Addressing Deconstruction and Cancel Culture - Sean McDowell
(SINGING) I may never smile the enemy, but I'm in the Lord's army.
Well, I'm really excited to welcome today's guest speakers, Sean McDowell. Now, as you know, I've been teaching Hunting Giants, a series that focuses on overcoming giant obstacles, like conformity, apathy, and fear with godly courage. Sean is about as courageous as they come. He has a PhD in apologetics and worldview studies, and speaks internationally on cultural, ethical, theological, and apologetics topics. He authored and co-authored over a dozen books and study guides, some with his father Josh McDowell.
I know you're going to get a courage boost from today's message about something that I think has become a modern-day giant, and that is cancel culture. Please join me in welcoming Sean McDowell.
[APPLAUSE] Good morning, church. I told Pastor Skip last night-- I said, man, you're just the cool pastor, aren't you? Like to snowboard, ride a motorcycle-- I said, man, when I get older, I want to be just like your son. Two stories as we start off this morning you might recognize, if you've been following along in the news the past few years-- one is a former professor at Evergreen University in Olympia, Washington by the name of Bret Weinstein.
He was targeted at his university for disagreeing with something a powerful group at the university wanted. You see, for years at this university, they had something they call the day of absence, where black faculty and students and other minority groups would not show up on campus a certain day to remind the rest of the community of the role that they play.
Well, in 2017, they flipped the script. In 2017, white people were told they were not supposed to show up on campus that day. Now, Professor Weinstein found this appalling. Now, what he said is asking people not to come is very different than voluntarily having people choose not to come. So whether you agree with him or not, he was motivated by doing what he thought was actually best for minority students.
So he reached out and sent an email to the administration. Needless to say, all hell broke loose. Protests continued for about a week until finally, at the end of a week, 50 students show up outside his classroom, and essentially threatening him, shouted at him, calling him a racist, and intimidating him. You can see it online. Well, Bret Weinstein turned and sued the university for not protecting him. When it was all said and done, he and his wife, also a professor at Evergreen, resigned-- basically, cancelled.
Another story you might recognize-- do you recognize the name Jack Phillips? Jack Phillips is the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado. You see, he started this cake shop, this bakery with his family to serve the community. And he called it Masterpiece, because he considers each cake an expression of God, who's the masterpiece, through him, showing his creativity in a cake, and also an extension of his ministry.
Well, in 2012, before same-sex marriage was even legal, he was asked to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. Now, keep a couple of things in mind. He had served gay people happily for years, and he had also refused to bake other cakes that violated his conscience, such as cakes celebrating Halloween. So he declined to bake a cake for the same-sex wedding. And by the way, there was another bakery that would do this within walking distance.
The couple turn around and started a lawsuit against him, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission turned around and put a lawsuit against him-- and interestingly enough, compared him to a perpetrator of the Holocaust, which Jack told me in an interview was most painful, because he had family members who fought against the Nazis in World War II. Apparently, not baking a cake is akin to being a Nazi. Well, it went all the way up to the Supreme Court, and Jack Phillips won at the Supreme Court.
When I interviewed him, I said, what was it like to win a case at the Supreme Court? I'm pretty sure I will not have that experience. And he described how amazing it was. But shortly thereafter, another lawsuit was opened up against him-- won it. Now he's embroiled in a third lawsuit. What do these two cases have in common?
And by the way, shortly after he declined the cake, he even got a call from somebody who said, I am 10 minutes away. I'm coming to kill you-- threatened, attacked his livelihood, his reputation because of his position on an issue. What do the two of these things have in common? Quite obviously, what we've come to call cancel culture-- now, if somebody says the wrong thing or has the wrong view, there will be a personal and a private attack, and shaming, and an attempt to silence you forever going forward.
I actually looked up the Cambridge dictionary. I was like, what's the definition of cancel culture? Because we throw this term around. Let's get some clarity on it. The Cambridge dictionary said, quote, "a way of behaving in society or group, especially on social media, in which it is common to reject and stop supporting someone because they have said something that offends you."
