If We Bend too Far, We Will Break: Bemoaning the World Vision Decision

I have loved the movie “Fiddler on the Roof” since I saw it in theaters when it first came out. It is all about Tevye and his struggle to adjust to modernity. He began the movie trumpeting “Tradition!” and slowly sacrificed those traditions as the world crumbled around him. His oldest daughter wanted to marry the man she loved, even if it meant poverty, instead of entering the arranged marriage her father had made for her. He bent a little to give his permission to that marriage. Then his second daughter decided to marry a political revolutionary and did not seek his permission. Even in his fury, he decided to bend a little more and accept Hodel’s choice.

Then came the film’s crisis. Just before learning they will be forced out of Anatevka by Russian cruelty, he learns that his third daughter, Chava, has sneaked off, contrary to his explicit command, and married a local Russian boy. Confronted by his daughter, who appeals for mercy and acceptance, Tevye struggles once again. “On the one hand…On the other hand.” Back and forth. But then, he utters these words.

“On the other hand, how can I turn my back on my faith, my people? If I try and bend that far, I’ll break. On the other hand… No. There is no other hand.”

This man who was willing to make small compromises out of love found a place he was not willing to go. He would not sacrifice his faith even at the cost of his daughter. In pain, anger, and misery, he drives his milk cart away, leaving his daughter behind. That seems cruel, especially in our modern world of tolerance, where spiritual conviction is anathema. But Tevye would not abandon his faith to make peace.

Earlier this week, World Vision announced a tragic decision in Christianity Today magazine. They agreed to hire “Christians” who were involved in same-sex marriages. In a line that would have made Orwell’s Big Brother proud, the president of World Vision, Richard Stearns, said, “This is not us compromising.” No, this is not compromise. This is them seeking unity in the Body by allowing local churches to decide the issue for themselves. Quintessential doublespeak.

It is my opinion that World Vision, submitting to the opinions of this age instead of to the Word, bent so far in compromise that they did what Tevye would not do – they broke. They turned their back on truth and succumbed to the spirit of the age.

I have spent a lot of time on Baptist blogs (this one in particular) calling on us to lay down our weapons and accept one another – that few of the battles we engage in are worth the bloodshed. Compromise and cooperation are not dirty words – we do not discount our faith to walk in unity with our brothers and sisters. But there are battles worth fighting and stands worth taking. This is one.

And I do not say that because I hate homosexuals or wish to see them punished, discriminated against or ostracized. In fact, I think much of the church’s response (at least in some circles) to homosexuality over the years has been as sinful as homosexuality itself. We have not always demonstrated the love of Christ to these people, but often shunned them and been cruel.

But the Bible could hardly be more clear on the subject – Old Testament or New. I like to use what I call “The Martian Test.” If a martian came to earth and read the Bible, without any cultural conditioning or axe to grind, what would he (it?) come away with? They would certainly come away with the clear idea that the writers of the Bible did not think that homosexual behavior was acceptable.

So, the World Vision concept of promoting unity through the compromise of truth is faulty. They have bent so far that that their biblical commitment, their commitment to the gospel, their status as a truly Christian ministry has broken. Any time you ignore the teaching of the Word of God to fit in with and seek the approval of culture, you have taken a step too far. We do not further the goals of the church by denying God’s Word or by compromising biblical standards.

Such compromise can make us popular in the world but it cannot honor God. One can make a name for himself as a religion columnist on issues of faith, culture, and society – the world absolutely loves those who excoriate the church from within – but this will never advance the cause of Christ. “Christian” ministries will be lauded for rejecting the unpopular stands of the Bible, but is that the path to ministry in Christ’s name?

There is a different between compromise and capitulation. Compromise (in this positive sense) is laying down our weapons and seeking unity on issues of Christian debate. But when we advocate ignoring biblical standards, we have wandered from the realm of godly compromise to cultural capitulation.

What is our goal? Is it to proclaim Christ and call people to repentance, or is it to seek popularity and acceptance in culture? Are we seeking to please people or the God who created us? World Vision has chosen to please the world instead of standing with Christ. That is sad, but as one person tweeted, “If this move surprised you, you haven’t been paying attention.” World Vision may have abandoned biblical moorings long ago to drift rudderless on the tides of public opinion. Many Christian organizations have and will (just watch the Tsunami, folks) follow this same path.

I love, prize, value and promote unity in the Body of Christ. It is a conviction, a passion for me.

But there comes a point where we have to say, “On the other hand…NO! THERE IS NO OTHER HAND!

 

Comments

  1. Louis says

    Such a sad development.

    We are called to faithfulness. This act was not faithful to Jesus. This was not the act of a disciple.

    But the last act on earth is never written. Let us be faithful. Let us be true to the scriptures. And let us not give in to the temptation to despair.

    Christian history is filled with the unfaithfulness of Christians, the church, groups of churches.

