My good friend Tom Tollet lives in Memphis (TN) and was one of the very best friends my late mom and dad had in the final years in Memphis, before retiring to Huntsville (AL). Tom has been a friend since the 1970s and is a solid Christian leader and elder in his local Baptist church in Memphis. He worked for FedEx for many years and now operates his own small family business. When he recently sent me his reflections on recent Christian debates in public I asked for, and received, permission to publish this as a blog.
As I prepare to teach from Tim Keller’s “The Reason for God” I meditate on how the Lord was a friend of sinners while preaching an uncompromising Sermon on the Mount. How do I do that today? I suspect it won’t exactly look like August 1st.
I understand the call to defend marriage and oppose the power plays of certain city mayors, but doesn’t it seem like we simply respond in kind to the opposition ….power for power, rhetoric for rhetoric, manipulation for manipulation? In other words: did August 1st have the aroma of Christ? I’m sure Mike Huckabee would say: don’t be a disciple of mine but of Christ. But do we recognize the difference that makes in attitude and action?
When Christ dined with Publicans and prostitutes or asked a favor of a Samaritan woman, “the Disciples Who Don’t do Anything (quite right)” were clear in their attitudes saying: “you don’t belong in polite society;” while Jesus said with His whole being “but you do belong in My society. I came seeking lost sheep.” The Perfectly Holy One came to them in humility and self-giving. How did He do that? While pointing out that the Law’s demands were even greater then we imagined, He personified grace that overwhelmed by its abundance.
Did August 1st smell like this? Or did it smell of the glandular reaction of James and John who said “how dare they oppose the Lord. Shall we call down fire from heaven? (If not brimstone, how about calling down mighty political or economic power?)
Yes, encourage those brothers and sisters who are “persecuted” for righteousness sake. But always ask: “what is the message I’m sending to sinners?” I must realize that the answer to that question must come by hearing as they hear… feeling what they feel.
Imagine the difference if America had a deep and wide testimony of Christian grace to the gay community comparable to what the European Christians had to the Jewish community as the Nazi threat arose. No compromise of the truth but also no absence of love.
Imagine the voice that says: he hired the disabled, and also the gay and did it sweetly. He trained us that we must respect others and work hard to serve others, but he never forgot that we were people. No one wept so sincerely with me when I lost my partner to cancer. No one so modeled a joyful love of life and of others.
Times are dark and complicated. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Oh I don’t just mean in Kingly judgment. Come before then in me, here and now as a friend of sinners.