So in other words, if someone holds a position, right or wrong, true or false, and it offends you, you stop supporting them passively, but then actively start criticizing them in an attempt to cancel them. Now, when it comes to cancel culture, this affects you and it affects me. See, it's not like if you turn on the news or you scroll through a news app, and you hear about a natural disaster in another city or another state, and you think, oh, that's terrible. I feel bad for them. And maybe you're even motivated to give to help those who are victims.
But it feels out there, doesn't it? Cancel culture's not out there. It affects all of us. We live in a cancel culture. And I want to know how, as Christians, are we going to respond? Because there's two temptations. One is to live in fear of being canceled, in fear for my relationships, in fear for my reputation, in fear for my job-- option A, live in fear.
Option B-- rather than being afraid of being cancelled, join the club of cancellers. Jump on the bandwagon to become that person that, when someone says something that offends you, you cancel them. Last I checked, both of those-- living in fear of being canceled and bullying others and cancelling them-- is not an option for a follower of Jesus. How should we respond?
Allow me to suggest a way through a recent experience that I had. One of my favorite things to do at a church's school universities is what I call my atheist encounter. I bring my atheist glasses, put them on with a primarily Christian audience, and I role play an atheist. I'll give a presentation why I don't believe in God, and then I'll take questions from the audience, who are Christians, and I'll respond as an atheist might. Typically, after about 30 minutes, the audience gets upset, they get defensive, and they get angry, because I'm pushing back giving better answers than they maybe expected.
Well, about six months ago, I was invited to do my atheist encounter at a Christian school in Florida. And when I showed up-- this is a Christian high school-- the Bible teacher said, hey, I actually roleplay with my students all the time. I think it'd be most interesting if I introduce you as an actual atheist, not a Christian role playing an atheist. I thought about it a little bit. I was like, you know what-- this would make it a spicier, more interesting conversation. Let's do it.
So he introduces me to this Christian school-- I don't know, maybe 300 or 400 students, if I remember-- as his friend from UCLA, a philosophy professor in town for a convention, who just swung by to talk about why he's an atheist. We do it, we're done, and I move on with my life, but then, over the next few weeks in a couple of months, I start getting a ton of emails-- almost entirely positive of people-- saying, I saw your atheist role play and I loved it. Thank you.
So I'm wondering, wait a minute-- why are so many people contacting me? Well, I've gone to the website recently of this small Christian school, and that YouTube video got over 2 and 1/2 million views-- blew me away. But then, all a sudden, one day, everything changed again. All of a sudden, I started getting dozens-- and I mean dozens-- of emails of some of the most vicious, ungracious, personal attacks I've ever received before.
You're a lousy atheist. You're a liar. You're this and that. I'm thinking, why did this just start? Well, it turns out that two atheist youtubers-- one who I knew, one who I didn't-- and one who has a huge channel-- did a review of my atheist role play, and they felt like I misrepresented atheist when I was role playing an atheist. S Now. I'm getting piled on by everybody.
Well, at the same time, a bunch of my Christian friends started text me and they said, hey, come on my YouTube channel. Let's do a response. And I thought about it for a while, and I thought, OK, they criticized me, and I actually thought they tried to do it in the right spirit, even though they thought that-- what I should do-- they gave me a suggestion. Don't role play an atheist-- bring in a real atheist.
I thought, so am I supposed to go on a channel, do a response, and tell them why they're wrong-- they criticize Christians, Christians criticize back? I thought about it for a while, and I said, you know what, someone needs to choose to communicate differently. So I reached out to one of the atheists and I said, hey, I actually think you and I have more common ground than you might realize. Would you be willing to just have a conversation with me off the record?
He goes, sure. So we zoomed on a Friday. I had already created a response video I was going to post the following Monday, but a very gracious one, inviting him to do something with me. We Zoom for an hour, friends. This young man is 27 years old. And all I did was listen, and it broke my heart. He grew up in a conservative Christian home and felt like, when he started to question his faith and leave his faith, was canceled by Christians.
