Are conservative Christians fighters by nature who thrive on the front lines of the culture wars? While there may be some of us who tend to be more confrontational, a recent incident suggests to me that most of us who identify as followers of Jesus are drawn to compassion more than conflict and are given to building friendships more than engaging in fights.
Last week, one of the pastors of my home congregation was informed by the police that there would be a gay protest outside of our church service on Sunday morning. A local gay website carried this announcement: “We will meet just before Service begins, and protest as they gather, we will have a silent protest as service is going and let them have it as they leave for the day. Remember we will be peaceful and respectful, something they don’t understand. We are going to STAND TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY to show that our love is stronger than their hate.”
In response, I wrote on my blog: “On behalf of FIRE Church, I want to extend to you the warmest welcome and let you know that we are thrilled that you are here with us on Sunday. We have been praying for you for a long time!”
Interestingly, the blog entry, which ran about 325 words, received more hits than any of my previous entries. What made it so attractive?
Scott Volk, the pastor who received the heads-up from the police, posted a gracious invitation to the protesters on the same gay website that announced the event, letting them know they would be welcomed warmly. “In all our years here,” he wrote, “we’ve only desired to reach out with love to everyone in the local community here whether they are labeled as gay or straight. Hopefully, you’ll see that love demonstrated on Sunday as you protest.”
When Sunday morning came, about ten protesters showed up, and they were greeted with water, snacks, and genuine Christian love. Within a few minutes of dialog, they left, telling us we were too nice and loving to deserve a protest. When I posted an announcement on my Facebook page with this update, it received more “Likes” than any other post in memory. What prompted such a positive response?
On Monday, the organizer of the protest called into my radio show to apologize publicly for the protest, explaining that their “anger . . . was aimed [in] the wrong direction.” He continued, “Once we got there Sunday morning we were greeted with absolutely perfect love. I mean, it was fantastic.”
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.