    Even in our own country, Christians succombed to the culture around them, that had been laid decades and centuries before. The idea that it was acceptable to enslave people, Africans in particular, to capture them and then sell them as possessions for others, was an acceptable practice for centuries. Much of the church bought into that. The SBC is the fruit of issues surrounding that.

    In our own time, a sexual revolution occurred decades ago. We are simply seeing the fruit of that revolution ripen. And as it does, it tempts many in the church to replace faithfulness to Christ with faithfulness to culture. The people in the churches that have bought into all this can’t even use common logic to analyze the situation. Such is the allurement of sin.

    This is sad. We have to remain faithful. To speak the truth. To not overreact. To be confident (not like Elijah after Mt. Carmel.)

    Humans have been here before. The arc of history is long. God is still in heaven and He sees.

  2. Sam Downey says

    I am sorry to see a long-standing para-church organization take this non-stand. My first thought was that it had to do with $$$$. I don’t know this, but it makes a little sense. If we had a major rift in our church which would cost $$$$, we would do all we could to settle the conflict. Some would be in favor of adopting infant baptism, if that would keep the money flowing. Organizations such as these may fill a niche in the scheme of world missions, but they underscore the need for accountability to a higher standard. There are many such organizations that have made similar compromises through the years that have not announced it through Christianity Today. We have to be careful who we support.

  3. says

    There are reports circulating that World Vision is going to reverse this sad decision.

    But it would seem that the leadership of World Vision is more about PR and capitulation than conviction. They gave in to culture, then when a stink was raised by Bible-believing Christians, they gave it to that.

    Hardly courageous, visionary, prophetic leadership.

    • says

      Even if the decision is reversed I would doubt that there is a way back for the organization. Distrust and loss of integrity will always plague them

  4. says

    So we don’t like their decision and call for repentance. Then they repent and we don’t trust them and say they just responded to the outrage.

    That sounds like a biblical way to respond to repentance.

    There is no pleasing some Christians.

    • Dave Miller says

      I think that is an unfair look at it, Ryan – so quick to condemn the motives of those with whom you disagree?

      No, my reticence comes from the fact that they made such a decision in the first place. I am more than willing to accept their apology, but I am not real quick to again place trust in an organization that would make such an awful decision in the first place, and then make the doublespeak claims that Stearns made.

      I hope that they will demonstrate continuing commitment to Christian and biblical principles in the future.

      Your condescending spirit notwithstanding.

      • says

        Dave how exactly am I being condescending?

        Please show me in scripture where the description you give of responding to repentance is in line with how we are taught to be with one another.

        You made an entire post condemning the decision of WV- and rightly so- for bowing to the culture and not taking a stand for scripture. They repent. They admit they were wrong. They admit your very point in their apology- that they were not faithful to scripture.

        Then you and others immediately say they are bowing to the Christian backlash. Isn’t that what you wanted? For them to respond to entreaties to repent? And they repented quickly. They didn’t wait to see the financial ramifications to see how many who supported their decision and how they would make up for the loss of those who did not. They reversed course immediately.

        So they make an unbiblical decision and are justly criticized for it. They repent and now they are being criticized for it.

        I stand by my statement. There is no pleasing some Christians.

      • Dave Miller says

        Repeating an unfair accusation does not make it less unfair.

        If you want to talk, fine.

        If all you want to do is condemn the Christian character of those with whom you disagree, your position is noted.

    • Dave Miller says

      When a pastor betrays the trust of his congregation, he can be forgiven immediately, but that does not mean he is back in the pulpit the next Sunday.

      Forgiveness and trust are two very separate issues.

      • volfan007 says

        I have to agree with Dave, here. It looks like their reversal is more of an “Oops, we’re about to lose support and money, so we’d better reverse what we did,” more than it was about conviction. I hope they see the light. I really do. But, it kind of looks like Cracker Barrel’s crawfishing about Phil Robertson….when they saw the backlash about pulling everything that had Phil on it, after he made the statement that homosexuality was wrong.

        Maybe everyone should just give to the SBC World Hunger….I believe that every cent goes to feeding hungry people….nothing is kept for administrative costs.

        David

        • says

          volfan

          That is absolutely correct. Every penny of SBC World Hunger goes to buy food. All administrative cost is borne by the normal budgeting process. To my knowledge no other hunger organization does this. In fact some organizations take as much as 26% from donations to defray expenses.

      • says

        Ryan

        I owe you an apology. I failed to read Dave Miller’s response to you closely enough. At the very beginning he made the “unfair” argument. My repeating the same argument carried the force of “just pilling on”. That was not my intent…I do apologize.

    • Louis says

      Ryan:

      Hope you didn’t think that I was “backlashing” on them. Just describing what I think will happen out there. It will come from pro homosexual groups.

  5. says

    Russell Moore ?@drmoore · 1h “It’s the older brother who questions motives in repentance. Don’t be like that. The father’s house rejoices, receives. #worldvision”

    I thought this was a good word from Dr. Moore. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we should immediately trust World Vision, no questions asked. That does not strike me as Biblical accountability. We should extend grace and forgiveness, particularly in light of WV’s repentance. If it is not true repentance and only a PR move on their part (and only time will tell which it is), then WV will ultimately have to account. However, our response to what appears to be a change of heart on World Vision’s part, should be gracious.