He said, I had a pastor tell me, you're going to die alone and burn in hell for eternity. He said, when I was growing up, I had to-- I actually had to learn karate, because I was being bullied so much I need to learn to defend myself. He goes, the pain of being bullied growing up paled in comparison to the pain of how many Christians treated me when I started questioning my faith.
I said, have any other apologists or evangelists reached out to you? He goes, one who said, yeah, let's have a conversation, because I'm going to bury you. I said, Monday I'm releasing a video. At the end, I have an invitation to you. Since you said I should bring in atheists, I've got a suggestion for you. I said, here's my cell number. If you accept my suggestion, call me. Video posts on Monday.
And I walk through and I said, look, they think I misrepresented atheists and I should bring in an atheist. Here's the deal-- I've actually been bringing an atheist to my students for over 15 years. When I role play, it's the arguments I've heard atheists make. So I've been doing this. They gave me a suggestion. I have a suggestion for you.
Why don't you come on my YouTube channel? Let's not have a debate. Let's have a conversation. I just want my audience to hear what you think we as Christians could do better to love our atheist neighbors. And he came on my show for an hour, and all I did is listen to him. It was a powerful conversation.
Why am I starting with this story? Because there is a temptation as Christians, as conservative Christians, to other certain groups-- this other religion, this other race, this other political group. And they're trying to steal our freedom, and we respond in fear. There's a temptation to say, cancel culture-- let's criticize all those people out there who are cancelling people, rather than first saying, have we done the same thing?
How do we better love our neighbor? Isn't that a Christian response? When Jesus said in Matthew 7, judge not, lest you be judged, His point was not to-- His point was not to not judge. His point was take the plank out of your own eye. Then you can see the speck in a brother-- in other words, judge yourself first, and then, like Jesus says in John 7, then you can make a righteous judgment.
What do you think Jesus cares about principally, living rightly-- those in the wider culture who don't call themselves His followers, or those whom Scripture calls the bride of Christ-- which is you and me? Friends, before we blame somebody else and cancel culture, let us look within and humble ourselves, and say, how do we better love our neighbors? Have we bought into this cancel culture lie? And how do we get our house in order first so we can better love our neighbors? Can I get an Amen?
All right, good-- I knew there were at least a few Baptists here. Right, with that said, one question I have when I hear this talk about cancel culture is, why now? What is it that we find ourselves in this moment where cancel culture is all the rage, and it's captured our society? And I think of the movie in 2000 The Perfect Storm that was based upon a 1991 storm off the coast of Massachusetts.
And it's called The Perfect Storm because at least two fronts that were themselves massive moved in the same place, and the same time, and created a huge storm. In fact, in the movie, it's about a boat that has this catch, and if they wait through the storm, they won't make it home. So they rush through thinking they can make it, but the storm is just too big and too powerful. So a perfect storm is this idea of certain things coalesce in the same place at the same time, and create a certain phenomena.
Well, I think we have cancel culture because certain things have been moving into the same place at the same time. And in fact, when I think about our culture, it makes perfect sense that we have cancel culture. I'd be surprised if we didn't. So what are those factors moving together that create cancel culture? I think there's three of them, and I think the first one is we have a mental health epidemic in America.
And by that, I mean we have a lot of hurting people, in the Church and outside of the Church. And COVID has only exacerbated what was already moving, and becoming a hockey stick exponential growth-- loneliness, depression, anxiety, stress, suicidality, anger, fatherlessness. Friends, I heard one teenager named Faith Anne say-- she said, my whole generation is like a bunch of little volcanoes. You know what that means. That means, right below the surface, there's hurt, and there stress, and anxiety, and they're about to explode.
Pastor Rick Warren said something I think of almost daily. He said, hurt people hurt people. Why do we have cancel culture taking place? Because we have a culture of people who have been cancelled and who have been hurt, and barring forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit, human nature is, when we've been hurt, to turn around and hurt other people. Cancel culture tells me we've got a generation of people who are lonely, and who are depressed, and who are stressed, and are hurting, and don't healthy ways to deal with this, so they turn and they cancel other people because they've been cancelled in their relationships and cancelled in their lives.
