Loving God and Loving People

I opened my Twitter Friday morning as my plane landed at LaGuardia in New York and witnessed my newsfeed blow up with the news of the SCOTUS decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges. Simply put (in case you’ve lived in a hole the last few days) the Court ruled marriage as a fundamental right for all couples, regardless of orientation, gender, or state residence.

On one end, people cheered and applauded the decision as a step of progress for human liberty. On the other end, some Christians bemoaned the decay of morals and our country’s supposed religious foundations. Many just didn’t know what to say.

The ruling should really come as no surprise. The culture has been shifting for quite a while now, and we’re probably at the beginning of a post-Christian America. For better or worse, this is the cultural milieu we are in.

I don’t want to debate about whether homosexual practice is a sin or not. If you believe the Bible to be the authoritative Word of God, then there is no escaping the fact that it prohibits homosexual activity, unless you do some hermeneutical gymnastics. Scripture tells us that when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, sin began its destructive ripple, wreaking havoc through all of creation, including a fallen sexual condition. The temptation to be sexually promiscuous for the heterosexual is every bit an evidence of the fall as is the sexual attraction between people of the same sex. God didn’t “make” anyone gay, it is just one of the many ways sin presents itself. But just as the Bible instructs me that obedience to God means sex is to be enjoyed in the confines of marriage with one woman, it instructs us that obedience to God means not engaging in same sex intercourse. It promises us that Jesus offers healing for all of our sexual brokenness and that living in obedience to Him gives us our greatest joy and His ultimate glory. Our sexual ethic is defined by our King Jesus, not our desires or what culture endorses. (Important to note here is that same-sex attraction isn’t anymore sinful than it is sinful for me to be attracted to women. The act is what is sinful, whether it be in the mind (lust) or body, because it is a distortion of the image of God and the union of Christ and the Church. More resources and information will be provided at the end of this article.)

Christians are faced with two challenges in this, the first being that God, in his Word, has expressly forbidden homosexual practice in the Old and New Testaments. This is not a case of us being inconsistent with the commands of the Bible, and contrary to rising popular opinion, the teachings aren’t as ambiguous as proponents of same-sex marriage advocate.

The second is that most of us have friends and loved ones who experience same-sex attraction and struggle through it in a way most of us will never understand. They’ve experienced deep hurt and pain and betrayal and rejection because of their orientation, and it is heartbreaking. They are real people who didn’t just “choose” to be gay.

Most Christians, when faced with these realities, tend to drift toward one of two extremes, both of which are wrong. The first is expressing anger and hatred toward the LGBT community. Bible verses are spit out without love, condemnation is cast, and verbal/physical abuse may occur. There is an insensitivity toward the LGBT community because of a lack of understanding and a gag-reflex because it seems so abnormal. People on this end tend to view homosexual behavior as very high in the hierarchy on the totem pole of sin. They believe they’re being faithful to God and the Bible in calling out sin, but they usually respond without the grace, love, and compassion we’re called to, remembering our own inherent depravity and sinfulness.

The other extreme is being so pulled by compassion that you decide homosexual activity really isn’t that big of a deal. Bible passages are reinterpreted or ignored because they seem outdated. People on this end irresponsibly make the charge that the Old Testament forbids things like eating shrimp and wearing clothes of two materials, which we do, so homosexual practice also must be okay since we’re “ignoring” those other laws. They say Jesus never explicitly taught on homosexuality, so how do we know he wouldn’t approve of it? It is the original trick the serpent used in deceiving Adam and Eve: “Did God really say…?” They begin viewing conservative Christians as bigots and hypocrites, and they do all this because they believe they’re being faithful to a Jesus who does not condemn but calls us to love all people.

Sometimes it seems like you have to pick one extreme and go with that, but I think the tension is actually a good thing! Jesus tells us that all of the law is summed up into these two commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. We’re called to live in the tension! We love God and what He has revealed to his through His Word, and in light of that, we love His image bearers, however broken they are. Love does not mean we approve everything someone does. It is not loving for my brother to not tell me if something I am doing is hurting me or others.

So what does this look like? It means to stay faithful to the biblical teachings on sexuality and marriage because God created both and ultimately defines them; they are not merely sociological terms. It means to love the LGBT community in a sacrificial way, listening to them, caring for them. It means that we don’t separate truth and love, but speak the truth in love and in a compassionate, gracious way. It means that our churches should be lights shining in the darkness. Russell Moore may have said it best:

We must stand with conviction and with kindness, with truth and with grace. We must hold to our views and love those who hate us for them. We must not only speak Christian truths; we must speak with a Christian accent. We must say what Jesus has revealed, and we must say those things the way Jesus does — with mercy and with an invitation to new life.

