On Friday, June 26th 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that states cannot keep same-sex couples from marrying and that same-sex marriages must be recognized by every state. This decision led to immediate reaction from Christians and from almost everyone with an IP address within the United States (or at least that's the way it seemed on social media).
The purpose of this post is not to state a position on same-sex marriage or on same-sex relationships, that has already been made for the church I pastor by our denominational leaders.
The purpose of this post is to give some helpful filters for Christians who are responding to the action of the SCOTUS.
Filters are important.
I was recently changing the filter on our Air Conditioner at our house when our youngest daughter asked me, "Dad, why do we need an air conditioner filter anyway?"
I went on to explain to her that without air filters the air we breathe gets contaminated and we're more likely to get sick.
The same thing is true with our words as Christians. We need good filters for the words we speak, especially when we speak on topics like this.
So here are three filters that I suggest might be helpful to Christians who are responding to the recent ruling of the SCOTUS as we seek to better understand the way forward.
1. Any response that does not begin with Jesus is not a Christian response.
Beginning with Jesus is essential because the church is the body of Christ at work in the world today.
This means that the church is to incarnate Christ to the world in which we live in the same tangible ways that Jesus did when he physically walked on earth 2,000 years ago.
If the response of the church looks more like a group of people who are fearful of losing their rights or privileges than it does Jesus who laid aside his rights and privileges, then we’re missing the mark when it comes to living as Christ in this world.
Paul put it well in Philippians 2 where he wrote, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be used for his own advantage, rather he made himself nothing by taking on the very nature of a servant, by being made in human likeness. And being found in likeness as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”
Jesus did not fight for right and privilege, He set aside his rights and privileges in order to bring salvation to those who were separated from God.
Jesus primary goal was to seek and save the lost, not to be right.
The way that Jesus demonstrated the right-ness (righteousness) of His life was not through debate, but by the way He lived and especially by the way He died.
As Christians we’re pretty okay with the “by the way we live" part, but not as okay with the “by the way we die" part.
2. Any response that is based in fear and worry is not a Christian response.
I’ve been slow to post a blog on this topic because I wanted to follow the instruction of James 1:19 by taking time to listen to what others were saying about the SCOTUS decision, and most importantly what God would have me to say.
I wanted to listen to the tone and tenor of the responses, and filter those through the scriptures. What I hear is a lot of fear and a lot of worry.
Fear that pastors will be forced into performing weddings that would be against their religious beliefs.
Worry that churches will be sued for not marrying same sex couples.
I’d remind us that fear and worry are two things that Jesus regularly addressed with his disciples.
When Jesus' disciples worried about being persecuted in Matthew 10 Jesus quickly said to them the words, “Do not be afraid…”
When Jesus taught his most famous sermon, He spent nearly 1/5th of the message addressing the issue of fear and worry.
Today, I think Jesus would remind us that fear and worry are not the values of the Kingdom of God.
Any response that is based in fear and worry is not a Christian response.
3. Any response that suggests the SCOTUS decision will limit the impact of the church is not a Christian response.
There is no earthly power that can limit the impact of the Kingdom of God or stop it from advancing in our world today.
The United States is not the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage, nor will it be the last.
The church may look different in the future than it does today, but that has been the case throughout history.
Through every generation, the church has continued to advance and it will continue to advance.
Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 16:18 that He would build His church and nothing could prevent that from happening.
Not Roman persecution of Christians.
Not the darkness of the Middle Ages.
Not the abuses of those in positions of religious power.
Not hypocritical and unloving Christians.
And not the Supreme Court of the United States.
So how do we live?
We live as Jesus lived, love as Jesus loved, and die as Jesus died.
We live as the holy people of God in an unholy world. (see Matthew 5-7)
We live the values of the Kingdom of God daily. (see Matthew 5-7)
We judge ourselves first. (see Matthew 5-7)
We listen quickly. (see James 1:19)
And we speak slowly. (see James 1:19)