It’s been a busy week for the Supreme Court of the U. S. They’ve already rendered a couple of huge decisions, and there may be more to come.
The first was the overturning of key aspects of the Voters Rights Act. Christians have a variety of viewpoints about this, mostly driven by our political perspectives rather than our Christian beliefs. I’m not going to speak on this issue in this blog, since I currently don’t post on political issues, but there is one thing I’d like to say to my Christian friends.
Regardless of your viewpoint here, this was not a spiritually driven decision. I know that some of you disagree with their decision and some agree with it. Please do not confuse your political and cultural beliefs with your spiritual position here. God is not interested in being aligned with one or another political affiliation. Your spiritual beliefs may have an impact on how you feel about this, but do not try to pull His church into your political camp. It misleads people about the actual values and priorities of the faith.
The other decision was the two part (especially if you, like me, live in California) rulings around same sex marriage. For Californians, the ruling on Prop 8, a former ballot measure denying civil marriage to same sex partners, was effectually overturned by the Court’s decision not to address the issue, which has been formerly overturned in lower court rulings. The impact of this decision, which will surely continue to be adjudicated in yet more litigation actions, is to allow the legality of same sex marriages in California.
The broader ruling that the Court actually did make was to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that effectually denied the legitimacy of same sex marriages on an interstate basis, essentially saying that if your state allows such marriages, they do not have to be recognized by other states. The decision to overturn the Act essentially places states in the position of having to recognize such unions solemnized in other states, even if the recognizing state does not allow these marriages to be performed. The short term impact of this will be to allow persons who were married in a same sex union in one state and since, or now, have moved to another state to retain their married status.
It also enables persons married in same sex unions to obtain social security benefits earned by their spouse and to be notified in the event of the death of said spouse if they are deceased in military combat as a member of the U. S. military services, as well as other federally related issues impacted by the previous refusal to recognize these unions. The bottom line is that such persons are now entitled to be treated as married in the eyes of the federal government.
Again, there will be more action around this issue as states struggle to define their individual positions on the matter of same sex unions.
Having identified ALL THAT, here’s what I want to address. As with the Voters Rights Act decision, there are Christians who have a variety of feelings and beliefs about these decisions. I have no intention of attempting to influence those feelings, though there are those on both sides who’d like me to do so. I seriously doubt that I’d change any minds if I did; I’d probably only inflame the people on one side or the other, and most likely on both sides.
I DO have every intention of addressing one issue here, and that’s the issue of what a Christian’s response ought to be toward the reactions of others to these decisions.
How are people of the Kingdom of God supposed to respond when there are people on the one side of us who are rejoicing in what they see as a blow struck for individual freedom and the liberty to be happy and fulfilled in their lives or in the lives of others precious to them and, on the other side, people who are despairing of the very moral future of our nation due to what they see as a decision to give in to sinful acts?
OK, that turned out to be a much longer question than when I first envisioned in inside my head.
First, a word about why we see such a diverse response. It begins with how you envision the reality of homosexuality in our world. Certainly, there are people who simply say that acting on such “impulses” (please bear with me here and don’t pigeon hole me over semantics; I’m simply reflecting the way this issue is born out for each side) is sin, hated by God and subject to eternal punishment. Without regard to your position of this issue, any person of basic intellect can see how an individual holding such a view might move to a stern negative response to these decisions.
There are also people who believe that the individual should be able to express their sexuality in whatever way they wish, without regard to religious views or even issues like whether you were “born heterosexual or homosexual.” Obviously, such folks are unlikely to be adherents of traditional Christian religions, and in this issue at least, would be the diametric opposites of the first group.
But, bear with me here, because one size, or even these two, do not fit all. There’s a whole spectrum of viewpoints that fit between these two, and we interact with folks that fit in these other, nearly unlimited, points of view every day.
There is a large contingent of people who believe that are sexual orientation is a matter of our DNA, that the so-called “choice” (remember, we’re allowing for each viewpoint to be expressed in terms identified by the holders of those viewpoints, not your or my version of them) of sexual orientation is not a choice at all, but a matter of birth. If these folks are believers in God, they would go further to contend that since they were born with that orientation, how could it be an offense to the God who is as much their Creator as yours or mine, assuming we are not part of this group. Please believe me (some of you may be inclined not to do so, but I ask you to accept on my word that this is true, if only for a moment); many people in this belief group are followers of Jesus Christ. They genuinely believe that the same sex orientation, even if acted upon, is not a sin before God. You don’t have to agree with them , but it would be a terrible mistake to pretend that they don’t exist, or that anyone who says this is just a liar pretending to be a Believer to cover up for the sin they accept.
