Gay Marriage and the Failure of the Church
Quite often I encounter the charge that the legalizing of gay marriage represents a failure of the church. This charge has a couple of versions.
#1 We are failures because we weren’t able to prevent it.
If the church only prayed more/fasted more/voted as a bloc/were filled with the Spirit/boldly declared the gospel/cast down demonic strongholds – gay marriage would never have gained a foothold in American civic life. Version 2 strikes the opposite note –
#2 We are failures in that we even tried to prevent it.
We should know better than this, we are scolded. How can we expect Christian behavior from non-Christian people? The goal of the church is not behavior modification, but heart transformation. In that the attempt was even undertaken to prevent this form of behavior demonstrates that the church doesn’t understand spiritual reality. The very act of taking into hand the political power of the voting booth is a denial of the spiritual power of the Spirit and clearly exposes our lack of love toward the gay community.
So, has the church failed? Consider the legalization of gay marriage in the light of the abortion wars. Is the availability of abortion a failure of the church? What more could the church have done to prevent the millions of abortions that have polluted our land? We voted/picketed/prayed/pleaded/reasoned/raged/provided alternatives. The death of millions of babies cannot be laid at the door of the church. We were/are not complicit. This blood is not on the hands of the church. These take place against our will/our vote/our cooperation/our permission/our blessing. The church flexed all its might and still the nation turned to an abomination that had never even entered the mind of God. The blood of millions of human beings is to be laid at the feet of a corrupt culture in moral free fall, not at the feet of a weeping church.
Was the idolatry of Israel the fault of God who sent His Word, prophet after prophet, calamity after calamity? The Lord cries through Isaiah, “What more could I have done…?”
Preventing gay marriage may indeed be the church fighting a losing battle, but even if we lose this battle it is a battle worth waging – we do not fail even if we lose. The church only fails if the church fails to be the church. And this is true whether you contend that this is a battle the church should be involved in or not. (And, for the sake of clarity, the battle was not against gay marriage, but against a redefinition of the Biblical concept of marriage that would have/is having/will have significant repercussions on American life).
For 8.5 years our church was located across the street from the L ’amour Shoppe – an adult book store. A couple of times during those years there was the suggestion that the existence of that store represented a failure of the church (not just CC Fremont, but the entire church in Fremont). If the church had a greater spiritual presence in the city, it was reasoned, the Shoppe would not exist. I disagreed with them. The existence of that store does not represent the failure of the church, instead it is to be traced to the moral and spiritual failure of its owners, operators, and clientele. They sinned against conscience and the gospel to open that place and to keep it open.
The moral/spiritual collapse of the culture is not the church’s failure. I cannot think of a Scripturally based, textually developed and derived argument that faults the church for the failure of the culture. The church has her own failure…
What is the failure of the church? The church’s failure is the moral/spiritual collapse of the church. The failure of the church isn’t that the culture is looking less and less like the church, but that the church is looking more and more like the culture. Their degeneration is not our failure, our degeneration is our failure. We can’t expect the world to act like the church – but we can and should expect the church to act like the church. The problem isn’t that the culture is departing from the Scripture, but that the church is departing from the Scripture.
Gay marriage/abortion availability/the prevalence of pornography/etc., is not the failure of the church. It is the failure of those who sin against creation/conscience/Christ. It is the failure of those who know that there is a God and that they are morally accountable to Him and yet suppress the truth in unrighteousness. The moral and spiritual collapse of the culture is not the church’s failure, the church has enough failure of her own.
Really great post Tim…
I have resented and have grown tired of being blamed for all of the aforementioned items, both on a corporate level, and then with the unspoken but all so clear insinuation that “as goes the pastor, so goes the church”. I have grown weary of the “prayers of corporate failure”.
I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment on this, and find it quite liberating. I am not looking to escape the responsibility that is mine, but I also have no interest in shouldering that which God has not given me.
If we are guilty, it is in the realm of existence we find ourselves in: the church. May we more quickly own that which is ours to own, and may we not take on guilt and responsibility that isn’t ours to own.