I was doing a live stream on YouTube, if I remember, maybe 8 or 10 months ago, at some time during COVID. Time just stopped during COVID, didn't it? And I was having a discussion, and I noticed the comments on the side of what was taking place. Now, normally, I will have somebody monitor the comments, because trolls will come in-- Christians and non-Christians-- and just start creating unhealthy, bad dialogue. So I usually have somebody monitor it. But of course, this time I forgot.
Now, you're probably thinking, why don't you just monitor it? Because I'm that guy-- like a lot of you, I can only do one thing at a time. I cannot multitask. If I'm actually on the phone, I cannot talk on the phone and cut onions at the same time. My wife thinks it's funny. She'll literally take my hands like I'm five, put a knife in my hand, give me the onions, and look at me like, you can do it. I'm like, I can't. I'm talking.
So the thought actually hit me recently, when I was driving through McDonald's-- this person is taking an order and delivering an order. I was like, I couldn't do nothing job. So I'm doing this live stream to the world, and these comments are starting, and it's starting to heat up and get spicy. And I see this person, who I assume was not a Christian, criticizing Christians. And instead of the Christians being gracious, being understanding, trying to be positive, they just go right back at this guy.
And I'm seeing insult after insult, and it's building, it's building, and building. And finally, one of the Christians says, well, why are you here even speaking? What gives you the right to be so critical? And I'll never forget how this guy responded. He said, I served our country-- can't remember if he said Iraq or Afghanistan-- I served our country overseas, and I was injured and lost my sight.
Don't tell me where and when I can speak, given how much I sacrifice for this country. And I saw that and thought, oh my goodness. This guy has been hurt physically, and he's angry at God, understandably. And so he's turning around and he's lashing out at others. The moment I saw that, as best I remember, I just simply stopped. I was like, I can't let this go.
I said, I got to pause the conversation for a minute. I just saw a comment from a man who lost his sight serving our country. I said, sir, I don't know you, but I want to first tell you, thank you for your service. I can't imagine what it's like to lose your sight. I am so sorry that this happened to you. I understand that you'd be angry at God and angry at Christians. Please know that God loves you, and I love you too. And there was silence.
Why? When somebody's critical, what's human nature? Get critical back. The Bible says a gentle word turns away wrath. In Romans 2, Paul says it's your kindness that leads to repentance. Proverbs 25:15 says a soft word breaks a bone. Cancel culture says, ramp it up. Be critical. What does the Scripture say? Be kind. Be loving. Be gracious.
I think we have cancel culture-- one big reason is we have hurting people, broken relationships, broken lives, people who've been cancelled. So human nature is to cancel others. That's the first piece of the storm. But there's a second piece of the storm, and it's that we now live in a culture in which there are deeply clashing worldviews. There's always been differences of beliefs, but now these beliefs are apparent. And we're told that all of us have to have an opinion on these, and we have to state these opinions.
So let me give you an example. Around the year 2015 was the year of the Supreme Court ruling Obergefell versus Hodges, which is when same-sex marriage became legal in all 50 states. At Biola University, where I teach, I helped host a conversation with a local pastor, with a radio show host, and with an influential gay-affirming Christian-- in other words, somebody who says, I'm a follower of Jesus, and I think the Bible is fine with certain same-sex relationships.
Now, we're having this conversation about how the Church is going to navigate this ruling that was coming. And I'll never forget what I asked this Christian, who is, quote, "gay-affirming." I said, I need to have some clarity from you. Are you saying I can hold on to my theology-- in other words, that God designed marriage one man, one woman, one flesh, one lifetime-- but need to be more kind and gracious in my interaction with the gay community, or are you saying, to be loving, I actually have to change my theology?