There is another pretty big group of people, MANY of them Christians, who still believe that homosexual behavior is sin before God, but are hesitant to place that presumed sin in a singular category of sinfulness when they view a church world filled, at times, with people who are actively involved in other sinful behaviors that are not viewed as being “as bad,” including acts of prejudice and racism, gluttony, and a whole realm of sexual improprieties that we don’t exactly wink at, but consider to be lesser sins that God is somehow more inclined to forgive. For these folks, often still struggling with a “hate the sin; love the sinner” belief system that frequently makes them wince at themselves because it feels a little inadequate to the issue, there is a lack of complete decisiveness around the issue.
So, let me just say that we, even Christians, are actually all over the place on this issue, and are struggling to come to the right, God inspired, conclusion. And, RIGHT NOW, this week, we are having to decide how to respond to the MANY expressions of rejoicing and disgust confronting us, and we just don’t have time to resolve all these conflicting viewpoints while we’re feeling a need to respond.
One young friend of mine went on Facebook and admitted that he had friends on both sides and was unsure how he should respond. His decision was that he was going to take a nap and get off Facebook, where the juxtaposition of these conflicting emotions was most apparent to him.
Another friend, also on Facebook and, while a Believer, one that has a very pronounced point of view and was rejoicing, stopped for a moment and was wondering in a post how the “other side” was responding. Once she found some strong anti-gay responses, she re-posted them in disgust. I have to admit, some of them were very disappointing, as they were put out in the open by self proclaimed Christians behaving in a very UN-Christian manner.
So, how do we respond?
I believe that we begin by remembering who we are and how we became who we are. None of us has ever been worthy of the grace given to us, and yet here are, members and proclaimers of the already here/still coming Kingdom of God. We carry within us the image of the Divine, and when we speak, we become the voice of God in this world. If we fail to accurately represent Him, we destroy the Kingdom impact around us, but if we do represent His heart, we BRING the Kingdom to others.
Here’s my recommendation to those who wish to bring the Kingdom this week around this issue.
Rejoice today with those who are rejoicing. Throwing a wet blanket over their celebration does not speak God to anyone. You’re not going to change anybody’s mind over this issue. The only people with whom you would be rejoicing would be people you already know and love. And, you should love them the way He loved you, when you were totally unworthy of being loved.
My friend David is in a committed same sex marriage, and he and his partner are rejoicing today, along with the beautiful children they have adopted, a beautiful loving family. My friend Molly is in a long term committed marriage with her somewhat older partner. Her partner is suffering from early stages of an age related infirmity, and Molly is acting both as spouse and care giver in a beautiful example of committed love and care, and they are rejoicing in their new found liberty. They are committed Believers, by the way. I’m not asking you to accept that, but I do. What we think is immaterial, by the way; their relationships with God are with Him. He will decide, and that’s OK with me.
I have other friends who are rejoicing. Some are gay; some are not. Some have family members who are gay. Some simply believe that this is the right thing.
So, when I am with them, I rejoice with them. They know who I am, and they know WHOSE I am. My witness around them is a matter of unfettered grace, because that’s the way it came to me. That’s the way I pass it on.
I also recommend that you comfort those who are mourning today. You don’t have to agree with everything they say to comfort them, but you can certainly remind them that we serve a sovereign God. He is not affected by Supreme Court rulings, and His desires for His creation are neither enhanced nor diminished by the actions of mere men. For those who somehow feel that their marriages have been diminished by this “inclusion,” remind them that their vows were not made as a comparison to the world around them, but between one another and before God.
I have some very conservative friends. A lot of them don’t discuss politics with me because they’ve grown tired of me deflecting those conversations and choosing to focus instead on my advocacy for the Great Commission and the things of the Spirit. Because I’m an ordained Elder in the Church of the Nazarene, admittedly a pretty conservative group of folks, overall, they often assume that I agree with them, or at least should, on everything they believe.
But, unless they take off in an extreme rant this week, I’m not planning to condemn or confront them. I’m going to extend grace, the same way it was extended to me. If I feel they’re acting in an UN-Christian way on anything, I’m simply going to act with grace toward them and steer them by my actions, not my words, back to the Heavenly Father.
We are part of the Kingdom of God. It exists right here on this earth. It’s not subject to or dependent on the actions or beliefs of any government or court. We voluntarily submit ourselves to those earthly institutions because this is the mission field to which He has assigned us. We pray for the welfare of the cities, states, countries, world in which we live, because we find our earthly welfare in their welfare.
We are the Body of Christ. We should try to act like it.
Always Praying For You,
Your Older Brother,