A hearty “amen” to what you have written Tim. I couldn’t agree more. Stealing this now, my friend.
I agree with Bill, great post. So many times I have been convicted of not doing enough (usually by some Fox Network junkie in my church). What I am most convicted of is the moral failure within the church and the defense of it if you adress it. I need to renew my passion to see a holy church and not just accept it as it is.
I deeply agree with what you wrote, Tim, and the only thing that I would add for consideration is that it is deeply hypocritical for some Christians to accuse the GLTB community of “undermining marriage”, when within the Church herself, there is an obvious lack of regard for the sanctity of the institution, and that is seen in the incredibly high divorce rate among those who profess to be “evangelical, Bible-believing Christians.”
As having been divorced myself, as a result of my wife’s infidelity and embracing of a lesbian sexuality and lifestyle, I understand that there are always exceptions, and that Jesus outlined those exceptions. But I am grieved at how many Christians are divorcing each other for anything but Biblical reasons. Having spoken with several homosexuals over the last 9 years, I have often had this incongruency pointed out to me: “Why are Christians so adamant that gays not be married, when it doesn’t seem that it’s all that valuable to us?” Admittedly, at first I bristled at this observation, but eventually have come to see the kernal of truth within.
So, as we as Christians wrestle through this difficult issue, and especially as pastors, I feel we need to perpetually point to God’s Word, and God’s revealed will for marriage, not just to those who profess to be gay, but also (and maybe, especially) those who aren’t.
My 2 cents worth. 🙂
Hi, Bill. You wrote: I am not looking to escape the responsibility that is mine, but I also have no interest in shouldering that which God has not given me.
That’s a great line.
Hi, CJ. I read that same argument last year in Touchstone Journal (which I highly recommend). The premise of the article was that the behavior of Christians as regarding marriage strengthened the hand of gay marriage advocates. Since marriage, according to the stats, is not held with any conviction or treated with any sanctity by Christians; since we only consider it a social contract between two people and not a spiritual covenant – they only want what we have. The article went on to argue that if Christians practiced marriage as a spiritual covenant between one man and one woman through one lifetime, this kind of marriage relationship would not be attractive to the gay community at all for they are not looking for permanence, only legitimacy.
He had me agreeing with him by the end of the article. The way that Christians practice marriage is shameful and has given the enemies of righteousness grounds for reproach. Unfortunately, the poor practice of Christians when it comes to marriage has opened the door to the redefinition of an institution which never would have happened if the vast majority of married Christians would stay that way.
Thanks for your insight on this.
Challenging post Tim.
Here’s a question to take this discussion in another direction and for the sake of discussion-
Other than the reality that the Bible teaches the sin of homosexuality, should the church be trying to limit same sex couples civil rights at all? By legalizing same sex marriage, is there any additional sin to what already exists? If America was founded that “all men were created equal… life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” then aren’t Christians seeking to limit the rights of some based on sexual orientation? Do righteous laws actually make people righteous?
I do not believe that marriage in America today is anything as God intended it. I’m quite certain that the tide of public opinion is going to change as culture continues to change. “Gay Marriage” is almost inevitable, and Daniel’s question is certainly valid.
If same-sex marriage is legalized, it might be necessary to consider the idea of “Covenant Marriage” for Christians. Louisiana created covenant marriage as a legal category in the late 1990’s. A few other states have done the same, most have failed to do so. In one way this might help Christians proactively and practically define what marriage “is” by living it verses legislating what it is not…
I agree Miles.
In Arizona, we have the “covenant” marriage option, and I always highly encourage any couples I am counseling premaritally to go that route, for specifically the reason you brought it up.
“…This might help Christians proactively and practically define what marriage “is” by living it verses legislating what it is not…”
Couldn’t agree more.
I’m in full agreement with this approach (that of Louisiana). By handling it that way … affirming the meaning of Biblical marriage … the church is living as salt and light in a thirsty and dark world. If Christians truly live Biblically in their marriages, the thirsty and dark world around us will at least have the chance to see what truth looks like in the home.
