Truth and Compassion in Action

Alan's monthly letter for March 2015

Gay activists prepared to protest FIRE Church in Concord, North Carolina. Their event leader posted their plan on Facebook: “We will have a silent protest as the 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.”

FIRE Church was started by Michael Brown, a radio talk show host, author, and speaker. He wrote A Queer Thing Happened to America, a book addressing the biblical, moral, and cultural case against homosexuality. He’s also spoken extensively on the topic. That made his church a perfect target.

Brown, in anticipation of the protesters’ arrival, posted a blog titled “FIRE Church Welcomes Charlotte’s LGBT Community.” He wrote: 

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! As always, you will only meet with love, kindness, and respect from the FIRE leadership and congregants, and we proclaim to you once again the amazing grace of God. Jesus died to save us from our sins, heterosexual and homosexual alike, and only in Him can we find forgiveness, redemption, and transformation…. Our doors are open to you, our hearts are open to you, and as Jesus gave Himself for your salvation and well-being, we are committed to following in His footsteps. Should you ever want to have an open forum for the purpose of mutually respectful discussion on the issues that divide us, we would gladly host that event in our church building or participate in one of yours. Let us know what we can do to help make that happen.

Scott Volk, a pastor at FIRE Church, posted a note on a local gay website, where the protest was announced: “I just want you to know that you’ll be greeted with the same love and compassion as we always endeavor to show anyone – you are more than welcome!” He even invited any protestor to his home for an evening meal to see that he and his church are not hateful.

When the protestors arrived, they were warmly greeted by church leaders who offered them water and snacks, shared the truth with them, and invited them to join the service. Within a short time, the protestors dispersed, explaining the church members were too kind and loving to protest.

Wouldn’t it be great if all Christians behaved this way? Brown and the FIRE Church congregation were uncompromising in their convictions. They taught what Scripture taught: Homosexual behavior is a sin. They were also gracious and compassionate in their manner. That’s the way Jesus behaved. John 1:14 describes Jesus as “full of grace and truth.”

Speaking the truth in love doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome. Sometimes the truth is offensive or hard to hear, and no amount of compassion can soften a hard heart. Even Jesus experienced rejection at times. In this case, though, it worked.

After LGBT community members of the local gay website heard what happened, many responded. One person wrote, “I want to hear more about this Jesus.” Another wrote, “Even I would be welcome there? It would be an honor to meet Scott Volk and Dr. Brown. I’m beginning to see light as very attractive.”

The protest organizer called Brown’s radio show the next day to publically apologize for the protest. He said, “Once we got there Sunday morning, we were greeted with absolutely perfect love. I mean, it was fantastic.”

That’s why my presentation on homosexuality is subtitled “Truth and Compassion.” It’s not just a clever title. It’s a specific strategy for how the body of Christ must move forward on this controversial topic. We must stand for the truth, yet speak it with compassion.

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Alan Shlemon

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