who’s coming to dinner?

Written by Mark Lafler

B.A., Global University; M.C.S., Regent College I am currently serving as a youth minister at our church in Sarasota, FL. I am married to Tera (15 Years +) and we have 3 beautiful daughters.

June 10, 2011

As a follow up to my last post (who attends your church?) we should also ask, “Who is coming to dinner?”

This question was asked to me.

Why do we talk only about the church service and the attendance of people with “alternate” lifestyles?

The church is made of people, not buildings and such, so as Christians (that is representing God in our world) do we fellowship with homosexuals, cross-dressers, pedophiles, and others?

Have you ever knowingly invited a person with an “alternative” lifestyle to dinner? Or to a small group?  Or to a family night at the church?  Or to your house for a Thanksgiving meal?

I, for one, have not.  But would I?

I guess I would, but clearly my actions suggest I would not since I have never shared a meal with a cross-dresser.

Why?

Well, I have children.

But I am their parent, role-model, and teacher.  Does a 2 hour dinner impact my children’s life greater than all the time I spend with them?  Most likely not.  However, it is a convient exuse.

Nevertheless, before I had children I did not have homosexuals or cross-dressers at my house to share a dinner with.

Would I have a person who I know committed murder over to my house to eat dinner?

Would I have a few college-age guys over to my house to eat? – Yes.

Even though the statistics show that almost every single one of them struggles with lust and very likely with porn.

Well, that is a hidden sin so it is easy to overlook, right?

However, if one of the college-age guys continues in their sinful perversion and finds themselves to be a cross-dresser one day – well then we have a different story.

They would no longer be allowed to attend “most” churches and no longer allowed to eat dinner at my house (apparently since I have never had a cross-dresser at my house).

Will they be shunned by the Christian community?

What if it took a year of attendance at a church or a few meals at a Christian’s home before their conversion to the Christian faith?  Would they be given that opportunity?

Yes, I know this is an inconvenient conversation… I am busy working in these “hard” economic times, raising a family, serving Christ.  Why am I confronted with these questions?

Because real life includes homosexuals, cross-dressers, and pedophiles.

Because I represent Christ to the world.

Because I am commishioned as a Christian to preach the gospel by word and deed.

Because I am responsible for my generation.

What do you think – Who is coming to your house for dinner?

14 Comments

  1. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    Great, fearless post, Mark.

    As your children’s parent, role model, and teacher, I’d suggest that you could impact them greatly by sharing your table with people whose sinful struggles are more apparent than yours and mine. 🙂

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Thanks for the encouragement and the comments.

      Reply
  2. Nancy Franson

    All good questions to ask. I guess my answer is, “It depends.” Throughout scripture, we see saints plowing fearlessly into danger and saints being re-routed and hiding to avoid it. Theoreticals are hard because each of our families are different, our children’s temperaments differ widely. And the Spirit doesn’t call us to do theoretical things. I think the question we need to ask ourselves is, “Is God asking me, in a specific way with a specific individual, to share my life in a way that is uncomfortable for me and my family,” and if so, “What is my response?”

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Thanks for the input.

      I agree we should walk by the Spirit, not a “blind” theory.  Perhaps, too many of us do not bother to even ask the question you propose.  We just assume not bother with the question or the people.

      Good thoughts!

      Reply
  3. Andy Carlson

    I am sorry to take up so much space….I hope my thoughts are valuable and valid…
    In college my friendships and social circles were framed by
    my activities and friendships in the theatre department which has it’s share of
    various lifestyles, persuasions and activities as well as ethnic and cultural
    diversity.  In my off campus housing I had
    gay housemates of varying persuasions.  In
    my adult business activities I have the opportunity to serve many types of
    folks as clients I served on various boards in professional and social settings
    with all sorts of folk.  In our
    residential community there is a high percentage of GLB individuals and
    couples.  We have socialized, dinned and
    entertained with all sorts of openly GLB folks. In the same context I have been
    equally surrounded by “straight” folks acting out (or secretly engaged in) all
    sorts of “sinful” behaviors.  We are all human,
    with our own fragilities, faults, character traits and moral dilemmas.  I appreciate the opportunity to know all of
    them, in whatever circumstance of differences. 
    I have friends and acquaintances from all sorts of circumstance. I am
    honored to have them as and be called a friend. 
    HOWEVER, in none of those circumstances have I verbalized my concerns,
    beliefs, faith walk, let along “confronted” another about the “error” of their
    ways. They know my walk….They don’t know my talk…. I am fearful of that.  I am fearful. I am fearful of the conversation.
    I am fearful opening the dialog of conversation.  As Paul implies it is best to have someone’s
    ears opened to hear what we have to say that their heart may receive.  Which implies speaking in a tone and manner
    that encourages dialog and conversation, rather than confrontation and
    division. The majority of our society are “ok” with themselves…To be lectured
    to or preached AT only serves to close their ears…to turn the backs.  In my experience I have only heard preached
    the method that fosters confrontation and division, in the name of “the Truth”…without
    regard to the opportunity to build a relationship or opening conversations.  I am clueless in that “art” of conversational
    or relational acknowledgement of our differences.  I am clueless on how to begin those conversations.
    Starting those conversations at a dinner table would be great….I would like
    that…but HOW.  I am without a roll model
    for that….except for Tammy Fay Baker (who was very active in the GLB community,
    accepted and appreciated).  All of that to
    say  Mark…having dinner with someone
    different that me is not difficult. 
    Having dinner with someone different that me is actually a good thing…expanding
    opportunities to know another…to broaden our ethnic and cultural knowledge…to
    take me out of the “cocoon of church safety (isolation really)”……It is not
    the fellowship of or with others that is the issue…the issue is when and how to
    broach the conversation of our differences with respect and honor…within the context
    of today’s society.  It is not just about
    the GLB folks, but the Hindus’, the Muslims, the down and out, those hooked on
    various addictions….The question is when and how to share our differences…..that
    invites one to  have open ears…that allows each of us to, in effect, to draw our lines in the sand..to establish our boundaries….In truth, I don’t even
    know if this line of thinking is correct…who ever talks about the practical
    aspect of relationships of differences. 
    Way to go Mark for opening the dialog!!.. 

