Last week, the news of the Supreme Court's decision to make gay marriage legal in all 50 states resulted in a lot of cheers. Many of the folks I follow on Twitter expressed that this is a positive sign: America is finally making some necessary changes.
But what about the conservative side? How do many people who believe in the God of the Bible feel about the change? At a glance, I saw a lot of mixed reactions myself. Some were thrilled, others less so. Thankfully, no one I associate with reacted with the hatred or venom that many have come to expect from those who call themselves Christians.
Rian van der Merwe explains his own stance by answering a question he hears often. How can you be Christian and support gay marriage? I admire Rian, both for his experience and wisdom in all things product management, as well as for how he carries himself online and places high priority on his family life. And he has a pretty nice beard, too!
So I appreciate him putting himself out there and talking about his stance on this topic. Any time you voice your opinion on a politically charged topic, you open yourself to criticism. The topic of gay marriage has been on the forefront of our culture for a while now.
Holding to a Christian point of view is usually not popular and when so much of our day to day is spent communicating over text rather than face to face … well, these kinds of conversations can go wrong so easily that many times it's easier to just keep quiet.
Kudos to Rian for putting his thoughts out to be shared.
The Authority of Scripture
I admit that I wish he had gone into more detail. For I left his post wondering what exactly does he believe? The content of the post leaves room to infer that while he believes that homosexuality is wrong, he's most concerned with how Christians treat people. Which is of the utmost importance.
But the title of the post indicates otherwise. That he in fact believes gay marriage can be something Christians support. In this light, I was left with a desire to hear more, to how he feels the Bible supports his thinking.
Why is that important? Simply because for a Christian, the Bible is the key to life. It is God revealing Himself, His character and His ways, to humankind. It also includes His instructions on how we should conduct ourselves in regards to him and to other humans. In short, how to live our lives.
For those who believe God does not exist and religion is a fool's errand, following the instructions of an old, dusty book is nonsensical. I get that. But if you've read the what is says and had your heart changed as a result, those words become your life. And they come from God Himself, regardless of what human was used to put words to paper.
No matter the topic, I have to start with Scripture to ensure I'm aligned with God's ways.
The Compassion of Christ
In his post, Rian points out the activity and attitude of Christ:
Jesus spent most of his time with the marginalized, assuring them of their worth as human beings, and using acts of kindness to show them why he is who he says he is.“
Jesus spent time with the those in the lowest social circles of his time. His birth was proclaimed to shepards, a group ostracized from their communities, sent to care for the flocks because they were not suited for any other jobs. He regularly hung out with tax collectors, those who were despised and rejected by their own Jewish brethren for selling out to the hated Roman empire.
Last, Jesus spent much time in the company of women of low repute. He not only spent time with prostitutes, but He spoke with them, spent time fellowshipping with them. In the minds of the religious leaders, this was sacrilegious and would even have made Jesus ceremonially unclean.
It was to these religious leaders that, when asked why He spent so much time with sinners, Jesus replied:
Those who are healthy donʼt need a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.“
He spent time with those who needed healing, who needed what only He could offer. Namely, sinners.
Sin No More
This is where I would differ from Rian's thinking in how Christian's should respond when it comes to gay marriage. If Christ were to come today rather than some 2,000 years ago, would He be eating with homosexuals? Absolutely, I believe He would. But what would He be doing in His time with them?
The best example to use in answering that question may come from John 8. Here we see a story where the religious leaders bring to Jesus a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. By Jewish law, the law handed down by God Himself to Moses in the OT, she would be deserving of death. To be stoned by the people in her community.
The leaders come to Jesus, reminding Him of the law, and ask Him, "What then do you say?" His response:
Whoever among you is guiltless may be the first to throw a stone at her.“
Here we see the heart of God, the compassion of the Christ. The leaders slowly leave the scene, one by one, as they each consider the sin within their own hearts. After all are gone and He's left alone with the woman, Jesus asks her if anyone has condemned her. When she says no one, he replies:
I do not condemn you either.“
I believe this is the heart of what Rian gets at:
We were told not to condemn. We were told to love God and our neighbors.“
Again, amen. But …
This only gives a partial answer. Jesus had one more thing to say to the woman:
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.“
Is He compassionate? Yes. But does He refrain from calling a spade, a spade? Not at all. Although he offered mercy to the woman, he did not approve of her actions.
In the passage quoted earlier, Jesus stated His purpose was to bring healing to those who were sick. He spent time with those who were marginalized, but He also taught them about their sins and commanded them to, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near".
Rian makes an excellent point: Christians must love their neighbours. Whatever their sexual orientation. But that does not mean that we cannot at the same time echo the truths of Scripture.
A Different Question
Rian was giving his answer to this question — how can he be a Christian and support gay marriage? I would answer a different question:
How can I be a Christian and support gay people?
Because of what the Bible has to say about homosexual behaviour, I cannot support gay marriage. Like lying, adultery, witchcraft, and divination, homosexual relationships are called out as a sin and we are told not to take part in these activities. The Bible tells us that it goes against the “natural use” of human bodies.
For the majority of the general population, I realize that will sound extremely offensive. I love my gay friends and neighbours, but I hold to the belief that homosexuality is a sin. For many who believe it's perfectly right, natural, and beautiful, my opinion will cause anger, regardless of how much compassion or grace I show.
Those living in our culture will have to decide how to treat people like myself. Someone who disagrees with the practice of homosexuality and believes that marriage was instituted by God for a man and a woman, but who treats gay people with love and respect. Someone who understands that, no matter what race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, all humans are created in the image of God and should be treated accordingly.
I certainly don't have all the answers. But I'm encouraged to see Christians, of all different backgrounds and preferences, thinking about this entire topic in new ways. All I can do is live my life in accordance to what I believe is right, and love my neighbour as myself while I do it.
