Manny Pacquiao and Counting the Cost of Standing for Christ

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 04: Boxer Manny Pacquiao appears during the final news conference for his bout against Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino May 4, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Pacquiao will defend his WBO welterweight title against Mosley on May 7, 2011 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Last week, decorated boxer and aspiring politician Manny Pacquiao came under fire after his comments regarding gay marriage. And, to the surprise of no one, the backlash was strong. A popular comedian, Vice Ganda, even tweeted using #PrayForMannyPacquiao.

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The court of public opinion acted quickly. Nike severed ties with Pacquiao, and the barrage of negative comments forced him to later apologize via Twitter.

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In his apology, Pacquiao didn’t retract his stance on gay marriage, only his comparison of homosexuals to animals. He added, “I’m not condemning anyone, but I’m just telling the truth of what the Bible says. The truth from the Bible is what changed me from my old ways.”

Let’s start with the obvious. Pacquiao’s use of the animal kingdom to substantiate a marriage between a man and a woman was, at best, poorly worded, and, at worst, a poor rationale. I’m a Christian who believes God designed marriage between a man and a woman. With this lens, I see Pacquiao’s rationale. I believe God set creation in order with a particular rhythm. Every winter, skunks, hamster, and bears (Oh my!) hibernate. Every summer, temperatures in Tennessee, where I live, hover between “It’s freaking hot” and “I would go outside naked if I wouldn’t get arrested” hot. Every winter, trees go dormant, blanketing my yard with leaves. Bears don’t say, “You know what? I’m not tired. I’m not hibernating this year.” Trees don’t have the option to go dormant in the winter. All of creation is subject to God’s rhythm.

Except, that is, for humans. We’re the only ones who can ignore rhythm’s authority. This rhythm includes pro-creation. (I think) this is the ballpark Pacquiao wanted to land in, but he never made it there. Even if his point was clear, his rationale left him an easy target for anyone with an agenda, and it’s not one I would have chosen.

But, there’s another layer here. As Christians, how do we stand for truth in our culture? This question is important because our response impacts how the world sees Jesus. So, I want to propose a few suggestions.

1.) Standing for truth means loving people.

Your words can’t point someone to Jesus if they’re not rooted in love. I’m not saying you can’t speak directly or harshly. Jesus certainly spoke directly, both to religious leaders and prostitutes. But he never spoke from a position of hate or indifference. So, before you speak, ask yourself if your comments come from a heart of love.

2.) Standing for truth means placing people above issues.

In a culture increasingly hostile to traditional Christian values, we must not fight for issues more than people. Whether it’s gay marriage, gun control, or Black Lives Matter, I’m not sure Jesus would much care if the world knew his stance. I’m not sure you would see him picketing and rioting. And I’m like 92% sure he wouldn’t see a social media post as “doing his part.” While these might play some role in evoking change, many times they’re our attempt to say we care about justice when we really care about the idea of justice.

For Jesus, justice was always about people. It wasn’t about prostitutes, it was about a woman at a well who happened to be a prostitute. It wasn’t about tax collectors. It was about a small man in a tree, Zacchaeus, who happened to be a tax collector. Rather than proclaiming to the world his stance on prostitutes or tax collectors, he ate dinner with them.

Have you eaten dinner with someone from the LBGT community?

3.) Standing for truth means knowing when to respond (and when to be silent).

Jesus never allowed an agenda-driven questioner to trap him. The Pharisees tried on several occasions because they knew if they trapped Jesus, they could discredit him. Jesus, however, always knew his surroundings, and never lost sight of his mission. No one was going to force his hand, even if silence meant more labels and stigmas.

As Christians, we would do well to imitate Jesus’s approach. We can’t allow those with an agenda to force our hand and discredit us, and more importantly, to discredit God. We must be wise, aware of our surroundings, and self-controlled. Whether it’s a friend, co-worker, or family member, we must always ask whether our opinion undermines our mission. And our mission is always to point people to Jesus, not win arguments. If our opinions aren’t undergirding our mission, maybe it’s better that we remain silent.

The world doesn’t need to hear our views as much as they need to witness our love.
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These are just a few of my thoughts on a complex issue, one where I don’t have all the answers. Let’s always allow our words and actions to point the world to Truth.

I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!

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Frank Powell
Frank lives in Jackson, TN with his amazing wife and two boys. He loves black coffee and doing stuff outside like golf and running.