In the greatest sermon ever preached, Jesus wrote, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mat. 5:12-13). Persecution takes many forms, but if you want to see one form of it simply go to Ridgedale’s Facebook page and look at the dozens of examples of tolerance from broad-minded people as they help that congregation face what the world thinks of them.
An article by Kevin Hardy in today’s Times Free Press online (http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/aug/21/repent-or-leave/), which reflects some basic ignorance of what the Bible teaches about church discipline, unleashed a firestorm of hateful response by readers who are on Facebook and who in turn posted their remarks on the aforementioned page. My prediction is that things will get worse before they get better for the good people at Ridgedale. Understanding that we do not have all the facts of the case and would not expect a person in the world to give them to us, what we should do is focus on what is alleged. A professed lesbian’s family that attended Ridgedale was approached by church leaders after the woman’s mother publicly supported her daughter as she sought same-sex benefits from the city of Collegedale. As the family’s support of their daughter was public, the church felt compelled by scriptural mandate to ask the family to repent or be subject to church discipline. The family publicly made their exit and a congregational matter is now being splashed across news outlets. But, why is this congregation facing such an outcry and disapproval? The answer will differ from individual to individual, but here are some broad reasons evidenced from people’s responses.
Ridgedale is getting slammed because of the cultural sickness of subjectivity. One woman writes, “I think the decision makers of this church will one day pay for their sins…” Another woman writes, “I think the Cooper’s will be far better off without a church who punish’s them for not turning their back on their child….” Another puts it, “In my world, my God accepts, doesn’t judge and loves all his children!” Still another says, “Wow! I guess we know different Gods. My God offers unconditional love and tells me not to judge others….” (misspellings and grammatical errors made by the original writers). Others’ subjectivity is more subtly expressed, but here is the common thread. People think they get to co-opt God and make Him over in their image.
Ridgedale is getting slammed because of society’s warped view of tolerance. Certainly, so many who commented on that page are not tolerant of anyone who interprets Scripture literally. They are not tolerant of this congregation’s autonomy. They are not tolerant of the view that homosexuality is a sin. It is abundantly clear from the comments. You will read such slurs as “bigot,” “hoping the church burns in hell,” “Scumbag Church,” “group of horrible people,” and more. This is dripping with irony.
Ridgedale is getting slammed because the average person does not know the Bible. People speak of God loving unconditionally, Jesus accepting everyone, and that one’s sexuality does not matter. There is a famine of hearing the words of the Lord in our land (cf. Amos 8:11). Such lack of knowledge will destroy a people (Hosea 4:6). God’s unconditional love does not mean unconditional acceptance if someone lives in rebellion to His will. Jesus will not accept everyone. To the majority, He will say, “Depart from Me” (see Mat. 7:13-14, 21-23). Apparently, one’s sexuality does matter (see 1 Cor. 6:9-11). But people are grossly uninformed about the only book that reveals the heart and mind of God.
Please pray for Ridgedale. Encourage them and show them love. The detractors are popular and validated by a world separated from God. Let us have the courage to stand by God’s people who are willing to stand up for His will. – Neal Pollard
Neal Pollard preaches for the Bear Valley church of Christ in Denver, Colorado. His blog can be viewed by clicking here.