I wanted to come back to the Strachan posts again. I know many of you are probably sick of me coming back to this over and over again–this guy is going on and on about the same stuff and I am just as bad if I keep linking back to him. But I cannot and will not let it go just yet. Why? Because I believe that there is a lot at stake in the debate over gay marriage. Strachan says over and over again that this is a high-stakes issue, going so far as to say that this is a battle for the very soul of evangelicalism. He is right about that, yet not at all in the way he would imagine.
What is really at stake in the issue of gay marriage, I believe, is the issue of what kind of communities our churches will become, and what kind of community the Church at large will become.
(When I say the Church at large, I am referring strictly to evangelicalism. I get that there is another whole world of Christianity out there besides our evangelical niche. I am sure that mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox are having their own conversations on this issue right now. But when it comes to being all sorts of loud and obnoxious about it, when it comes to the sheer volume of dirty laundry aired in full public view, we evangelicals have the rest of the Christian world beat by a most impressive margin. So for those reasons I will limit this discussion to evangelicalism.)
The bottom line issue is this: Are we becoming a movement defined by faith expressing itself through love? Are our churches becoming communities defined by faith expressing itself through love?
Strachan talks a lot about “defending the honor of God”, about “speaking for the righteousness of the King of Israel”. Yet God, speaking through Jesus Christ, has made it abundantly clear that He is honored when other people are well-treated. See the parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46):
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”
Then there is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), a weird and somewhat disturbing story about a rich man and a beggar living just outside his gate. Within the context of this story, the rich man’s eternal destiny is intimately tied up in how he treated this beggar.
On another occasion Jesus said “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24) Translation: If you are offering your sacrifice to God but there is an issue between you and someone else, go make that right first. God can wait. Honor God by making things right with other people first.
All this to say: How you treat other people matters. So much so, that God is staking His honor on it. If you want to honor God, then treat other people well.
“Who will speak for the righteousness of the King of Israel?” The King of Israel–who was rejected by his own people and crucified on a Roman cross. Cancel the memoir. Forgo the book tour. Postpone the Oprah appearance. Because this changes everything.
Not only has God staked His honor on how we treat other people, but Jesus Christ believed so strongly in it that He laid down His life. Which means: Every person in your life is a person for whom Christ died.
(In the Neo-Calvinist movement there is that whole limited atonement/double predestination thing. I won’t explain it all here, as different Calvinists put it differently and it can get quite confusing at times. This is best left as another diatribe for another day. But suffice it to say that the whole limited atonement/double predestination thing provides a convenient on-ramp for thinking and/or believing that there are some people out there for whom Christ did not die. This may be in play with regard to Strachan’s thinking on gay marriage. I can’t say, and I’d prefer not to go there.)
Every person in your life is a person for whom Christ died.
Which means: Queers are people for whom Christ died.
Anything we say about homosexuality must begin and end there: All of these are people for whom Christ died.
There are a lot of conversations which we will have along the way. But this is where it all begins and ends: All of these are people for whom Christ died.
The Bible is clear in its denunciation of homosexual activity. We will get to that somewhere along the line. But that is not where this conversation begins.
Some gay people, upon becoming Christian, are able to become straight. Excellent. But we need to recognize that, for the vast majority of gay people who become Christian, that is probably not going to happen. And we need to account for this.
Do we tell gay people that they must remain celibate? That is a possibility. But lifelong celibacy is a very long and very hard road for anyone to travel, gay or straight, and if we lay that obligation on anyone we had better make sure that we have plenty of resources in place to help them pull it off.
Is there a way for people to live in committed gay relationships while still remaining faithful to the witness of Scripture? I don’t know. But that is a conversation we need to have.
Is there a way in which gay people can engage with and participate in the life of our churches? Don’t know. GracePointe Church has chosen the route of full inclusion. Is that the right way to go? Don’t know. But that is a conversation we need to have.
But the bottom line here is that all of these are people for whom Christ died. That is where all our conversations begin and end.
All of these are people for whom Christ died. If you cannot accept this, then get alone with God–no, get on your face before God–until you can.
(Some nerve I’ve got saying that, seeing as I’m just a young-ish punk with a blog, yet here we are.)
Okay. Some of you have had the Gay Pride parade come marching down your street. You’ve seen things that you will never be able to un-see for as long as you live. This is going to be hard. I get that.
Doesn’t change anything. These are still people for whom Christ died.
As you read Strachan’s posts, consider this: Is it possible to believe that gay people are people for whom Christ died, and also believe that it is appropriate to denounce pastors and churches that affirm gay marriage? Is it possible to believe that gay people are people for whom Christ died, and also believe that churches which welcome gays and/or affirm gay marriage are on the path of destruction? Is it possible to believe that gay people are people for whom Christ died, and also believe that acceptance of gays and/or gay marriage represents capitulation to the forces of godless paganism in the world at large? Is it possible to believe that gay people are people for whom Christ died, and also believe that the Church at large is under judgment from God because it is capitulating to the culture in welcoming gays and/or affirming gay marriage?
“Who will defend the honor of God? Who will speak for the righteousness of the King of Israel?”
When we treat gays–and everyone else in our midst–as people for whom Christ died, then God will be honored. When we speak up for these people for whom the King of Israel laid down His life, then we speak for the righteousness of the King of Israel.