Is It Wrong to Meet with Your Ideological Opposite?
Jim Daly Jim Daly is president and chief executive officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive.
- 2014 Feb 05
I shared my experience meeting with a well-known homosexual activist. I remember feeling the Lord’s prompting to reach out to this man – and pushing off that meeting for months. (I recently shared more about this meeting with the Catalyst conference via video.)
You might have also heard in the news awhile back that I’ve met with abortion rights groups in hopes that we might find a way to realize their stated goal of making abortion more rare.
Each year, I make sure to chat with people who might disagree with the principles I hold dear and that Focus on the Family promotes. For example, just last year I spoke with a group of about 125 local university students about faith, homosexuality and cultural engagement in a Q&A format. (You can watch the video online.)
Some of my Christian brothers and sisters have asked me, “Why?”
Others have been less charitable and asked pointedly, “Why bother?”
I can see why some might have doubts about the effectiveness of this “strategy” of sitting down with your ideological opposite.
But, to me, engaging with these men and women is not a matter of strategy – it’s the way I’m trying to live out the Great Commission.
Let me explain it this way: in Acts 7, we read about Stephen’s speech to the high priest, where he laid out the Gospel message. Stephen’s words so infuriated the council members that they dragged him out of the city and started throwing stones at him. Then we read in Acts 8, “Saul approved the stoning of Stephen.”
Saul, who persecuted the Early Church, would’ve been on the top of the list of people “too far gone” for God to reach. No one would have ever predicted that Saul would soon go through a miraculous conversion and become Paul the Apostle, who God used to write the majority of the New Testament and to whom the Gospel of Grace would be revealed.
In the same way, few could have guessed that John Newton, a man formerly involved in the slave trade, would have penned the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace.”
Or that C.S. Lewis, a harsh critic of Christianity, would become one of its most eloquent defenders.
Or that Dr. Bernard Nathanson, an abortionist who admitted to presiding over 60,000 deaths, would become a champion of the pro-life movement.
Or that former gang leader Nicky Cruz would one day convert to Christianity and become an evangelist.
Or that Kirsten Powers, a once self-avowed pro-abortion liberal feminist, would come to faith kicking and screaming and would compel the media cover abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s court trial as a human rights issue.
Finally, no one would have guessed that I, a boy who came from a broken family and who spent time in a dysfunctional foster home with no real faith, would one day head up the world’s largest Christian family help organization.
And that’s my point. You just don’t know what God’s going to do. You don’t know who the Holy Spirit will touch.
It’s not my job to hedge my bets on who’s most likely to “come around” on an issue, or who has the best chance at a faith conversion. Instead, what I have to do is simply be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and engage the culture, and those in it, with truth, love and sincerity.
In the end, I care less about how effective a strategy my conversations might be, and more about making the most of every meeting and every encounter and trust that God might use it for His glory.
Ultimately, the same God who made an unlikely story out of my life might use me in someone else’s life.