Now if only the church itself could be consistent in its approach to marriage.
Do you really think our founders ever imagined that we would be dealing with Gay marriage? I know you don’t. The founders did write about the limits of “happiness” and several of them made it clear that apart from Biblical morality there is no happiness but bondage. The Declaration and the Constitution was originally written to set people free not to continue the bondage they came out of. They knew homosexuality was a bondage but they would have never imagined Gay marriage.
If the founders were here today they would do everything within their power to stop Gay marriage as should the church. The state has overstepped their jurisdiction and intruded into the church on this issue. This is a church issue not a state issue.
Thanks for posing the further discussion.
Provocative thoughts, as usual.
No, righteous laws don’t make people righteous, but then again, that is not the intent of legislation. Many assert that you can’t legislate morality, but that’s exactly what law is. It is the legislation of (hopefully) just laws that enable a society to validate and support life, to live peacefully, and to experience the freedom necessary to live.
The way you’ve worded your question assumes that same sex couples even have civil rights as same sex couples. It’s a very large question. I am not at all convinced that they possess such “rights,” at least not inherently.
Having said that, I don’t think the “church,” as the church, should seek to become the moral majority. It damages our primary calling and focus, which is to win the lost and make disciples. That statement does not prevent believers who are citizens in a free society from using their rights as citizens to promote just laws, however.
My two cents.
Is marriage a civil right?
According to Cornell Law School
A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury. Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press, and assembly; the right to vote; freedom from involuntary servitude; and the right to equality in public places. Discrimination occurs when the civil rights of an individual are denied or interfered with because of their membership in a particular group or class. Various jurisdictions have enacted statutes to prevent discrimination based on a person’s race, sex, religion, age, previous condition of servitude, physical limitation, national origin, and in some instances sexual orientation.
So, if a 15 year old boy wants to marry a 12 year old girl, their civil rights would be violated if prevented from doing so? This is discrimination based on age.
Answering questions with questions are ways of not answering questions
I know where you are heading with this
But instead of heading there
Just answer the questions 😉
I do recognize that if marriage were to be re-defined apart from the traditional sense, it could easily open the doors to a lot of other “special interest” groups seeking legitimacy.
“The failure of the church isn’t that the culture is looking less and less like the church, but that the church is looking more and more like the culture.”
Classic line! Thanks for taking the time to clearly articulate your perspective on this issue.
Answering a question with a question is a way of refining and defining the original question. Answering a question with a question is a way of disagreeing with the premise of the original question. The Cornell Law School’s opinion works out to nonsense when applied to specific cases. Further, the Cornell Law School’s opinion is not the blueprint for the church’s thinking about social/cultural issues.
Why don’t you want to go where I’m heading? Come on, it’ll be fun. We can go together. BTW – missed you yesterday. We had a great turnout.
Often times answering a question with a question helps us to look at the question from a different or fresh perspective.
Jesus often answered questions with a question of His own.
Pastor Tim- Great article. Many of us sheep are easily swayed believing the things we hear that sound true. Often we look for someone to blame. Often we look for someone to lead. Thank you for standing for truth and the many times you battle for it. Thank you as well Pastor Bill, I know you have battled hard and I reap the reward.
Chuck- I love that last line, it reminds me of a line I remember hearing in a Psalty the singing song book Praise tape when I was a child. “God loves you just the way you are, but that doesn’t mean He wants to leave you that way. That’s what first attracts us to God. He loves us, He promises us new life, better life and eternal life. Somewhere along the line many of us have forgotten the later part of the message.
I really hate getting into these conversations, but here I go. 🙂 I am compelled to say that that argument, Pastor Daniel, may be valid, however, I do not think anyone is trying to make righteous people by voting their beliefs or conscience, but rather voting for what they believe is the definition of marriage as is their civil right and duty as an american citizen. I believe in the definition of marriage defined by God and am committed to that end. If this makes someone feel left out or unequal I am sorry that they feel that way, while I love them I will not validate their sin to make them feel better, as long as I have a right to do so. This country, the government and the people in it, will determine whether I have that right in this situation. If my country believes different, our laws will be different and I will abide by that I would expect the same if it is the opposite. It seems to me it is a battle over whose truth is greater, whose truth will prevail. God’s or man’s. And even deeper still, as the age old battle rages, God’s truth verses Satan lies.
