“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“That makes me uncomfortable.”
“I don’t want to be political.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Is this really a big deal?”
“Let’s just add it to the prayer list.”
Whatever your excuse is, you’re not alone when it comes to having some apprehension around engaging in conversations that seem a little taboo. I get it and I’ve been there. How do you respond when one of the kids in your children’s ministry sincerely believes that they were born the wrong gender? What do you say when a child makes a racially derogatory remark? How do you engage with a volunteer who clearly suffers from mental health issues? It’s easy to shrink back, pretend you don’t hear it or look the other way but what’s at stake if we do?
If we refuse to engage these issues, than we reduce the church to nothing more than a religious social club. Unfortunately, far too many churches are ill-equipped to deal with these issues. At best, they’re silent, and at worst, they’re engaging in these issues in a way that undermines the witness of Christ to the world. Instead of engaging with a spirit of truth and love, some churches become modern day pharisees characterized more by judgement and intolerance. Stated biblically, these churches have a form of godliness but deny the power therein. Yet consider the example of our Savior.
Jesus did not shy away, shrink back, or turn a blind eye to the often controversial topics of his day. He would embrace the leper. He would engage the prostitute. He would dine with the tax-collector. He was no stranger to the demon possessed man who lived among the tombs. He didn’t judge and reject them but leaned into the taboo topics and met them right where they were. But he loved them too much to leave them that way.
Jesus had the perfect mix of truth and love. He shielded the woman caught in the "very act" from the stones of self-righteous accusers while simultaneously calling her to a new life of holiness and so should we. So who is your leper? Is it that child struggling with their sexual identity? Who is your samaritan? Is it that mother who’s weeping over the racial unrest in our country? Who is your tax collector? Is it that volunteer who’s too ashamed to confess their very real struggle with mental health? Listen, engaging in these conversations can be hard. But if we do, than we will truly see the glory of God revealed to a generation that dismisses him and his followers as irrelevant. If you struggle with taboo topics, than consider starting with this Christ-centered approach.
Understand the Taboo Topic - Study to show yourself approved. Make sure you do your homework and educate yourself holistically. This may mean reading books, watching documentaries, or otherwise gaining a deeper perspective on these culturally sensitive topics. If we are going to be the authentic voice that this generation craves then we must take time to understand the issues of our day.
Demonstrate God’s Heart - discern the heart issues at the root of the taboo-topic. What does the word say about it? Consider how you can model Christ’s perfect balance of truth and love.
Partner with Parents - When dealing with children, make sure you always communicate with parents. Remember, these are socially charged and potentially controversial subjects so you will want to make sure the parents aren’t blindsided. Not only will this help to avoid unnecessary drama but can also serve to reinforce biblical truths at home.
Above all, remember that God is in control. Invite God in and allow his spirit to untangle these taboo topics. Are these topics hard to engage in? Absolutely! But they are necessary. May God fill you with the boldness you need to lean into the hard stuff. I am praying for you my friend.