george hancockstefanThis week has been an interesting week for one of the greatest charitable organizations, World Vision. In the Christian circles and also in the secular circles, World Vision is known as one of the largest charitable organizations. It was formed in the late 60's and it is the flagship development and relief organization for Christians.

It had strong management, it had fantastic staff, and it was well connected to its roots and kept expanding. It functioned as an NGO with a conservative theological background. It also functioned as a para-church organization - connected with churches, but not a church. This definition gave it broader, more inclusive recruitment potential. At the same time, it had high standards for its staff – married and faithful or abstinent and single.

All of this changed this past Monday when World Vision U.S. President Richard Stearns announced that because of many changes within the laws of the United States, and differing stances among churches, the organization will hire homosexual employees, with the same criteria for relationships as heterosexual employees. The emphasis was that this was not a theological disagreement with the conservative base, but a step towards unity within the body of Christ and an acceptance of what is happening throughout the United States, and specifically in the state of Washington, where the headquarters is located.

By Tuesday, thousands of emails came in the office from people pulling their contributions immediately because of the change in the organization. Immediately, the people that agreed with the Monday decision raised their concern and asked others who agreed with the decision to step in and replace those that have pulled out their support. However, the deluge was so vast that by Wednesday evening, World Vision retracted their Monday position stating that they “made a mistake” and would reverse its Monday decision.

The Wednesday report was that they were convinced that their theological position was wrong and out of accord with their donor base. Based on their texts, I was convinced of the logic of both of their decisions. Reading the chairman's report on Monday, I saw what they intended to do. There was logic to their decision based on their premises. What they avoided was that when a group is para-church, but nevertheless, still connected to the church, especially conservative churches, one has to pay attention to where those churches are theologically. In the same way that people on the left persuade with their dollars, the same privilege has to be extended to the people on the right, and that is what they have done.

The question in these days is what persuades us? Is the persuasion strictly on the rightness or correctness of the issue? Is the rightness or the correctness of the issue totally immersed in the context of the person that is making that decision? Are countries persuaded by the military might of the other nations? Are organizations persuaded by their donors and as the donor bases changes, so is the organization?

In studying the life of Christian martyrs, I was always impressed by their willingness to give everything they had, including their lives, for what they believe. Apostle Paul writes, “For I am persuaded that neither life nor death ... can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (emphasis added)” (Romans 8:38-39). Regardless of circumstances or pressure, they staunchly held their beliefs, even when it led to death.

As the world around us changes, in this time of Lent, it is important to figure out what we can live without. What are the components that change our mind and what are the components that will strengthen our minds so that our minds will be similar to the mind of Christ? What pressure is good and helpful in shaping our opinions, and what pressure too easily causes us to discard right beliefs?