So I guess the first question is: Who are they? Who are the "them" in the title question?
Well they could be anyone. Anyone we are trying to reach and influence. Anyone who falls into the category of missing from the kingdom of God. But let me narrow it down a little. They are the people who we end up condemning or speaking out against. Not always knowingly, but sometimes in our desperate desire to promote a Christian ethos, we inadvertently say things that are counter-productive in mission.
So what's got me thinking about this today? Have a guess?
Did you guess that it was some of the comments made over the weekend about gay marriage? Well that's what it was. I struggle with what to say about the issue. On the one hand I understand and agree with those who want to maintain the traditional definition of marriage. I wonder what's wrong with marriage being between a man and a woman and a civil partnership being used to describe the relationship between two people of the same sex entering a solemnised union.
I will hold my hand up and say that I think it only proper that homosexual couples have the same rights in our society as heterosexual couples. It doesn't mean that I think that a homosexual relationship honours God. That's not the issue when it comes to civil rights and liberties.
The thing that bothers me most is that when we speak out as Christians against such proposals as the inclusion of civil partnerships under the banner of marriage, we need to do so in a way that doesn't further remove this people group from the influence of the Gospel, and the love of the God who created them in his image. We may consider that image flawed and inappropriately expressed, but it's in there somewhere and it's redeemable unless I've misread the gospel. And tell me please, which one of us does not present a flawed representation of God's image?
So maybe it's time we stepped back and took a long look at what is really under threat here. I'm not so sure that it's our faith as much as it might be our prejudice. Could this actually be an opportunity for us to honour and respect our fellow human beings who are different to us yet still worthy of honour and respect and more than that, still worthy of the opportunity to engage with the story of God's passionate love for them?
Okay, so we want to draw the lines to defend and define what our faith has to say and what we believe God expects of us. But can we not do that without condemnation?