(Note: I'm out of the office this week. This is the second guest post by my friend and fellow pastor Blake Jennings.)
In my last post, I attempted to make a biblical case against supporting efforts to legalize gay marriage. That may convince those who hold to the authority of Scripture, but it will do little for the majority of our fellow citizens who don't. And if current trends continue, their support for gay marriage will grow.
And so in this post, I'd like to consider a more practical question: how should a follower of Christ who opposes gay marriage engage with a secular society that embraces (even celebrates) it? Let me give you a few principles to guide our response.
1) Don’t Fear. If gay marriage becomes legal throughout the United States, don't run for the hills. Don't retreat from society. Don't panic about your children's future. Don't fear. Nothing can change the fact that our God is in control. If the US adopts gay marriage nationwide, it will only be as part of God's sovereign plan. It will not surprise Him or upend His plan for you or your family. Perhaps in the midst of this impassioned debate, we need a little perspective from the New Testament. Remember that Paul and Peter both wrote during the time of Nero, a tyrannical, immoral madman. The issue facing them was not the legalization of gay marriage, it was the legalization (even promotion) of persecution against Christians. Nero covered believers in oil and lit them on fire to illuminate his garden parties. And yet neither Peter nor Paul gave into fear. They didn't run for the hills or withdraw from the world. They trusted God's sovereignty in the midst of a cruel and godless society. They embraced love, joy, peace, and patience rather than anxiety. And so should we, no matter what happens it this debate.
2) Stand for Truth. Homosexual behavior was accepted in Paul's day, as in ours. Yet Paul did not hesitate to stand for the truth and publicly call it sin (Rom1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9). Neither should we. Speak and vote for that which is righteous. However, as you do so, keep the next few principles in mind...
3) Keep the Gospel First. The ultimate problem for our society is NOT that the majority are embracing gay marriage, it's that the majority have not yet embraced Christ. If that continues, they will spend an eternity separated from God in a very real place the Bible calls hell. Gay marriage is trivial by comparison. So for every word we speak against gay marriage, let us speak a hundred for the gospel. In fact, let sharing the gospel always be your top priority. It trumps politics, social issues, even speaking out about immorality. Make sure that the world knows more about what you're for (eternal life through faith in Christ alone) than what's you're against.
4) Motive Matters. Stand for the biblical definition of marriage, but not to defeat our opponents or protect our nation (remember, that's in His hands - point #1). Do it out of love – love for those who out of spiritual blindness are embracing a way of life that will destroy them (the downward spiral of Rom 1:18-32). We oppose gay marriage in particular and immorality in general not because it offends us but because it injures all those who participate in it. Whether homosexuality, pornography, adultery, lust or any other sexual sin, God outlaws it because it destroys those who engage in it, whether believes or unbelievers (it will not cost a believer his salvation, but it will enslave him and destroy his life and the lives of those he loves). God doesn't want us to be judges leveling condemnation at an immoral society. He wants us to be like firemen boldly rushing into a burning building to rescue those who don't even realize their lives are in danger.
5) Define Your Terms. So many opportunities have been wasted for failure to define our terms! The Bible does condemn homosexual BEHAVIOR and LUST (both mentioned in Rom 1:26-27). But it does not condemn homosexual ATTRACTION. God does not hold us responsible for our temptations; He holds us responsible for our choices (James 1:14-15 – notice that temptation is not sin; embracing lust is what begets sin). So whether homosexual attraction comes from genetics, environment, past experiences, or a combination of these (the most likely explanation, in my opinion), what matters is what a person does when that temptation strikes. They have not sinned if they fight the temptation in the power of the Spirit. We need to make this clear as we engage in this debate. Otherwise, we alienate and crush all who struggle with homosexuality.
6) Make Your Marriage Prove your Position. The health of our own marriages speaks volumes in this debate. We stand for the biblical definition of marriage because we believe that it is truly better for human beings to live in accordance with God’s design than in rebellion to it. But if our own marriages are unhealthy and unsatisfying, we sabotage that position. We need to show, not just tell, the world that embracing God’s plan for marriage really does lead to greater peace, joy, and love.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, so please add other thoughts in the comments about how we as followers of Christ should respond.
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