My greatest worry, if the definition of marriage is defined as our cultures deems, is how this will affect a pastors right to refuse to marry, before God and man, those who do not fit within God definition of union. For them to refuse would then be refusing their right.
Just like many of us have voted on abortion issues. To not stand or rather to not vote, against immoral laws in my opinion is to say that other peoples convictions are more important than mine. That I should not stand for my convictions or believe in my truths, especially if it makes someone feel lesser. If the church stops voting for what they believe is right, can you imagine the impact? I shudder at the thought. Anyone can then do what ever fits into the definitions of equality, life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. How far will that then go. Couldn’t a man or woman intimately love and animal or a child? Who defines that? The moral line, the moral standard is set by someone. Our government has rules that have been set by someone. It is changed by someone. Who does that get to be? Why not us? How far will it change?
Wouldn’t it still be unfair, uncivil and/or unequal if we as the church create a different type of covenant? Is equality really the issue the reason gays and lesbians are fighting against marriage? Or is it really against the conviction of sin? Light verses darkness.
The arguments out their are strong against the Truth. The enemy is cunning. We must be wise as serpents. Seek the truth and be very careful what you say and do as you influence many and are held accountable by God. I do not envy you pastors as you carry a heavy burden, but prayerfully lift you up. May your arms be lifted by the prayers of the saints for the victory of the battle.
The failure of the church isn’t that the culture is looking less and less like the church, but that the church is looking more and more like the culture……..The moral and spiritual collapse of the culture is not the church’s failure, the church has enough failure of her own.
I agree with the premise for the most part in our present day, and especially the two sentences I paste above.
My question though is how did we get here, today, in the United States? Why is our culture promoting sex, abortion and the other ills mentioned in the post?
Put another way, which collapsed first – church or culture?
Legalizing gay marriage in New York and elsewhere is not the church’s fault in 2011, in fact many churches were fighting hard against it, especially the black churches in New York.
But the culture moving to a point where gay marriage is even discussed, much less legalized, very well may be the church’s fault – except one has to go back decades and even a century or more to see it.
Hi, Steve – your last paragraph would make a very interesting research project. Could the weakening of the Judeo-Christian moral worldview be traced back to theological liberalism and its retreat from the sure statements of Scripture? Or to head-in-the-sand fundamentalism and its retreat from public engagement? Could it be traced to Enlightenment philosophy becoming the reigning paradigm of academic thought? Or possibly to departure from orthodoxy of the leading universities from where ministers were trained? Great question!
How about this Tim?
First you answer my questions then I’ll answer yours?
Shall I beg?
Daniel, I’ll try to answer, but this is getting to be a p…ing contest. You ask:
If America was founded that “all men were created equal… life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” then aren’t Christians seeking to limit the rights of some based on sexual orientation?
Everything that is written is written within an intellectual and moral context. David Barton has done wonderful work in identifying the practicing Christians among the Founding Fathers of our nation, yet not all were practicing Christians. The statement you refer to in your question was written within the Judeo-Christian moral context. If you were to ask our Founding Fathers if this statement legitimizes moral perversion, they would have been taken aback. The pursuit of “civil rights” outside the context of the moral/spiritual values of its writers takes you outside the scope of their statement.
I don’t know how a spiritual wrong can be a civil right. When a court or a law school states that such and such is a civil right when the Bible declares it to be a spiritual wrong, this does not oblige the church to grant what the Scripture prohibits and bow before the state’s edict and forward the state’s agenda. In actuality, I cannot limit someone’s “civil rights”. If the state has granted this, I can only disagree and continue in the opinion that this is a civil wrong. Before the state grants this, I have my civil right to disagree, dissent, etc. And after it is given I can disagree and even civilly disobey.
