The evangelical blogosphere has been abuzz with gay marriage talk now for the past week, ever since the North Carolina voters amended their constitution to make sure marriage would stay heterosexual and President Obama openly supported gay marriage. And might I say, I am disappointed by the Christian talk on gay marriage. Frankly, I think we Christians could have handled dialogue better. And frankly I don’t have a dog in the “legalization of gay marriage” fight since I am a nonvoter. But I am a Christian and I love the church so there are some things that I feel compelled to use this blog to address, if for nothing else than to ease my conscience and be at least one more voice asking the church to reason with grace and love. My seven points are not in support of gay marriage as they are in support of a biblical attitude towards culture and non-Christians.
(Note: I’m not advocating for the church and Christians to accept gay marriage in their congregations. That is clearly unbiblical)
Counterpoint #1 | Romans 13
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
(Romans 13:1-7 ESV)
Remember that this was written to Rome. Yeah, that Rome. The one where Christian’s were impaled, fed to lions and martyred routinely. In a Democracy, we have the freedom to vote for what we feel would be best for the government. But to spew insults at a sitting President is clearly unbiblical. This exhortation and the controversial “slaves obey your masters” (Ephesians 6) were not meant to advocate political positions, but to remind the Christian that their duty is not to an immoral government or a slavedriver, but to God himself who is a merciful Father. Essentailly, it is to keep the Christian from getting too attached to this “present world which is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31) and keep their lives, desires and minds focused on the gospel.
Counterpoint #2 | Separation of Church and State
Okay, now this one is a little bit dicey. Church and State’s separation was originally meant to preserve religion and allow it to operate in orthodoxy, liberty and diversity. It is a page right out of puritanism and the Reformation and few would dispute that it is heinous for the government to interfere with eccelisal affairs. But in the mind of the modern cultural evangelical, it is okay to enforce doctrines only applicable for the regenerate on the nation at large. Yet just like the government molding the church, this can damage both the church and the government. It is like trying to fit a circle block through a square hole. The church cannot legislate morality because the church can’t even agree on what morality is! It is not the church’s job to keep homosexuality out of the culture but to provide a message of repentance and grace to the culture. If that dichotomy would disappear then sooner or later our nation would look like Europe circa 1300: theocratic oppression. It’s fine to be a Christian in government who wants to implement Christian-influenced laws, but it making it into a “holy war against the pagans” destroys the church’s witness to a non-Christian culture, undermines intellectual dialectics and tramples on the democratic process.
Counterpoint #3 | Culture is Never Orthodox
Sometimes when I think of Christians picketing stuff, yelling like pundits and slapping around somewhat hateful rhetoric, I think of that song “looking for love in all the wrong places”.
If you look for validation, acceptance and joy in the halls of culture, any culture, you will be disappointed. Orthodoxy, repentance and joy is found at the cross: a transcultural, universal yet exclusive message that fulfills the longings of the human hearts. Nobody can enforce that or convince anyone of that: it is an individual discovery that must be made by the power of the Holy Spirit. So by expecting a culture to cater to that we unintentionally turn the orthodox Christian message into a message of Islam-esque submission-as-justification. We want to turn our cities into halls of piety but as Hebrews says, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14 ESV).
Also, never trust the Christian culture in full. It has done some bad things and always needs to be called back to the gospel message it proclaims. That is why sometimes the best thing to do is criticize the church, for it’s own good.
Counterpoint #4 | Choose Wisely Your Hill To Die On (Avoid Red Herrings)
Sometimes I feel like evangelicals let their views of homosexuality influence their view of the gospel when it should be the other way around. We need to choose wisely our hills to die on. And the gay marriage hill is just not big enough a battle to be taken down in. I’d rather let the culture do what it wants to do and keep on pointing myself and others back to the gospel message. In the old days, when a hound dog was on your trail you could loose him by dragging a red herring across your path. It would capture the hound dog’s attention and distract him from his initial mission. So when we attach ourselves to a cause it is good to ask ourselves “is this the main objective or a red herring”. Today a certain pastor tweeted “If Christian’s do not stand up for marriage than they are not worthy to be called followers of Christ”. Essentially saying that “if you do not agree that this is a central issue, then you probably are not a Christian”. Regardless of one’s position on this political issue, this statement is divisive, provocative and diverting- a true to life red herring.
Counterpoint #5 | 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
(1 Corinthians 5:9-13 ESV)
There is enough junk in the church that we have to deal with. Paul here is encouraging an inclusive and pluralistic approach to the world and an exclusive, demanding approach to those inside the church. Today it seems as if many get this flip-flopped (and how easy it is to do!). Also, another reason why it is good to dialogue (sometimes sharply) with other Christians, for upbuilding, holiness and orthodoxy.
Counterpoint #6 | 1 Timothy 3:7
Moreover, he (an overseer) must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
(1 Timothy 3:7 ESV)
Elders, pastors and those in church leadership are directly told to be thought well of by those outside of the church. That means interpersonally among neighbors, friends, etc. and today also in the realm of blogs, twitter and facebook. It is simply unhelpful and unbiblical for pastors to be slamming those outside of the church with hateful and unkind rhetoric, regardless of their position on anything! For a good example of this and the tension between “being hated by the world” and being a jerk, check out Trevin Wax’s hypothetical conversation on homosexuality here. We simply do not know how to disagree in love.
Counterpoint #7 | Bigger Fish To Fry: Ourselves
Somewhat like a red herring, this is possibly the biggest reason why I am tired of the homosexuality debate. It takes the sin of others and makes it bigger than our own sins of pride, lust, selfishness and unbelief. Jesus said to take the log out of our own eyes before we take the speck out of the eye of another. What happens when we go to take the log out of our eye? We realize it is so big and so heavy that we cannot take it out. This is humbling and humiliating. What can be done with this “log” that we have been impaled on? We must look to another to remove it. Only the gospel can remove our log and only by the grace of God can we repent of our log-sized sin. A life long battle that political scuffles only distract us from.
So regardless of whether or not the culture decides to legalize gay marriage, the gospel will continue to be true, great and important. And only that gospel gives someone the power to repent of homosexual sin, heterosexual sin and anything in between.
Now can we please get back to our regularly scheduled programming?!