Which, in this case, means treating people with love and respect, even when we disagree.
My good friend and all around smart chap, Shawn Blanc, has been working on a new product titled The Focus Course. One could assume that due to my relationship with Shawn, I'd be promoting his newest offering regardless of what's involved. And you'd probably be right.
But there are two caveats to that thought.
One: Shawn is an excellent writer, a thoughtful thinker, and puts his everything into all his projects. So it's easy to promote his launches even when lacking familiarity. I would feel no guilt in doing that.
Second: more importantly, I can attest for the contents of The Focus Course. I had the privilege of being on the pilot and was able to slowly take in what Shawn was pitching. And I can say it's worth far more than what he's offering it for.
Take Your Time
Honestly, I teased Shawn on The Focus Course forums. He's calls it a 40 day course, but truthfully, I'm calling it a 40 week course.
Each day's reading on its own is intensive. But the exercises that go with each day can take far more time than I've been able to complete in one day. In fact, the time needed to reflect deeply on the questions Shawn is asking has been a serious investment for me. The content of The Focus Course calls for meditative reflection, the kind of thinking you do when taking long walks or shovelling the drive way.
Yes, you could do it in 40 days. I recommend taking longer.
And I'll go as far to say that I disagree with some of the thoughts Shawn shares. But it doesn't matter … what matters is that he gets you thinking about the right things and thinking about how you can structure your time and thoughts to ensure you're making the most of what you have.
I went in to the pilot thinking this wouldn't benefit me too greatly. I'm already an organized, fairly focused person. Shawn proved me wrong, way wrong!
The great news is that once you're a member, you have access to the content forever. You can take as long as you require or desire.
Sign up today: it's the last day of the launch pricing.
If you're familiar with the writing of Ben Brooks, you may have come to expect a certain … tone from him. Ben's never been one to mince words and shares his thoughts about products and services whether they're good or bad.
In this post (yes, it's audio, but I'll still call these a post), Ben shares how this voice was not his natural way of talking or treating others. Rather, it was an online persona that grew over time. But he openly shares how he wants this to change.
This is exactly what's attractive about the personal blog. We follow people, not sites. When we get to see them for what they are, the connection we have with them and their work is better for it. Kudos to Ben for being open about his work … and his self.
How's your learning going this week? Have all the articles you've read on your phone improved your life? It's vital that we remember empty knowledge is useless, whereas wisdom leads to improved life. For us, and others.
That seems to be at the heart of Ryan Holiday's point in this post.
No matter how much learning or work or thinking we do, none of it matters unless it happens against the backstop of exhortative analysis.“
We live in an interesting time: we can drink from the firehose all day long. But great thinking requires time, a period of pondering rather than processing. We're all getting quite good at processing.
Give yourself a space to ponder today.
The Hand on the Purse Strings
I've had the pleasure and privilege of working in many different types of environments. From government organizations to my own bootstrapped startup, from funded companies to profitable businesses that took investment 10 years in. And I've worked on partnerships where one side was self reliant and the other had investors to answer to.
The difference in the environments is palpable.
How so? My experience has been that accountability to investors results in a less than ideal work environment and questionable decision making.
First, when you've taken investment, there is a need to hussle. To provide a return in a certain time frame. The effects of this pressure trickle down from leadership to the rest of the team.
And when your team consists of leaders of a certain personality type, the resulting culture can be toxic. We’re all familiar with the startup culture: long hours, perks used to cover up the lack of a healthy lifestyle, and growth for growth’s sake. That type of culture exists when the focus is on a fictional future … it’s almost a game for those who grew up playing with fake colored money.
When you take venture money, you work for your investors, not yourself.“
Unfortunately, the stakes are real for those who work for these companies.
The Motivation Behind Any Decision
While running my own self-funded company, we took part in a partnership with another company that had taken investment. The promotion we collaborated on turned out terribly, barely breaking even. And that happens … you roll with the punches.
But the reaction from my team was significantly different from the other team. We were disappointed, but they were fearful. This promotion was intended to bring some financial gain, gain that would reduce the pressure they were facing. When that didn’t happen, when we barely made up the costs we put into the promotion, my team chalked it up as a learning experience and their team was cursing and sweating.
The problem here was twofold. The pressure these folks were feeling to bring some return on the investment they’d taken caused them to make poor decisions. The entire promotion was rushed. This led to comprimising on some quality, rather than taking extra time to get the details right. And in the end, that showed in the results … which only compounded the pressure they were facing from the start.
The entire experience shaped my opinion that I never wanted to work with or for funded companies again. I would steer clear of any such scenarios. For four years, that held true before vivid memories faded and I took a position at a funded company.
On the other hand, when working in self-funded situations, the experience has been mostly pleasant. The pressure is internal rather than external, which is a world of difference. Leadership and teammates encourage everyone to do their best, to grow, but the motivation is entirely different.
Sure, when you're the boss who has to ensure that there’s enough coming to pay all the bills, that’s a significant pressure. After running Fusion for 3 years, I was happy to have a break from that aspect of entrepreneurship.
But the teams I’ve been a part of in self-funded environments have been the best I’ve ever worked with. There’s been a healthy balance of work and life. Best of all, everyone works hard together to create the best work of their career!
There are very few absolutes in this life. This is certainly true for work environments. It's likely possible to take funding and have a healthy, positive work environment. It's possible (perhaps even common) to work for an overly demanding boss in a self-funded company.
All of my points above are my experience and not a sweeping statement about all companies. Having said that, my personal opinion is that these statements are true more often than not.
When someone else has their hands on your purse strings, it results in a culture that is less than ideal.