Philosophically, the state can’t grant rights, only privileges. We are endowed by God with certain rights. The state only recognizes rights, it cannot grant them. And it can oppose God given rights as it did while upholding the institution of slavery. The state cannot grant rights – it cannot give what God has given. But it can legitimize what God opposes – and we have seen much of this.
So, as to limiting the civil right to marry regardless of sexual orientation – the church does not recognize this as a right. Many pastors will disobey if called upon to perform services for same sex couples. You cannot legislate right into being – it IS or it IS NOT. The right of same sex marriage doesn’t exist – governmental permission to do so exists, but not the right.
I think that Tim’s original observation, that we are not necessarily fighting against gays having a union, but against re-defining the term marriage to incorporate same-sex, really nails it. I don’t remember the church ever waging war against “civil unions” between homosexuals or lesbians (although it might have), but the big issue with using the term marriage is that the word itself refers to a divinely-ordained and sanctioned union between a man and a woman. So, not only does the legalization of gay marriage threaten the church in a real way in the form of gays filing charges against churches and pastors who are unwilling to perform their ceremonies, but it is also a huge slap in the face of the God who created marriage to be between a man and a woman.
If a man wants to be joined to another man then let them be joined – I mean, it’s not like the sin is magnified if it’s typed on a piece of paper and notarized – but let them realize it is not marriage. Marriage is defined as the joining of a man and a woman in holy (set-apart, God-sanctioned) matrimony. If they’re going to call it marriage then we can just rename football, water polo, or rename hamburger, caesar salad.
Tim, I had a similar thought to your last comment, pertaining to civil rights. If people have a civil right to marry anyone they want then why not a child, or why stop with people? Let’s throw the residents of Old McDonald’s farm into the mix. Heck, why stop with biological entities? Why not kitchen appliances and antique furniture? And, of course, I am jesting a bit, but the points remains.
Where do civil rights end? Is there a line beyond which rights cease because the desires are too depraved or ridiculous? If there’s a God then the answer is a resounding yes! Civil rights are those ordained by God. Any rights we have as humans are those endowed by our Creator. If this is true then obviously anything outside of His will would not fall into the category of rights. But if there is no God then anything goes I guess… Thankfully, there is, and since there is I believe that rights do not include those things which would be contrary to God’s desires and commands.
Thanks for your answer. I do appreciate it.
I was only half messing with you when asking to answer my question first.
So first, I’ll address your response, then your question.
1) Since, as you say, the country was founded on Judeo-Christian values and spiritual wrong can never make a civil right, then how can you condone having muslims granted religious freedom? Jehovah’s witnesses? Mormons? Even Jewish people? How can we allow educational institutions teach heresy? These are all spiritual wrongs that are civil rights?
2) In the case of marriage then, should we not restrict the marital rights of all non-Christians?
3) Although many of the Founding Fathers had Christian leanings, many say that they founded America on secular Enlightenment values that resembled certain Judeo Christian teachings but not from there. What say ye?
4) Are you not, in effect, forcing your religious principles on someone who doesn’t hold them then? You are imposiing Christianity on a secular government? Remember that America is not Israel (a Jewish Nation) or any of the Muslim nations.
Now onto your question. Yes you are discriminatinating against someone based on their age. At this point, our laws define 16 as the age of consent, 18 as the age allowed to legally enter into a binding contract. Since 60 is the new 40, I guarantee that we will see the age of consent moved down to 13 or 14 and the legal age at 16. Not that I agree with that, but there is no doubt that is coming.
Some final thoughts
1) where same sex union differs from your example is that 18 is still the legal age to enter into a binding contract. If two adults want to make a binding contract then it is discrimination based on orientation
2) The Bible is not the guiding principle for America, it’s the guiding principle for the church (now I realize that it SHOULD be the guiding principle for eveyone and every nation). The guiding principle for America is it’s Constitution and Bill of Rights. In this regard, aren’t we confusing the two kingdoms (as Luther articulated)?
