A Country Divided Cannot..

On February 13, 2012, Washington became the 7th State in the Union to legalize gay marriage, but the fighting is far from over.  Just this past week, North Carolina became the 30th State in the Union to pass a constitutional amendment that affirms the definition of “marriage” as a union between a man and a woman.

The Pew Forum for Research, has documented well the American angst over this issue in study entitled, “Changing Attitudes on Gay Marriage

Compelled to Speak Out

With all of these fast-moving and significant changes in the culture, I find myself compelled to write this article. I say compelled because my hesitancy to write about gay marriage comes from the fear that this single topic will be used to create a caricature of my faith. I am also keenly aware of the anger this discussions evokes in some people. Despite these concern, I find it necessary to speak out for the middle road that does not get much attention in the press.

The issue of gay marriage and Christian Faith is not going away and will continue to shape the public debate. Every church in America will at some point be forced to take a stand on this issue one way or the other.

After much internal struggle, here is where I stand.

First, My Faith is Not Hate

I believe that all life is precious to God, but to hear some people tell it, anyone who accepts the traditional teaching of the Scripture that marriage was designed by God as the union between one man and one woman is a “hateful bully.”  This column by Frank Rich entitled, “Smoke the Bigots Out of the Closet” is just one example of the hyperbole that passes for intelligent discourse.

At a time when government restrictions and hatred against Christians is on a global rise, rhetoric that paints Christians as “evil” hate-mongers takes on a rather ominous tone because all oppression begins with the criminalization of speech and the dehumanization of those whom we see as “enemies.”

It is my hope that in the near future, reason will win out, and people on all sides will recognize that we can have religious, philosophical, political, and even scientific disagreement without resorting to name-calling.

Second, My Faith is Not Political

This, to me, is the most fundamental point to the issue of gay marriage—Christianity is decidedly apolitical in its nature. My Faith, as defined by Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and the New Testament, is not Political, but only concerned with taking the Good News (Gospel) of Jesus to those who do not have it. Jesus refused to establish himself as a political leader and his first Apostles followed his example.

Barack Obama is the most recent example of how Faith, when politicized, ceases to be Faith at all.  In his first Presidential election of 2008, Obama needed to gain mass appeal, so at the time his “faith” led him to reject gay marriage.  In 2010, Obama was still publicly opposed to gay marriage.  Now in 2012, the economy is in disarray and jobs are hard to find, so Obama’s ever-evolving-faith tells him to go for the money and throw his political power behind gay marriage. Clearly, the change we can all believe in is that when religion become a political tool—genuine Faith is subverted by lust for political power.

Third, My Faith is Not About Laws

Many people conflate the Old Testament, which tells the history of the Jews, with the politics of America. Simply put, The Old Testament theocracy and Torah (Law) were meant to bring Israel to the realization that no Law can make the heart of Mankind righteous. The Law of the Old Covenant between God and Israel illustrated that no legal system can make people holy. Each person needs to be remade, through Jesus Christ, into the Image of God; not remade into the image of government.

Faith in Jesus, recognizes that no matter how good a nation’s laws, they are not enough to change the heart of Her people. It is the great irony of American-Evangelicalism that so many people believe that passing a law to prohibit gay marriage will keep the country “pure.” But even God, with his perfect Law (Torah), could not purify Israel. This is why so much of the Evangelical fervor against homosexual marriage makes no sense. It is an attempt to live out a Legalistic faith instead of an Evangelistic one.

Where I Stand

1. I will vote my conscience

Christianity is not political, yet we are blessed by God to live in a democracy. Out of respect to the political powers in authority over us, I believe every Christian has an obligation to vote their conscience. However, there are two caveats to this point.

First, I do not find any foundation in the teachings of Jesus or in the teachings of the New Testament that allows me to compel others, by use of political power, to observe my convictions.

      • It does not fit with my Faith to endorse or create any “Christian” Political Action Committees to support or oppose gay marriage.
      • I do not think it is of any value to donate money to candidates who share my faith.
      • I do not support advertisement campaigns to “raise public awareness,” engage the “culture war” or persuade people to vote for or against gay marriage.
      • I do not put up Yard Signs that condemn others for their sin.

These methods satisfy a political agenda, not the Christian mission.

Second, if push comes to shove, I would relinquish my right to vote if that right caused anyone to think my faith in Jesus was political or legal. Voting my conscience is not my primary obligation. My first obligation is to be an Ambassador to Jesus, not an emissary of the political Right or Left in America.

2. I will live; NOT legislate, my faith

Christianity is not legalistic, so while I trust the biblical teaching that homosexuality is a sin, passing a law against homosexuality or against homosexual marriage is not my mission. My mission is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My only obligation is to share the Good News of Jesus and then I allow the Holy Spirit to convict others of both their sin and the path of righteousness. This is hard for legalistic-Evangelicals, because they would rather be in control and force others to follow their rules even if they do not share their heart. But the message of Christ, and Him Crucified, is that our Heavenly Father wants to restore our hearts and then lead us into right action—not the other way around.  If we, as Christians, shifted all our political energy into sharing the Gospel, we would have millions of new Christ-followers and gay marriage would not even be a political issue.

3. In TRUTH, I will LOVE my neighbor

Striking a balance between speaking truth and showing love has eluded many in the church.  Al Mohler writes:

Biblical Christians know that compassion requires telling the truth… To hide or deny the sinfulness of sin is to lie, and there is no compassion in such a deadly deception. True compassion demands speaking the truth in love–and there is the problem. Far too often, our courage is more evident than our compassion.

In far too many cases, the options seem reduced to these–liberal churches preaching love without truth, and conservative churches preaching truth without love.

It does not diminish my faith if gay marriage is legal or illegal in America. Gay marriage is not the beginning, end, or even the middle of my faith.  The marital status of another human being does not change my desire to both demonstrate love and to verbally share the Salvation News of Jesus Christ.

Gay or straight… Divorced, Single, Widowed, or Remarried… categories are irrelevant.  What matters most is that everyone needs to experience God’s sin-cleansing love.  The legality of this State sanctioned contract does not change my Gospel mission; it only shows how big my mission has grown.

Dr. Joe Miller (aka JR) is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. In addition, he is a church planter and coach for emerging leaders. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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