Open letter from an Evangelical – What we desire to be

13 02 2020

Since culture has hijacked the term “evangelical,” I thought it might be interesting to capture what an evangelical actually is, as I see it. My hope is that you might let evangelicals be themselves and free them up from the labels they — we — have been given.

The word “evangelical” is the compound of two Greek words for “good” and “announce, or news.” So, we should be known for, and genuinely want to be known for being people who bring good news.

Primarily, evangelicals have come by faith into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, whom we believe to be the Son of God who came in human form, lived a sinless life in order to die a sacrificial death on behalf of humankind. He was buried and rose on the third day, displaying the power of God to resurrect us from the dead and give us eternal life in His presence. These core truths ought to be the most controversial and objectionable facts about us.

But we have come to be objectionable in the eyes of others because of secondary matters we ourselves wrestle over and about which we have differing opinions. The Bible is our guide for living and forming opinions, but the Bible does not attempt to take up every current event or issue in every age. How could it?

So, our task as evangelicals is to wrestle with what the Bible does say in so many words, and what meaning and application God wants us to take from it. This is not such a simple matter.

Let’s touch on a few examples. We wrestle with the matter of abortion. We believe God created all things and that conception and birth are gifts of God. You can understand why we want to protect all human life, from the first instant to last breath. Yet we know that many people live in poverty. Their lives are equally important to God. The mothers who have conceived a child whom they cannot afford to raise are also precious to God. They need to be cared for too.

Immigration is another matter we wrestle with. We believe every person is made in the image of God, no matter their gender, ethnicity, culture, or anything else. We would wish for everyone the right to seek a better life, and understand that God has special affection for widows, orphans, strangers, and those caught in poverty or war. So, we believe immigrants deserve compassion. At the same time, we know that every country has laws that must be maintained, and borders that need to be secure. We struggle with the tension of preserving the lifestyle we enjoy and our own lack of compassion for those who face daily hardship and even danger.

Sexual identity issues are really causing evangelicals to wrestle with God’s plan for family as it relates to culture. Like anything, it is easier to make conclusions in a vacuum, but when someone we love struggles with gender issues, we have to consider it on a personal level. Our Bible tells us that God created male and female as distinct from each other, and that marriage as God sees it is between one man and one woman. When we say this, we are labelled as intolerant of any lifestyle that differs. We truthfully love all people no matter their lifestyle choice, yet society seems to equate love with affirmation. Perhaps you can see our dilemma. We have done a better job of defending traditional marriage than showing love. Labels that have been put on us have not helped, any more than labels we have put on others. For sure, extremists spewing hate do not represent the vast majority of us evangelicals.

There are many other matters that resemble these, in that we have differing opinions among ourselves, and we definitely do not align with one of the major political parties. The Christian virtues of justice, mercy, love, equality, care for the poor, personal responsibility, freedom of worship, and more — cause us to fall uncomfortably into the world of politics and the electoral choices we face. Our preference is that people would try to see us by learning the example and teachings of our leader, Jesus Christ. He alone truly reflects what we aspire to. We apologize for misrepresenting Jesus in many ways. Our selfishness and fears are alive and well, and we have often said or done things which are out of sync with the way of Jesus. We would ask that you look beyond current stereotypes, and the thinking that evangelicals are a monolithic, hateful group. We ultimately want to be known for our love. Thanks for listening and trying to understand.