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Thank you Andy for the comments.

      Good for you to have such contacts with people.  Perhaps the church is too much of a shelter for people – so that they do not have associations with those outside of the church community.  People work for and with Christians and go to church.  Do many Christians talk to people outside of this community?

      Reply
      • ginahc

        I agree with Andy in many of his words. We come from very different backgrounds, but were raised with the same faith. Much of my faith was changed when I went to college and met more GLBT people. I often dined with them, shared ideas with them, and enjoyed their company before knowing what their alternative to my lifestyle was.
        However, I don’t think that we often open our eyes to the ways of others. I think Christians often close off part of their minds and socialize with whom they know as ‘safe’…but we would be better off as a society if we were to open our minds. The same goes for alcoholics, and drug addicts…that it may be good to share a table with these people and learn from them and their backgrounds so we can help them, in whatever way possible.

        I think there is a line, though, that we should not cross…a line that I would not cross…dinner with murderers, pedophiles – these are not things that will open you or your children’s eyes to the ways of the world and make them more loving and accepting people. We should love and accept them, but not their actions nor their lessons.

        I also think there is a large discussion not yet opened for what is an alternative to the traditional Christian lifestyle, (GLBT) vs. what is an alternative for an acceptable lifestyle (pedophilia)…Something to come later, perhaps…

        Reply
  4. Deidra

    You know what? I ask this question a lot. As a child, my parents always had “different” people sitting at our dinner table. Most of their stories I didn’t know until I had grown up and left home. But I’ve shared dinner with ex-cons and CEOs – all at the same table! I owe my parents a debt of gratitude for giving me that experience. It taught me more than any book or sermon ever could.

    Reply
    • @bibledude

      I love that your parents did this! My wife and I have been talking more recently about connecting more with ‘regular’ people… regardless of religious belief. And we’re realizing that ‘regular’ people have all kinds of stuff in their lives, some obvious and some not so obvious.

      Thank you for sharing this experience! #fistbump

      Reply
      • Mark Lafler

        It seems that many of us need to fellowship more with those outside of our faith or comfort zone.  Perhaps we place too much emphasis on fellowshipping with friends only.

        Reply
  5. J.Armstrong

    As always, Mark, great column!
    To answer your postulate, I would say that, similar to Nancy’s insightful point, one should consider the specific person/case at hand, and as it relates to their family or situation. Most of the time, as even earlier Sheila stated, it would probably be greatly educating, for children as well as adults, to have someone over who can relay or even simply exhibit their struggles with the consequences of sin. This is not to mention what the Holy Spirit may do for them through you serving and loving them. However, as it relates to this particular scenario, I think one must also consider the nature of the ‘alternative lifestyle’, as you put it. This is not to try to separate sins by some sort of ‘rank’, as for we all know, they are equal in His eyes. But sins often have different consequences in THIS world, as some actions or behaviors pose different challenges than others… and some perhaps even more danger. Certainly, a parent of young children (as yourself, Mark) might not be making the most responsible decision if inviting an admitted, currently practicing pedophile to your home for dinner with the whole family. Yes, they need love and forgiveness as much as anyone, and deserve both from us. And no, their sin isn’t any ‘worse’ than our own. But the fruits of sin manifest themselves differently in this world, and that must be acknowledged.

    I would also like to suggest that certain actions or choices rise to a level beyond a ‘lifestyle’. Surely, though in no greater need of Grace than ourselves, one would still not characterize, say, axe-murdering as simply an ‘alternative lifestyle’? Sin is all equally sin, but actions and their consequences in the here-and-now are often decidedly unequal. I would suggest purposefully so. 

    Reply
    • Mark Lafler

      Good comments J.Armstrong.

      You are so right.  Sins have different consequences in the here and now.  This should be taken into consideration, however, as you suggest, we should follow what the Holy Spirit is leading us to do.

      Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  6. Daniel S Creel

    Mark,
     A very Interesting point that the majority of chirstian I would say are to preoccupied with there lives and or intimidated to try and make a difference especially in this arena. 
     
    We as Christian are to be salt and life to ALL people not just ones we find easy. Instead I would suggest the more we become like Christ the easier it will become to “have dinner with” any and all people without the worry or fear of man.

    I have worked for and worked with several in the gay community and now realize more than ever they need the Love of Christ just as anyone else.(probably more)  

    The question reamains? Will we embrace the Cross of our own issue;  busyness not making time, fear of what others think, to prideful, sin of omission, or shameful…not really knowing how the Blood of Christ not only removes the sin but the shame thereof!!!!!   

    Oh that we’d begin to do this so the world can be indeed won and….. WE OURSELVES come into our Freedom CHRIST Died for!!!!!

    We should begin to start asking ourselves some hard questions…such as
    “Is the Life I’m living for worth Christ dying for”… Lenard Ravenhill

    or another quote about our responsiblity…..
    “All that is needed for evil to triump is for good men and women to do nothing”
    ..one of the Founding Fathers of America  

    Praying for the Church and America Thanks for listening!

    Reply
    • @bibledude

      thanks for the great thoughts daniel! it’s great to hear from you here! i pray that you were blessed by this and other posts on this site. let me know if there’s anything i can do for you…

      Reply

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who’s coming to dinner?

by Mark Lafler time to read: 2 min
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