Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why Gay Marriage Is Good For The Church. . . .

"Get off my property. . . and get off NOW!" I  remember hearing those words. . . several times. . . from the elderly gentleman (we'll just call him "Mr. W" here) who had the unfortunate privilege of owning the house on the corner that happened to be where our elementary school bus stop stood for all those early years of my schooling. He watched us like a hawk. And every time our feet would wander off the concrete sidewalk and onto his grass, he would open the door and let us know about it. During our younger years, he was frightening. By the time we got a little bit older, our feet would trespass purposefully in an effort to get him to do what had become predictable and laughable to us.

Good old Mr. W has come to mind a few times over the last few days as the debate over same-sex marriage has been heating up. The rhetoric and mud-slinging has. . . not surprisingly. . . increased.  Social media has lit up with what's now known as the "marriage equality icon" and creative or not-so-creative mutations of that icon that have been tweaked to sarcastically and cynically get numerous other opposing agendas across. Sadly, hastily throwing around reactive words and icons is sometimes the best that we can do or even choose to do. . . and it's not the least bit engaging, beneficial, or productive. Nor does it honor God.

Because I think that the Spring of 2013 will be remembered by history as a watershed cultural moment as it relates to marriage, faith, and a whole lot of other related issues, I've been very targeted in my reading, discussion, prayer, and contemplation over the issue of same-sex marriage. Not only am I working to refine and cement what it is I believe on this issue, but I'm pondering how to most constructively and Christianly (i.e. "God-honoring") engage in thoughtful conversations with those who don't agree with me. And, for the record, I believe that marriage has been instituted by God to be entered into by one man and one woman.

So, why would I ever say that "gay marriage is good for the church?" I say that because the current debate and wherever it ends is serving to wake us up, to sharpen us, and to get us thinking about and doing things that we need to be thinking and doing. For the record. . . again. . . I think it's only a matter of time before gay marriage is commonplace from coast to coast. One of my concerns is that many of my Christian brothers and sisters will interpret this reality as a loss of territory. That people who support same-sex marriage will have "wandered onto our property" and that the best we should and could do is simply open the front door and fire off a series of volleys where we yell "get off my property. . . and get off NOW!" That approach. . . as we're seeing. . . is just plain silly and non-productive. Shouldn't we be inviting people into the joy of Kingdom-living?

The current debate is good for the church because it forces us to see that God is in control. . . not us. It reminds us that these issues are far more complex and difficult than we've made them out to be. It causes us to see people. . . real people. . . people just like us. . . who are dealing with difficult and complex issues in their lives. It forces us to confront our own glaring sin. It makes us. . . or at least it should make us. . . dig deep into the Scriptures to come to an understanding that will yield ongoing grace-filled conversations marked by give-and-take with people who might not see things the way we do. . . rather than one-way conversations marked by our grace-less yelling which we arrogantly expect can and should result in obedience. It will awaken us to the fact that cliches, reactive social media icons, and organized protests don't do much more than turn off the very people we hope to influence. The current debate is good for us because it will make us face our ignorance and increase our dependence on God. As culture changes, God is in the midst of changing us. . . perhaps where it's needed most. . .  at the level of our sin of spiritual arrogance and pride.

Last night as I was laying in bed trying to sort out all that was running around in my head, I had this thought: The current debate should not be about followers of Jesus lording it over others so that they will conform to our wishes. Rather, it should lead us to a deeper life lived humbly under the Lordship of Jesus so that we will be obedient to Him. That, I think, will change the way we engage in this debate. Who knows what God will bring from all of this? I'm wondering if the primary change God is working to bring about in all this might be the deepening of His people in their knowledge of and humble commitment to and reliance on Him. Maybe we need a little refining. . . or a whole lot.

Some past blog posts on this topic. . . .
Rob Bell, Homosexual Marriage, and Our Changing Times. . .
Wrestling With Homosexuality. . . What's A Christian to Do? . . .
An Open Letter to the Church from a Lesbian

28 comments:

Jerry Varner said...

Walt, I've not posted/tweeting anything about this issue because while I know how I feel, I didn't know how best to convey it. Your post has done it for me. This article is hands-down the best article I've read so far on same-sex marriage as it relates to Christ followers and our cultural dialogue. Such good stuff, brother. Thanks for sharing this. I agree that widespread assimilation of homosexuality into American culture is all but certain, and soon. And as Christians we need to stand on God's Word unswervingly while loving and serving all people without compromise. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Ben said...

