Be Shrewd as Serpents and Simple as Doves

Is it truly kind to leave someone in their sin and let them go to Hell?

James Tissot (1836-1902), “The Pharisees and Saduccees Come to Tempt Jesus”
James Tissot (1836-1902), “The Pharisees and Saduccees Come to Tempt Jesus” (photo: Public Domain)

What does it mean to be a real Christian? What is true love? Is it always to remain quiet and kind in confrontation or is there a middle way of being the best spiritual big sister or brother anyone could ever ask for? There are no easy answers, but we clearly live in a world comparable to that of the early Christians — a world in which we are daily asked to give witness in many different and increasingly courageous ways. 

There are situations in which we must reclaim spiritual authority as Catholics. Recently, I was put into circumstances in which my neighborhood was spiritually under the foremost influence of ex-Catholics dominating conversations with their insistence on “kindness” as the real religion. The placement in their front yard of two rainbow-colored flags and a “We Believe” sign during Pride Month was one in which I heard the Lord say the words a confessor said to me during a similar dilemma: “Someone has to claim spiritual authority, and it had better be you.” 

I do not relish such calls from God. After delicately dealing with the rainbow flag flying in the backyard of the next-door neighbors in Maryland with the transgender-declared boy in pink, I thought I could come home to Indiana and have a break from choosing how best to live with such starkly differing lifestyle choices. But God had other plans. When a neighbor here in Indiana found out that I knew of signs at a local Catholic parish from 40 Days for Life begging us all to pray for the end of abortion, she was excited to place one in her front yard.

I prayed the entire day before bringing those signs home. “God, with the business-sized rainbow flag flying outside my window, is this how you want me to deal with these neighbors who are so hard to talk to without agreement?” I heard “yes,” and was reminded of the words once said by the late Father Benedict Groeschel: “Wimpiness is not good for mental health.” And so, my neighborhood now had two signs in two different yards asking people to pray and fast to end abortion as a counterbalance during the month of June to the two rainbow flags in another yard. I see defending the life of unborn children as an appropriate response to a flag that advocates “marriage” without them. 

I remain a polite and cooperative homeowner to the ex-Catholic neighbors with the rainbow flags, as does my other neighbor with the pro-life sign in her yard. My front living room window must be covered with blinds during the day to avoid seeing the very large rainbow flag covering 75% of the view from my living room window before trees can be planted as a cover. But such a situation is one I can accept in prayer for all those advocating or acting out the homosexual or transgender lifestyles. I can choose to love those who aggressively foist their views on me. But I can also choose to subtly proclaim the truth in real kindness while also refusing to join the local neighborhood group hanging out under the flag as a perceived act of kindness just to promote an unjust peace in the neighborhood out of fear. 

I recall the rallying cry of college administrators in the very early 1980s: “Get involved!” Those were days of innocence when there were not as many well-known Catholic colleges, and our well-meaning parents from the World War II era were anxious for their children to be overachievers at Ivy League universities. But I can learn from that experience, as I see now that many Catholics chose the silent path and allowed the homosexual agenda to flourish in our country. The response does not have to be one of aggression — never! But we can instead reclaim spiritual authority through a middle way chosen by God to get his point across. 

We need to ask ourselves, “Where does God’s view fit into this?” “Does anyone care what God thinks?” “Aren’t we going to answer some day for whether or not we stuck up for God?” I think our Lord’s words from Mark 12:28-34 are worth considering:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.’
And the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher, you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifice.’ And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to ask him any question.

Is it truly kind to leave someone in their sin and let them go to Hell? I want to know what is good for me and that I need to change. I also don’t want to live in fear of other people’s opinions or lack of approval just so that I can get along — and end up allowing the devil to make a fool out of me as a Catholic.

I choose real love for myself as a Daughter of the King, and for my neighbors as I pray that they consider returning to Mass each time they view the 40 Days for Life logo on the sign in my front yard.