Duck Dynasty and the Forgiving Widow

phil-robertson-p11Last night the internet blew up. Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the show Duck Dynasty, in an interview with GQ magazine made his view of homosexuality clear – it is a sin. Anyone who has watched the show or followed Phil and his family should not be shocked at his beliefs. For some, the shock and appall is coming because his words were descriptive, if not vulgar. Here they are:

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong. Sin becomes fine…Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,”

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

Because of his words A&E indefinitely suspended him.

And then the internet blew up.

Much of what I have seen has been centered on Christians loss of freedom of speech. But this is a misnomer. Freedom of speech still exists for Christians, just like it does everyone else. Phil will not go to jail because of what he said. But he may face consequences for his words. Christians are not the only ones being suspended or fired because of the words they say. News anchors are fired for cursing and for racial slurs (also see here) and suspended for homophobic tweets. This a reality of the culture we live in: You can say what you want and not go to jail, but you may face consequences.

And that’s the point. Christians crying out that their first Amendment rights are being stepped on are ignoring that 1) nobody is going to jail and 2) others have received the exact same sentence. As Americans, we are legally free to have any religious beliefs we desire and the freedom to voice those beliefs. But that doesn’t not exempt us from any social consequences that might come from voicing those beliefs.

Granted, Christians who believe that homosexuality is a sin and choose to voice that belief in such graphic and unhelpful language will probably bear the brunt of such consequences more than others. Just know that as you prepare to speak. By no means am I advocating that you don’t say what you believe. But don’t get graphic with body parts and innuendos and slurs to make your point. Those have consequences.

In other words, count the cost of your words.

And, let’s for a moment consider the witness. The gospel of the cross and resurrection of Jesus is not a gospel of morality. It is a gospel of grace. Of forgiveness. Of good news to the outcast, the forgotten, the oppressed, and the strange.

It’s the hope that enemies can be reconciled.

So consider the power of witness. There is the witness of Phil’s words about morality – which is important! But, preaching morality to those who do not believe in Christ is putting the cart before the horse. We preach the gospel of reconciliation and forgiveness and cross and reconciliation BEFORE we get to morality.  That comes after belief.

In contrast, consider the witness of the words of Ronnie Smith’s widow, Anita. Ronnie and Anita went to Libya to teach, bring peace, and bless the people there. Ronnie was gunned down in Libya just a few weeks ago.

And then Anita wrote this:

To his attackers: I love you and I forgive you.

How could I not? For Jesus taught us to “Love our enemies” — not to kill them or seek revenge. Jesus sacrificed His life out of love for the very people who killed him, as well as for us today. His death and resurrection opened the door for us to walk on the straight path to God in peace and forgiveness. Because of what Jesus did, Ronnie is with Jesus in paradise now. Jesus did not come only to take us to paradise when we die, but also to bring peace and healing on this earth. Ronnie loved you because God loves you. Ronnie loved you because God loved him — not because Ronnie was so great, but because God is so great. 

If the above video doesn’t work use this link.

These two stories are breaking within 24 hours of one another and I can’t help but wonder, which one witnesses to the Gospel more powerfully? Which one will Christians talk about more?

And there’s the problem.



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  • Jessica

    I like what you are saying. And I agree for the most part. The thing with the interview with Phil though, he was asked specifically about sin. Now do I think he should have been so stinkin’ graphic? No. But he answered the question asked of him and from my understanding, he was trying to share Jesus and the Gospel with the interviewer. But you are right, some how, along the way, we’ve hijacked the gospel and the message of the cross and made it a morality driven message. ( Did any of that make sense?) As for Ronnie, his story and his family have impacted my heart in ways that words cannot express. If only the world could see more of the “Ronnie’s ” which is really more of Jesus in us. Love your posts! Keep them coming :-)

    • Nate Pyle

      Thanks, Jessica. He was asked a question about sin – and then took the biggie head on. There were many ways to answer that question, but the way he did was very interesting.

