Thursday, March 28, 2013

Christians, Homosexual Marriage & Marginalization

In a very compelling article from Colson's Ekklesia:Worldview Church, March 28, 2013, Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes on the Supreme Court battle going on now about same-sex marriage and how those decisions will impact the nation and the church. (See spMailingID=5854420&spUserID= NTYxMzk4NTc4NwS2&spJobID=69711057&spReportId=Njk3MTEwNTcS1)

In another article referenced by the same source, Joel Rainey makes the point we just need to put our politics at the door and get on with the reality of ministry to same-sex couples and their adopted children (SEE NTYxMzk4NTc4NwS2&spJobID= 69711057&spReportId=Njk3MTEwNTcS1). These are just two more evangelical writers commenting on one of the most socially divisive and yet profoundly disturbing realities for evangelicals and churches seeking to remain true to biblical standards and revelation.

And this week a relatively new person to our church, who is heavily involved in community activities, indicated he has a lot of Facebook friends in support of same-sex marriage. One of his friends put it this way: "I am glad my daughter will grow up in a much more accepting atmosphere." And then he writes:  "I don't hear the church saying much about it either . . . I don't even know how to respond to them." Much of the nation's media have accepted same-sex marriage as fait accompli. Obviously, churches and  ministries should follow suit, according to many.

Biblical churches can attempt to ignore the issue, side-step the issue or tackle it directly. My own denomination, which forbids ministers to perform same-sex unions and upholds the biblical definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, also takes a non-political viewpoint of the proceedings. To tackle the issue directly would imply confrontation and all the mess involved in such direct involvement. To side-step the issue or ignore it does not answer my friend's dilemma in his witness and outreach to his friends. The problem becomes one of marginalization in these choices. Right now in the national media and growing national consciousness, maintaining a biblical standard of marriage and excluding same-sex unions as marriages, isolates "white, evangelical fundamentalists" and pushes them into a minority fringe in this country. What we say and how we respond to this new openness and direct challenge to biblical standards and morality determines our ongoing impact on our society.

Here are a few of my thoughts on the fray. First, this is one of many "watershed" issues of our century in ministry and church work. It's not the only issue, but certainly a major one. The issue is not merely one of state's rights versus the federal government, or equal access according to the law, or constitutional guarantees. This is what our President and others would have us believe. It is part of an aggressive agenda of moving societal standards away from long-held Judaeo-Christian beliefs and practices. It is an anti-biblical redefinition of right and wrong. Whatever one says about same-sex marriage and homosexuality in general, it clearly violates the marriage standard and definition put forth in Scripture. Saying nothing or trying to ignore it can be read as silent agreement with it. 

Second, same-sex marriage therefore is at root a moral issue, not of political and social correctness, but of right and wrong, of sinful behavior against that approved and promoted in the Bible. A number of conservatives and evangelicals maintain that this issue and its aftermath will destroy the American family. It will thwart the normal psychological growth and maturation of boys raised in lesbian homes. It will result in family fragmentation and create many more youth problems than what we have now. It will blur the lines of right behavior versus wrong behavior. While social statisticians will and have been debating these conclusions, there is no doubt that what is "acceptable" behavior will change in a number of areas.

Third, the church must make a critical decision. Will it be the church, devoted to God's defined standards and codes of conduct, or will it devolve into another social agency with minimally defined boundaries? Have we forgotten our mission and history of always being "aliens and strangers" (1 Peter 2:11) in a world-order set against God and His will? Our calling is to be "in" the world but never "of" the world. Why can't we radically separate from the world-order yet be radically involved with that order? We are to be "witnesses" to a world fleeing from God. Does this mean we will be marginalized by our world? The attempt to do so is already there. God is still God, however, and He will use devoted people to challenge, to confront, to show a different way to a world going its own destructive way. We need to make this choice!

Fourth, we have to clean up our own "house" in the church. For way too long we have danced with sinful behavior of various types and have failed to discipline, to confront, to rebuke and to be what God has called us to be and do. Homosexual sinful behavior is no worse or no better than unmarried couples living together, or wrongly divorced people happily and without remorse attending the same church, or people addicted to alcohol or drugs or food or whatever.

Fifth, we must really start believing in both the grace and power of God to change lives and habits and thoughts. I believe Jesus' words to his disciples "O ye of little faith" apply to much of the church and ministry today. We don't trust God enough to transform hearts and minds of same-sex couples. We think we must somehow "win" them by avoiding dealing with their lifestyle. Cannot God change their hearts and minds?

"For me and my house, we will serve the Lord." This continues to be my standard, my commitment, my challenge and my calling in a society where same-sex unions will be held up by many as normal, as the new order of marriage. What about you?