You know the answer was? If you don't change your theology, you cannot be loving. Now, do you realize that? I'm not saying every single gay-affirming person says that, but the narrative we hear in our culture is, why do LGBTQ kids suffer? Because Christians and others don't accept them for who they are. That's why they suffer. In other words, from this perspective, your theology kills. That's a pretty serious claim.
Now, where I sit, the Bible's very clear about God's design for marriage. And Paul in 1 Corinthians 6 says those who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God. So somebody's soul is at stake with how they believe and how they act, when it comes to nature of marriage. And by the way, in case you're sitting here going, yes, preach it. If you read 1 Corinthians 6, Paul also mentions certain immoral behavior that would condemn all of us.
But you see, the point-- one side says, your conservative theology kills. The other side says, actually, you're misleading people about sin and you're misleading them about salvation. Can we see the clash of world views? If you were on the other side and you believed that, you would look at us probably with disdain, and probably want to cancel us as well. But it's not just with the larger Christian community and the culture-- we now have clashing worldviews and issues dividing the Church like never before.
So I was talking with my wife before I left. I said, I got to mention an issue in which we divide as Christians. And I started thinking, but should I mention this? Because I might get cancelled. I'm not kidding. The thought went through my mind. I'm like, this is one of my all-time favorite churches to speak at. If I say certain things and the pastors get enough complaints, they're going to probably naturally not want to have me back. And then my next thought was, why would I not speak something that's true and biblical in a talk on cancel culture because the thought goes through my mind, I might get cancelled?
So let me frame it this way. I remember conversation with my grandpa, who passed away years ago. And I don't remember the details of the conversation, but I'll never forget the point that he made. My mom was a part of it. The idea was, is it OK to burn the American flag? When I was a high school kid I was like, yeah, it's free speech. It's just cloth.
You stop allowing people to burn the flag, it's going to lead to totalitarianism-- that was my view. And my grandpa's pushback was, son-- or grandson-- I served in World War II. I was willing to give my life, and saw many of my fellow Americans do so. That's not just a piece of cloth. That represents your freedom, and even people who burn that flag can only do it freely because of the freedom given from those who sacrificed their life.
Look, that's my grandpa. So recently, on my YouTube channel, I had a pastor friend of mine from the South. He's African-American. And we were talking about race relations. And I said, let's talk about the issues that are dividing the Church. How do you have a church in which issues like kneeling at the flag so divide people? How do you keep unity amidst such charged issues?
So I shared that story with him, and he goes, let me say a couple of things. First off, I thank God for your grandpa on his service. He goes, Sean, it makes sense-- by the way, this guy played in the NFL as well. He goes, it makes sense you would see the world that way, given your experience. He goes, but can I tell you some of the experience in my family? They went and served in World War II, and then came home and experienced entrenched racism in the country they were willing to die for. Can you at least see why some people see the flag differently?
Now, friends, whether you side with A or B, can we at least approach conversations like this? Rather than taking the easy route, which is I'm going to get my camp, and those not in my camp are wrong, and divide, and demean, can we humble ourselves, and listen, and at least try to find common ground? Friends, whether-- whichever side you take on that, what struck me is here's two evangelical, Bible-believing Christians with very different experiences that shaped the way they think about this issue.
And this is within the Church. No wonder we have a cancel culture. We have hurting people, mental health epidemic, and we are more divided on issues. In fact, I was talking with Pastor Nate backstage, and the irony hit me-- that a generation before, we're told good people don't talk about politics, religion, and sex. Now we're told, you're not a good person if you don't talk about politics, religion, and sex. Isn't that ironic?
The third reason I think we have cancel culture is because of smartphones. Look, I love technology. I am on Instagram, and YouTube, and Twitter, and even TikTok, believe it or not, because that's where this generation is. That's where this generation is. But if you step back and think about it, we have a herding generation more division than ever. We're all supposed to have an opinion on something, and now we all have a channel to the world. Of course, we're going to find ourselves in a cancel culture.
So what are we Christians do about it? If I may humbly suggest three things that I think we need to do-- and number one is be obedient, come what may. Friends, I did my dissertation, my doctoral research on the fate of the apostles. Was Peter really crucified upside-down? Did Thomas actually make it to India?
