World Vision's U.S. president, Richard Stearns, just announced that homosexuality goes, at least when it comes to his non-profit staff. In an interview with Christianity Today, the social justice champion insisted his decision "is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support." Nice try Mr. Stearns, but we're not buying your lines.
Add Stearns' name to the list of evangelical leaders whose actions resonate with the controversial and bizarre message of Pastor Andy Stanley who told USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers that Christian business owners need to, "leave Jesus out of it." What is ultimately disappointing is that Stearns and company's wavering convictions are undermining us young evangelicals grappling to live out what the Apostle Paul termed, "speaking truth in love." (Ephesians 4:15)
Can you really blame us young evangelicals for caving to culture, when all we do is look around and see our mature Christian examples doing the same thing?
Cleverly, left-leaning evangelicals like Stearns intentionally try to appeal to conservative evangelicals. I can only guess this is why my Baptist church invited him as a guest speaker not three weeks ago. While visiting, Stearns was heralded as a "game-changer." How misleading it is, then, to turn around and send a message that seems to say a particular sin – coincidently one of the most tenacious challenges at the nexus of faith and culture, is "ok." Personally, I don't think jiving Christianity with culture for the sake of "niceness" is very gallant.
Let me point out the real game-changers when it comes to the challenges our culture presents Christians daily.
Saturday, I joined a group of thirteen young adults at Victory Restoration Church, a non-denominational evangelical church in America's heartland. Some of these young evangelicals are future pastors, missionaries, parents and volunteers. But presently, they are friends, siblings and neighbors striving to share the whole Gospel – the Creation, the Fall, Resurrection, and Restoration. Mimicking Jesus, they compassionately talk about love, grace and mercy. Still, they refuse to leave out the hard topics, as some of their role models do, and they talk about sin, Hell, and forgiveness too.
Often times their message about Jesus 's forgiveness of sin and love is rejected, but they keep praying, keep loving, and keep talking about God's absolute truths.
These young evangelicals are motivated by their love, but they don't end there. For to end at love would be self-centered. They know it would be more about their own ease and comfort than the soul of their loved ones. So they press on.
These young adults endure the long-list of false labels like bigoted, homophobic and mean, though they are none of the above. Also, they are marginalized for speaking up for traditional Christian teachings. And they aren't just mocked by faceless blogger either. They are ostracized by their sisters, best-friends, some even by their own fathers and mothers who struggle with same-sex attraction, addiction, adultery, divorce, greed. Still, these young men and women refuse to retreat when it comes to the Gospel.
Richard Stearns had a great opportunity. He could have stood by those young evangelicals. He could have offered a modern-day example of a man of God who refuses to compromise to popular culture, but continues to love. Yet, he did cave. In doing so, he let us down.
There is value in being counter-cultural, because these young evangelicals will see (some have already seen) God transform their loved-ones. Of course, in their determination to not compromise, they are accused of being unloving to their homosexual neighbors. Meanwhile Stearns will be propelled as a type of beacon of light among the liberal evangelicals and the secular world.
Sometime all too soon in America's future, young evangelicals will have their own congregations, families or ministries. And when the next generation of evangelicals raise the dreaded question, "Why did you allow culture to kill Christ?" there will be many across the country who can at least answer, "It wasn't for our lack of trying."