An Anglican Parable
While at coffee hour one Sunday after church services, you and your wife, Virginia, meet another married couple. They seem very pleasant. In the course of your conversation with them, you and Virginia find that you have much in common. They have the same deep interest in scripture and theology that you do, share some of the same hobbies, and enjoy many of the same activities. Your backgrounds are surprisingly similar as well because, as it turns out, they grew up in the same city as you and your spouse and were friends with some of the same people. Best of all, like you, they have a young teenage son.
So a friendship begins to form. Over the next few months your families go to dinner together, go to sporting events, films, and bible studies. Everything seems wonderful.
Then one weekend their son, Paul, invites your son over to spend the night. You agree without any hesitation. And so your son goes and seems to have a wonderful time.
One evening the next week, you hear strange sounds coming from your son’s bedroom…a sound all too recognizable. You walk into your son’s room and find, to your horror, that he’s watching porn on his laptop. You’ve been expecting to have to deal with the porn issue at some point since he’s at the age where his hormones are raging, but not yet.
After the initial shock and embarrassment passes, you sit down with him to talk consequences. In the course of the conversation you ask him how he got past the parental controls you’ve installed on his laptop.
“Oh” he says, “I wasn’t online. I was watching a video”
“And where,” you ask, “did you get the video?”
“Mr. and Mrs. Johnston let me borrow it when I spent the night at Paul’s house.”
“What? What on earth?”
“They let us watch this at their house and said it was okay and that as long as adults were around it was safe.”
Hardly believing your ears and certain that you’re not getting the whole truth, you call up the Johnstons.
“Yes, of course we let him borrow the video. Look, our sons are teenagers. They’re going to explore their sexuality. Isn’t it better that they do it in the context of a loving home where Jesus is exalted rather than in hiding and in secrecy? Paul watches porn all the time and as long as he’s doing it here, and so long as we know that he’s watching softcore porn rather than hardcore porn, we give him our blessing. It’s really only the hardcore stuff that’s exploitative you know.”
You’re stunned. Enraged.
“Look,” you say, straining to control your anger, “I’m sorry but our son isn’t allowed to watch porn of any sort and unfortunately we cannot allow him to come over to your home anymore.”
The Johnstons, to your dismay, act as if they’re shocked at your response. They can’t understand why you would object so strongly to something so harmless.
You and Virginia realize that while you thought you had a great deal in common with them - the same hobbies, interests and even the same church - the chasm between your values and their values is so great that, for the sake of your son, your close fellowship with them must come to an end.
It is difficult and there are bad feelings all around, but ultimately, you go your separate ways.
Eight months later, out of the blue, Virginia asks you to come home for lunch. To your surprise, you find Mr. and Mrs. Johnston sitting in your living room having tea.
“What are you doing here?” You ask.
Just then Virginia enters the room with a tray of shortbread and cucumber sandwiches.
“Sweetheart,” she says, “I invited them over. I’ve been meaning to tell you that I’ve been meeting with the Johnstons for the last few weeks or so. I felt like we ended our relationship so suddenly and we hurt each other so badly. In any case, we’ve been praying together and discussing our different viewpoints and I thought it was time to begin the healing process.”
A faint ray of optimism flashes through your mind.
Turning to the Johnstons you ask, “So, have you guys decided to stop letting your son watch porn?”
They smile at you in the way one smiles at the benighted, “No, silly, of course we haven’t changed our minds about that. We’ve prayed long and hard about giving porn to adolescents and we’re sure Jesus is leading and guiding us. How could we change our minds? Of course we know that you won’t change your minds either. But Virginia has decided not to let our different viewpoints on pornography stand in the way of our relationship. She sees it as part of our Christian walk to work as hard as we can to be as close as we can.”
“That’s right honey,” Virginia adds, “The Johnstons are our brother and sister in Christ. Shouldn’t we do everything we can to restore our relationship with them? So guess what?
You suddenly feel very sick, but manage to force out a “What?”
“Well,” she continues cheerfully, “The Johnston’s son Paul has decided to go on a summer mission trip to South America and they’ve invited me to go over to their house one evening a week to lead Paul in a bible study on the topic of missions! Isn’t that exciting?”
“I’m speechless” you say,
“And, get this, to demonstrate that we’ve decided to move on from past hurts, I’ve promised to introduce them to that new English couple we met at church…you know the one with a son Paul’s age? The Johnston’s want to invite him over to spend the night. Isn’t that wonderful?”
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