So I probed in the book of Acts and beyond. When you read the beginning of Acts, you have Jesus ascending. You have the Holy Spirit come down in Acts 2. The apostles are doing miracles, and they're preaching Jesus, but the religious leaders of the day want to cancel the apostles. They threaten them, and they beat them, and they throw them in prison, and say, just stop preaching Jesus.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible-- in Acts chapter 5, what does Peter say? He says, no, we must obey God, rather than men. In other words, what Peter says-- he says, I take my cues from God, not from you. See, this whole cancel culture thing-- it comes down to a question. Who do we fear most? Do we fear human beings and what they can do to us, or do we fear God? That's the heart of the question. Do we fear the mob and people cancelling us, or do we fear God?
In the times I've had people try to cancel me, one of the only things that brings consolation is, can I truly say in my heart, God, that I do this with a clear conscience, and I do it out of faith in you? If so, I can deal with the criticism and the attacks. Who do we fear? Jesus said, don't fear those who can kill the body, but those who can kill the body and the soul, and send you to hell. Fear God, not man.
If some of you are US women's soccer fans, you might recognize the name Jaelene Hinkle. Few years ago, she was the best left back at her position in US women's soccer. In 2015, around the same-sex marriage Supreme Court ruling, listen carefully to what she posted on social media. She said, quote, "I believe with every fiber in my body that what was written in 2000 years ago in the Bible is undoubtedly true. This world may change, but Christ and His Word never will."
Now, that's bold. Now, notice, she didn't say, I'm against same-sex marriage. She didn't say, I hate a certain segment of people. She didn't even mention the case. All she said is culture changes, God doesn't-- I'm following after God. And she became a marked woman-- boos and jeers when she played because of this, and attempt to cancel her on social media.
Well, in 2017, she was on the US Women's National Soccer Team. Now, just think about this. If you're a soccer player, think of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into making the US Women's National Team. She was asked to do something that called her convictions into question. Now, think about this. If you're asked to do something you don't think is right and you're on the US Women's National Team, couldn't you think of a million ways to justify this?
Well, if I leave, there's no Christians left. I've worked so hard. God will forgive me anyways. We are really good at justifying things, aren't we? And I put myself in that category. It's human nature. In 2017, they were required to wear jerseys that had the numbers in rainbow flags to celebrate Gay Pride Month. Jaelene said, I felt so conflicted my in spirit that it wasn't my job to wear this jersey. I gave myself three days-- which is smart.
When you get upset, don't just tweet back. Take a deep breath and give it time. Every time I tweet back, I got to go back and delete it-- gosh-- operate in the flesh, rather than the spirit. She said, I gave myself three days to just seek, and pray, and determine what God was asking me to do in this situation. If I never get another team call again, that's OK. Maybe that's a part of His plan, and that's OK. And listen to what she said-- maybe this is why I was meant to play soccer, to show other believers to be obedient.
Friends, she gets it. I'm not playing soccer, when it's all said and done, for the money, for the fame, even for the pleasure I get out of it. I play soccer because I have a larger call of building God's Kingdom and being an example to others. Step number 1, friends-- when it's all said and done, in our cancel culture, you and I have to ask ourselves, am I being obedient to God? Am I living in fear of God in a healthy way, or fear of man? Peter said we must obey God.
Step number 1 is obedience. Step number 2-- the very thing cancel culture lacks is the heart of the Christian faith. What cancel culture lacks is grace and forgiveness. And that's the heart of what makes Christianity unique, that God has grace for you. You see, one of the temptations of cancel culture is to live in fear of being cancelled. It human nature.
None of us want to get piled on on Twitter. Nobody wants to get personally attacked on Facebook. Nobody wants to lose their job or lose a relationship. It's human nature to live in fear. So what happens is, when we live in fear, we start saying, well, it's this political party. It's this religious group. It's this minority group. And we target them and live in fear.