      • Jessica

        Ummm, yes it was (interesting) to say the least, but Phil is kind of interesting in general. I understand now what you are saying upon re-reading. I also read the GQ interview. There’s a whole lot more to the story.:-)

      • Revsimmy

        If he was asked about “sin”, then why is THIS one the biggie and why is this the one he chose to address? Jesus says nothing about it, but did say plenty about other sins that pervade Western society – greed, selfishness, theft, covetousness, pride, exploitation of the poor, failure to understand, forgive and love one’s neighbour… I could go on.

        • Lola

          I wish I could write this comment on every single blog discussing this issue. The question was, what is sin to you? Instead of turning inward and perhaps mentioning the sin he struggles with daily, he immediately turns to the “other.” Christians are so eager to call everyone else out on their sin. Call yourself out. Homosexuality is not the be all end all. Furthermore, homosexuality is a very complex issue. Are you talking about attraction, certain acts, etc? If you are telling a 12 year old boy that he is sin because he is attracted to the same sex, you cannot be surprised when that same 12 year old is committing suicide. You are saying his very being is sinful. Well guess what? We are all sinners. Period. Jesus died for all of us. This “othering” of people’s acts must stop. It’s harmful, it’s dangerous, and you cannot find this attitude from Jesus in the Bible. Lastly, just because a person says I love and respect everyone does not mean they actually do. If a person starts out the sentence, I don’t want to sound racist but…you’re probably about to say something racist. Sorry, one more thing…Phil’s comments regarding black people growing up in segregated Louisiana are equally distasteful to me and aren’t getting near the amount of pushback.

  • hunter

    I’m just saddened that you asked questions that put two Christians in opposite corners of the ring from each other. They both serve the same Lord and Savior, and both witnessed in their own way. Who are we to say that one way to witness is right, or better, and the other wrong, or worse? I’d be willing to bet that both Phil and Anita would be supportive of each other for what they did! I know I’m proud of fellow Christians for taking that giant step of faith to witness, even if I couldn’t/wouldn’t do it that way. I think, in this article, the focus is on the wrong thing, as Christians. For we are the body of Christ TOGETHER, not separate! So I give a hand to both Phil and Anita for stepping out on faith to do what God has called all of us to do: “make disciples of all nations!”

    • jennifer

      Thank you so much for pointing this out. It is saddening to see fellow believers jump on the same bandwagon as the rest of the world and ridicule a fellow believer, for doing something he felt he was led to do. We(Christians) are all at war with this world. The world plays us against one another constantly. We are only human. We say and do things without thinking ALL OF THE TIME. Who are we to hold it against this man? We are just as unbelievers pointing the finger, and not giving grace or mercy to our own brother. If we can’t love our brother, and “have his back” so to speak, how can we love the sinner, who knows no better? Christians CONSTANTLY speak about showing love to everyone, and grace and mercy for all…but fail miserably when actually put into practice.

    • Nate Pyle

      So Paul should not have called out Peter? Or Paul and Barnabas should not have parted ways?

      I’m not trying to pit them against each other, but rather, to highlight how Christians rush to defend one that doesn’t, in my mind, exemplify and witness to the gospel to the unbelieving world as well.

      • hunter

        But 1) Christianity is not a competition and 2) unless I misread, Anita never called out Phil or was around him. We are, by thinking he was witnessing the “wrong way,” judging another fellow Christian that we should be building up. Whether he was wrong or right in the eyes of God is not for us to say. You can’t say with certainty that how Phil talked was against what God wanted. We’re not God. We can’t speak for God.

        • Matthew

          I think Nate was pointing out the result of Phil’s words and not judging his motives. I’m sure Phil had a very good motive (probably a better word could be used here) for saying what he did. But the cold hard fact is that Phil’s words were divisive, with many strongly supporting him and others equally strongly rejecting him. But as Gregory Koukl says in his book “Tactics”, if the non-Christian party loses it, WE’VE failed our objective. It doesn’t matter how right or truthful we are.

