Today the Unites States Supreme Court heard the second of two cases on the issue of gay marriage. Yesterday, oral arguments on what has become known as “Prop 8”, which is the State of California’s ban on gay marriage were heard. Today the justices listened to arguments on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA is a federal statute signed into law by President Clinton, which prohibits same-sex partners from receiving federal benefits. There is no doubt that gay marriage is the tip of the spear in the moral battle which has gripped our country over the last few years. The Supreme Court hearings will likely be two of the most monumental cases in the history of our country. I won’t claim to be a legal expert or understand all the inner workings of how these arguments were presented, but this article from the front page of FoxNews.com today is helpful in getting a clearer picture. What I do know is these cases have the potential to hinder or accelerate a major moral shift in our country. The moral shift is not encapsulated in the gay marriage debate alone, but the debate seems to be the great barometer of what we are experiencing. As an American, I care about what happens in these cases. As a follower of Christ, I am concerned about the speed of the moral shift away from the Judeo Christian principals of our founding. As a church leader I am concerned about the church’s voice on this issue. As a minister of the Gospel, I am most concerned that Jesus Christ be glorified in the midst of all our strife.
I often feel like I am caught in a very precarious position. How do I stand firm in what I believe without being immediately cast as a bigot or hate monger? Do Christians not have an equal right to fight for what we believe is best for the country we love? In many circles, we don’t. That is just the facts as I see them. I believe that marriage is defined as God created it, between one man and one woman for life. My belief is in line with the orthodox Christian teaching of centuries past. However, I also believe that Christians must learn to address our beliefs on this issue especially, in a manner that is filled with the grace which we have received. As I have been hearing news of the Supreme Court cases, I also read this recent post from Hunter Baker. Here is an excerpt from “Message from a Gay Sister“, which I found very convicting and thought provoking. This sister wrote:
“When the word “homosexual” is mentioned in the church, we hold our breaths and sit in fear. Most often this word is followed with condemnation, laughter, hatred, or jokes. Rarely do we hear any words of hope. At least we recognize our sin. Does the church as a whole see theirs? Do you see the sin of pride, that you are better than or more acceptable to Jesus than we are? Have you been Christ-like in your relationships with us? Would you meet us at the well, or restaurant, for a cup of water, or coffee? Would you touch us even if we showed signs of leprosy, or aids? Would you call us down from our trees, as Christ did Zacchaeus, and invite yourself to be our guest? Would you allow us to sit at your table and break bread? Can you love us unconditionally and support us as Christ works in our lives, as He works in yours, to help us all to overcome?”
I agree with this sister. I highly recommend you read the rest of the letter. I believe her perceptions to be accurate concerning much of the church today. Again, I believe in the fight against the moral shift of our nation, but we must not choose homosexuality as the singular sin we are willing to publicly condemn. Sadly, the church has lost its voice in the battle for marriage because we have sat on the sidelines when it comes to so many other cases of sexual and marital sin. I am speaking universally here and in broad terms. However, I think it is worth asking whether we have been as vocal and aggressive in our fight against pornography, adultery, divorce, etc? I don’t think we have. The stats of divorce within the church are well documented. Adultery seems to be on the rise, and pornography is rarely addressed from our pulpits or Sunday Schools. On this issue, as a whole, we have not been “set apart” as we are called to be. (2 Tim 2:21) No one will ever know, but I am convinced that had the church not allowed these things to so easily creep into our pews, our voice in support of the biblical definition of marriage would be much stronger. Our homosexual brothers and sisters can rightfully ask why their sin has become the leprosy of our day. I am not suggesting that any sin be ignored, but I am asking that he who has no sin cast the first stone of condemnation. (Jn 8:7)
So, I find myself in a predicament of love. I love my country, and I love the sinner, of which I am foremost. (1 Tim 1:15) My heart aches when I consider the news of each day, and my heart breaks when I hear of someone within or outside being hurt by un-Christlike speech from the church. The truth of scripture is clear when it comes to sin, including homosexuality. Christians should have no fear of the truth and we do no good by attempting to diminish or change scripture. At the same time we must rely on the whole counsel of God, which tells us that God has a plan of redemption for all sinners. Sin is sin and the Gospel is the power to conquer it.
My only hope and the only power to reconcile these truths is the power of the Gospel, which has reconciled me to Christ. (2 Cor 5:18) I am committed to fighting for truth and righteousness because I know the power of the Gospel. (Rom 1:16) The condition or circumstance of your sin is not important to me because the cross of Jesus Christ has power to redeem all who accept it. What is important is that we recognize our sin, repent, and ask Christ to heal us of our unrighteousness. (1 Jn 1:9) I believe it’s possible to stand in opposition to sin and love the sinner. I don’t believe we should shudder from truth simply because it brings conviction. I also believe we must be willing to confront the sin within our churches, if we expect to have a voice in the public square. We must offer grace to all, but call for obedience from all who claim the name of Christ. (1 Pet 1:22) In the context of marriage, I will proclaim the truth of scripture, that God created marriage. (Gen 2:24) The truth that states, He created marriage to be a reflection of His Gospel through the powerful picture of a man’s sacrificial love for his wife, which ultimately reflects Christ’s sacrificial love for His church. (Eph 5:22-33) This supernatural love is made possible by the grace of God. This is not hate; it is the greatest love that has ever been known. It is the love of God and is free to all! (Rom 5:15-17) I will proclaim this love to all, and hope to do it in a grace-filled way. Your sins are not worse than mine, but there is no doubt we are all sinners. (Rom 3:23) Thanks be to God, Christ loves us all in spite of who we are. (Rom 5:8)
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us be the reflection we are called to be and stand apart from the world in all areas of our life. We will not achieve perfection in this life, but straining toward righteousness is a worthy calling. (Phil 3:12-14) Let us freely offer the good news of Jesus to all and rid ourselves of the pride that the Gospel is not powerful enough to reach even the most ardent sinner. Only the Gospel can change a heart (Ezek 36:26), and our churches, cities, and nation will only be changed one heart at a time.