Thinking Out Loud

June 29, 2015

Changing Views on Gay Marriage

SCOTUS - NYT

This weekend we ran a series of the all time most-read articles on this blog, so this is the first opportunity I’ve had to respond to the events of Friday. There is no doubt the United States begins the week having entered a whole new era. Something that was once illegal (and still is in many places) and was considered an abberation (according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM) is now the law of the land, mandated by a constitutional ruling by the Supreme Court.

Now, I don’t wish to discuss the particular issue here, but rather, I simply want to note that we’ve seen over the last few years leading to this decision has been a huge shift in values — even among some Christian people — and I couldn’t help but think of Isaiah 5:20:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

I know that among my readers are those who have different feelings on not only the issue of the day, but on many different areas where the sphere of spiritual concerns overlaps the sphere of civic or legal issues. Some are truly rejoicing in the events of yesterday, for many different reasons. I think it’s great if you can see an up-side to all this. My point is simply that through one Supreme Court decision we have witnessed a tectonic shift of huge proportions.

Interestingly, while looking up the above scripture verse when I prepared this originally for Chritianity 201, BibleHub posted a link to Habakkuk 1:14 (NLT)

The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.

There are some who would argue that the only thing that changed yesterday is that another court, the court of popular opinion, grew vocal enough to tip the scales of justice.

Unfortunately, there are also a few who have a misunderstanding that if something is legal it is no longer sin. It is important to recognize that there is not a one-to-one correlation between the two. Many things that are legal are still sinful, and many things that the law says are illegal have little to do with the spiritual condition of the heart.

For example, if we take a simple Ten Commandments approach, the 1:1 correspondence will hold more often, since many of our laws derive from Judeo-Christian teaching. But society accepts many other things which would go against Bible teaching. To the contrary, if where you live it is against the law to make a left turn at the corner of Central Blvd. and Main St. during the evening rush hour, that does not derive from scripture. Still we should note that in the second case, the left turn, it can also be argued that the principles of Romans 13 apply:

1Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

The problem is trying to read this in the reverse, and saying that what the law permits, God also is okay with; the logic of that does not hold. The “governing authorities” of verse one are not the ones to whom we hold ultimate accountability.

It’s more to the point to refine our understanding of what sin is and isn’t. The word means ‘missing the mark.’ It connotes an archery image of firing our arrows but not quite hitting the bulls-eye, or worse, not even hitting the target sheet at all.

I believe that knowing God’s best exists means we can’t settle for anything less; we can’t be content with the good or the better knowing there is a best.

When we fail to be concerned with aiming for the best we grieve Father, Son and Spirit.

The ultimate question of the day therefore is the question that should guide the everyday actions of all believers: Can God be trusted?

Do we think that maybe, just perhaps he has his reasons for suggesting we organize our family units in a certain manner and live in a particular way. Is it just, as some suggest, that some laws were given were given to provide Israel with a distinct identity from its neighbors, or is there, to put it one way, a method behind the madness?

I believe God’s best is so not because it’s best for him, but because he knows what’s best for us

We must keep this in mind, especially when the tide of public opinion changes, and the law of the land shifts accordingly.

3 Comments »

  1. I find myself neither rejoicing nor reviling the SCOTUS decision. The crux of the matter seems to be that Christians in America feel the courts have unjustly “redefined” marriage, an institution which predates the society and can therefore not be altered.

    In thinking about this, I feel that the problem relates to how our spiritual institution of marriage intersects with the state’s institution of marriage — I can’t think of any other thing in our modern society where the spiritual and the secular are so closely intertwined that most people seem to think they’re the same. The US (or Canadian) government does not define my marriage to my wife. I believe my marriage is, at its heart, a covenant relationship between myself and my wife before God. The government is not involved. If the state decided one day to abolish the concept of marriage, I would still consider myself to be married to my wife — whatever the state does would not change how I view my marriage.

    So I think the state can define marriage any way it likes, since the goal of the state is to establish a healthy, prosperous society. If I receive tax breaks and social privileges because I am legally married to my wife, then so be it. If the state wants to grant that right to others who have same-gender attraction, then that’s fine — they should do that if it furthers the goal of the state. I just don’t see how this has any impact on my covenant relationship with my spouse.