This is what I think Jesus would say to the person caught engaging in homosexual behavior: I think Jesus would look into their eyes in love and compassion and say, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”

Christians, let us be the church. Let us be identified as those who love God and love His people.

Here are some further resources:

Why the Church Should Neither Cave nor Panic About the Decision on Gay Marriage – Russell Moore

Reaction to the Supreme Court Ruling – ERLC

5 Biblical Responses to Homosexuality – Sam Allberry (Sam is a minster who experiences sam-sex attraction, but because of his love for Jesus, remains celibate.)

Old Testament Law and the Charge of Inconsistency – Tim Keller

Is God Anti-Gay? – Sam Allberry (book)

Is Same Sex Attraction a Sin? – Sermon

Something Greater Than Marriage – Rosario Butterfield and Christopher Yuan

40 Questions for Christians Now Waving the Rainbow Flag – TGC

Review of “God and the Gay Christian” – Tim Keller

For Whom the Wedding Bells Toll

Take a big whiff. Come on. A sizeable sniff…

Do you smell it?

No, not your deodorant failing on you. Not what the Rock is cooking. Certainly not what your digestive system is cooking. Hmm… Here, how about this: go on Facebook and go through every single one of your 1,000 plus friends. See what’s new for them…

Ahh… Do you see it now? Do you see the trend? Do you see smiling couples and artsy photo shoots? Joined hands and joined hearts. That’s what I meant. That’s what is in the air. Marriage. Love. Ugh.

Within this last year, 90% of my friends have decided to get married. Okay, maybe I exaggerated a little, but it seems that way! Every week I hear of someone getting engaged or married. Friends from childhood, from church, from college. Long lost acquaintences, old crushes, and those people that I never really met but know via Facebook/Twitter, photos, and a slightly unhealthy amount of stalking. They’re all getting married and I have no reprieve from it! Cupid has been busting his bogus butt in letting his arrows loose, and they seem to be finding some sort of mark. But it isn’t even just weddings that I hear of! More and more people I know have become doe-eyed dears and fallen to the love bug (virus). There’s a relationship epidemic among us.

Now all this may lead you to conclude that I’m bitter about marriage and love and all that gooey stuff. Maybe a girl did me wrong. Maybe I’m jealous I’m not in that category. Nope, it’s not that. I’m actually really excited and proud for these people that are taking huge steps into maturity and commitment. Jealous of a beautiful thing as love? That’s kind of petty, isn’t it? I’m just taken aback by the burst of new couples this year, but this can probably be chalked up to the fact that I’m getting older, and thus my friends get older. And as you get older, what do you do? You get married.

I wish I could refer you at this point to my “Guide to Make a Relationship Last” or “7 Steps to a Godly Marriage” but I don’t have either of those. In fact, I could probably tell you what not to do, focus on, or look for in a relationship. How to make it not work. I would just have to look at my past.

… This is kind of awkward.

“There you go! He is bitter! He’s just venting about it and calling it a ‘blog'”

I stand by what I said, to see my friends tie the knot is exciting and joyful. But I’ve honestly grown and learned more about what it looks like to be in a relationship, especially one that glorifies God. I thought I knew it before. But God has a way of shaping and humbling you, and doing it constantly. Maybe you’re under the persuasion that a relationship that “glorifies God” simply means that you both go to church. I’d disagree, but I’m not here to present the theological views on what a Biblical marriage (or relationship headed toward marriage) looks like. That would be akin to a pilot giving a flying lesson without ever having a succesful take-off and landing sequence.

I’m not sure if or when I’ll look down the aisle to see a blushing bride walking toward me to join me in covenant. I’m certainly in no hurry. But I hope that if that day comes, I remember that my relationship is to mirror the marriage of Christ with the Church. (Big “C” Church, the universal body of believers) It is a covenant of sacrifice, humility, mission and love. Love that is not defined or identified merely as a “spark” or swapping of pheremones, but as a commitment centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. I hope in that day, I remember that I am to honor her and love her and pursue her as Christ pursues His bride. I hope to not just remember these thing, but to do them.

But that day has not come. So till then, I’m content with hearing the music of everyone else’s wedding bells.