After the passionate back-and-forth on the news yesterday, with the looming possibility of federal legislation on the issue of same sex marriage, I quietly logged into my account, and with a few clicks of the mouse replaced that picture of my gorgeous wife with one of a simple red background and a white equals sign.
Marriage equality, is what it represents.
I had a feeling it could be divisive, specifically among my Christian friends. Many clicked that little thumbs up picture, showing their support. Many have been silent thus far, perhaps marking their indifference. But following an amazing conversation with a co-worker minutes ago, I felt like this should be written so that I can take the opportunity and clarify my decision before wrong assumptions are made.
To my friends outside of Christianity:
It was devastating to me that, following my reawakening in faith, I had friends in same sex relationships that had already predicted the downfall of our relationship. So hatefully has the Church responded to the issue of your sexuality that you assumed I would follow suit and disregard the depth and breadth of the precious time we have been allowed to spend together. For that I am sorry. It is still incredibly disheartening to me that, in following a God that preaches love and respect, that invites us in to a relationship of complete joy and peace, so many Christians have erred on the side of judgment when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. It is up to none of us to judge but God. To take the banner, political or religious, on any issue and divide ourselves against others on the basis of what God commands both cripples the possibility of individual relationships (because people become generalized into a category based on how they feel about an issue) and goes against the gentle command of Jesus to “go and make disciples”. How each of us, individually, choose to live before God is ultimately a matter of personal accountability. How could I ever be so bold as to command you to follow what I see as God’s commandments when I am breaking the one that Jesus says is the greatest, to love our enemies as ourselves?
To my friends within Christianity:
In our universe, there are two simple possibilities—homosexuality is a sin, or homosexuality is not a sin. There are no other possible alternatives.
Let us look first at the side within Christianity that believes homosexuality is not a sin. You are an important voice, and one that has not come upon your conclusions lightly, or without sincerity. Looking at Scriptures, there are roughly 6 or 7 verses that speak directly to the issue, and even those can be somewhat unclear in their intended meaning. Jesus says nothing on the issue other than offering an example of a healthy heterosexual marriage. The word Paul uses for “homosexual” actually was originally used to refer to a “male prostitute”. There are hugely important debates that are being had from both within and outside of Christianity on this issue. But, at the very least, I think most would agree that what is openly discouraged in Scripture are unhealthy sexual relationships outside of marriage. Thus, this issue is even more pressing because the Church represents the loudest voice opposing the very thing that would allow homosexuals to operate within a Scripturally-sound framework. It falls on us, perhaps more-so than others because of the persuasion of our involvement thus far, to make a stand and support.
Now, let’s move to the side of Christianity that believes homosexuality is a sin. The vast majority of modern Christianity has at the very least struggled with this issue, some even outright declaring it an abomination and fostering some deep-seated anger about the issue. What, then, is our responsibility as a Church?
I can say this: there is no Scriptural foundation, either OT or NT, from Jesus to Paul to Moses to Adam, that tells us evangelism or the living out of God’s commands includes having them forced upon people outside of the Church. In pursuing state-sponsored legislation for an issue that we may personally feel is wrong goes contrary to our responsibility as believers. We are told to go and make disciples, we are told to live out the commands of Christ…
…but we are told to love and to be in relationships with people. Any authority we feel we should speak into the lives of others cannot be spoken until their is a basis of a loving relationship in place. It could be grievously damaging to the work of the Church if we seek to allow our government to do the work of living out God’s commands instead of each of us doing it individually. It was under persecution that the Church thrived because it forced people to live out the example of Christ.
As humbly as I know how to say this, we cannot carry this banner so loudly, so forcefully, and lay aside the ones that we are more familiar with. I think this issue is more difficult for many Christians because perhaps they have never experienced it themselves. So, to take another example from Christ, we can look at the command to not get a divorce. Jesus is rock-solid in how he commands against this issue (again, not saying a word about homosexuality). Yet, Christians are sometimes all-but-silent about the issue. The percentage of marriages ending in divorce is equal inside and outside of the Church. All who have gone through a divorce have been able to because we live in a governmental system where it is legally allowed. For someone to stand on the side against legalizing same sex marriage because they feel it goes against God’s command but to be living a life where they were able to get a divorce, which obviously goes against God’s command, would be the height of hypocrisy. I feel it is simply not the route we should be focused on. If someone is willing to so boldly carry the banner against same sex marriage, then why are they not even more boldly carrying the banner to have divorce made illegal?
In the end, it boils down to how much we are willing to wrestle with our faith in an effort to love more fully and follow more closely the God who loves us. It comes down to whether we are willing, while holding strong to the pillars of our faith—God is love, Jesus died for us, we are commanded to love out of an understanding of that sacrifice—to wrestle with the pieces of our theology that we have held to perhaps more tightly but sometimes in spite of the fact that it perhaps could look differently. I did not write this to confuse anyone’s theology, but to challenge us all to go back to the basics, to the unshakeables of our faith, and work our way out from there, making sure all our secondary and tertiary beliefs are in line and held for reasons glorfying and befitting the God tat has given us our commands.
And if what we believe ever, for even a moment, causes us to sin in how we uphold it…we need to seriously look at whether it is the belief that should be refashioned, or our own heart behind it. The Pharisees had all the answers…except for why the commands were given in the first place: to display God’s love.