Last week, the news of the Supreme Court's decision to make gay marriage legal in all 50 states resulted in a lot of cheers. Many of the folks I follow on Twitter expressed that this is a positive sign: America is finally making some necessary changes.
But what about the conservative side? How do many people who believe in the God of the Bible feel about the change? At a glance, I saw a lot of mixed reactions myself. Some were thrilled, others less so. Thankfully, no one I associate with reacted with the hatred or venom that many have come to expect from those who call themselves Christians.
Rian van der Merwe explains his own stance by answering a question he hears often. How can you be Christian and support gay marriage? I admire Rian, both for his experience and wisdom in all things product management, as well as for how he carries himself online and places high priority on his family life. And he has a pretty nice beard, too!
So I appreciate him putting himself out there and talking about his stance on this topic. Any time you voice your opinion on a politically charged topic, you open yourself to criticism. The topic of gay marriage has been on the forefront of our culture for a while now.
Holding to a Christian point of view is usually not popular and when so much of our day to day is spent communicating over text rather than face to face … well, these kinds of conversations can go wrong so easily that many times it's easier to just keep quiet.
Kudos to Rian for putting his thoughts out to be shared.
The Authority of Scripture
I admit that I wish he had gone into more detail. For I left his post wondering what exactly does he believe? The content of the post leaves room to infer that while he believes that homosexuality is wrong, he's most concerned with how Christians treat people. Which is of the utmost importance.
But the title of the post indicates otherwise. That he in fact believes gay marriage can be something Christians support. In this light, I was left with a desire to hear more, to how he feels the Bible supports his thinking.
Why is that important? Simply because for a Christian, the Bible is the key to life. It is God revealing Himself, His character and His ways, to humankind. It also includes His instructions on how we should conduct ourselves in regards to him and to other humans. In short, how to live our lives.
For those who believe God does not exist and religion is a fool's errand, following the instructions of an old, dusty book is nonsensical. I get that. But if you've read the what is says and had your heart changed as a result, those words become your life. And they come from God Himself, regardless of what human was used to put words to paper.
No matter the topic, I have to start with Scripture to ensure I'm aligned with God's ways.
The Compassion of Christ
In his post, Rian points out the activity and attitude of Christ:
Jesus spent most of his time with the marginalized, assuring them of their worth as human beings, and using acts of kindness to show them why he is who he says he is.
Jesus spent time with the those in the lowest social circles of his time. His birth was proclaimed to shepards, a group ostracized from their communities, sent to care for the flocks because they were not suited for any other jobs. He regularly hung out with tax collectors, those who were despised and rejected by their own Jewish brethren for selling out to the hated Roman empire.
Last, Jesus spent much time in the company of women of low repute. He not only spent time with prostitutes, but He spoke with them, spent time fellowshipping with them. In the minds of the religious leaders, this was sacrilegious and would even have made Jesus ceremonially unclean.
It was to these religious leaders that, when asked why He spent so much time with sinners, Jesus replied:
Those who are healthy donʼt need a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
He spent time with those who needed healing, who needed what only He could offer. Namely, sinners.
Sin No More
This is where I would differ from Rian's thinking in how Christian's should respond when it comes to gay marriage. If Christ were to come today rather than some 2,000 years ago, would He be eating with homosexuals? Absolutely, I believe He would. But what would He be doing in His time with them?
The best example to use in answering that question may come from John 8. Here we see a story where the religious leaders bring to Jesus a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. By Jewish law, the law handed down by God Himself to Moses in the OT, she would be deserving of death. To be stoned by the people in her community.
The leaders come to Jesus, reminding Him of the law, and ask Him, "What then do you say?" His response:
Whoever among you is guiltless may be the first to throw a stone at her.
Here we see the heart of God, the compassion of the Christ. The leaders slowly leave the scene, one by one, as they each consider the sin within their own hearts. After all are gone and He's left alone with the woman, Jesus asks her if anyone has condemned her. When she says no one, he replies:
I do not condemn you either.
I believe this is the heart of what Rian gets at:
We were told not to condemn. We were told to love God and our neighbors.
Again, amen. But …
This only gives a partial answer. Jesus had one more thing to say to the woman:
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.
Is He compassionate? Yes. But does He refrain from calling a spade, a spade? Not at all. Although he offered mercy to the woman, he did not approve of her actions.
In the passage quoted earlier, Jesus stated His purpose was to bring healing to those who were sick. He spent time with those who were marginalized, but He also taught them about their sins and commanded them to, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near".
Rian makes an excellent point: Christians must love their neighbours. Whatever their sexual orientation. But that does not mean that we cannot at the same time echo the truths of Scripture.
A Different Question
Rian was giving his answer to this question — how can he be a Christian and support gay marriage? I would answer a different question:
How can I be a Christian and support gay people?
Because of what the Bible has to say about homosexual behaviour, I cannot support gay marriage. Like lying, adultery, witchcraft, and divination, homosexual relationships are called out as a sin and we are told not to take part in these activities. The Bible tells us that it goes against the “natural use” of human bodies.
For the majority of the general population, I realize that will sound extremely offensive. I love my gay friends and neighbours, but I hold to the belief that homosexuality is a sin. For many who believe it's perfectly right, natural, and beautiful, my opinion will cause anger, regardless of how much compassion or grace I show.
Those living in our culture will have to decide how to treat people like myself. Someone who disagrees with the practice of homosexuality and believes that marriage was instituted by God for a man and a woman, but who treats gay people with love and respect. Someone who understands that, no matter what race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, all humans are created in the image of God and should be treated accordingly.
I certainly don't have all the answers. But I'm encouraged to see Christians, of all different backgrounds and preferences, thinking about this entire topic in new ways. All I can do is live my life in accordance to what I believe is right, and love my neighbour as myself while I do it.
Which, in this case, means treating people with love and respect, even when we disagree.