In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court Decision I thought it might be helpful to explore, in greater specificity, how we, as Christians, can view this issue through the lens of scripture. I will be blogging 7 posts that outline 7 biblical principles that I believe help us to look at the issue and prepare us to respond to the issue in a way that is befitting the gospel of Christ.
These 7 principles are as follows:
1. The principle of Love
2. The principle of Grace
3. The principle of Liberty
4. The principle of Respect
5. The principle of Faith
6. The principle of Truth
7. The principle of Hope
And since the buzzword that seems the most prominent is “love” I think this is probably the best place to start.
What’s love got to do with it?
After the supreme court announced its landmark decision regarding Obergefell vs. Hodges legions of people turned to social media to announce their support and give their congratulations to the many LGBT people who had been given the right to marry in states that had held out defining marriage in a more traditional way. Most notable among them was Pres. Obama’s tweet:,
"Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else. #Love Wins,"
The way that that LGBT proponents have framed the issue immediately puts those who would dare to dissent on the defensive. After all, who wants to be against “love.” Furthermore, the common tactic of those who support the LGBT community’s stance is to marginalize dissenters by calling them “hateful” or, “haters.” This has been one of the most successful spin campaigns of any interest group I can think of in recent american history.
If you support LGBT you are on the side of “love.” If you don’t you are guilty of “hate.”
It is no wonder those who support the traditional definition of marriage have been so defensive in recent years, the spin campaign immediately declares anyone who refuses to agree with the LGBT agenda as guilty of “hate” and, honestly, who wants to start a discussion bearing the immediate presumption of guilt?
In the midst of what has already become inflamed rhetoric, I think it’s worth asking the same question Tina Turner asked (albeit in a different context), “what’s love got to do with it?”
And I personally think the answer is critical from a Christian standpoint because God’s word urges us to observe the principle of love.
“Let all that you do be done in love.
--(1Co 16:14 ESV)”
Scripture is clear that as Christians, we are to uphold the principle of love, we are to be love oriented, love centered and loving toward one another and toward those who don’t share our faith and convictions.
So that should settle it, right? If two men love one another romantically, then why shouldn’t they have the same rights as a man and a woman and why shouldn’t they be given access to the institution that civilly recognizes that love? And if we are to love the LGBT community, we should celebrate with them when they get access to that institution, right?
And that assumption errs because, as Christians, we understand the principle of love to be more than about romance and civil recognition. We understand love to be first, theologically oriented.
The greatest command in the bible is not to celebrate what people love, nor is it to rejoice in what makes other people happy, the greatest command in the bible is to love God.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
--(Matthew 22:37-38 ESV)
The first, and most important, aspect of the principle of love is to recognize Who we are to love above all else. That means that my thoughts, feelings and attitudes about this issue (and all issues) should be informed by what God says, not how I feel or how someone else feels or even how someone else demands I feel. Now, that in no way discounts the reality that many people have some very real, strong feelings about this topic, nor is this acknowledgment meant to whitewash the very real, strong feelings of same sex attraction that drive many people to seek a same sex union.
Nevertheless, as Christians, our first question should not be, “how does this make someone feel,” our first question should be, “what has the God we love revealed to us about this issue?”
What God has revealed to us about this issue is clear, let me give you what I consider to be the best examples:
Jesus was clear when He said:
"Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."
--(Matthew 19:4-6 ESV)
Jesus gives us a positive definition of marriage in this verse as He very clearly characterized the institution of marriage as a covenant between male and female. Furthermore, He did so by appealing to God’s creation of marriage as a relationship between male and female from the beginning. In essence, Jesus reminds us that God created marriage and that God created marriage to be the permanent union of one man and one woman for as long as they both shall live.
In contrast, the Apostle Paul defines same sex relationships in the following way:
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
--(Romans 1:24-27 ESV)
If these scriptures are representations of God's view on the issue, and we as Christians maintain that they are, then it is not loving to lie to our neighbors and tell them that we think that same sex marriage is ok when we hold the honest belief that God says that it isn't.