    I believe that when two people get married, there are two ceremonies taking place. One involves vows made before God and people, the other involves signing government documents. Perhaps one day churches will be stripped of the privilege of sanctioning marriages, and every new couple will have to go to the state registrar’s office to be considered officially married. Would churches stop holding wedding services then? Of course not — Christian couples would likely not consider themselves “truly married” until they partake in the Christian wedding ceremony.

    I think it’s good that same-sex couples have the opportunity to be afforded the same rights and privileges the state grants to heterosexual couples. Why would I as a Christian want to deny tax breaks and the transfer of title upon death for a gay couple? The assumption seems to be that the state has the authority to define the God-ordained covenant of marriage — I just don’t see it.

    Comment by Mike — June 29, 2015 @ 10:34 am

    • A very balanced response; I especially like your 2nd last paragraph which lines up with my thinking. Thanks for writing.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — June 29, 2015 @ 10:47 am

  2. Thought I’d weigh in, since I’ve done a lot of digging into this whole shift in society and religion, as you well know. But I’ll do so by sharing my recent response to a fellow who, upon his reflecting on the SCOTUS decision and declaring himself a ‘recovered Catholic and secular humanist’, claimed that the only higher power that mattered was ‘the law’ (of the state). For some reason, I – who rarely engages in back and forths on line – felt compelled to respond.

    “Dear X:

    Quote: … “the only higher power that matters to me: the law”.

    You have faith in a) that which has no power b) that which has no consistency … laws change. Re point a: the law is powerless to make you a good person. It only establishes via a heteronomous fashion what the overall ‘best idea’ is for a people or society. The people at the top determine what should be ‘right’ for all. That doesn’t always work well to make a people moral. Remember Germany in the 30’s? Stalinism in the 20’s & 30’s? Armenia 100 years ago this year. But laws can never determine what is the ultimate good. It merely gives us ‘shades’ of goodness and some type of order in/for society.

    If Jesus’ words are to be trusted, and He is indeed God’s image in flesh (for which there is ample, historical backing for, as many come to discover), we were meant to be a certain way, sexually … relationally.

    “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

    Here’s an illustration:
    A brilliant MIT grad has just created a superb safe-home-design program to run on Windows PC’s. As long as people don’t ‘reverse engineer’ the program and run it the way it was configured, the outcomes will be successful, safe, sturdy home designs. Safe homes based on this program – when followed through to the nth degree and where possible – will be built and society will flourish. But change ONE aspect of the program because you personally don’t like the designs (or proceed to write your own home-design program – ye of lessor experience) and less safe home designs will be made. They will not function as well, but from all appearances, will look fine. But a knock-off is a knock-off. They aren’t the real thing.

    Our default design resulted in this thing known as ‘the human population’. Isn’t it logical that anything that strays from the default design and (if followed through to its extreme) could lead to the decimation of our species is sub-standard and flawed?

    Even if I had NO beliefs centred in God, the logic – the math, if you will – is against homosexuality’s declaring itself to be normal. (An aside: If it was so normal why is it being rammed down our throats: “Accept us or face our wrath!”? Sounds more like ISIS tactics going on of late, re some progressive LGBT(etc.) advocates.)

    God, the real higher power in play – whether you choose to believe He’s there or not – gives you and me the right of prerogative, but not the right of what the outcome will be in our exercising such prerogative (quote borrowed from Ravi Zacharias).

    You, Mr. X, matter to a higher power than law. Your choices and your character matter to Him. Religion is law, but Christ is freedom – not the freedom to choose what suits our natures, which are pretty self-willed and self-serving most of the time, no? Christ’s freedom allows us to see ourselves through a new lens, one that shows us what the ‘default design’ is for our hearts, minds and bodies.

    You may fly your colours as proudly as you want, but in the end, you will (we ALL will) meet the Creator of the colours that you seem to think represent who you are. You are more than your sexual identity. You are more than your causes. You are precious in the eyes of God. You are loved and wanted and were meant to be a beautiful work of art. There is still time. Seek Him and you will find Him when you seek Him and his holiness with all your being. And don’t fear what He may show you. You’re strong enough. He will take you from strength to strength. Many have made the journey.

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/january-february/my-train-wreck-conversion.html?start=1

    Be well, and may God make His face shine upon you, sir.
    Martin D. of Flagrant Regard”

    Comment by flagrantregard — June 30, 2015 @ 3:48 am


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