The recent US Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states hit our country like a runaway freight train. In my opinion no court ruling in my lifetime has caused such a stir and a division, with perhaps Rove vs. Wade being the lone exception; but I was too young to understand the implications of that particular ruling when it was made. Nevertheless here we are.
There is a growing American majority that favors the ruling. What does that mean for Christians in America? To be honest, it does not move the needle very much for those who see the gospel as much more important than cultural Christianity. What I mean by cultural Christianity is the kind of attitude that has permeated American Christianity in recent decades. It is a subculture, a voting bloc, a sales genre, and it is filled with “consumer Christians” who are more concerned about moralism and a white-washed culture –Jesus accused the Pharisees of being “whited sepulchers that are clean on the outside but filled with dead men’s bones” – than with the primary cause of spreading the gospel in all of its completeness and beauty.
In order to be transparent I must let you know of the lens through which I see this issue. I believe the Bible to be God’s Word. I believe it is inspired by God and given to us to let us know the Father, to experience his love, to know his heart for us, to know Jesus, and to point us to Jesus in every area of our lives. I also believe the Bible has meaning. Words have meaning. In order to know what they mean we must use proper hermeneutics and interpret the Bible how it is meant to be read. If you read the Bible in this way it is not difficult to come to a clear understanding of what God thinks about sex. He created it and sanctioned it to fill the earth with God-worshippers. He created it in his image and for pleasure. It is a beautiful act of intimacy that is to inspire worship of God in us. His plan was for us to enjoy sex as often as we like. Sexual desire is a God-created, God-blessed thing. The caveat, however, is that it is to be enjoyed only in the confines of marriage between a husband and wife who are married to each other. Adultery, sex between people who are not married to each other, and homosexual sex fall outside of his directive and are therefore sin. Because of this I will not perform gay weddings. However, I am not particularly disturbed by the ruling because Christianity is not meant to be legislated, it is meant to be lived. Since when does it surprise you that the world acts like, lives like, and believes like the world? The Bible and human history has taught us that legislation is not the answer to transformation. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only answer to real human change.
What does this mean for Christians?
We must remember that our call is to the gospel of Jesus. Jesus told us that the world would persecute and hate us because of him. That does not mean, however, that we should be hateful. On the contrary, hate-filled diatribes do not advance the gospel but only draw attention to what we stand against rather than what we stand for. That does nothing to advance the gospel but reinforces negative attitudes for those who don’t know Jesus.
I think Jesus spoke to our dilemma when he essentially condensed the entire Bible down to three things; love God, love your neighbor, and love your enemies. Christians would do well to remember these three important things.
Loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength means that we are to love God with our emotions, our will and decisions, our actions, and our intellect. Certainly we should read, apply, and live by the Bible, worship God in Christian community in our churches, and live through the power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Loving your neighbor is a bit harder. We must devote our time, resources, talent, and energy to serving each other in our local churches. But if we only serve each other we are not obeying what Jesus illustrated for us in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Loving your neighbor is not just loving, serving, and hanging out with people like us. The Samaritan was different in so many ways. He was different in his religious beliefs, his nationality, his race, his view of the world, and in most areas of his life. He was diametrically opposite of the Jews of his day yet Jesus made him the hero of the story. I get that Jesus was making a greater point about the inclusivity of the gospel but the challenge is still the same. Are we good Christians if we don’t help the marginalized, the broken, the needy, and those who are different that we are?
Later Jesus gave what I believe to be the most difficult of his three commandments. It is the one that goes so completely against our sinful nature. Love your enemies. If everyone is an enemy of God and under his judgment until we accept by faith the completed work of Jesus, then aren’t lost people in that category? Wouldn’t those who are gay be included in his command for us to love? Wouldn’t people who disagree with our political views be included?
In the Bible love is defined by actions. Loving actions are commanded more than loving emotions. No matter how you feel about this ruling Christians are commanded to love. Do posts and rants on social media fit the criteria for love? Has anyone ever had his or her worldview changed by a Facebook posting? Is arguing the best way to spread the gospel? I think we all know the answer to that.
I realize that many Christian parents are disturbed right now. But you don’t have to be afraid. In the first 100 years after the resurrection of Jesus innumerable people had their lives changed through Jesus. If you think our culture is bad, then just read about the Roman Empire. It was beyond bad. Yet the gospel flourished. People raised their children to love Jesus and the culture was eventually changed through the gospel, not political maneuvering. The point is that even though you may feel like the culture is changing for the worse you can be confident that there is hope for your children. Raise your children by faith. Believe in the power of the gospel and teach them the love of Jesus. That will go much further to keep them on the right path than an imaginary culture like Mayberry.
For those who want to invoke the Biblical mandate to stone anyone who is caught having homosexual sex let’s remember the other offenses that require stoning. If you have ever committed adultery (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22), or looked at porn (Matthew 5:28), or been divorced and remarried (Matthew 19:9), or been sacrilegious (Ex.19:12-13), or skipped church, or worked on church day, (Ex. 31:14-15; Numbers 15:32-36), or loved someone or something more than God (Lev. 20:2), took God’s name in vain or cursed (Lev. 24:16), or were rebellious against your parents (Deuteronomy 17:12), or played with a Ouija board, or went to a séance (Lev. 20:27), or hit your parents (Exodus 21:15), or cursed your parents (Exodus 21:17), or had sex before marriage in some cases (Deuteronomy 22:23-39), as well as murder, kidnapping, bestiality, or sacrificing your children to false gods (Lev. 20:2-5; Exodus 22:19; Exodus 21:12; Exodus 21:16). That is pretty extensive list and I imagine that if we applied that penalty equally, then church attendance would be really, really low this weekend. If we allow people who have committed adultery, looked at porn, been divorced and remarried, cursed, skipped church, worked when they should have been at church, or lived with their boyfriend or girlfriend to attend church and find love and forgiveness and restoration, then why would we not allow people whose sin is slightly different than ours? Every one of us is guilty of something on the stoning list. No exceptions.
If you are one of those “who can’t take it anymore” and you are so upset that you got radically involved by posting a snarky comment on social media, then I don’t believe you. When I see you weeping for lost people, fasting for people to come to know Jesus, tithing through your local church and giving sacrificially for the spread of the gospel, inviting your neighbors to church, and loving your enemies to the point of self-sacrifice, then I will believe you. Until then it would be wise to keep your self-serving comments to yourself.