Daly speaks from experience. He’s the youngest of five children born to alcoholic parents. He ended up in foster care after his stepfather walked out during his mother’s funeral. What followed were hellish years during which his mentally ill foster father accused young Daly of trying to kill him. The boy’s biological father, who had left when Daly was 5, returned to rescue him, but after a year fell back into alcohol abuse and died.
“I come from a broken childhood. I have a driving passion to try to get every child a better home and to be an advocate for that child who has no home.”
He was on his own at 17, but graduated from high school, then worked his way through college, earning a master’s degree in business administration. He was making a six-figure corporate salary when he responded to a divine call in 1989 and joined Focus on the Family, taking a two-thirds salary cut.
He’s seen the ministry slash staff, bid farewell to its retiring founder and now come under unrelenting attack for its defence of traditional marriage between one man and one woman. His response?
“I think what we want to do is be respectful, to speak with sincerity, to listen to what others have to say and follow simple rules of human interaction. Then we can do a far better job of being heard and being understood.
“We have to stay true to the tenants of the faith,” explains Daly. “But in doing so, we look to 2 Timothy 2:23.” In that passage, the Apostle Paul cautions young Timothy not to have anything to do with endless arguments. Paul also wrote to Timothy telling him that quarrels promote controversy rather than advancing God’s work – and that he should avoid people who have an unhealthy interest in ongoing controversy. “Warn them before God against quarrelling; it is of no value and only ruins those who listen,” he warned in 2 Timothy 2:14.
“When we are trying to help people understand spiritual truths, we need to do so with humility and graciousness,” says Daly. That’s why Focus on the Family, for example, shelved a program featuring the owner of Tom’s shoes – who donates a pair of shoes to the poor worldwide for every pair sold. After filming a special with Daly, Tom’s owner came under sharp attack by supporters of same-sex marriage who heatedly attacked Focus on the Family, equating it with Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan or worse. Overnight, Tom’s owner abruptly distanced himself from Focus on the Family.
It was embarrassing – and expensive for the ministry. The special had
already been produced and was ready for broadcast. But Daly pulled it.
Daly on Focus on the Family’s TV set
Doesn’t it hurt to be so viciously and unjustly attacked? How can an organization that stands for good be so fervidly accused of evil? Isaiah 5:20 warns: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
But these are difficult times – and Christians are going to have adjust their presentation in order to be heard, he says. “We’ve focused a lot on righteousness and living righteously – and that is obviously important. But we have to look at God’s grace, too.
“Truth is important, but God’s love is critically important as well. It’s what opens ears and hearts. We have to remember that those who don’t agree with our faith, or our ideology or our religion are not the enemy. They are men and women, like us, created in the image of God and deserving our respect.”
And that’s the theme of his book. He says it’s time that Christians refocus – “looking at making sure we’re offering as much love to the culture as we are truth.
“You know, Jesus was accused of being a friend of sinners and really mixing it up with people who were of the world. That’s what the Pharisees didn’t like about Him, yet it’s the model that Jesus left for us. And it changed the world.”
Daly knows the frustration of spending precious time and dollars in the political arena, then having little results to show for it. With an annual budget approaching $100 million, Focus on the Family spent millions promoting Christian values in the last election. And now, he says, he finds himself thinking these days more about the big picture – the Great Commission, winning the world for Jesus – and less about political platforms.
“So often we expect the world to act like Christians. We’re very grace-filled toward the church acting like the world.” Daly says we must turn that around. “One way to do that is to live out our faith in front of the world in such a way that it glorifies God and brings honor to Him – in our marriages, our families and every area of our life.”