Every generation of believers has a unique assignment. The primary assignment of our generation, I believe, is to sift through question of homosexuality. What I would like to do in this blog is write on some of the critical points of this discussion. My hope and desire is that the church respond rightly and thereby give glory to God. The level at which I’m writing will be more theoretical. I’m hoping to help frame discussion, not so much carry it out in particulars. For that reason I’ll refrain from suggesting solutions in this post to those who struggle with same-sex attraction.
Starting off, let’s look at the landscape in America on the matter of same-sex marriage. While regretting it later, on September of 1996 President Clinton signed “The Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA]” into law. Of consequence in that law is section three which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. President Obama did clarify in his run for the 2008 presidency that he would support an overturn of DOMA. May 9, 2012 President Obama announced his support of same-sex marriage. It seems fair to say that the political winds have changed on the matter of gay marriage. These developments are very recent and certainly shift public policy from a historical perspective.
Apart from legislative trends at the nation’s capital we also have changes at the other levels. There are about six states which recognize and sanction same-sex marriages. Other states are either moving that way or are about to begin moving that way. Listening to the media, it strikes me that coverage is generally favorable of same-sex marriage. Perhaps I should say that I do not hear anyone protesting on moral or biblical grounds. The issue seems to be a matter of preference. While being somewhat subjective, it strikes me that we have a general trend in favor of same-sex marriage. I’m not speaking of the majority being in favor of it; rather, a trend is visibly favorable to same-sex marriage.
We may leave the civil trends and turn now to religious trends. The Episcopal Church is divided on the matter. 2008 saw a split in the church as some conservatives left over this issue. In 2009 the General Assembly resolved to affirm same-gender relationships, affirm access to the ministry by those in same-sex relationship, and “work against” DOMA. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America also affirmed same-sex relationships in 2009. In 2011 the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to affirm same-sex marriage. While the majority of Christian denominations do not favor same-sex marriage, some of them do. These changes have come fairly recently so I would suggest that here too the trends are moving in favor of same-sex marriage.
While not claiming to be a prophet, it seems that things have just begun to tip. We are moving fast and the boundaries, sentiment, and social norms are collapsing. Right now, the civil discussion is based on preference. Someone thinks same-sex marriage is ok and somebody else thinks it isn’t. Let’s just put it to a vote. If one side loses, no problem keep trying, argue, and eventually you may carry the day. So what is a Christian to do and how can he do it?
Listening, watching, and participating in the conversation I see two dynamics at work, over and over again. That dynamic is best illustrated in this video. A straw man is set up and then deposed. The third and fourth pastors in the video were hateful and condescending in their analysis of homosexuals. Dads shouldn’t intimidate and berate their sons if homosexual behavior or tendencies are present. No, America should place homosexuals behind an enclosure and treat them like lepers. The position by these two pastors is easily assailed and overcome. In the video, it was. However, the “overcoming” was an error too. The interviewee equated 21st century Christianity with those pastors. And, she argued that disagreement among believers on homosexuality makes the issue awash. What we were left with was ambiguity and no clear note.
As believers we needn’t be ashamed of giving God’s mind on the issue of homosexuality and subsequently same-sex marriage. There is nothing shameful or weak about such witness. In Matthew 19:4-6 Jesus, in the context of marriage, stated that in the beginning God created them male and female. The man leaves his father and mother to cleave to his wife. In one statement Jesus skillfully defines the boundaries of all sex and all marriage. Sex and marriage may only occur between one man and one woman. These boundaries are from the Creator, not the created.
In light of this passage we may draw some practical conclusions. First, God created them male and female. That means every person on the planet has been uniquely crafted and designed by the Creator. His pleasure for each person, regardless of sexual preference, is strong and vibrant. We must not depart from this pleasure and delight and it should be the song on our lips. Second, God set up the boundaries, not man so we needn’t be anxious and angry when we give God’s mind on the matter. When we are anxious, worried, and angry about other people’s beliefs we may well betray subtle doubts as to God’s ability to prevail over sin.
Again, this question is ours to communicate to the world. We can easily be compromised by angry spirits, an argumentative spirit, and red herrings. This process will bring about great pruning in the church. We can’t carry the day by being bombastic, funny, or legislatively clever. If what Jesus says is true, then no amount of bending and compromise will stem the tide of hate against Christians and ultimately God. Resistance to truth and truth’s representatives will always be present, it needn’t surprise us. We certainly shouldn’t get our feelings hurt and go conspiracy on the world. We bring the witness in the Spirit of God. We affirm truth in love. Our victory is fidelity to Christ, not getting people to bend to our arguments.
I also want to delicately broach a subject related to that last sentence. We must love all people. But, we must not be naïve. Believers are tasked with the Great Commission which is to make disciples of all nations. The desire to reach people is so strong in us that we may tend towards naïveté. There is such a thing as giving what is holy to unholy persons. Our hearts may be so strong towards reaching the sinner that we don’t realize we are being torn to bits.
Finally, believers shouldn’t be alarmed at trends. Trends have always come and gone. The believer is a citizen of the city of God, not the city of man. The city of man is constantly changing, developing new opinions, and new truths. The city of God maintains its witness and it’s God. It is the city of God that will prevail and yes, this question will be settled satisfactorily in due time. The city of God will then continue her march while the city of man will continue its march.