What is the Difference Between Addressing an Issue and Engaging an Individual? - Radical

What is the Difference Between Addressing an Issue and Engaging an Individual?

How can Christians faithfully address cultural and political issues while being biblically faithful? Can Christians lovingly engage with others, even when they disagree? In this video, Rosaria Butterfield explains the difference between addressing issues and engaging with individuals. Christians should be committed to giving a biblical defense regarding cultural issues. However, Rosaria Butterfield simultaneously encourages Christians that, in offering a biblical defense, they should always see people as people, not as a position or side of a debate to be defeated. When believers view others as individuals, even when they disagree on a particular issue, it drives them to be good neighbors and friends, pursuing a genuine relationship over time and allowing God to open doors for the gospel to be shared and issues to be discussed in light of Scripture.

  1. Give a Biblical Defense
  2. People aren’t Positions
  3. Being a Good Neighbor and Friend

What is the Difference Between Addressing an Issue and Engaging an Individual?

We are living in a bit of a sandstorm right now and it can be very difficult to know how to respond to certain questions. So something that just came up recently and that has come up a lot, is how do Christians respond to gay marriage? And when we’re responding to a position, I think that Christians are called to give a biblical defense of a position, but it also helps to think through the fact that people are not positions. So when asked why I don’t support gay marriage, and often it’s got a little edge to it, nobody usually asks it like that. It’s “How dare you not support gay marriage?” And “How dare the church impose these rules of accountability to unbelievers and to anyone?” And “What right do we have to suggest that a biblical paradigm of marriage should be relevant to the rest of the world?”

Loving your Neighbor

 And one of the things I like to think about is that we are called to be good neighbors, very simple. And good neighbors never throw a stumbling block between an image bearer and a holy God. And gay marriage does that because it gives a false approval of something that God does not. So having said that, I think that if we can think through how to remember that there are people behind positions, that’s the first part. The other thing we need to do is to realize that with people, it is not a capitulation of the gospel to practice active listening.

Creating Relationships

We have to be willing to be in long-term relationships with unbelievers, and I mean long-term. We have to stop thinking about unbelievers as projects. And we have to remember that God set a part of people from before the foundations of the world. And those people are everywhere, including the LGBT community. So we should have a certain holy appreciation for one another. And one of the things friends do is they’re not afraid to listen to each other. Active listening means you tell me your story and I listen and I reflect back, before I get to say anything else. The other issue that we need to realize is that if we want to say a hard thing to somebody, a challenging thing, we ought to have a relationship whose intensity matches the intensity of our words.

In some ways, that’s just common sense. And being a Bible believing Christian does not give any of us the license to be rude. So you want to say something with intensity, make sure your relationship can carry the weight of that. And finally, we should never think that sharing the gospel does not come with a price. So if you really wanted to put the hand of the hurting and the hand of the savior, you have to get close enough to get hurt. And if you’re not, then you need to get out of the game.

We have a lot of distraction right now in this. And one distraction might be our fear, another might be a kind of false understanding of the gospel. But get it together first and realize that accompanied suffering is a key issue. People want to know where God is in your suffering more than they want to know where God is in your plenty. So when you’re suffering, share with people how the Lord is meeting you there.

Rosaria Butterfield

Rosaria Butterfield is a former tenured professor of English at Syracuse University and author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Crown & Covenant, 2012) and Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ (Crown & Covenant, 2015). Her new book is The Gospel Comes with a House Key (Crossway, 2018).


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