The first mission trip I led as a student was during my senior year of high school. It was an important trip for me. My home life was a mess — pretty much as broken as possible — but the love God showed me on this trip overflowed so much that all I wanted to do was extend this love to other people. This love pursued me. It was not contingent upon my actions, and it follows me to this day.
Most people who dedicate their lives to loving and serving others have a similar story. Rolling up your sleeves and entering into messy and hurting lives — be it with your next-door neighbor or a world relief organization — will force you to be with people unlike yourself, and this is a good thing.
But here is my question: Can I serve people unlike me, and serve next to people who are different than me (in color, conviction, denomination, and more), and still be me?
I think so.
Why would Christians who oppose World Vision’s decision to recognize same-sex marriage be considered judgmental, bigots, out of touch, or worse? Why must they be considered more concerned with theology than loving people? Random people may rail on Twitter and Facebook, but I have yet to see a respected leader put out a call to action to stop supporting children through World Vision. Last I checked, we’re still drinking our lattes from Starbucks and buying our shoes from TOMS, too.
I was Assistant to the President for Millennial Relations at Focus on the Family in 2011 when we hosted their most successful “Style Your Sole” event to that date (so I was told at the time), getting shoes to over 500 children in need. I put on this event from start to finish, and I was there when protests came from the gay community directed at TOMS for working with Focus. When TOMS decided they could not work with us any longer, we issued a statement that said, “Focus on the Family Still Wants to Help Kids Get Shoes Through TOMS.”
We can disagree with each other and still serve people in urgent need. The days of boycotting everything are over, but that doesn’t mean Christian convictions are. Correct theology is loving people, and no Bible-believing Christian is going to withhold service from a person in need who disagrees with his or her interpretation of Scripture.
Pure religion is taking care of the widows and orphans in their distress. And while the enraged millennial bloggers shout “fundamentalist!” at their fellow Christians who are disappointed with World Vision’s decision, they are forgetting that pure religion is also a call to holiness and to keep ourselves from being polluted in the midst of a broken world. They’re also forgetting that many relief organizations, World Vision included, have been started, led, and funded by Christians who hold these same beliefs.
The Bible I read that esteems a marriage that reflects Christ and the church also forbids me from promiscuity, living with a boyfriend, or dating a married man. You can guarantee I would be equally disturbed if World Vision’s stance on employment permitted these things and more. But again, we can respectfully disagree with this direction while still prioritizing the welfare of children.
When World Vision says they affirm the truth of the gospel and the hope of Christ through character, speech and actions, I have to believe that this also applies to their employee’s personal decisions on dating, sex and marriage. So who is re-writing the rules on biblical sexual ethics? Despite World Vision’s claim, their new position is not neutral, and while I hear their desire for Christian unity, this is the last topic you want to discuss if you are seeking unity. Ask any pastor.
As a millennial, I want to help set the record straight. I want my friends who are gay to serve next to me. I will also continue to serve my neighbor regardless of his or her personal lifestyle choices. But let’s cut the political rhetoric and stop minimizing an extremely complex issue. When you are a one billion dollar organization helping people but disowning Christian principles, by all means, feed the children, just don’t claim to do so in Jesus’ name.