What is the Christian response to fear? 1 John 4:18 says, perfect love casts out fear. We are not called to live in fear of our culture. We're called to live in love of our culture. You know what the number one fear of Americans-- was at least before COVID-- maybe it's changed. It's actually public speaking. More than heights, more than death, more than enclosed spaces, more than sharks-- which I can't imagine is a big fear around here, although it is where I live.
Why? Because when you speak, there's the fear you're going to say or do something that embarrasses yourself before others. You see, fear is selfish. Love is selfless. The solution to fear is to stop thinking about ourselves, and to turn and ask, how do we love other people around us? Friends, when it's all said and done, we have to be obedient, but second, we are called to live in grace, called to live in love in a culture that doesn't have space for love and grace, because we love, 1 John says, because Christ first loved us.
I was speaking to my home church on the topic of abortion and giving a pro-life talk. And what was interesting is, when it was done, we had baby bottles that were around the exits as people left. And we asked people to take a baby bottle, put it at their desk at home, and throw loose change in it. Our local pregnancy resource center made over $30,000 in one year from people just taking bottles, throwing their loose change in it.
That's incredible. So I encouraged people on the way out. I was like, grab a bottle. Just fill it up. When you're done, bring it to the church and we can support the pregnancy resource center. On the way, out my kids were passing them out. And my son came to me afterwards. He goes, dad, you won't believe what happened. I said, what happened? He said, I tried to give this lady a bottle. She says, I'm not taking that. I'm not supporting this pregnancy resource center. If these women have sex outside of marriage, I'm not stepping in now-- they get what they deserve.
Heard that, and I thought, what is happening? She walks out of church and wants to cancel somebody who's at their moment of greatest need. Look, you're not going to find somebody more pro-life than I am in my writings, in my talks, on my YouTube channel, in my classes, but I also know that many, if not most women who have an abortion do reluctantly, and they're hurting, and they're not proud of it.
And in that moment, if the Church comes across judgmental, rather than grace, number 1, we're failing the Gospel, and we're failing those women who are hurting. Friends, it's grace, it's grace that sets us apart. There's a story in Luke chapter 7 of a woman who the culture was trying to cancel. Listen to how Jesus responded. Luke 7:35-50-- it says, one of the Pharisees asked Him-- Jesus-- to eat with him. So Jesus goes into the Pharisee's home, and it turns out-- it says, and behold, a woman of the city, who is a sinner-- now, many scholars think that she was probably a prostitute, but the bottom line is she's described as a sinner.
So sometimes in the Bible describes people like Goliath by his height, people from where they're from, their profession. This woman's identity is that she's a sinner. That's who she is. When she learned that he was cleaning a table with the Pharisee's help, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, standing behind him at his feet, weeping-- not crying-- weeping. She began to wet His feet with her tears, and wiped them with a hair of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with ointment.
Now, the Pharisees who invited him-- can you see the scene? In one sense, it's beautiful. In the other sense, it's probably dirty, because they didn't have clean feet. And her hair-- it might feel like a pathetic scene, although there's a beauty to it. The Pharisee sees this. How does he respond? He said, if this man were a prophet, he would have known what sort of woman this was who's touching Him, for she is a--
She is a sinner. That's her identity. You see, if Jesus had known she's a sinner, He would have cancelled her, not loved her. Jesus tells a story in verse 41. It says, a certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed him 500 denarii, and the other 50. When they could not pay, He cancelled the debt of both. Which of them will love Him more? Simon answer, the one, I suppose, for whom He cancelled the larger debt. And Jesus said, you have judged rightly.
Then, turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, you see this woman? I entered your house. You gave me no water for My feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wipe them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss. But from the time I came, she is not kissing-- stopped kissing My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed My feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many-- third time we're told she's a big sinner-- are forgiven, for she loved much. But he has forgiven little loves little.
