Allow me to introduce myself. My name is John Wilsey. I am an active member of a Southern Baptist church. I teach history and Christian apologetics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which is one of the largest and most conservative seminaries in North America. I am an ordained pastor in the Southern Baptist denomination. You could say that I am a very committed, theologically conservative Christian.
I do not speak for every evangelical Christian, but I do speak in the spirit of that faith. I want you to know that I respect you and hold you in high regard as a fellow American and as a fellow person who is made in God’s image. I respect your views and opinions on politics, religion, social and moral issues, and international issues. We may not agree on every issue, but I can honestly say that you have every right to contend for your beliefs in the strongest ways you know how.
I am writing this letter because the battle lines are being drawn between your community and mine. This is not good. Battle lines are drawn between two enemies who are committed to the destruction of the other.
I am not committed to your destruction. I am not your enemy. I do not hate you, nor do I condemn you. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I desire fellowship with you in His name. I want you to individually place your faith and confidence in Jesus, who took the penalty of sin upon Himself when He died on the cross so that you could live eternally. If you will not put your trust in Christ, then I am committed to live at peace with you as much as it depends on me, as Paul taught in the twelfth chapter of the book of Romans.
The Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman. It is firm on that teaching. As an evangelical Christian who submits to the absolute authority of the Bible, I agree with this definition of marriage with my whole mind, heart, and soul.
But the fact that I am firmly persuaded of this does not mean that I hate you. Hate, bigotry and malice do not arise from belief in the truth and authority of Scripture. To be sure, many have justified their deep hatred and bigotry on the Bible. But their hate did not arise from the Bible. It came before their use, or should I say, abuse of the Bible. Their ignorant abuse of the Bible to justify their hatred is manufactured, artificial, and therefore, invalid. If they truly based their lives and attitudes on the teachings of the Bible, they would not show you hate, but grace, as Jesus showed us how to do.
My commitment to the biblical definition of marriage means that I live by it and contend for it in public and private. It does mean that we are going to be on opposites sides of an intense debate. There is no room for compromise when it comes to defining marriage—for either of us. But I am convinced that while we can and will have profound disagreement on this fundamental issue, we can learn to listen to one another without shouting the other down; we can respect each other’s points of view; we can learn from one another; we can value each other as persons who both are seeking human flourishing in our own lives, and in the lives of others.
My first desire as a Christian is not to see that everyone in this country come to my side of the issue of marriage. My first desire is to see persons give their lives to Christ as Savior from their sins. When Jesus died on the cross, He took the blame for every sinful thought, word, and deed of every man, woman, and child who has ever lived (II Corinthians 5.21). The Bible teaches us that when we place our confidence in Jesus alone to save us from the condemnation of sin—eternal death—we will be saved, and will subsequently have abundant life that extends into everlasting (Romans 3, 6, 10). Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11.28).
Because Jesus loves you enough to give His life for you, I will love you. No matter how our society and our government comes down on the definition of marriage—I will love you and do my utmost to express Christ’s love to you.
Abraham Lincoln said at the end of his first inaugural address on the eve of the Civil War, “I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.” His words express my sentiments perfectly. We are not enemies. I do not hate you. We hold very different viewpoints on marriage. We will oppose each other while contending for our commitments in the public arena. Still, I stretch out my hand to you in friendship in the name of Jesus Christ.
With sincere Christian affection,