Since the SCOTUS ruling came out on Friday, I have been busy engaging as best as I can with fellow brothers and sisters who oppose same-sex marriage. The conversations have been long, heated, and at times difficult. Who am I kidding? I am among the minority when it comes to claiming my relationship with Jesus while also supporting the LGBTQ community. As tired as I have been over the last few days, it doesn’t negate that this conversation is necessary and vital among Jesus-followers right now. I have been so encouraged by the questions and the scriptures being looked at. It has been a challenge for me personally to go back and re-think how I landed here in the first place.
An even greater challenge has been how to weed through all of the angles of this topic and get to the root of what’s happening here. I have tried to untangle it all in my head, have processed with some friends and my husband and have found some key points that stand out to me:
1. Separation of Church and State. This one seems to be the most muddied point in the conversation. Most of the debate surrounding gay-marriage has been between Christian “traditionalists” and the rest of the American population (including progressive Christians, atheists, other religious backgrounds, etc.). I have chosen to abstain from the political sector, but regardless, I think it is imperative that we understand our different identities as well as the functions of those identities.
First and foremost, we are all human. This lumps every single person on the planet into one massive group. Our function as humans can vary upon opinion, but I think most of the human population are seeking purpose and meaning in life. The problem is when we try to find purpose and meaning in two much more narrowed down identities: person of Faith and person of Nationalism.
Faith and Nationalism are both noble identities to adopt. They even have many things in common such as wanting a better world and ensuring safety and freedom. However, what that kind of world looks like and how that kind of world is accomplished is where the line between Faith and Patriotism becomes pretty thick. They contradict one another. To illustrate, I am going to use Christian-identity and American-identity as my examples because that is my general audience and those are the only identities I can relate to.
If you look at the teachings of Jesus, He seems to be turning Nationalism on it’s head. I have said this before on many other blog posts, but the Jews were expecting Jesus to overtake the Roman government and rule…eventually ruling the entire world. Many expected the means that Jesus would use to take His seat of earthly power would be through the sword. There was a whole sect of Jewish believers (the Zealots) who walked around with swords ready for when that time came.
Doesn’t this sound very “American”? I can’t help but see the parallels. Americans “fight” (go to war) for freedom. We use the sword, so to speak, in order to keep the freedoms we have. Many Americans argue and protest to keep and or bring back things like the 10 commandments in schools or “In God We Trust” on our currency. They protest in favor of the right to bear arms. And they use pictures of Jesus from the book of Revelation to make their point. (Revelation 19) They want to advance the Kingdom through worldly means.
*Discussing the book of Revelation will have to be tabled for another blog post as it would be too much information and would distract from the point I am trying to make.
Here’s the distinction. While, I love being an American and while I am grateful for the advantages that come to those of us in this country, the mission of America is not the same as the mission of the Church.
The Church was called to be different-to advance a different ideal in this world. Personally, I find it a contradiction to try and live out both identities, but perhaps you see good in both the missional Church as well as American politics. Wonderful! But do not fall into the trap of thinking they are one and the same. They are not.
Some questions to wrestle with: How can you support war and violence, when Jesus said to turn the other cheek? How can you support a system that depends on classism when Jesus taught that there are no classes in the Kingdom? How can you participate in the rat-race of the so-called American Dream which perpetuates the constant longing for more more more, when Jesus taught us to not cling to the material possessions of this world? And how can Christ’s example of love be implemented through coercion of laws? These questions might lead to more questions, but I can assure you that there are answers (really good ones) found outside of politics and the legal system.
If you want to support America and you want to stand by the principles that America claims to stand by, that’s all well and good. But one of the BIGGEST principles is freedom for all people…not just Christians. Sure, that might mean that the reality of not being a “Christian” nation becomes clearer, but we ought to be accepting the reality of our culture if we are ever going to learn how to be missionaries within it.
Setting all politics aside, the major conflict seems to be about Biblical interpretation regarding homosexuality. This will bring me to point 2.
2. Listening to feelings rather than truth. Perhaps I have been listening to my deceitful heart, following my feelings, rather than following truth. Or perhaps I have been deceived by Satan, under his confusion, and I am unable to see what is so clearly stated in the Bible.
I have heard the anti-feeling argument for most of my life in the Church. Scriptures talking about how the heart is deceitful have been quoted to me more times than I can count. And this used to be something I really struggled to adhere to. “Truth trumps feelings” was what I used to believe. As a woman especially, any idea that went against the norm was deemed “womanly emotion”, silly and nonsensical.
But then I noticed something about Jesus… He felt.
Jesus felt anguish, distress, and grief- Matthew 26
36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
We read about Him begging the Father to provide another way if at all possible. But as we know, there was no other alternative in the grand scheme of things. Jesus had to go to the cross.