3) In America, it is legal to get hammered drunk (if you are of legal drinking age). It becomes illegal if you drive a car or are publically intoxicated. Drunkeness is spiritually perilous but it is a person’s right as long as it isn’t a harm to others. What makes drunkeness diffrent from same sex unions?
4) It’s true the depravity of man knows no end. Where this all ends up, well our Bibles tell us. But remember that Israel had the most righteous laws ever articultaed. Righteous laws don’t make a nation righteous. Rigteous laws don’t even restrain evil in a person’s heart. At best righteous laws point people to their need for salvation. If same sex union (obviously avoiding the freedom of religion issue of redefining marrige) because legal, it doesn’t make America less righteous. A lack of goverment affirmation of same sex unions is not restraining homosexuailty in our culture. Our unrighteousness as a nation is already apparent.
Daniel — your point #2 is a big one. Just sayin’.
Wow, Daniel. These are excellent questions and lots to ponder. Thank you!
God bless you, Daniel. I’m bowing out.
Didn’t mean to make you bow out
I don’t necessarily believe everything that I wrote. As I’ve processed and pondered the issue, and spoken to countless folks from all sides of the issue, these are some of the major talking points/issues/potential land mines in the discussion. I am genuinely interested in how one would argue some of my points. I have certain ways that I do or attempt to. Some things I”m not settled on. So I just figured that since the post (which was challenging and right on) would garner universal agreement given our audience here, I figured why not play devil’s advocate (for lack of a more religiously acceptable phrase) and see how people would respond.
Sorry to scare folks away 😉
Hi, Daniel – I’m bowing back in.
I will just respond to the first point you made and then if you want to take up the other points one-by-one you can do that – I don’t have the time to tackle all at once.
I made the point that a spiritual wrong can never be a civil right. You responded by asking how we can then allow Muslims, Jews, Mormons, etc., to practice their religion. Heresy/false doctrine is a spiritual wrong and yet we consider it their civil right to practice their religion. If we allow one spiritual wrong to be a civil right how can we then prohibit other spiritual wrongs from being seen as civil rights. I think that fairly summarizes your point.
More spiritually wrong than allowing the practice of other religions would be banning the practice of all other religions and the enforcement of Christianity. Enforcing Christianity is a greater spiritual wrong than allowing the practice of other religions. Though it was in another time, and we are all children of our times, in the grand scheme of things Calvin’s Geneva was spiritually wrong. The church doesn’t need the state to reinforce or enforce its truth claims. They stand alone.
I am troubled, my friend. Maybe you are playing devil’s advocate. It seems as if you have capitulated to the state’s definition of marriage and the state’s definition has formed your thinking and values on this. It is one thing to say that same sex couples have the right to live together and co-mingle their assets, etc., but it is another thing to redefine the meaning of marriage and move it off of its foundations. A contract is one thing (same sex unions are granted social guarantees), a covenant is another. Marriage, however it has been practiced and abused, has been removed from its Biblical moorings (i.e., between one man and one woman). The state has redefined a Biblical institution and gutted it of its essence. Would we follow the state if it redefined what holiness is or laid out an agenda telling us what preaching should consist of? I’m rambling…
that is the scary part…evil creeps in unawares…
Re. gay marriage…why would I ever want to vote to approve of something that God calls, at its root, an abomination and against nature? I am not expecting to legislate righteousness, but why on Earth would I vote to legislate sin? I am not going to violate my spiritual convictions to approve someone else’s sinful convictions. I think this debate has become unnecessarily complicated.
“unnecessarily complicated” …. yes! If the Church would just keep to Her task of boldly proclaiming the Gospel, and not be afraid of losing “members”/finances/community status, etc., we could be accomplishing our mission here. One of our first mistakes is “incorporating” and thereby compromising our integrity and independence in return for State financial benefits, like general tax exemptions; abuse of “pastor” exemption benefits, etc.. Our internal inability to police ourselves, and our abuse of once legitimate benefits, has cost us our loss of credibility in our communities and Country.