And then imagine these words. And then He said to her-- so He turns to this woman, who's covered in just tears, and who-- her identity is a sinner, and the Pharisee and the culture want to cancel her. And what does He say? He says, your sins are forgiven. Friends, do we identify people by their sins and their shortcomings, which is what our cancel culture wants to do? Or do we identify people as beloved children of God made in his image, whom God forgives?
Are we a people of grace and forgiveness? The very thing cancel culture lacks is the very thing that Jesus preached, and lived, and modeled for us. We must be obedient, friends, but we must extend grace and forgiveness-- obedience, grace, and number three, wisdom. We find ourselves in some of the most thorny situations. Should I attend a gay wedding? Should I use a preferred pronoun?
These sticky, thorny, difficult issues-- I always go back to Daniel in Babylon being raised up by the king to be one of the servants of the king's house. And all he had to do is eat the food. But the food was not kosher, so what did Daniel do? He found a creative way to honor the king for the king to get what he wanted-- ultimately, it was not just him eating the food, but it was servants who could serve in his court-- without violating his conscience, which was the creative solution with vegetables.
That's wisdom. The Bible says more valuable than gold and more valuable than silver is wisdom. Solomon could have anything, and he asked for wisdom. Friends, we need more wisdom now as a Church than we've ever had before, and part of that wisdom is learning what are essential issues we divide over and what are non-essential issues in which we show charity. We are not acting a lot of wisdom that way in the Church, are we?
Years ago, I wrote a book on same-sex marriage with a friend of mine, John Stonestreet. We were trying to help people navigate whether you go to a same-sex wedding or not, or whether a baker should make-- bake a cake for same-sex wedding, or a photographer should film or photograph a same-sex wedding. A businessman gave us an idea. He said, why don't businesses like this put a sign on the wall that says, we will serve a same-sex wedding-- all proceeds from same-sex weddings go to focus on the family.
I was like, that's really creative and wise. Now, there's not always a way out of sticky situations, but we need more wisdom how to navigate thorny situations we're in than ever. Friends, obedience, grace, and wisdom-- I happen to think that, when I see something like cancel culture, it's an opportunity for the Church to shine. It is.
When things get dark, things gets rough, we stop living in our own strength and have to rely upon the Body of Christ and the Holy Spirit. In a culture of people afraid of being cancelled, if we're the ones who show real love and grace, and lead with kindness, we have an opportunity for the Gospel to shine in these sadly increasingly divided and dark times. Amen?
Friends, if it's helpful, there's two books back there Pastor Skip asked me to bring. And here's one thing I've found. One reason we Christians get defensive and conversation-- it's because we don't know what we believe and why. We don't have a good answer, so we get defensive. You want to love your neighbor-- you got to know what you believe and why you believe it so we're not threatened by challenges to our faith.
Wrote one book called Chasing Love for Students-- How to Think About Sex, Love, and Relationships-- I talk about sex abuse, pornography, cohabitation, divorce, and how to love our LGBTQ neighbors. Friends, Jesus is the one who gives us the model how to do this. So it's a tool for you to talk with your kids and your grandkids, and help equip and train them how to think like Jesus did so they can love like Jesus loved.
Another one is for parents, teachers, influencers. It's just called So the Next Generation Will Know, and it's simply a guide-- as we hear about all these stories that people deconstructing their faith, let's take a step back and say, what does Scripture teaches about positively how we pass on the faith to the next generation? So if you have kids, or grandkids, or young people in this church, it's a practical guide that says, here are some things you can do to love this generation.
Friends, it's such an honor to come here and speak. In our cancel culture, may this be our finest hour. May we live in love. May we be obedient. May we have wisdom, and show grace to a generation that is hurting and broken, and needs the love of Jesus. Amen?
Father, thank you for this church. Thank you for their willingness to stand in the gap and stay faithful to Scripture. You get with the desire to love their neighbor. I just pray, if there's people here that are in one of these thorny situations right now, God, give them grace, give them humility, and just give them a heart to reach out in love towards people who are broken, and see healing, rather than more division. We are grateful in so many ways, and pray this in Your Name. Amen. God bless you guys.
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