The 700 Club: Living Among Lions Interview
LIVING AMONG LIONS
David and Jason Benham use the biblical example of Daniel to show how Christians can live victoriously in a world increasingly hostile to people of faith. They say that as Christians, we must learn to take a stand even though we live in an environment that contradicts our faith. By having conviction, commitment and courage, believers can thrive.
There are several ways that the Benham brothers encourage us to flourish in our adverse climate. First, as Christian leaders and examples, we must learn to be reverent. David and Jason say that while many churches and Christian leaders focus on being relevant to the current culture, the more important characteristic to strive for is reverence. It is vital to make the distinction between relevance and reverence. Striving for relevance can cause pastors to and leaders to focus more on numbers and political correctness than the desires of God. In contrast, the brothers say reverence means “fearing God and not man- worshipping, respecting, and seeking to please and honor Him above any other consideration.” They give the biblical example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to show how to exhibit reverence instead of relevance. The Hebrew boys refused to do the culturally relevant thing of the time, which was to bow down to a gold statue of Nebuchadnezzar.
They chose to reverence God, and as a result, God protected them from the fire of the furnace.
Another way that the brothers say we can thrive like Daniel did is by having courage. They say the key to gaining courage is by having a hard head and a soft heart. When we have a hard head, it means our goal is to please God. Regardless of what other people say or do, God remains the focus. However, even though we must remain steadfast to God’s word, we must also have a soft heart. This means to balance our steadfastness with love and compassion. When we are dealing with others, we maintain a balance between truth and love.
We can also show courage by refusing to change who we are, even when the standards of the culture changes. Sometimes the cultural climate becomes unfavorable, and even specifically targets people of faith. Some Christians in this situation are tempted to exhibit their faith in a private manner because of the external pressure to change their standards. However, David and Jason say God calls us to live our faith publically. When society around us changes, we should remain the same.
Finally, the Benham brothers say we can live courageously by positively affecting our surroundings instead of complaining. “Standing on the outside of our government and pointing the finger at our leaders is easy,” said David and Jason. “Gathering in our sacred buildings and refusing to say or do anything is even easier. But stepping in and trying to help- rolling up our sleeves and getting dirty- is much more difficult.” They say the church today should be most concerned with going into the world, being a blessing and making disciples of the nations.
In October 2014, HGTV was set to air the reality show, Flip It Forward, a reality series about identical twins David and Jason and their multi-million dollar real estate empire. After months of planning and five weeks of production under their belt, one of the show executives had been following the Benham brothers’ Twitter posts. The twins were raised in a strong Christian home and tweeting about their faith, specifically about the July 2nd, 1995 anniversary of their dad baptizing Norma McCorvey (the Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade). HGTV had some concerns that the audience they were about to reach would think they were “haters.” Apparently, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLADD) went into action behind the scenes lobbying HGTV to pull the show. “The executives had already spent a year with us, and they were our friends,” says Jason. “This was a difficult time. For them, Flip It Forward was a winner.” In May 2014, David and Jason got a phone call from executives cancelling the show. The Benham brothers expressed gratitude to their HGTV friends. “Thank you for giving us this opportunity…for taking the chance and investing so much in us,” they said. The Right Wing Watch website had posted an anti-gay, anti-choice article that distorted the truth and smeared the Benhams’ character, calling them “right wing extremists.” David and Jason believed that Right Wing Watch and GLADD bullied HGTV and caused them to submit to the demands. “It was a well-orchestrated and flawlessly executed hit on Christian values,” says David.
Meanwhile HGTV had committed to help six families learn how to flip houses. The brothers gathered the families in their office, offered them their services for free and agreed to market the properties for no commission, even though they were not obligated to do so. HGTV remained faithful to their financial commitments to help the families to the end. Subsequently, while the media firestorm was taking place, people were amazed at how David and Jason were facing this persecution. The brothers knew God was in control. “We said, God, we were persecuted for righteousness and for that we thank You,” says Jason. “At the end of the day, if all we have is God, then we win.”
DYING TO THE DREAM
Jason and David say their message is for the Church. “It’s hard for us to see a corporation like HGTV take a stand (against Christianity) when many churches don’t stand up for their faith,” says Jason. “We as Christians are not modeling how to take a stand.” David says, “We got fired for voicing our opinion and living out our faith. If we want our freedoms protected, Christians need to step up and lead.” Because Christ is their foundation, David and Jason knew that God had a plan for them and trusted Him with that plan. Instead of feeling like they lost everything, through contentment the twins were able to reframe the situation to realize that they had really gained much more. “It strengthened our vertical relationship with God, and strengthened our horizontal relationship with others,” says Jason. “We were inundated with Facebook messages and personal notes from many, even in the gay community, saying they were listening to our message, which was simply the message of the cross.”
In college at Liberty University, David and Jason played baseball. After graduation, they both dreamed of playing professional baseball together. In 1998, the Red Sox drafted David in the 12th round. The next day, The Orioles drafted Jason. In 1999, Jason collided with another player and broke his right shin. The following year, Jason had to die to his dream of playing professional baseball since the injury left him a little slower than he used to be. After Jason was out of the game, David felt like he was carrying the dream alone and decided to walk away from baseball. “We’ve been reading the Bible since we were 7,” says David. “We’ve known that whatever God puts in our hand, we need to hold onto loosely. That way, it won’t hurt if He decides to pry it away.” David and Jason
remind us to focus on the Lord. “We let him bring the blessings and take the blessings. It’s all a matter of focus.”
After baseball, Jason and his wife Tori both started working at John Maxwell’s Injoy in Atlanta. Soon he got a job offer as the chaplain for a large, family-owned company in Charlotte. Jason got a job for David as a janitor in a Christian school owned by the same company. “When the platform of being a Christian athlete was taken from me, everything came crashing down,” says David. “I had made an idol out of the plan and platform God gave me for my life.” The Lord spoke to him. David realized his identity should have rested solely in the Person of God, not in His plan for his life.
A year later, both brothers found themselves out of jobs because of a major company/family split. At 27, the brothers got their real estate licenses on a whim and began working for a realtor in North Carolina. For two years, while they were trying to build their real estate business, David and Jason worked odd jobs. They prayed that God would bless their business. They applied the principles they learned growing up and lived their lives purely. “Our little real estate business grew like wild fire,” says Jason. Ten years later, they own multiple businesses and have franchised their real estate company in more than 30 states. Jason is one of the top 10 real estate agents in the nation. Their business was featured in Inc. Magazine’s “Fastest Growing Private Companies” and “Fastest Growing Real Estate Companies.” In addition, they were featured in Entrepreneur’s “Franchise 500 List,” and were finalists for Ernst and Young’s “Entrepreneurs of the Year.” Jason has also been featured three times on Wall Street Journal’s “Top 10 List of Real Estate Professionals.”