This post has one of my all-time favorite serendipitous typos. I think you're right, Walt - "it forces us to see that [g]od is control." I find myself worshiping frequently at the feet of Control. Sometimes I even find myself advocating for or against some church policy or plan or, in this case, law for no better reason than because I want to force my own will or imagination on others. It seems that it's not always corporate executives, politicians, and celebrities that get drunk on their other-determining power; maybe democratic majorities can become equally intoxicated. If church people choose to advocate against gay marriage in secular circles, we'll need to keep a close watch on our hearts to make sure we're not taking our stances in any part because we enjoy asserting ourselves on others. Control - one more idol I'm always asking God to push off the altar of my heart in the name of Jesus, who in his very incarnation relinquished control to so great an extent that he would eventually be compelled to forgive us, who know not even what we do.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Walt- I can't expect a melting pot country like the U.S. to reflect my values therefore I will live within the culture reflecting what I believe are Jesus's values for me-loving the lord with all my heart,soul,mind.and strength and loving others as myself

Jake Rasmussen said...

Good post Walt.

Angie Gregory said...

Thank you!! It is so hard to watch my Christian brothers and sisters so busy being "right" that they don't realize the damage we are inflicting on other people.

Rich Gallo said...

Very well put. I have always wondered why we as Believers feel that we have all the answers and have to try and convey to the world you must obey or else. God knows the heart and He will in His timing convict and change those hearts towards rightousness - if the heart holder gives God what God wants. When God shows His chidlren they are not following rightly and He knows they are willing to change - it will happen, but only in His time. We as Christians need to show what Jesus showed us - unconditional LOVE. No matter how much we SIN, He still loves us and waits with open arms for us to run to Him for that great conversion back. Pray for those in need of understanding - don't turn them away with judgement. The church's are all full of SINNERS - every one of us. Happy Easter and May we see JESUS more and more each day.

Kaye McGuffey said...

While I appreciate the analogy of Mr.W and gay marriage. I fail to see Grace in either of those topics. To convince the Gay community that there are "those" of us coming around to loving them (confusing "them" with lifestyle) is a miscommunication of the Word of God. No matter how we gloss it over to be on the "loving" bandwagon homosexuality is still sin. We should offer love and grace to all just as Jesus did for us, but those who are convinced that lifestyle is ordained by God Almighty aren't going to be convinced by any amount of love we show. Go ahead and tell people to stay off your yard Mr. W. because that had nothing to do with the Grace of God. It has to do with just your yard.

Kaye McGuffey said...

To confuse Grace with saying what is wrong IS wrong, isn't Grace at all. It's wishy washy at it's best. At Christian's the world has convinced us that "IT" knows what love is. If we follow their rules and accept irreputable behavior then we will listen to you tell us about Jesus. Well, newsflash...hasn't happened yet. The more we say we love the "SINNER" and we truly do...the more we confuse the world into thinking we love their lifestyle also. It's not working. We've got this beautiful thing called Grace and yet we water it down by playing by the same rules the world has written for us. Homosexuality is sin. Lots of things are sins and hurt us. Homosexuality is a big one during our time. It's all about LOVE we hear. That what they all say.
Mr.W. go ahead and ask people not to walk on your lawn. We don't don't your motives for running people out of your yard. We shouldn't ask you to let us walk into your yard with our stuff.

Anonymous said...

I think the church has much to ponder as we navigate these waters. I think we need to lovingly and gracefully engage the culture and not be suprised when unbelievers don't believe the Bible. Only God can change someone, but I think we need to prepare for possible persecution especially to our leaders in the church. As this issue unfolds our pastors in the church could face serious persecution if they refuse to "marry" homosexuals which they most assuredly should refuse to do.

austinmccann.com said...

Thanks for writing this. Great reminder that our job is not to point out others sin, but to reach out to them in love and bring them into the Kingdom. As believers, we need to face our own sin and realize apart from the blood of Christ we are depraved, sinful, rebellious people.

Austin

austinmccann.com said...

Thanks for writing this. Great reminder that our job is not to point out others sin, but to reach out to them in love and bring them into the Kingdom. As believers, we need to face our own sin and realize apart from the blood of Christ we are depraved, sinful, rebellious people.

Austin

Anonymous said...

This is about the church being divided on issues of sin. In the face of persecution we should stand and not against someone but for something. The issue is we have blurred the lines so much that people don't know what's right anymore.

sorry, I'm a little indifferent about this post.