First off… on a personal level I agree with Bill’s post just before this one. God has ordained that I was born in a country where I get the privledge of voting so I’m going to vote according to my conscience, which is (hopefully) filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Now on to the questions and hypotheticals and arguments about specifics (aka “the can of worms that Daniel opened”)…
It’s a valid concern to truly KNOW for sure what marriage is. Clearly — from Scripture — we know that a man leaving his mother and father and being joined to his wife — the two becoming one flesh — is God’s definition. But this definition has NOTHING to do with governments and their laws, filing for taxes, work and/or government benefits, or even the specifics of varying traditions and customs for ceremonies. It simply states a fact of creation as the Creator spoke it.
Traditionally the U.S. government has relied on the accepted default norm of what marriage was considered to be according to popular concensus, which, for the brief history of this nation, was based on the Biblical definition of one man and one woman. I agree with that legal definition BECAUSE I know it is God’s definition and I want for my country what God wants!
But does our desire (and my voting!) to see the laws of our nation reflect the perfect plans of God necessitate it being so? No. We’ve already seen that clearly… NO. (And let me just interject that I thought Tim’s dealing with the responsibility issues was SPOT ON!). It doesn’t change the straightforward fact of creation — that one man and one woman joined together as one is marriage — but it DOES affect the “legal” definition, or the definition for the purposes of U.S. lawmaking and application of said laws.
And mixed up in the middle of all of this is the question of the “civil contract” of marriage versus the “holy covenant” of marriage. Are they mutually exclusive? Are they of necessity ‘joined at the hip’? Can you have one and not the other? Can I enter into a marriage covenant WITHOUT the consent and “civil contract” of the secular government? (In most States the legal answer is NO!). Can I enter into the civil contract without the God-honoring covenant? Legally… YES.
The heart of the issue — as I see it — is separating the gospel from the constitution; the kingdom of Christ from the nation of men. Many of the framers may have been wonderful brothers in Christ, and they certainly desired a nation with God-honoring laws and a spirit of Christ and His teachings guiding it’s decisions and actions, but short of a true theocracy this just cannot be guaranteed. I really DO see the value in praying for our nation, voting according to the Spirit of God, and even being involved in politics (if that were my calling). I really DO believe that God has ordained governments specifically for the purpose of LEGISLATING MORALITY and enforcing that legislation “with the sword”. That said, there is still no guarantee of a theocratic-like nation, or a people who will BE moral.
The U.S. constitution was a profoundly wise and radical document and many of those who helped construct it were certainly inspired by the Holy Spirit. But it’s still a document of men regarding human government, and not Holy Writ. I think many people lose sight of that (even me, at times) and feel as if the changing of laws and re-interpretation of them is akin to German Higher Criticism and it’s modern offspring questioning, re-interpreting, and even attempting to change Holy Scripture.
The very strength of the particular form of Constitutional Republic that the U.S. is — this “great experiment” — is also it’s achilles heal. And oddly this strength/weakness is VERY similar to one found in Scripture: “freedom”. People mistake the Biblical freedom FROM sin for the freedom TO sin. In the U.S. people have mistaken the freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution for the freedom to do almost anything they want simply for the sake of “freedom” or in the name of “freedom”. “Because I deserve it!” According to the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, freedom is a divine gift of the Creator — a blessing. According to modern American, freedom is a right demanded for (from the Creator).
Because of this mentality, the people have chosen for themselves (as Tim pointed out in the OP) to move the “legal” definition of “life”, “marriage”, and essentially “right & wrong” away from the previously accepted norms, based upon Biblical definitions.
So a person may be “legally” married ACCORDING TO THE LAWS OF A PARTICULAR STATE OR NATION, but they are not married according to the definition of the Creator. And to be fair, this applies to heterosexual couples, too.
Guess I’ll chime in…
Reading your original post, Tim, I was reminded of something that clicked with me back in ’04.