I have encountered a number of objections when I point out these verses. One response has been to quote other bible verses, most likely Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged…” as if doing so somehow cancelled out Matthew 19 and Romans 1. My response to this is to point out that all of those scriptures are true, and that none of them conflict with one another. Jesus does indeed tell us not to judge self-righteously or hypocritically, which is what Matthew 7:1 tells us if we are willing to look at the verse contextually. I affirm that all scripture speaks with equal authority and so I don’t accept the notion that a decontextualized version of Matthew 7:1 somehow trumps all other passages of God’s word as if we were all just playing proof text poker using bible verses.
Another response has been to say, “that’s just your interpretation.” My response is, “Of course, these are my interpretations of these verses.” Everyone’s reading of any verse in any text is their own “interpretation.” I come by my “interpretation” from a great deal of study and without trying to make the passages mean anything other than what they actually say.
“My interpretation” is indeed, my interpretation, but it is my honest interpretation and it comes from my desire to know what the Bible actually says without an agenda other than accuracy. I would suggest that some interpretations come from a desire to make the Bible say whatever fits a particular social agenda rather than an honest exploration of the truth and that comes out in the strained and contorted nature of the interpretation.
The simplest, clearest and most straightforward interpretation of texts are usually the right interpretation of texts and I think that the Bible is both simple and clear on the nature of marriage. Nevertheless, I would love those who are quick to point out that my interpretation is just my interpretation to offer an alternative interpretation so we can look as critically at the alternative interpretations as they do the traditional. Sadly, these conversations rarely get to this level.
A third response that I often hear is to say, “that’s what you believe, but why are you trying to push your beliefs on me?”
My answer is quite simply that I’m not. It is what I believe, and I would hope that others would hold the bible in as high esteem as I do, but I realize that not all will. I affirm the freedom of men and women to reject the bible outright in a country that should celebrate religious liberty (which I will be writing on in greater specificity in a future blog).
However, and this really is the point, my refusal, and the refusal of many other evangelical Christians, to accede to the LGBT agenda and to celebrate same sex marriage is not fueled by a hatred of any group of people. It isn’t even about LBGT people. My refusal to celebrate same sex marriage is about my love for God and for what I honestly believe He has said about the nature of the institution of marriage.
I don’t hate people who live together outside of marriage but neither do I celebrate the trivialization of marriage in those who wish to cohabitate rather than marry. I don’t hate those who have made the mistake of adultery but neither do I celebrate the dishonoring of marriage that happens when adultery is committed. I don’t hate those who have gone through a divorce but neither do I celebrate the dissolution of marriage. I don’t hate members of the LGBT community but neither do I celebrate the redefinition of marriage proposed by the LGBT community.
In short, LGBT neighbors, please understand, my opinion on same sex marriage isn’t about you, it’s about loving God and celebrating what He said about marriage.
The first aspect of the principle of love leads to the second, and that is the love of our neighbors. As Christians, we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. We don’t get to be selective when it comes to who our neighbors are.
Like the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are called to be self-sacrificial in loving others. Jesus is clear, we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Therefore, we are called, as Christians, to engender an attitude of love, rather than hatred, for those who are celebrating same sex marriage. We are called to speak kindly, act respectfully, and extend grace toward them in each and every context. That doesn’t mean that we lie to them and tell them that we are celebrating with them, but it does mean that our approach should be respectful rather than aggressive. Peter told the church the following:
but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
--1 Peter 3:15-16 ESV
So we are called to be honest, to give a defense for what we believe and why we believe it. Yet we are called to give that defense gently and respectfully.
The last thing we need to do is to freak out. To paraphrase a number of evangelical Christian leaders, God is still in control, Jesus is still on the throne, and the Spirit of God still promises to lead us into all truth.