    After all, if WV thought that they had gotten any heat because of their initial decision, just wait until the radical gay rights lobby starts their campaign against WV. We all make stupid decisions (i.e., sinful ones) from time to time. Even though I strongly rebuked WV’s initial decision, I’m all for showing grace at this time. But, in the words of Ronald Reagan, it wouldn’t hurt to “trust, but verify” from this point forward. Thanks and God bless,

    Howell

  6. Tarheel says

    Stearns made a strongly worded statement announcing the new position defended the decision as the right thing to do.

    Then within 24 hours reversed course. Conviction can come quickly, and repentance too…but u think it’s reasonable for people to be distrustful until repentance is demonstrated.

    I should know….I’ve done and said stupid and wrongheaded things and within a short time sincerely repented and begged forgiveness…but just because I’ve done so does not mean I reasonably get to expect everyone to immediately trust that I’m sincere.

    God knows the heart….people must make our assesments based on a
    actions.

    It’s a long road back from broken trust.

    • Tarheel says

      But from the statement of reversal….it seems to me that they’re sincere …the apology did not seem contrived nor did it blame others…he and the clearly board took responsibility for thier wrongheaded action.

      That’s admirable.

  7. William Thornton says

    Repentance isn’t the issue now. It is competence and judgement. Now the organization has a constituency that isn’t sure it can trust the leadership. What else could the board have done that would do more damage than this?

    • Tarheel says

      That’s a valid point.

      In the back (or front) of our minds will be Thoughts like;

      “will they try this again later”.

      Or

      “Is this like the BSA…We know cracks in armor are there and will be exploited until the system caves.”

      Like I said, it’s a long road back from broken trust.

      • says

        Tarheel

        I think you have articulated a response to this issue that is well balanced. This is not the time to become radically one sided in response. There is much at stake. Yes we can forgive, but we cannot ignore reality and blindly follow. It is reasonable and christian to insist that action follows the repentance. Repentance is not just being sorry for something it is a reversal in direction. Trust can be regained in time if WV maintains a Biblical posture. I see nothing unchristian about wanting to see action…which of course is the point you are making.

  8. Bill Mac says

    I am pleased by the reversal. We sponsor a child through WV and I don’t think I would have been willing to cut her off despite my disagreement with their initial direction.

      • Bill Mac says

        Tarheel: I’ll be honest, I would not have cut her off. I don’t agree with WV’s initial decision, but my commitment was primarily to the little girl, not to WV. I would probably not have renewed once she became too old, but I would have kept helping her until that time.

  9. tom Bryant says

    I am quite sure that this is not over. Many evangelicals will no longer trust WV and give elsewhere. At the same time, the ones this decision was meant to bring in will not give because of how fast the leadership changed courses.

    • John Wylie says

      My wife and I used to sponsor a girl in Central America through Compassion International. I didn’t like World Vision even prior to this catastrophe of a decision because of their anti Israel stances.

    • says

      Tom

      I think you are correct. They ail have to develop a plan for damage control. There is a lesson to be learned here. Wavering back and forth in principles is a losing proposition. Trying to appease different segments of society will cause one to lose support from all.

  10. tom bryant says

    In their apology letter – and others are quite right, we ought to accept it as sincere – they said they should have sought the counsel of other leaders. It seems they were listening only to those inside the room who would make the decision. In that case, they need new people inside the room.

    • says

      Tom

      This is what is confusing for me. Seeking counsel from others is PR 101. You would think that a billion dollar entity would know this. Surely they anticipated a strong reaction from conservative people given today’s climate in this controversy;

  11. says

    We used to give through WV and sensed some disingenuousness in the way they presented information so we switched to other groups, most recently an effort in Uganda by ministries started by a couple in our church when they were there with the IMB.

    While there to help people rise to a place where they can afford food, clothes, and housing, the message of the gospel must also go out because material poverty is only a small part of the picture, although it is the most obvious. When an organization demonstrates an willingness to compromise the gospel, even by undercutting the doctrines of sin, it is apparent that they will not strive to eliminate far greater poverties than mere material poverty. And when an organization fails to recognize this they fail to liberate people from even material poverty in their effort to provide material support for them.

    I daresay that there are likely deeper things WV needs to repent of. Being a parachurch organization rather than an individual, what biblical organization do they have to hold them accountable to the things we don’t know?

  12. dr. james willingham says

    The folks who are bringing us all of this hostility to the Christian Faith sense victory coming; they are becoming more and more bold. As the old saying goes, “We ain’t seen nuttin yet!”

    • Christiane says

      The impact THIS TIME falls most heavily on the children served by WV, unfortunately. That is very troubling, indeed.

    • says

      Dr. JW

      I fear you are right. I honestly tremble when I think of our sons in ministry. What will they be faced with when they are our age or even before.

      Lord we do need revival