Why I Want to be Remembered for What I'm For (Not Against)
- Ava Pennington Crosswalk.com Contributor
- 2015 21 May
Let’s play a word-association game. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you read each of these names?
- Jim Elliot
- William Carey
- C. S. Lewis
- Hudson Taylor
- Fanny Crosby
Jim Elliot was a missionary with a burden to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador.
William Carey is known as the father of modern missions.
C.S. Lewis was an author, but also a great Christian apologist.
Hudson Taylor was a missionary with a burden for the nation of China.
Fanny Crosby had a passion for worship and wrote over 8,000 hymns and gospel songs, earning her the title of “The Queen of Gospel Song Writers.”
These men and women had one thing in common besides their Christian faith. They were all motivated by what they were for, rather than what they were against.
Who are you? A mom, a dad, an executive, a mechanic, a Christian?
When I walk into a room with a large group of unfamiliar people, conversations usually begin with an exchange of names. We might move on to identify mutual acquaintances or interests that brought us to the event. We might even get to the iconic question, “So what do you do?”
But I would never walk into a room and introduce myself by saying, “Hi, I’m Ava, and I’m against homosexuality.”
Yet, today in many Christian circles, what we’re against has become more than a belief, a preference, or even a conviction. What we’re against has become our identity. We wear it proudly, and we don’t seem to care that we’re pushing away the people we want to reach.
Right vs. Light
The contrast between Christians and our secular culture has increasingly fostered an us vs. them mentality among believers. Many Christians today seem more consumed with being right than with being light.
Problem is, while we are right on a variety of moral issues, is being right the most important focus? After the attacks of September 11, 2001, a prominent American pastor noted:
“Pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"
Many Christians agreed, and still do. Still, an obsession with being right at the expense of relationships with those we are trying to reach can be self-defeating.
Of course, the Bible clearly speaks to moral issues such as homosexuality and abortion. But why are we surprised when unbelievers behave as unbelievers? Even Jesus did not publicly condemn the Romans for their pagan beliefs and practices. Instead, his harshest words were reserved for the self-righteous religious leaders of his own people—the ones who claimed to be followers of the one, true, living God.
A Place for Compassion
What would happen if Christians became known for what we are for, rather than what we are against?
For example, the Christian community has taken a stand on the issue of abortion. To end a pregnancy is to end a life. Not potential life. Life. We object to abortion. We work to change civil laws that violate God’s moral law. We fight for the plight of the unborn.
The world knows we are against abortion. But do they know we are also for the mother?
The baby in the womb is not the only victim of abortion. Women with abortion in their history often struggle with Post-Abortion Syndrome. Symptoms include guilt, promiscuity, and suicidal thoughts. Eating disorders, emotional isolation, and alcohol or drug abuse can follow. Crying spells, depression, and nightmares are common experiences.
Yet these women become experts at stuffing the event behind them. Even if they are saved and serving in church, they are afraid to reveal their secret.
Pam Durham, a crisis pregnancy worker, notes, “The Church can be so anti-abortion that women have a strong fear of rejection. Satan takes advantage of their insecurities with thoughts such as, ‘They’ll never love you. They’ll never accept you. You killed your baby.’ Women are kept in bondage—never able to reach their full potential for Christ.”
Where is our compassion?
Scorched Earth Policy
Compassion reaps a harvest. Self-righteousness burns the fields.
Too often, we stand for righteousness and leave a trail of broken people with no way of finding healing. What makes us think that the people we condemn would be willing to hear us share the answer to their problems?
When the Roman centurion sought Jesus’ help in healing his servant (Matthew 8:5-13), Jesus did not condemn his pagan religion or practices. What Jesus did say was, “I will come and heal him.” No lectures. No pronouncements that the servant’s illness was the just consequences of a sinful lifestyle.
Jesus didn’t practice a scorched earth policy, and neither should we. Stand for morality? Of course. Offer an alternative to the brokenness of the world? Absolutely. Be salt and light in a corrupt and dark world? Yes and yes.
But too much salt can burn and destroy. Concentrated light can blind.
I Want to be Known for What I Am For
“Love the person, hate the sin” has almost become a cliché within Christian circles. Yet it describes our need to stand for biblical values even as we reach out to offer healing and freedom to people shackled by the pain of their brokenness.
God does judge nations for their sin. Throughout history, nations have risen and fallen according to his sovereign plan for history. Yet much of the tragedy and suffering that occurs is the natural result of a sin-sick world. Tsunamis, earthquakes, and hurricanes are natural symptoms of the groaning of this world as it waits for our ultimate redemption. Terrorist attacks are the manifestations of people who are without hope and without Christ.
But God does not call me to judge unbelievers. He calls me to draw them to his love. A story is told of an Arab Christian girl who told a Muslim, “Show me in the Koran where it says that Allah loves me and I will become a Muslim.” There was no such statement in the Koran. In fact, the Koran says Allah hates non-Muslims.
Is this the message we want to send? That Yahweh, the one, true, living God hates non-Christians? That’s not what I want to be known for. I want to be known for my love of Jesus and my love for people who need him. I will stand for morality and against a sinful secular culture, but I will do it with a tender heart and tears in my eyes.
Ava Pennington teaches a Bible Study Fellowship class. She is also the author of Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, published by Revell Books and endorsed by Kay Arthur. Learn more at www.AvaWrites.com
Publication date: May 21, 2015