Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Conviction & Compassion: or What to do with my Democrat, Muslim, and Gay friends

I recently had dinner with a new friend here in Hong Kong. We had been talking about different cuisines and I had been bemoaning the fact that my favorite Lebanese restaurant had closed. When I told him of how much I missed the place and my love for Arabic and Mediterranean food his eyes lit up. "Steve, I am going to take you and Tammy to a Lebanese place you will really enjoy."

And did we! And as we conversed over lamb, humus, hot pita, and red wine he mentioned that although his family had emigrated to the West when he was a boy, he was in fact Palestinian originally and born in Jerusalem.

"Wow!" I thought. I have had a lot of of diverse friends but I had never had a Palestinian friend.

The evening turned out to be full of great conversation and it really got me reflecting. See, I'm a big supporter of Israel. Ever since I read Leon Uris' Exodus in high school I have been behind the establishment and defense of the modern Jewish homeland...and because of that, and knowing emotions can get passionate, I kept my mouth shut. Why?

Because he's my friend...

I think some of the vitriolic talk and bombastic assaults on different people groups, be they religious, ethnic, or social, come because often people don't have friends in those groups.

I'm a Republican...but the reason I don't join in on mindless banter slamming the Democrats is because...I have Democrat friends.

I don't support homosexuality or a homosexual lifestyle...but one of the reasons I rarely, if ever, blog on the issue is because I have gay friends.

I am a Christian and desire to share my faith with Muslims across the globe but the reason I don't engage in demeaning talk about Islam is because I have Muslim friends.

Its a shame some people believe if they show compassion, they sacrifice conviction. Nothing could be further from the truth. Compassion legitimizes conviction.

Jesus gave us the example. The Bible says he was friends with "publicans and sinners" He was friends with people whose lifestyles he wouldn't necessarily endorse or approve of. He didn't protest them, harm them, or even start a radio talk show claiming the end of the world if their evil agendas were allowed unchecked.

Instead, he loved them and became an example of a better way. His conviction was never lost in his compassion. He didn't tell the woman caught in adultery, "Your sins are forgiven, now follow your heart and if you really love this man, go and be happy." No...he forgave her (compassion) and told her to "Go, and sin no more," (conviction).

Now anyone that knows me knows I love good argument. I am quite happy to debate political, social, and religious issues just about anytime and anyplace...but I refuse to join the mob and too much of the American political landscape has been overrun by a mob mentality. Intellectual discourse has all but disappeared...and much of the reason is the balkinization of society into groups where people are only surrounded by other people that think like them.

Both sides of the political spectrum, Left & Right, are equally guilty but I have a solution...

Get more friends!


Sherry said...

What an amazing post. I really appreciate this one, thanks Steve.

Bob said...

So incredibly well stated. Thanks.

Robinbrevard said...

Ditto; I like your angle on this, Steve.

A few thoughts:

1. What happens after the friendship with your Palestinian friend deepens: do you still withhold your convictions about Israel?

2. You might acquire some more gay friends (even Christian ones) if you would either define "homosexual lifestyle" or quit using the phrase.

I'm Christian, straight, and married for 23 years. But my sister is Christian, lesbian, and as "married" as she can legally be to the same woman for the past 12 years. There is next to no difference in "lifestyle" between us two couples. So what exactly do you mean when you use that phrase?

Steve H. said...

Hi Robin,

Thanks for your input! In regards to your points:

1) No, I would not withhold conviction but the overall point of the blog is to be sensitive to people. I enjoy debate but realize some topics are too sensitive to some people. Since this was a new friend, I would wait to see when (and if) a discussion on Israel and Palestine could happen in a constructive rather than destructive way. Maybe yes...maybe never

2: MMmmm, I'll be honest that I've never heard anyone take issue with the phrase "homosexual lifestyle" before...and I've never heard the term even discussed by friends of mine who are gay. Usually "_______ lifestyle" is fairly neutral whether we are talking about a healthy lifestyle, laid back lifestyle, or homosexual lifestyle. As a married man of 18 years I would have to admit to a heterosexual lifestyle or monogamous lifestyle. I suppose if the term is gaining pergoritive status, I'll have to re-think my terminology

Thanks again....

Alissa said...

Steve -

In follow up to Robin's comment and your reply: the problem with saying "homosexual lifestyle" is that it implies that homosexuals choose to live a certain way. It's like saying, "I choose to live a hippie lifestyle/laid-back lifestyle/ druggie-lifestyle/ whatever..." It's why it is better to say "sexual orientation" than "sexual preference." I have lots of gay friends, and I will vehemently support gay rights. :-)

Steve H. said...


I understand those that support homosexuality would prefer "sexual orientation" over "sexual preference" or perhaps "lifestyle". Much of the argument for gay rights rests on the acknowledgment that that a person didn't choose it, but was born that way.

But I have always struggled with analogous examples to race. I believe the reasons people are gay to be many layered and complex...some being genetic perhaps but others being emotional, psychological, experiential etc. A white man can experiment with being gay, but he can't experiment with being black.

I'll qualify myself this way.

Those against gay rights often say that people aren't born that way, and I say, "Mmm I think its more nuanced than that"

Those that support gay rights say the person was born that way, and I say, "Mmm I think its more nuanced than that"