't know anything about Corrections I'm sure I'm not the right person and she said well that's okay you don't have to know anything about Corrections and I said hold on a sec just back up a second you're the National Institute of Corrections and it doesn't matter if I know anything about Corrections she said yeah it's okay now I'm getting a sense for how the government works like a what's what's going on there so okay so now she explains me what's going on is a lot of prisons are actually set in rural settings where they hire local people to be to work in the prison settings and those local people tend to be conventionally religious people tend to be conservative Christians and what they were finding is that they weren't it wasn't that they did physical violence to inmates but they tended to turn a blind eye when violence happened to LGBT inmates and some of them rationalized it by thinking well you deserve this because you're gay or you like this because you're gay and as I was talking with her I started to realize you know what their their sentence was to be in prison it's not appropriate for them to also be violated in addition to them being in prison and I felt like part of loving was identifying superordinate goals that we could agree on and work on together and as an evangelical I could stand with the LGBT community and say that's not right for people to be turning a blind eye when someone's being assaulted by virtue of them being LGBT so I decided to participate in this and this is when this summer what the thing was going on and so sometimes loving is identifying goals that you can agree on and it doesn't mean you change your own doctrinal position around issues of sexuality but you agree that there's things that you can work on together and I was in I was not sure about this as an evangelical how would I explain this to my own community and actually it was a gay participant in this who helped me with this he had worked on the Prison Rape Elimination Act years ago and had presented it to Congress and one of the very first groups that stood in solidarity with him as a gay man presenting this and others presenting this to Congress was actually an evangelical Christian it was Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship and he said to me yeah give it up for I don't know so he I don't know he said to me you might want to get in touch with them because the gay community has never forgotten that they were one of the first people to stand with us before Congress with this issue and it doesn't mean that chuck Colson became different in his doctrinal position about these issues but he recognized an opportunity to understand and show love for people even where we disagree on other things and it really helped me to realize okay someone was had done that now sometimes you know you could be criticized for that but I thought it was a great opportunity as I understood that Christians could could stand in solidarity in those areas and I also really appreciated I was reading Oswald Chambers in November and a few sometimes read my utmost for his highest but one thing that I have struggled with is explaining myself when I do things like that I don't know if you've ever had that I was having that worry and he has this line he said another thing that distracts us is the lust for vindication st. Augustine prayed O Lord deliver me from the lust of always vindicating myself that temper of mind destroys the soul's faith in God I must explain myself I must get people to understand he writes our Lord never explained anything he left mistakes to correct themselves now I know there's times when I have to explain myself to people but it's kind of something I pray about like sometimes I just need to demonstrate love in a way that God prompts me to and I'm gonna have to recognize that maybe people will misunderstand what that means so I've been talking about how to care in a pluralistic world with Christ's love and focusing on those outside of the church what about people within the church again no great secret to share but I think you do have to decide to love and we get guidance on what that looks like mostly we read this maybe at weddings but you know we know that love is to be patient and love is to be kind it's not boastful or proud it doesn't dishonor people when you love people you don't keep records of the wrongs that have been done you trust and you hope and you persevere now this is the context of of the gifts that Christians are given and building a the body of Christ but our love is meant to be a model also to the world watching us how we love one another shows people that we're serious about the relationship we have with Christ but it is struggle for me how am I to be patient in a soundbite culture how do you display kindness when Barb's and slams are commonplace even among Christians how can I avoid dishonouring others and I do it for the vine culture how can I avoid getting angry about things when I feel people on the margins being hurt or I'm worried about how the Word of God is understood how do you persevere in relationships that become strained when I think about love being kind and not dishonouring people I think about the climate that we set around this very conversation do you know the research we've done the thing that students who are navigating sexual identity issues at Christian colleges tell us is that the climate is so difficult and it's set by other students it's the things that students say about gay people the way that they use gay to say that's so gay meaning that's so stupid the derogatory statements that set a climate could you imagine if everybody on your floor was saying something like that and you're someone who's navigating these issues how likely are you to come forward and say you know that thing everybody's teasing everybody about that happens to be something that's a part of my life you see we don't do that and we don't appreciate maybe how we set a climate that makes it difficult for our own brothers and sisters in Christ to figure this out they're navigating difficult terrain and wouldn't it be great if they had a body of Christ that made it okay for them to ask hard questions and to prayerfully consider where they should go with all this and how they should live their life in light of their same-sex sexuality and I want to be careful too it's that this is a group of people not just to reach down to this is a people to reach across to one of my pastors shared the story and I'll just share it with you a nobleman in the 1800's wondered what his legacy would be and he wanted to leave something behind that would speak to what was most important so we decided to build a church of course that took a long time but when it was done he felt that he had something that would be his legacy the townspeople came to celebrate this completed church and in time someone noticed what looked like a fatal flaw there were no brackets in the wall no holders for lamps and no lamps and the nobleman gave each person a lamp and he said they were to bring the lamp every time they came to worship and when you're here it will be lighter and when you're not it will be darker realize that when you are not here some part of God's house will be darkened you see I don't want to talk about Christians navigating these issues as a people to always to reach down to but to reach across to they're gifted talented people who often feel so much shame about trying to figure this stuff out in a Christian setting and that when the reference point is always can I help you out we fail to realize that they're gifted and talented and they have callings of their own and and they're in our areas of discipline and study there to be valued in their own right for their own person hood it's helped me to know people who've ministered to me as they've navigated these issues they've often lived a costly obedience to the Word of God that's it's sometimes been more costly than what I feel like I do in my life and it's challenged me to live a life of costly obedience so deciding to love and then lastly I want to dedicate my attempts to love to God's glory as I mentioned you're not going to be perfect at this if you left today saying I'm gonna I'm going to try to do this differently because of what that guy was talking about that would be a start maybe I'm gonna set a different climate within my residence hall maybe that would be a place to start maybe when someone cracks a joke you'd be the one to say you know what that's not how we talk about people on our floor maybe that would be a place to start the challenge is that we live in a time when this is all about the cultural Wars about sexuality so as soon as you're compassionate people wonder are you now Pro gay or anti gay right it's if that's the categories we use to talk about this I'm asking us to rise above that and be pro the image of God in all people that's a testimony that the body of Christ could have to the broader culture that we're not going to play into the cultural wars that dictate the terms for how we relate to one another we're gonna rise above that whenever possible and of course other issues of public policy and things like that are important we need thoughtful Christians in those areas and I encourage you if that's God's calling on your life but I'm gonna take my efforts to love and I'm not gonna make them be about me I'm gonna dedicate those to God and to his glory would he be glorified in my efforts but again they really aren't from me I'm at my best in loving people when it's a byproduct of my life in Christ and so when it's a byproduct of my life in Christ what am i doing I'm praying for the people who see me as an enemy I'm praying for people who are friends of mine when we disagree on this one friend of mine what's coming to persevering and love she and I disagree about this in terms of sexual morality but she's a good friend of mine and she was worried that our friendship wouldn't last if she shared with me where she was in this issue and I I said I don't think you understand the nature of our friendship and I I don't know if this was a great image to use here but I had a I was as though I was at a casino and I had a lot of chips in my hands and I shoved them across the table and I said I'm all-in with you like we're friends and that's not going to change by virtue of where we are on this issue and I think it's important and I pray about that but I'm in a relationship with you and our friendship persevere despite differences they're important but reside there between us so friends I'm going to bring this to a close but I want to invite you to consider discerning the landscape making the decision to love and very practical ways and then dedicating those efforts to God's glory knowing that you're at your best and loving others when it's a byproduct of your life in Christ amen

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