Abdel. That’s his name. He lives in Chad, a small country in Africa. As a family we have been supporting him for the last several years. We have seen him grow physically and have enjoyed the periodic updates we get about his progress and the work taking place in his village. Often we can’t read his writing or make sense of the way he uses English. But he doesn’t live here, in Kalamazoo, and so his use of English isn’t the point right?
We support Abdel through World Vision. Recently World Vision made a controversial decision about same-sex marriage and you can read about it here. I know I will offend some of you here. But I am not a supporter of same-sex marriage. I don’t believe that is what God’s intention for marriage and the family is. But I am a supporter of loving people – regardless. Maybe that’s because I have experience Christ’s unconditional love?
So, here’s the dilemma. Do we as a family stop our sponsorship of Abdel, which impacts not only his life the but also the ministry in his village, because the organization our funds go through allows for same-sex marriage? Let me put it a bit more bluntly: Do I stop sending money to World Vision because I might be paying a gay person?
Jesus describes what it means to belong to him as one who feeds the hungry, clothes the poor and visits the prisoner in Matthew 25. James writes this in his first chapter, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
So, now what do we do? I think the right thing to do is to continue to care for the orphan. For a couple of reasons.
First. When we decide to stop supporting orphans because the person helping with that work is gay or lesbian, we have now made that laborer’s sin more important than the need of the orphan. I wonder what kind of message that sends to the world, living in darkness, about the light we are asked to shine? I wonder how the world, in desperate need of Jesus, experience his love in that decision? Have we then communicated that we will love this person over that person, or love our sin but not yours?
This following Jesus in mission is hard, isn’t it?
Second. We set ourselves up as judge over who God can and cannot use. In Scripture we have seen God use donkeys, prostitutes, adulterers, drinking parties (ok, weddings with lots of wine), shepherds and pagans. If we stop helping orphans, if we stop bringing relief to those in desperate need, because of World Vision’s decision, have we put ourselves in the position of God? I’m not saying that’s true for you, but wonder if you would be willing ask the question?
It’s hard not to armchair quarterback God sometimes!
Third. Think how exhausting this way of living will become! While I don’t believe same-sex marriage is God’s design, I also don’t believe adultery is, or stealing, or abusiveness, or drunkenness, or greed, or many other things. But think about it. I am pretty sure that when I filled up my truck with gas this morning that some of that money will find its way into the pockets of someone who is greedy. I am pretty sure that when I bought bread this week that it helped the paycheck of someone who is getting drunk on the weekends. I am pretty sure that my mobile phone bill is paying someone who is beating his wife or children. I am pretty sure that my taxes are supporting someone who is committing adultery. In fact, I am completely convinced that most of my money eventually ends up in the hands of sinners and helps pay their bills. I know, sounds depressing!
Our world is broken and we are seeing the end of Christendom.
But that isn’t a bad thing. I think it gives us a new opportunity to really live deeply Christian lives transformed by the power of Jesus at work in us. Following Jesus requires a deep work of thinking, praying and submission to his Word. We can no longer afford to be haphazard in our thinking or way of being in the world. Living missionally today give us so much opportunity to be the light of the world. But it also requires deep transformation so we know who we are, whose we are and what we are to be about.
What I do know is this, it is really really hard to condemn someone into Heaven or invite them to experience the Kingdom through shame.