- Sunday, March 01, 2009
As I was praying, the safety information card in the seat-back pocket in front of me caught my eye. Specifically, it was what I saw at the top of the card: REV. 11/3, referring to the date of its last revision. However, my first thought was that the Lord was directing me to Revelation 11:3. Of course, my rational side pushed this thought aside, but the Lord persisted, and I felt I must read this passage. I opened my Bible to find these words: "I will give power to my two witnesses." Wow! Needless to say, I was now a little more enthusiastic. As I continued to pray, the Lord brought to mind the differences in our respective goals for this event, His and mine. I wanted to win! I wanted to systematically, methodically, and intellectually destroy the opposition, demonstrating the superiority of the biblical perspective and, frankly, my own, as well. However, the Lord helped me see that this was not His purpose. I was reminded of God incarnate, Christ who humbled Himself unto death. This, I felt, was what the Lord was asking me to do—to surrender my ambitions and my goals of winning and instead present myself as a living sacrifice for His glory. In essence, the Lord was asking me if I was willing to be obedient to the point of public humiliation in order to demonstrate His love for His name's sake. This changed my whole approach from that of polemic argumentation to seeking humbly to persuade in an attitude of love, not opposition.
There were more than eight hundred students and faculty on hand. There was not an empty seat in the auditorium; every inch of floor space was occupied, as well as the perimeter walls. The place was packed! I can safely say that of the hundreds in the audience, only four were there in support of our position. How do I know this? I invited two and my partner invited the other two. This was the most hostile audience I had ever encountered in my life, and the debate hadn't even officially begun!
The debate began and I led off. I tried to limit my statements to the positive affirmations of traditional marriage and the natural family as supported by historical, sociological, and anthropological evidence. (These same arguments have been incorporated here into the subsequent chapter on marriage.) I most definitely did not employ any religious language. Once the crowd saw that I wasn't going to beat them over the head with Scripture and biblical moral arguments, they began to settle down, although I am speaking relatively. Then it was the opposition's turn, and their approach was not surprising. By slinging ad hominem insults and sarcasm, they incited the audience into a frenzy. Suffice it to say, this was not what I wanted to be a part of.
Then it was my partner's turn. To my dismay, he led off by quoting Romans chapter 1, and the reaction was unlike anything I had ever seen. The audience was screaming, laughing, booing, hissing —it was almost demonic. The debate continued for another hour, but honestly I was ready to leave after the first outburst. This had turned into a spectacle intended for the amusement of the audience, who in this case wanted to be entertained by the public humiliation of these Christians. I was thinking, Lord, where are they seeing Your love in this? I was grieved by the whole experience and wanted it to end.
Of course, it did end. As I was gathering up my things and preparing to leave the stage, I noticed a large crowd of students pressing toward me. Somewhat unsure of their motives at this point, I was greeted by the first student, a female. This young woman had virtually everything on her face pierced, and her T-shirt clearly proclaimed her sexual orientation, which was not heterosexual. However, much to my surprise, she thrust out her hand and said, "Mr. Craven, I want to thank you for coming. I didn't agree with everything you said, but you made some good points, and I really appreciated the way you spoke, unlike this @#*&! here," referring rather uncharitably to my partner. Not surprisingly, he quickly left the auditorium. This same pattern was repeated as student after student came forward to express thanks. Then a young woman came forward saying she was a Christian who had been living in a same-sex relationship for more than three years. She said, "I don't understand how something that feels so right to me could be wrong in the sight of God," and she began to weep. My heart broke for this young woman who was so obviously conflicted. Without going into great detail, I began to gently explain the biblical admonitions against her lifestyle while sympathizing with the reality of her attractions; I likened these to the sexual attraction felt by heterosexuals outside the context of a biblically prescribed relationship. I explained that acting upon these attractions outside the biblical prescription is an act of disobedience against God. At this point, I realized that I had reached across the podium and taken this young woman's hand as she wept. This moment was, for me, frozen as I looked up to observe the entire group of fifty to sixty students captivated by this exchange. It was as if the Lord said to me, This is what I want them to see —that I love them and I died for them.
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