According to Paul, the church should recognize leaders based on several characteristics. One of those characteristics is a good reputation among those who are outside the church (1 Tim. 3:7). Recently, Phil at “Square No More“, took part in a pagan festival called Pagan Pride (see his post “A Christian Presenter at Pagan Pride?!“). In response to his presentation, Phil received a letter from a pagan couple. This is the text of that letter (which comes from his post called “A response to pagan pride“):
I just wanted to thank you again for the kind and thoughtful discussion you moderated at pagan pride yesterday. I was so impressed that you managed to neither soft pedal or market away the true differences of belief involved or make those differences excessively confrontational. Usually interfaith dialog between any of the, let’s say, ‘Abrahamic’ faiths and other religions is either so diplomatic that it is dishonest about the true nature of their basic differences, or so focused on the differences that they appear as you aptly put it ‘mean and judgmental’ Somehow you managed to find a middle course between these extremes and I have seldom seen this done with such grace.
But but you also avoided two other mistakes (I believe) Christians commonly make in witnessing their faith. 1. You did not speak as if we non-christians had never heard this message before and 2. You did not speak to us non-christians as if we were in need of rescue. I know you likely believe we *are* in need of rescue, but that you were respectful enough to not explicitly condescend shows a good heartedness and sensitivity I am not used to encountering among evangelicals. This is important because this attitude conveys that you are aware that many non-christians are just as comfortable and assured of their beliefs as you are, and just as contented in their lives and full of spiritual hope as well. That is, we are as committed to our stuff as you are to yours. Too many Christians fail to recognize this and this tends to shut down discussion right from the start.
The sort of discussion we had yesterday is also encouraging in so far as the discourse between Christians and non-christians has become increasingly and dangerously polarized, toxic and political. That you have drawn such fire for even speaking with neo-pagans is yet another perplexing proof of it. It just seems so un-Christ-like to condemn you for ministering to neo-pagans, after all, that is exactly what Christ would have done. If there is to be any peace at all and if the political fiber of our Country and Constitution is to hold together we need to continually remind each other that whatever we may believe we are NOT enemies.
Christian Day was speaking with my wife after the discussion yesterday and told her how kind, generous and basically samaritan-like you and your people have been in the Salem community. And in this respect I think we have at least one common belief: argument and discussion is worthwhile and even fun, but it is far more important to persuade by one’s example of loving kindness.
The whole thing made Debbie and I feel great. We’ve been talking about it quite a lot. We will likely never share your congregation’s religious beliefs, but we hope you will consider us allies all the same.
George Popham and Debbie Fields Popham
What kind of reputation do you have among outsiders? Do they recognize both your conviction and a lack of judgmental attitude on your part? Or do you come across as too diplomatic or judgmental? Or, do you even spend enough time among “outsiders” for them to know you?
If you decide to spend time among those outside the church, realize that it could get you in trouble with some who consider themselves righteous – it happened to Phil, and it happened to Jesus too.