Anonymous said...

This is about the church being divided on issues of sin. In the face of persecution we should stand and not against someone but for something. The issue is we have blurred the lines so much that people don't know what's right anymore.

sorry, I'm a little indifferent about this post.

are you saying we do like rob bell?

Emily Tomko said...

I like your optimism. However, in light of my interactions with gay friends and acquaintances, I see some very different outcomes of this. First, I oppose anything that attacks the family and seeks to deprive children of a mother and father relationship as inherently and thoroughly evil. Working with youth as I do, I can only see the next generation becoming more lost and wounded because of the depravity of so-called gay marriage.

Secondly, I believe the more Christ-like we are, the more of a threat we will be to this particular group. When I talk to college fellowships, this group is consistently described as the most closed off to Christianity; the youth and young people whom I know that are caught up in this lifestyle are the most rebellious in walking away from their faith and closing themselves off from those of us who've always shown them love. Their is something categorically different about this sin, regardless those who stand by the "sin is sin" axiom.

Third, this particular sin has not come full circle yet. Where does it go next? Pedophilia. Think I'm crazy or hateful? Check out the ideals being pushed by prime time TV (and if you've seen what I see on my gay acquaintances' blogs and tumblr sites - there's quite a lot of fascination with underage boys).

Lastly, there is an aggressive, bullying nature that seeks to label and cut down all who disagree with it as "hate." Most in the western church are unwilling to stand up to this, and compromise has equated love and grace. There needs to be truth as well, especially calling out sexual sin among the church body. To not do so is to muddy the waters (Ezekiel 34).

Jesus said the last days would be like those of Lot. Bestial, murderous homosexuality was one of the markers of Lot's city, and this is the first generation ever to open itself to such a flagrant concept.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, there are so many Christian marriages that fall apart, you should worry more about your own issues.
Secondly, could you point out where God says Homosexuality is a sin.. the exact words please.
Thirdly, There has never been a priest that has molested children, right? Homosexuality does not lead to Pedophilia.
and Lastly, it is hate speech. You would call it hate speech if someone was saying "ALL christian priests are pedophiles and child molesters and they should all burn in hell." you are classifying a whole group of people on foolish hearsay and hate speech.
Not everyone on the planet is christian.
"Judge not lest ye be judged."

cal varnson said...

Once again, this is a failure of the church to understand the DISTINCTION between the responsibility of the church to call government to do what it is designed to do and the church's responsibility to call people into "kingdom living". They are not the same thing, and understanding the difference is vitally important. If we follow the author's line of thinking then why not also say that legalized abortion is good for the church. We should not be saying that because the church is here to call the government to act in accordance with morality. This does not mean we don't call abortionists and those who have had abortions to "kingdom living". There are consequences that are very real for culture, and I'm not talking about protecting the American Dream or some convoluted version of North American Christianity, I'm speaking of any culture, anywhere in the world. This is not to say God can't handle sin, but that's not the church's job, to do God's job, but rather to wisely and graciously engage culture as God has directed us to do so. It would be quite beneficial if we were not so fearful of being irrelevant in an ever increasing pagan culture. It clouds our thinking.

Anonymous said...

It's important to remember that many who are in our churches are parents, siblings, grandparents, children and friends of LGBTQ folks.

When the rhetoric turns to "slippery slopes" "pedophilia" and other variations of "get off my lawn", they aren't thinking of some media depiction of a "gay lifestyle". They are thinking of their son, daughter, mother, brother, sister, etc. And they are wondering why people who claim to love God and their neighbor persist in painting their loved ones as amoral hedonists, hell-bent on dragging us all to Hell with them.

I can assure you that the lawn of the church is not terribly welcoming to parents who want to love their gay, lesbian and transgendered children unconditionally, either.

And marriage is but one aspect of how we make welcome those whose identities are so much more complex than we are comfortable exploring.

Anonymous said...

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination."

Leviticus 18:22

This is in response to Anonymous' question about where God says that Homosexuality is a sin-

Anonymous said...

Romans 1:18-32 plain and clear.

Anonymous said...

Walt, I appreciate you brother, but I'm not sure I understand completely nor agree. All sin (in the church) should be called out - in love and at appropriate times and in the manner cited by scripture. Failure to do so - or to do it appropriately - is what has weakened the church already. We're afraid to confront poison circulating around the Body.

