In a televised special tonight, Amy Grant will become the first contemporary Christian music star to be recognized at the Kennedy Center Honors. This distinction is well deserved: her total career album sales have exceeded thirty million with over one billion global streams. She has received six Grammy Awards and twenty-six Dove Awards, including four Artist of the Year Awards.
I have followed her career since it began and have been grateful for the way she brought contemporary Christian music to the attention of the larger culture. However, she is also in the news today for a less positive reason: she told the Washington Post that she and her husband, Vince Gill, are planning to host her niece’s same-sex wedding at their farm, which will be her family’s “first bride and bride” nuptials.
She explained, “Honestly, from a faith perspective, I do always say, ‘Jesus, you just narrowed it down to two things: love God and love each other.’ I mean, hey—that’s pretty simple.”
In other news, thousands of flights have been canceled this week as a major storm has stranded travelers around the country. A doctor who has practiced for three decades in China says he has never seen anything like the crisis confronting the nation as the COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming their hospitals.
And the United Nations is warning that nuclear war is “back within the realm of possibility.” Russian state television announced that the Pentagon, Camp David, Jim Creek Naval Radio Station in Washington, Fort Ritchie in Maryland, and McClellan Air Force Base in California would be their first targets.
“The interrelated structure of reality”
These disparate stories illustrate a common theme, one I will explain by illustration.
According to Amy Grant, we are to “love each other,” a biblical command that, in her view, includes same-sex marriage. Her position is more or less relevant to you depending on whether, like her, you care for someone engaged in same-sex sexual relationships.
The story about mass flight cancelations interests you more or less personally depending on whether one of these flights was yours. The escalating crisis in China matters more or less to you depending on whether you live in China and/or care personally for someone who does. The UN warning about nuclear war becomes even more threatening if you live near one of the Russians’ first targets.
But Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was right: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” He called this “the interrelated structure of reality.” John Donne famously observed, “No man is an island entire of itself . . . Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
I wonder, would Amy Grant extend her defense of her niece’s same-sex wedding to include polygamy? Popular support for this practice has increased fourfold in the last decade and a half. What about “genetic sexual attraction,” otherwise known as incest? A Virginia university professor was placed on administrative leave just last year for insisting that it isn’t necessarily immoral for adults to be sexually attracted to children.
If “love is love,” as we so often hear these days, where do we draw the line? How many innocent people will this unbiblical ethic continue to harm? And what will happen to the religious freedom of those who uphold biblical sexuality?
How many families’ holidays were disrupted when family members were unable to travel to be with them? China’s escalating pandemic crisis will result in economic damage for the world because China is a major producer of goods. It will also mean that there will be fewer medical supplies available because China is their major producer but now needs the supply.
And of course, a nuclear attack on any city in America is an unthinkable crisis for all Americans.
How to “easily judge the character of a man”
We noted yesterday the urgency and privilege of sacrificial compassion as our primary medium of witnessing to a post-Christian, skeptical culture. This opportunity is only enhanced by an existentialist society that measures all news through the prism of the personal. In a day when people care primarily about what affects them directly, you and I will stand out when we extend God’s grace to those who cannot repay us or otherwise affect us.
Malcolm S. Forbes observed, “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” By this standard, Jesus Christ had the highest character of any person in all of human history.
We could “do nothing for him,” but he chose to do everything for us. C. S. Lewis explained his incarnation: “The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a fetus inside a woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.”
Jesus’ compassion for tax collectors, Samaritans, and lepers earned him only the opprobrium of Jewish society. His crucifixion was the most horrific form of execution ever devised.
“What greater grace could God have made”
St. Augustine reminded us of the significance of such grace: “You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.”
He then asked, “What greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become son of God?”
Will you share such grace with “those who can do nothing” for you today? And will you respond to your Father’s love with the worship of your heart?
Our joyful praises sing
To Christ, that set us free;
Like tribute to the Father bring,
And, Holy Ghost, to thee.