Last November, just as the Christmas season was about to kick off, Buzzfeed and Cosmopolitan published articles about Chip and Joanna Gaines, the stars of HGTV's popular home renovation show Fixer Upper. Apparently it was newsworthy to report that the Gaines attend a church whose pastor teaches that homosexuality is a sin, prompting the Christian satire site The Babylon Bee to respond with a tongue-in-cheek piece entitled, "Nation Shocked, Horrified As Christians Hold Christian Position." The Gaines remained relatively silent, other than a couple of tweets from Chip which many people understood to be in the context of the controversy:
Tensions were high as people on both sides of the debate waited to hear how the Gaines would respond. Those on one side hoped the Gaines would assure them they did not agree with their pastor and in fact had been just as shocked and horrified to learn that these were his beliefs. Conservative Christians on the other side hoped they would lovingly stand firm in their convictions and offered encouragement and prayer on social media.
On January 2nd, Chip broke the silence by posting on the couple's Magnolia website, where Joanna hosts a blog. As far as I can tell, his post has received a positive response from both sides. It even motivated women's author and speaker Jen Hatmaker, who recently went public with her support of same-sex marriage, to tweet its praise. After all, his main point was to call for love and unity among all.
There is much about his post that I appreciate, and I admire the faithful Christian witness the Gaines have demonstrated on their show and in the media. As conservative Christians, it can be very difficult to live out our beliefs in a society that demands capitulation to its current orthodoxy, which includes an unrestrained celebration of any and all culturally accepted sexual behaviors. If you think I’m exaggerating, just ask Barronelle Stutzman. The Gaines were in a tough spot, and rather than revealing the couple's views on homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage, Chip wrote, "We care about you for the simple fact that you are a person, our neighbor on planet earth." This statement should be true for all Christians, but it leaves out some important points.
By avoiding the deeper issues, the Gaines have, in fact, demonstrated that the culture they are trying to love and care for would not return the favor if the Gaines were open about their beliefs. Although not unexpected, this is both sad and telling.
Chip identified himself and Joanna as "bridge builders." He went on to write, "Disagreement is not the same thing as hate, don't believe that lie," and I couldn't agree more. However, by ending his post with, "Our stereotypes and vain imaginations fall away when we labor side by side. This is how a house gets unified," he may end up causing more confusion than clarity by not defining what he means by two key words, “house” and “unified.”
Biblical unity has to do with Christians being unified with other Christians, not being unified with the world. Christianity by its very nature is divisive, and so was Jesus. In Matthew 10:34, He said, "I have not come to bring peace but a sword." He was communicating that if we desire to follow Him, it might separate us from the people and things we love most in the world.
If we assume that by "house" he means Christians, as I've written previously, there are certain issues that we can't agree to disagree on. Sacrificing core truths for the sake of unity is not unity at all, but a feelings-based belief system which bears no resemblance to historic Christianity. In fact, setting love in opposition to rightness presumes a false dichotomy that sounds more like secular humanism than Christianity.
God is love (1 John 4:8). Jesus also defined Himself as "Truth" (John 14:6). Jesus is God, so by definition He is both love and truth. There is no contradiction between the two. The only contradiction is when one or both of those words become redefined. We are living in a society that has rejected truth and redefined love. "Love" seems to have become a vague concept that primarily seeks to avoid offending anyone. However, that is not the kind of love that led Jesus to the cross or the early Christians to Nero's lions. Love lays down its life for another—and it tells the truth.
If I believe homosexual behavior is the product of human fallenness and not part of God's original design, then I cannot agree to disagree about whether or not it is holy. Furthermore, if I believe it is physically and spiritually damaging to my friend, then if I don't point them to God’s redemptive power, I'm not truly loving them. Simply rolling up my sleeves and "working alongside the very people that are most unlike me" isn't enough. Love goes further.
I’m not suggesting that we as Christians run around calling out the sins of others, which would be missing the point entirely. I’m suggesting that how we define sin will directly affect how we choose to love people—either by shrugging off something that would destroy them, or by being brave and caring enough to have an open conversation about the redemption God offers.
I appreciate the heart behind Chip's post, and sincerely commend his and Joanna's resolve to "live brave and bold lives." God has given them an important platform and I hope Christians everywhere will pray for them. Chip proposed that "laboring side by side...could be one of the greatest restoration stories of all time." I know this: God's love bleeds. It stings—but it saves. That is the greatest restoration story of all time!
*I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the input my friend Diane Woerner gave to this post. She was a brainstorming partner, sounding board, idea proposer, and editor. She would never seek recognition, but the significance of her contribution cannot go unmentioned.
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1/9/2017 10:24:40 am
Beautifully, truthfully and lovingly presented! Thank you, Alisa! I stand with you on every word, and every thought and prayer behind those words! Love without truth is hollow and divisive! And truth without love is not whole and will never lead to true unification! Both have to be presented in equal measure! It's not love society is unwilling to embrace, it's truth! Yet society needs truth just as much as it needs love! Love heals and truth leads! They go hand in hand...as they were designed! We need to guard our hearts, pray and believe, and live lives that will honor Him and draw all men/women to Him...and show them unconditional love AND the light of unbidden truth! Difficult? Yes! But doable? Yes! We can do 'all things' thru Him!
1/11/2017 01:31:33 pm
This is such an awesome post! I couldn't agree more with you. We can't afford to compromise truth under the guise of "being loving". Real love lovingly seeks and speaks the truth!
4/24/2017 04:38:11 pm
"Should Christians Sacrifice Truth for the Sake of Unity?"
4/24/2017 09:59:45 pm
Hi Barry, Citing examples of Christians compromising truth for the sake of peace doesn't mean that is something they *should* do. And yes, Christians have disagreed about many non-essential things over the years and put aside their differences for the sake of unity—however the main point of this post is that we, as Christians, should not set aside *core* truths. There certainly are issues we are not biblically permitted to "agree to disagree" about.
4/25/2017 06:42:06 pm
"Hi Barry, Citing examples of Christians compromising truth for the sake of peace doesn't mean that is something they *should* do."
4/25/2017 07:36:43 pm
Actually, Paul did make distinctions about some doctrines being more important than others. More than once, but specifically in 1 Cor. 15 when he gave what was "most important," regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus. But I'm curious why, as an atheist, you are interested in the subject of Christian unity?
4/27/2017 03:02:33 pm
The likely reason Paul said the doctrine of Jesus dying/rising was of "first importance" was because the Corinthian congregation were so lacking in any signs that they were true converts that Paul lamented that he had to get them straight on the basics all over again. 1st Cor. 3:1-3.
4/28/2017 03:52:08 am
Alisa, I commend you both for your gracious presentation in this article and in how you engage with those who comment and contest your words. May they know you are a Christian by your love, revealed in how you bear witness to Truth.
4/28/2017 07:06:51 am
Thank you, Kimberly. That is very kind!
Great insight. I am new to your blog. Found it when I saw a Twitter post from Jen Hatmaker this week. Followed the trail. Googled her controversial remarks, which I hadn't heard about (entrenched in my job as a public school English teacher) and was so disappointed. Somehow my Googling of responses to her led me to your blog. Thank you for speaking out and for all you do for the kingdom of believers in spreading the truth about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
4/29/2017 10:31:02 am
Hi Melodie, I'm so glad you found my blog! Thanks for those encouraging words.
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