So here we are. It finally happened. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that all states must recognize marriage between same sex couples. No matter what you think about gay marriage or this ruling I encourage you to keep an open heart.
A closed heart has lost the ability to love.
My goal is not to persuade you to be for or against it. My goal is, however, for you to think about how you will respond.
If you are a Christian and you consider yourself a believer, then I ask, “what do you believe?”
What do you believe in? What do you hope for? More on that soon.
Much of my audience are Americans and many are Christian Americans. We have different roles and worldviews and spaces in which we move. We are a patriotic people and this presents in different ways.
Some express patriotism by bringing up the separation of church and state—meaning that the government should not allow religious beliefs or doctrines to dictate the rule of law. They want to protect the nation by protecting it from religious views.
Others show patriotism by trying to hold to what they believe were the founding father’s ideas and writings and laws that helped to form this great nation. They like to focus on the Biblical aspects that helped to build our foundation.
These two usually polar points of view are important in light of today’s ruling. Both sides claim patriotism and I am not here to question either.
Some look at the issue of gay marriage as a religious or moral one. For them, gay marriage is sin and since our nation was founded on Biblical principles they see this as the degradation of our country and something to weaken the sacrament of marriage. And sometimes they can be outspoken about his.
The other side focuses on the parts that deal with equal rights and equal opportunities for every person regardless of their sexual orientation. They put more weight on the fact that the laws discriminated against a societal group, in this case gay people. According to this view we are not offering the same opportunity to people based on their identity. This is the side that won today.
As you read and think about these two ways of framing the issue, you are most likely sneering at one while internally validating the other. It’s very hard to see anything other than what we already know. And this is where the wars begin—especially on the Facebook.
As my friend and colleague Leah Barterian eloquently put it,
Something big happened today. We all have lots of opinions about it.
Let’s use this moment to remember that the fact that someone thinks differently than you doesn’t give you the right to be a butthead.
So….don’t be a butthead.
Us Versus Them
Sometimes Christians, especially in America take a militant, nationalistic approach. So then protecting our nation’s values holds more importance than protecting the hearts of people that live in it. You may agree and think that is part of our Christian duty but realize it hurts people in doing so. In my opinion this is not helpful or good. It puts nations and beliefs over human beings.
Jesus understood this mindset all too well. The people that followed Him believed He was sent from God to triumph over their oppressors: Rome and it’s tyrannical leaders. A mindset is unintentionally developed of “us versus them.” It’s a rivalry. Its a way of life. In fact, its the engine of this fallen world’s system.
A passage in Luke highlights this attitude. Jesus was reading scripture in Isaiah and He left out a section of the passage. The phrase He skipped talked about God’s vengeance toward unbelievers. They acted happy about this reading but Jesus showed what was in their hearts with his next statement.
He brought up a story of two unbelievers from hundreds of years ago that God healed and fed miraculously while not doing anything for the believers. This made them furious and as was their normal reaction they wanted to kill Jesus. He didn’t reinforce their views of “us versus them.” Its always dangerous to question the majority viewpoint.
What Do You Believe?
I ask the question, “what do you believe” because our core beliefs steer our choices and reactions in life.
Do you believe our highest calling is to love and accept people? Do you believe you should accept people that do things you don’t agree with?
Can you accept them and be outspoken against their choices?
Do you believe the highest goal is to judge all things? Is our purpose to hold up our ideas on morality even when doing so we hurt people?
Did Jesus champion moral living in the way we sometimes do? Or were his sermons and stories more about how we treat one another in our lives?—especially ones different than us. I believe the latter is evident.
I believe in morality and I believe we each have choices in life that we must make for ourselves. But I believe this is a personal thing, not one that we should force on others when it pertains to issues that don’t cause a person harm.
A great example of immorality that causes harm are backbiting, gossip, and verbal or physical abuse. Those are immoral acts that everyone should take a stand on.
Jesus helped reframe a more proper moral focus. He talked about the law or rules from the Old Testament and how He didn’t come to destroy it but to perfect it, to fulfill it. He quotes some random laws that many listeners thought they had already kept. But Jesus added to these laws by bringing in heart issues that went beyond the flat, black and white rules they understood.
For example, “The law says do not murder, but I say if you are angry with a brother you have already murdered in your heart.” Then someone asks,
Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
He said this to a people that were hurting others with the rules. He didn’t say we shouldn’t have rules. Rather He focused on the higher rule, the higher morality—loving people, loving ourselves and loving God.
What Do You Hope For?
If religion is worth anything it will bring healing to broken people. It should be a balm to wounds, a hope to despair, and a love to a hate filled, broken world. If it can’t be those things, it isn’t worth much.
One author said any spiritual or religious thing you do that love isn’t the cornerstone is like an obnoxious, useless noise. In other words you can do everything right but still miss the whole point.
Cries for morality that cause compassion to be hidden should be put to rest. Demanding morality serves no purpose other than to ostracize and reinforce an “us versus them” world.
Jesus had no problem turning up his nose at the religious people and their rules when they silenced love. He enjoyed breaking down their barriers that kept the “thems” on the outside.
What Do I Hope For?
I hope that all people regardless of their sexual orientation will see the loving Father that heals and offers hope to all of humanity. He’s the one that sent His son to stand with us, experience life and pain and loss, suffer and ultimately give His own life to a cruel world. I want them to see a Jesus that didn’t come to condemn the world but to save it from all it’s mess, to heal the human condition.
Are we bringing heaven to earth? Are we shouting the good news, “it is finished?” Are we looking at humanity as God sees them?
The only way we can do this is by letting God be God. He’s the only one qualified to judge the hearts of men. He’s the only one that can see inside. He’s the only one equipped for that job. You aren’t. I’m not.
And that’s why I choose to love, give people space & do my best to keep no record of wrong.
What is your response?
Will it draw people toward goodness? Will it be one of doom and gloom—the world is ending and judgment is coming? I don’t hear much hope in that. If America was on a fast track to judgment it would be about a bunch of other things in our history.
Compassion calls, mercy is waiting, and love endures all.
Peace and wholeness on your journey,