Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tone, grace and sensitivity

Peter Wehner wrote about Rick Warren for the publication First Things. He wrote, "Because of the tone, grace, and sensibilities with which he approaches politics, Warren is replacing the 'religious right' model with a new, better, and, I think, more Christ-based paradigm."

Wehner mentions the "combativeness" of the religious right later on in his essay. He also recommends reading a Wall Street Journal interview with Warren.

As one who has suffered his fair share of "combativeness" critiques over the past couple decades I am, of course, interested in this topic. I enjoyed reading the WSJ interview.

A pastor once publicly contrasted himself with me allowing that he does not seek publicity, like I do. He later apologized, and continues to emphasize how important it is for individual citizens to speak out. He is right about urging individual citizens to speak out. I strongly agree with that sentiment.

Related to this idea that leaders will organize individuals while holding their own counsel, and avoiding publicity, is the commitment that Warren has made to not endorse either John McCain or Barak Obama this fall.

While I respect these strategies I also honor the view that pastors and leaders can and should speak plainly about those who aspire to lead us politically. It is good for people to speak their mind. It is also often wise for leaders to hold their counsel, or to listen instead of speak.

My dad told me recently that he found that it was often helpful for him during his career to simply listen during a meeting, instead of speak out. It isn't always necessary to shout from the rooftop. Sometimes it is appropriate and necessary to listen. I often find it helpful for someone I respect to listen to me think out loud with the understanding that I probably will change my mind later on. I like to think this can lead to a better decision.

Wehner's emphasis on tone, grace and sensitivity is important. Jesus was once questioned by a lawyer. He was asked to name the greatest commandment. He replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." He added a second, "Love your neighbor as yourself" and concluded that all the law and prophets hang on these two commandments.

Our witness to the world must fulfill these truths. Just as we are painfully aware of our own state of sin and fallenness, we must allow that our neighbor is fallible. It is this charity and grace that makes Christianity special.

Having applauded the virtue of grace and charity I want to quote my very good friend Peter LaBarbera who heads up the important project, Americans for Truth about Homosexuality. In an email this week he wrote (referencing the liberal church's embrace of homosexuality), "For the record, I will never have a 'welcoming' attitude toward homosexuality or its celebrants, although as Christians we should of course point homosexuals toward the love and forgiveness offered through Christ."

I was glad to see Rick Warren admit to the WSJ reporter that he and Dr. James Dobson agree on everything of significance. It is helpful to the world for a wedge not to exist between these two courageous, and supremely relevant, leaders.

I've no doubt that all of us agree that loving the sinner means hating the sin.

Oh ... and for those of you who are wondering who I'll be voting for in November I will only say .... keep checking in.

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