          I think we need to differentiate between looking at the motive (of which God alone is judge) and the result (which is something we can and should evaluate for our own benefit). One is destructive and hypocritical, but the other is constructive for building up the kingdom.

          We already live (with regards to the West anyway) in a world that is against Christianity. Why give them any more reminders why they hate us so? I think that it is with this backdrop that Nate wrote this post, prompting us to think — which of the two might yield a more favourable response to Christianity? Which of the two might create a better soil for the seed of the gospel to be sown?

  • Lisa Williams

    Thanks for your words here. I am so glad that someone sees this in a reasonable way. What I will never understand is the “well-meaning” “witnessing” Christian who says stuff without thinking! Who says things that would have NEVER and did never come out of Christ’s mouth. I am flabbergasted by the condemnation that comes from “Christians.” I don’t know why, it still stuns me. We live in a broken world. One that is without hope apart from the healing redemption of Christ. Yet so many Christians spew venom and judgment and speak in ways like this. I don’t know how this brings people to Christ. Why do Christians insist (so much more recently especially) that everything is an attack to our beliefs? I don’t feel personally attacked ever. People do the best they can with what they know, I suppose. But the Bible is very clear about the power/consequences of ill-chosen words. I would like to see us as a whole–be more about we believe is right: grace, forgiveness, mercy–and less about what is wrong.

    • hunter

      I agree that we do need to practice more grace and mercy and love like God bestows on us, but that doesn’t mean stand idly by as the world promotes ungodliness. Phil said those things, THEN he said something that has been overlooked by everyone when he said “however, I would not treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.” Now that doesn’t sound like someone that’s saying stuff without thinking. And don’t forget what Jesus, himself, told the Disciples (us too) in John 15:18-27, especially in verse 19 where he says “I have chosen you out of this world. That is why the world hates you.” Hates, not dislikes. We are being attacked and pushed everyday by this world. Yes, along with grace, mercy and love, we must stand up for and firm in our beliefs! It is a war, not a little argument. If we don’t stand up today for our belief against homosexuality or things like it that go against our very moral beliefs, then what’s to say we’ll stand up for other things that could be infringed upon later like ability to pray (the story of Daniel), or corporate worship within the church (many countries today)? I think just like Phil AND Anita, we must each stand up to our enemies the way God commands us to. Because can you really say that what Phil said is against what God wanted him to say? Or can you truly say that the way Anita handled her situation was the ONLY way God would want someone to handle it? We all have unique talents and abilities and backgrounds that are to be used for the glory of God. Maybe God would have rather Phil handled that differently, but that’s between God and Phil. I can only worry about my life and how I handle my life situations. I pray for the boldness that BOTH of them had to preach the Gospel in my own life.

  • James Artre

    “The gospel of the cross and resurrection of Jesus is not a gospel of

    The gospel and morality are not mutually exclusive.

  • Nate Day

    I say this in brotherly love, but I’m rather offended by the idea that belief in the “Gospel” must come before moral standards. This seems completely backwards and God’s order in history also speaks against your characterization of first things (God gave His law before He sent His salvation.) Without first believing in moral standards, how on earth do we know we need Grace? While I agree that we need not fully understand the entirety of the law, but merely that we broke it, the law still precedes our understanding of the Gospel, which is that we cannot satisfy the law ourselves but Christ did.

    And it is with the understanding that there was a covenant prior to our fall in history, and the Gospel restores us to that covenant, we must then continue in that covenant. We have a purpose beyond being saved and saving others. God’s law is the blueprint to fulfilling that purpose.

    But unless we are first condemned, we cannot be reconciled, and unless we are reconciled, we cannot fulfill our purpose, and unless we seek to fulfill our purpose, the created order will reject our futile efforts. A tenant of the Christian faith is that God rigged the game of life so that it will not function unless we are reconciled back to Him. To argue against prosperity is to argue against our created purpose.