Now you may be thinking, See Micky? Jesus may have felt, but He didn’t act on His emotions.
Jesus got angry- John 2
13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem.14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. 15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
17 Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”[c]
Jesus may have even felt “hangry” (you all know what I am talking about)- Matthew 21
18 In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, 19 and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up.
Jesus felt sadness over the loss of His friend- John 11
They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Then Jesus wept. 36 The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” 37 But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”
38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”
40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted,“Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”
Jesus felt compassion- Matthew 9
35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”
In fact, every act of Jesus was a combination of feeling and obedience to the Father. This is such an important thing to note from scripture. Yes, the heart can be deceitful. Yes, there are times when our selfish desires take over and we act against the Father’s will. But notice that when we are postured towards the cross, when we are submitted to the will of the Father, our feelings become things we can trust and act on. They are transformed from feelings of fear and selfish ambition to feelings of compassion and other-oriented love (see Matthew 5:43-45). The idea that we are to squander all emotion goes directly against the example we find in Jesus (the Old Testament is also full of examples of God’s emotions in relation to the Israelites including, anger, mercy, compassion, sadness, and delight).
What we find in the whole narrative of Scripture is that God is not a narcissist. Rather, He is a God Who is for His people. So when we look at scripture, we ought to be looking at how the Father’s character shines through. What He is really like and how He calls us into this other-oriented love.
The scriptures on homosexuality can be interpreted to serve both sides of the debate, but which side lines up the most with Jesus? That should be our bent towards interpreting the whole Biblical narrative. It can get muddy. I am not going to deny that. The Old Testament is full of blood shed and seems to go against the teachings of Jesus at times. But here’s how I choose to move through those passages without tossing them out the window:
Scripture must be interpreted through the lens of Jesus.
The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.
If it doesn’t seem to line up with Who we see Jesus to be, we need to be open to alternative interpretations. Historical context usually clears a lot of these questions up, but we will likely never have it all figured out. We need to be okay with that and keep seeking to understand.
3. But what if I am wrong? The bottom line is that I could be dead wrong on whether or not homosexual sex acts (the Bible really doesn’t address same-sex marriage specifically, only sexual acts between partners of the same gender) are acceptable within the covenant relationship among two people. Same-sex marriage could be missing the mark. But I can assure you that my heart is to follow the example of Jesus. He demonstrated inclusivity. He loved and felt compassion for those deemed “unclean” and created avenues for them to come into a right relationship with God.
If I am wrong, than what am I guilty of? I have made my best attempts to remove barriers to the cross and I trust that God will sort out any confusion as He relates to each one of us. When I worship on Sunday with my gay brothers and sisters, I trust that they are there because they love Jesus and want to follow Him. Who can argue with that? We all have sin in our lives and we all have unknown sin in our lives-perhaps sin that is even encouraged for us to remain in due to misinterpretation of scriptures (the prosperity gospel is one example). Are we all in trouble because we unknowingly and even at times defensively remain in our sin? And is it our place to determine what “trouble” a person might be in (i.e. hell-bound)? Be careful to not kick Jesus out of the judgement seat.
What if you are wrong? You chose to make the gospel exclusive. You chose to put barriers in place, keeping people from seeing the attractive aroma of Christ’s love for them. You chose politics to become the means by which you further the Kingdom-which is antithetical to the calling of Jesus. And you chose to remove avenues for which you might build relationships with those who don’t know Jesus. I can’t find one example of Jesus doing this in the New Testament. In fact, if you read all about the Eunuchs, you will find an impressive example of how Jesus opened the gates of the Kingdom to a group of people who were historically not welcome (See Deuteronomy 23:1, Isaiah 56:4, Matthew 19:12, and Acts 8:26-40).
4. Fear based relationship. I will close with this last point. The crux of the Christian faith is that God desires a relationship with us. A relationship in which we dialogue, have back and forth discussions, asking Him questions, leaning on Him and partnering with Him. As His children, we have nothing to fear.
31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”[o]) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[p] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
To be in a relationship with anyone means there is risk involved. It means we will fumble through-not always getting things right and learning lessons along the way. Anyone who has been married for any length of time can relate, I am sure. It is because of this relationship, that I am not wavered by doubts or concerns for my salvation or whether or not I am under the influence of Satan. I can only speak for myself when I say that I am turned towards the cross. I am infected by the love Jesus demonstrated to His enemies when He chose servanthood, power-under, and dying for the sins of the world. He did all of this so that we could come to the Father. He did all of this because the Father longs to be near us- His children, His image bearers, His creation. He invites us in on the wrestling match of how to live out this other-oriented love and we have NOTHING to be afraid of as we fumble, stumble, question, doubt, and even misunderstand. He longs to give us His heart for the world and THAT is what we need to seek after.
Are you seeking your Father’s heart today?