After this week’s the passionate back-and-forth on the issue of same sex marriage, I quietly logged into my Facebook account and with a few clicks of the mouse replaced my profile picture of my gorgeous wife with a new one — a simple red background and a white equals sign.
The picture represents support for marriage equality, no matter your sexual orientation.
I had a feeling the symbol could be divisive, specifically among my Christian friends. Many clicked that little thumbs up picture, showing their support; however, others have been silent thus far, perhaps marking their indifference. But, for me, as a devout Christian — following an amazing conversation with a co-worker — I realized I needed to clarify my decision before any wrong assumptions were made.
To my friends outside of Christianity:
It was devastating to me that — following my reawakening in faith — I had friends in same sex relationships that predicted the downfall of our relationships. So hatefully has the Church responded to the issue of their sexuality that they assumed I would follow suit and disregard the depth and breadth of the precious time we had spent together. For that, I am sorry.
It is disheartening to me that in following a God that preaches love and respect — a God that invites us into a relationship of complete joy and peace — so many Christians have erred on the side of judgment when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. It is up to God, not us, to judge. To take the banner — political or religious — on any issue and divide ourselves against one another on the basis of what God commands each of us, cripples the possibility of individual relationships. It defines people based on how they feel about a single issue and goes against the gentle command of Jesus to “go and make disciples.” How each of us, individually, choose to live before God is a matter of personal accountability. How could I ever be so bold as to command you to follow what I see as God’s commandments if I am breaking the one that Jesus says is the greatest — to love our enemies as ourselves?
To my friends within Christianity:
In our universe, there are two possibilities when it comes to faith and homosexuality — homosexuality is either a sin, or it is not. There are no other alternatives.
Those Christians who believe homosexuality is not a sin are an important voice and have not come upon their conclusions lightly, or without sincerity. Looking at Scripture, there are roughly six or seven verses that speak directly to the issue, and even those can be somewhat unclear in their intended meaning. Jesus says nothing on the issue other than offering an example of a healthy heterosexual marriage. But, most people of faith would agree, what is openly discouraged in Scripture is an unhealthy sexual relationship outside of marriage. Therefore, marriage equality is even more pressing because the Church represents the loudest voice opposing the very thing that would allow homosexuals to operate within a Scripturally-sound framework. It falls on us as members of the Church — perhaps more so than others — to take a stand and support marriage equality.
Now, let’s move to the side of Christianity that believes homosexuality is a sin. The vast majority of modern Christians have struggled with this question — if not outright declared homosexuality an abomination, fostering deep-seated anger about the issue.
What, then, is our responsibility as a Church?
There is no Scriptural foundation in either the Old Testament or the New Testament — from Jesus to Paul to Moses to Adam — that tells us evangelism, or the living out of God’s commands, includes having them forced upon people outside of the Church. We are told to go and make disciples. We are told to live out the commands of Christ.
We are also told to love and to be in relationships with people. Any authority we feel compelled to speak into the lives of others cannot be spoken until there is a basis of a loving relationship in place. It could be grievously damaging to the work of the Church if we seek to allow our government to do the work of living out God’s commands, instead of each of us doing it individually. It was under persecution that the Church thrived because it forced people to live out the example of Christ.
As Christians, we cannot carry this banner against gay marriage so loudly, so forcefully, while laying aside the ones that we are most familiar with. Resolving this issue of faith and homosexuality is made more difficult for many believers because they have not had the experience needed to create understanding and acceptance. Another — more widely understood — example from Christ, is his command not to get a divorce.
Jesus is rock-solid in how he commands on this issue. Yet, Christians are often silent when individuals disobey him. I am the son of divorced parents. I, myself, was previously married and got a divorce. My parents, and my previous wife and I, were able to do this because we live in a governmental system where it is legally allowed. For someone who has gotten a divorce to stand against legalizing same sex marriage because it goes against God’s command, would be the height of hypocrisy. For those who are so boldly willing to carry the banner against same sex marriage, why are they not as committed to making divorce illegal?
In the end, it boils down to how much we are willing to wrestle with our faith in an effort to love more fully, and follow more closely, the God who loves us. The challenge before us all is to go back to the basics — to the tenets of our faith — and work our way out from there, making sure all our secondary and tertiary beliefs are held for reasons befitting the God that has given us our commands.
If what we believe ever — for even a moment — causes us to sin in how we live out our beliefs, then we need to determine whether it is the belief that should be refashioned, or our own hearts behind it.
No matter your moral stance on homosexuality as a Christian, forcing your beliefs on others through the might of governmental power goes against the command Jesus tells us is more important than any other — to love. Ours is a system that starts from, and is fueled continually by, love. Starting from any other place means sacrificing the message.