I am a Louie Giglio fan. Ever since I first heard him preach in a field outside of Memphis in 2000, I have been moved by his creativity, stirred by his love for the God of the Scriptures, and encouraged by his passion to see young people rise up and make a difference in the name of Jesus. His winsome voice has called the attention of American evangelicals (especially the young) to deeper worship and wider social engagement both here and abroad.
MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell (who was thrilled with the turn of events) pointed out that Giglio was removed from the program for simply “teaching the Bible.” Russell Moore, executive vice president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, observed that Giglio’s teaching on the sinfulness of homosexuality is firmly in the stream of historic Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. As a result of teaching traditional sexual morality, Giglio was unwelcome on the inaugural platform.
What happened to Giglio last week at the hands of the Obama administration is disappointing, but not surprising. Jesus promised that the world would hate His disciples. In America, up until now, Christians have largely been spared the hate. But the day for hate is coming and quick. The response of the secular press to Giglio’s “outing” was swift and harsh. When a compassionate Christian social activist like Giglio is called “an unrepentant bigot” on the editorial page of the Washington Post, times are changing fast.
All Christians could learn from Pastor Giglio’s gracious response to public presidential rejection. He did not lash out, he called the president his friend, and he used his withdrawal statement to draw attention to the issue of modern-day slavery. Giglio also committed to continue to pray for our president. His maturity models “Sermon on the Mount” behavior in the face of persecution. This is exactly the kind of response Jesus was calling for when He told His followers to “turn the other cheek” and “go the extra mile.”
It is apparent from Giglio’s statements to the press and to his church that he has intentionally avoided public comment on homosexuality for many years. In fact, the only available evidence of his views on the subject is a single sermon preached over a decade ago. I am sure that many would like to regard that sermon as a relic of an embarrassing past, like Strom Thurmond’s former views on segregation or George Wallace’s way of talking about black people. Presumably, Giglio could have issued a statement of repentance or “evolution” of his views that would have allowed him to retain his position on the presidential program. Thankfully, he refused to do so.
As a pastor I know that the young people in my church (including the teenagers that live in my house) love Giglio. They listen to him. College students from conservative evangelical churches spend millions of dollars to buy his music, download his sermons, and attend his conferences. He has huge influence. And those young people are watching this entire episode. This is why leaders cannot afford to avoid clarity. We can’t call young people to live and die for the Gospel of Jesus while refusing to be clear about basic Gospel implications for predominant social issues of our day. The Gospel calls us to take a stand on modern-day slavery. And the Gospel also causes us to take a stand on modern-day sexuality.
Believers should note that it was not Giglio’s tone, his language, or any homophobic actions that the inaugural committee and the secular press found objectionable – it was his beliefs. Go back and listen to his sermon – it’s still available online. The truth is that Giglio’s old sermon isn’t embarrassing at all. It’s sound, compassionate, and clear. It’s biblical preaching on an urgent topic. The man who preached that sermon was willing to stand for the Gospel and some of its most potent and pertinent implications for our times. All of us need to learn to preach like that.
In the coming days, all Christian leaders will be forced to choose a side on issues that flow from the Gospel – including biblical teaching on sex and marriage. Intentionally avoiding clarity will not do. None of us will be allowed to take a pass.
Scroggins is pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach.
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