Every movement needs a boogeyman. The boogeyman is the person that, whether true or not, represents everyone in the opposing movement. Sports is a good example. In my own state, fans of the University of Georgia believe that all Georgia Tech fans are computer geeks while fans of Georgia Tech believe that all University of Georgia fans are drunks.
There are certainly plenty of drunk Georgia fans and a lot of Georgia Tech fans that like computers but these kinds of characterizations aren’t completely accurate or fair. They don’t have to be. In the dark corners of our minds where the boogeymen are created, accuracy and fairness take a backseat to advancing the cause.
The Reverend Charles L. Worley made himself a boogeyman this week.
On Mother’s Day, Reverend Worley preached a sermon at Providence Road Baptist Church where he said that all homosexuals should be gathered up, separated by gender and locked up behind electric fences. I know that sounds very cruel, but don’t worry, the Right Reverend would allow food to be dropped into the fences. Oh, the compassion.
The gospel that Reverend Worley was preaching that day sounded much more like the Gulag than the Kingdom of Christ. His words were in stark contrast to the life of Jesus, a man that was known as a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19) and that spent the bulk of his ministry preaching a message of love and repentance of sins to people that Reverend Worley would have had locked away behind some fence.
In the two minute portion of his sermon that has gone viral, Reverend Worley comes across as arrogant, hard-hearted, self-righteous, bigoted and blood-thirsty.
And sooner or later, if you hold to a biblical view of marriage and sexuality, you’re going to come across that way too.
You may not have a hateful bone in your body. You may have the ability to winsomely defend your position. You may even love and serve those in the homosexual community while kindly preaching Jesus’ message of faith, repentance and submission to his Lordship. But to a lot of people, because of your refusal to break away from what Scripture has to say about marriage, gender and sex, you’ll just be another homophobe.
You will be the Reverend Charles L. Worley.
You should ask yourself if that’s okay. Are you okay with stating the truth with care and compassion only to be written off as just another homophobe? Are you okay with continuing to believe what the Bible says about marriage, even if it means you get labeled as a bigot? Are you okay with being the Reverend Charles L. Worley even though you are nothing like him and hate everything he said about locking away homosexuals?
Paul knew what it was like to be viewed as the Reverend Charles L. Worley. In Acts 17, we see him conversing with philosophers, government officials and anyone else that would listen. In verse 18, he’s called a “babbler” for his efforts. In verse 32, after teaching on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, he is mocked. Paul never said anything about locking the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers behind electric fences. All he did was give a clear gospel presentation to a group of people that he loved enough to engage.
Eventually, this would cost him as it will anyone wishing to engage culture with the gospel.
I grew up hearing a lot about men and women who have been persecuted for following Christ. This Sunday, I’ll begin preaching through the book of Daniel, a book that begins with four young men being persecuted for their faith in God. These stories always make me wonder how I would react in those kinds of situations. Would I remain committed to Christ if it meant certain harm to me or my family? Would I die for Jesus?
I don’t know if I’ll ever be in that kind of a situation. But I’m pretty sure that a different scenario will soon play out and it is forcing me to ask myself another question. Am I willing to be labeled for Jesus? Even though I don’t preach a gospel of hate, detainment camps and electric fences, am I willing to be treated as if I had said what the Reverend Charles L. Worley said in that two minute clip?
If all I really care about is winning the approval of other men then when the pressure gets tight, I’ll cave in like Peter did. But if my main concern is lovingly preaching the full message of Christ’s gospel, I will face opposition like Paul did in Acts 17. And like it did with Paul, that opposition will only mean more opportunities to share the good news that Jesus didn’t come to lock anybody away in prison camps (John 8:1-11). Instead, he went inside the electric fence so that the people inside could be set free from their sin (John 8:31-38).
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 1 Peter 4:12-16 (ESV)