    The Biblical paradigm is that we bring the law of God in Love and Grace, acknowledging our failings and Christ’s superiority, demonstrating how the law allows us to better love our neighbors and its curing effects on communities who uphold it in every area of their lives, including their civil laws. This is how the Apostle Paul preached and why he was considered such a threat to the Roman empire. Paul preached a new law that rivaled the existing civil laws. But it was not a revolution of swords and soldiers, it was one where the Holy Spirit changed men’s hearts. And that it what I found so uplifting about Phil’s words, albeit vulgar, in that he was calling out the unnatural and sinful behavior of folks he honestly wanted to welcome in the faith.

    • Nate Pyle

      Paul preached a new law, or a new covenant?

      What you are saying would be very bad news for Zaccheaus, the woman caught in adultery, the thief on the cross and the woman at the well who all received grace before they were told to go and sin no more. It seems the gospel came with mercy and forgiveness, and in the space of grace without condemnation, people were told to live differently.

      • Nate Day

        Everyone of those folks had the law, most especially the thief on the cross. Christ did not need to be redundant. Satan is already our accuser.

        What each of those Jews had though was a shared understanding of morality prior to their meeting of Jesus. This day and age we have to deal with moral subjectivism. The standard of God’s law is often missing and/or rationalized out of our paradigms.

        Now you could say that it is a grace to even have the law revealed to you (which it is), but it is a further grace, separate from the first if you will, to be reconciled with the law through faith Christ’s payment for breaking of the law. What may be better terminology is that conviction precedes faith.

        While there are more loving ways to convict than outright pointing out sins (and I agree, Jesus is our best example…Phil Robertson, not so much), when making disciples, a conviction is the first step we seek.

    • Roger Williams

      I think you think you might not be reading the giving of the Law in it’s full light. God delivered the people from slavery in Egypt and then gave them the Law. In fact he points this out in the prologue to the 10 commandments (Ex 20:2). So, the entire context of receiving the Law was that of gracious deliverance. Then, Law was given to a people who were already in covenant with God.

      Further – It is hard for me to conceive of Paul being considered a threat to the Roman empire because he railed about their moral failings. In fact, there were many opportunities for him to talk about the “sin” of the larger culture (Rome, Ephesus, and Corinth were widely known for a whole list of social maladies) and he said nothing. Rather, he addressed the people of God in those cities who had the Law and the power to pursue it but were not.

      Even if one were inclined to lead with “morality” – it should still be done in a way that honors Jesus’ instruction to be “wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove” and not just blunt and ham-handed.

      • Nate Pyle

        Seriously, Roger, start writing already. I always appreciate your thoughts (and critiques!) and think you have a clear voice. The world would be blessed by your writing.

      • Nate Day

        I would contend that mankind had the covenant from which to derive the law as far back as Adam and Eve, and the law, in the form Moses took to the Israelites, was merely spelled out to that nation of what they had already been held accountable while also separating that nation from other nations in preparation for Christ’s arrival.

        What I think y’all are struggling with is the tendency of many Bible Belt Christians to wield the law as a means of avoiding loving one’s neighbor. I get that. I just don’t think it’s fair to dilute the wisdom of God’s law in order to do so.

        • Roger Williams

          Nate (Nate Day),

          I think I understand the point your making. But with respect, I do not think it is diluting the wisdom of God’s law to be attentive to the way Scripture itself uses it. Jesus and subsequent Apostolic preachers did lead with Law…when speaking to the already religious. When speaking to those outside the “religious” community, we simply see something else.

          My understanding of first century context is that it shares striking similarities to ours (pluralistic, nationalistic, hedonistic, etc). However, we simply do not see the same rhetorical approach by Jesus, Paul, and Peter as is commonly used by (probably well meaning) Christians in the public square today. I have always found the instruction of First Peter helpful in this. If ever there was a time to “call out” the moral evils of society, the context of First Peter would have been the place. Yet, the instruction those recipients receive is very different.

  • Rob McQueary

    In the right direction. Consider this –

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