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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