For a short while in the late 1980s, I participated in an AIDS ministry. I remember my friend Bob Winter (who began the ministry in response to his own battle with AIDS) teaching us that it’s easy to be right and yet be very wrong. In other words, we can present truth, but in a manner that rides roughshod over the feelings of hurting people.
I’ve been thinking about Bob’s remark today as I’ve thought about the followers of Rachel Held Evans. These people have indeed been deceived by her liberal approach to Christianity — particularly her rejection of Scripture’s authority. They need to hear the truth that God won’t conform to 21st Century ideas of egalitarianism, LBGTQIA paradigms or the watering down of His Word.
But right now, Rachel Held Evans’ followers are hurting. Their idol has tragically died, and died at such a young age! As they see it, she had helped them grapple with their doubts and questions, leading them to ways of understanding God that they could reconcile with their postmodern sensibilities. For them, her death leaves a gaping hole.
Legitimate discernment bloggers must understand the sorrow that Evans’ followers suffer right now. Romans 12:15 commands us to weep with those who weep. Although we know that Evans led them to a false gospel that endangers their eternal state, we can acknowledge their sense of loss. Really, we should acknowledge their sense of loss.
My cousin distanced himself from me for many years, convinced that my Christian beliefs would cause me to treat him harshly because he was gay. When I heard that he had AIDS, I wrote him a sympathetic letter, affirming my love for him. Shortly after, his lover died, and I wrote again letting him know I understood his grief. Those letters opened up a lengthy correspondence through which the Lord allowed me to share the Gospel!
To my knowledge, he died without receiving Christ. But I rejoice that the Holy Spirit used my willingness to validate his feelings as a way for me to speak truth to him for the last 18 months of his life.
Most probably, the followers of Rachel Held Evans expect harshness from discernment bloggers. They’ve seen us denounce her (and rightly so) as a false teacher. Accordingly their guard is up, and they fully expect us to celebrate her death. Just as my cousin distrusted me, Evans’ followers distrust those of us who have stood against her false teaching. Can we blame them for feeling wary?
These people need the comfort and security of knowing that they can rely on God’s Word. The same Word that Evans taught them to doubt. Those of us who know the trustworthiness of the Bible have wonderful resources to minister to their broken hearts, but we must first exhibit kindness and compassion toward them. Whether they accept the true God or not, they will have heard the right thing in the right way.