Now, do we limit that only to the church, or do we speak out in the secular world? Well, persecution is coming because pastors are no longer going to be aloud to tell their congregations that homosexuality is a dead-end road that leads to despair. But I think if we're silent before this issue, we should be silent about other national issues that affect children, such as abortion. Can't have it both ways.

(To the person who commented on priests: "There has never been a priest that has molested children, right?" I think you are arguing against yourself. Everyone with a vague grasp on the workings of the Roman Catholic church know that the priesthood has long been a haven for gay men. Again, this is a failure on the part of the church not to comply with scripture, which says Jesus is our High Priest and which does not demand life-long celibacy on church leadership.

One question: Why the reference to Rob Bell in the previous post, a notorious false teacher? His opinion should count for nothing among the confessing church.

E.B. Massey said...

I agree that the debate is good. It forces us to engage the real (and growing) issue in a way that is consistent with God's word. But I cannot agree that the legalization of sin is ever a good thing. Same-sex "marriage" is a violation of God's institution of and expressed desire for marriage. As Christians who live a relatively democratic society, we must seek every opportunity to keep sin from becoming even more prevalent than it is.

Anonymous said...

Since the concept of homosexuality as an orientation was unknown until about a hundred years ago, on that basis alone, we know that the "clobber verses" used against gays could NOT refer to homosexuality as an orientation. They refer to same-sex acts, which were understood to be perpetrated by heterosexuals, and therefore were "lustful" and "unnatural".

There is no word in biblical Greek or Hebrew (the original languages of the Bible) that is the equivalent to the English word "homosexual". The 1946 Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible was the first translation to use the word "homosexual".

There is no word in biblical Greek or Hebrew for "sodomy". A Sodomite was simply an inhabitant of Sodom, just as a Torontonian is an inhabitant of Toronto. It was not until after the rise of the hierarchy in the institutional Church that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was inaccurately equated with homosexuality and the word "sodomite" came into use. (Read my article The Sin of Sodom Was NOT Homosexuality!.) Any translation using the words "homosexual", "sodomy" or "sodomite" are interpretations and are not faithful representations of the Original Scriptures.

Wherever same-sex acts are mentioned, it is either with regard to ritualistic traditions which were intended to increase the small population of the Hebrews, or it is among the Purity Codes for the Priests, or it is with regard to temple prostitution (idol worship) which was very common among the pagan people who surrounded the Hebrews, or it had to do with rape, power and violence as in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

None of the "clobber verses" used against gays refer to a loving relationship between two people, however you will find examples of same-sex love in the beautiful and romantic stories of Ruth and Naomi, a passage which very often is used in marriage ceremonies and yet it is between two women.

"And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee (Naomi), [or] to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people [shall be] my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, [if ought] but death part thee and me." Ruth 1:16,17

- and of David and Jonathan

"The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." I Samuel 18:1(b)

"Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women." II Samuel 1:26(b)

Jesus never mentioned homosexuality. Society and the church perceive it to be a sin, worthy of ostracizing family and friends, but Jesus never mentioned it! He talked about money, adultery, divorce, greed and lots of other things, but He never mentioned homosexuality. Rather neglectful of Him - IF being gay were such an abomination - another word usually linked to homosexuals, which has also been mistranslated. The correct interpretation of the word "abomination" refers to impurity and is usually linked with idolatry, not sexuality.

Alex E said...

Since the concept of homosexuality as an orientation was unknown until about a hundred years ago, on that basis alone, we know that the "clobber verses" used against gays could NOT refer to homosexuality as an orientation. They refer to same-sex acts, which were understood to be perpetrated by heterosexuals, and therefore were "lustful" and "unnatural".

There is no word in biblical Greek or Hebrew (the original languages of the Bible) that is the equivalent to the English word "homosexual". The 1946 Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible was the first translation to use the word "homosexual".

There is no word in biblical Greek or Hebrew for "sodomy". A Sodomite was simply an inhabitant of Sodom, just as a Torontonian is an inhabitant of Toronto. It was not until after the rise of the hierarchy in the institutional Church that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was inaccurately equated with homosexuality and the word "sodomite" came into use. (Read my article The Sin of Sodom Was NOT Homosexuality!.) Any translation using the words "homosexual", "sodomy" or "sodomite" are interpretations and are not faithful representations of the Original Scriptures.