It strikes me as odd when Christians (myself included) respond in shock and disgust at the laws being passed or enforced on a generally disagreeing public (SB 48 being the most recent in California). We hear, or take part in joining the verbal dressing down of our politicians and supporters of such proposals, decrying their lack or morals, etc. But if we are honest, they are only acting true to their nature.
We know all to well that we once walked in times past according to the course of this world, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were children of wrath, even as the others…and rightly so.
So, in my mind, I tell myself (in one regard) “You shouldn’t be shocked. They live in darkness and propagate darkness…it’s all they know.”
Now flip that coin over.
Those who sit in darkness look at the church and they are shocked and disgusted…and I say, rightly so. We proclaim the life-changing truth of the Creator’s message, the abundant life that Christ came to give us, the liberty that is found in Christ, the power and work in and through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and they match the message up with the way that our lives are lived out (generally speaking, of course)…and they have every right to be shocked and disgusted because so often our lives don’t match up to the message we preach.
It just leads me to simply come and ask, over and over again, “Lord, I need Your help. I want to be used by You to glorify Your name in how I preach and how I live. May they be the same.”
Hi, Josh – good thoughts. We can see the disgust of the world with the church. In the past when I have heard people say that they won’t go to church because of the hypocrites I would say something about not going to the grocery store because of the hypocrites that are there. But I see my mistake, now. At church, there are those making professions of faith and not living up to that profession. At Safeway, there are no such professions of faith – there is no standard. I don’t expect a moral excellence from those I shop with – I do from those I worship with.
I’ve often asked this question: What’s the difference between Christian flesh and non-Christian flesh? The answer – nothing. Actually, Christian flesh is worse than non-Christian flesh because you expect something different from believers.
You’re right – we shouldn’t expect Christian behavior from non-Christian people. But we do expect Christian behavior from Christian people and are, appropriately, disappointed when we don’t see it in evidence.
Ohhhh gay marriage.
Although not a pastor I definitely have struggled pondering on this issue. I commented on something similar that Pastor Miles wrote about some time back, not sure if it made it through the censorship or not.
Nevertheless here is my take. Do I believe gay marriage to be wrong, yup. Do I think gay marriage kinda blackens real Christian marriage….yup. Do I think it as big of a crisis as everyone is making it, NOT REALLY!
This is not because gay marriage isn’t wrong or sinful. I don’t think people or the government will go as far as someone put it that pastor’s will be arrested for not marrying gay couples-seriously on what even a gay couple wants to be their happiest day they’re not going to find the pastor who obviously doesn’t want them to marry to tie the knot for them.
Here’s my deal. If we believe what we believe, why is this sin so much of a ‘greater sin’ than any other? We have people in our own churches who steal from employees, employers, from pension plans etc. Are they better than gay couples? We have people in our churches who are very racists, are they better than gay couples? We hold petition signings etc outside our churches against gay marriage; DO WE HOLD PETITION SIGNS AGAINST MURDER outside our churches? Which is the greater sin?
My thought is that our churches have been caught up in a ‘political storm’ like everyone else concerning gay marriage. If we sign petitions against one sin, we should be signing petitions against all sins….right? Since to God sinning is sinning…period. So why all the ‘freak out’? Have we all just lost our minds or what’s going on? I think it’s wrong like stealing”s wrong, like racism is wrong, like anything else….so why the special treatment of the gay marriage issue? Although in some since it may nationally change the view on marriage, believe me if I marry my wife tomorrow…..whether gay people get to marry or not…makes no different to me. My wife is still my wife in my and God’s eye.
For some many other things that are wrong on this Earth we trust in God that he will pass good and righteous judgement in the end. Why not on this?
There is no fight in Love. Yet Love, as expressed to me by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, assures me that with unconditional Love all things are possible. I must pray for those that offend, forgive them, and Love them as Jesus says the Father Loves us. If I can’t do these things for others, including myself, The Father will not hear my cries, my prayers are empty. Things in this world test my Faith to the very core. And although I may bend, I cannot waiver from my Faith, which is Love unconditional as expressed by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Blessing and Peace to all.