Wherever same-sex acts are mentioned, it is either with regard to ritualistic traditions which were intended to increase the small population of the Hebrews, or it is among the Purity Codes for the Priests, or it is with regard to temple prostitution (idol worship) which was very common among the pagan people who surrounded the Hebrews, or it had to do with rape, power and violence as in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

None of the "clobber verses" used against gays refer to a loving relationship between two people, however you will find examples of same-sex love in the beautiful and romantic stories of Ruth and Naomi, a passage which very often is used in marriage ceremonies and yet it is between two women.

"And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee (Naomi), [or] to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people [shall be] my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, [if ought] but death part thee and me." Ruth 1:16,17

- and of David and Jonathan

"The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." I Samuel 18:1(b)

"Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women." II Samuel 1:26(b)

Jesus never mentioned homosexuality. Society and the church perceive it to be a sin, worthy of ostracizing family and friends, but Jesus never mentioned it! He talked about money, adultery, divorce, greed and lots of other things, but He never mentioned homosexuality. Rather neglectful of Him - IF being gay were such an abomination - another word usually linked to homosexuals, which has also been mistranslated. The correct interpretation of the word "abomination" refers to impurity and is usually linked with idolatry, not sexuality.

John Elwood said...

The most thoughtful, and grace-filled treatment of this matter that I've heard from a fellow evangelical. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Wait!! This is another example of not taking everything in print as "gospel" I feel that there is no excuse for homosexuality!

Brian Oleniacz said...

I think that your blog would be a good response- if the situation was truly as hopelessly a foregone conclusion as you suppose. I agree that yelling and bullying are not God's means of influencing society. But what about prayer? Have you ever thought about what would happen if the church took all that yelling energy and sent it God's way in the form of prayer and petition, instead of towards those who stand in opposition to His ways?

One of the fatal flaws in the Reformed approach to our faith is the belief that God is sovereignly orchestrating all of the still-active devil's schemes, and that the Church is merely a passive recipient of things like the Holocaust, Stalin's regime, and injustices done by our own nation- all from the "gracious hand of God." I disagree with this theory. I believe the New Testament clearly shows that Satan is still actively seeking dominion over the world and that the Church's role is to "wrestle with him in heavenly places" in heavenly warfare (Ephesians 6). Rather than standing back and waiting for Satan's plan for American to prevail, I believe now is the time to rise up in prayer and begin to ask God to move in His Church to raise up our voices in supplication until we take our place of influence in the spiritual world that we are currently trying to exert naturally, carnally, by "wrestling with flesh and blood."

Freed Hearts said...

You ask a great question. "Shouldn't we be inviting people into the joy of Kingdom-living?" We do not invite them because we do not experience the joy of kingdom-living. We're still trying to live in obedience instead of surrender. We still think we've got something to offer instead of NOTHING to offer, and that's why we need Him. I agree with you - I think God is doing something in the church through this and that is to move us past the silliness (blasphemy) of thinking we can keep the law and into the fulfillment of the law, Jesus. Thank you for writing.

Shawn said...

There are some important points made in this article but I feel it was not very balanced.

In having dealt with this issue in a personal way through college roommates and family members I understand the need to be loving and gracious, because we all need the Lord's grace.

There is another side of this issue that really bothers me and I feel it was not addressed very well in this post and that is that the church "ekklesia" is called by Scripture as the "called out ones". We are absolutely called out from hate. We are also called out from a life of careless sinning, called out from living by the world's standards, and we are called out to a Gracious yes, and also Holy God.

I can understand those living in darkness needing grace seasoned with loving truth. What really bothers me and is telling of the times is of the response of the church. Rather than repentance I see acceptance. We tolerate and accept those practicing, we succumb to sin infiltrating our doctrines, bylaws, and put forward the celebration of homosexual leadership within the church. We call those who address sin as sin "unloving" and point out their own need for grace without addressing the change that we all as believers must participate in as we enter the Kingdom of God. I am sure there are many instances where grace does need emphasized to the Church. Let us balance that the Lord himself refers to this sin as "detestable". Through his apostle he says, "the sexually immoral (among many other sins) will not inherit the Kingdom of God." That includes all lifestyles of sexual immorality; affairs, lust, porn, premarital sex and yes, homosexuality.

It is so popular to talk about "growing a dialogue and conversation" and we need to live a life of love, yet we cannot glance over that the church is growing accepting of a lifestyle of sin and is beginning to persecute other believers who address it as wrong as being unloving, unyielding, ungracious, bigots, and even racist. I agree that persecution is coming for those who will believe and hold fast to the Lord. He is loving and gracious, he is also just and holy. "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." 2 Timothy 4:3