ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE . . .

*As a Christian, this is a topic I have largely stayed out of, and the main reason is I’m still in process of refining exactly how I feel it needs to be approached. This is simply an attempt at transparency about the questions and struggles I deal with regarding this issue. This essay is not meant to be a lecture or a manifesto, but rather an open discussion, in which I hope to learn from you – Christians and Non-Christians, gay and straight – as well helping you gain a deeper understanding of me, with the end result being respect from both sides. Keep in mind this is written from a Christian viewpoint that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.

If you are looking to start a personal attack, in either direction, look elsewhere. I am required to approve all comments, and yours will be deleted.

pink-cross-response-to-marriage-equality-iconMarriage_Equality_Sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a Christian. That is not to say I am a better person, but simply to say I am in recognition of the worse person I am, and have been freed from being, which is not of my own accord. In my mind, a Christian at many points in life is almost synonymous with a hypocrite, because recognizing Christianity as your belief system and putting your faith in Christ is essentially saying you are incapable of living to His potential for you without His intervention, and saying that you will never be able to abide fully in Him at all times until you are in heaven, yet we are still expected to strive towards this goal of righteousness through the Holy Spirit’s leading, while helping fellow Christians do the same. (If you disagree, look at Romans 7:14-20 describing Paul’s troubles, or look at the stories of David and Solomon.) That being said, I believe I am on equal ground as anyone in the LGBT community in regards to sin, and have only been rescued from myself through my personal recognition of Christ’s sacrifice, and through the belief of God’s promise through Christ and renewing by the Holy Spirit. And because of this, I believe God knows better than I, and the bible is the inspired word of God, which means I must believe that homosexuality is a sin. I wish I didn’t have to believe this, as it would make my life much easier, but I do because being a Christian without believing all parts is not being a Christian, but rather simply being a Monotheist. Christianity, or being a Christ-Follower, is much more complex than that, as the devil himself is a monotheist and is obviously not a Christ follower.

With that being said, I am very conflicted about Christianity’s role in same-sex marriage, because although I do believe same-sex marriage is a sin, as is homosexuality as a whole, I also believe judgment is meant for within the church, and our role outside of the church is simply to love, and point others towards Christ and His radical redefining of love. And this is where I am at odds, because although I do personally believe same-sex marriage is a sin, I also believe marriage has already been tarnished by the broadening of its definition to become a union outside of the church (I am still in conflict with myself here as well, as a person who believes in romantic love and our innate desire as humans, not only Christians, to be joined together, although I have seen the sanctity of marriage crumble because of our other innate human desire – which is selfishness.) and become defined as an entity of the state.

And this is where my view becomes muddied.

Same-sex marriage is obviously not accepted within the Christian church (and because of this I can’t see reason why a gay couple would want to be married by the church), and therefore is an entirely state-ordained affair. And in fear of sounding like a bigot, I find myself in great conflict, because I do greatly wish all humans to have the same state-governed rights, yet I do not wish for same-sex marriage to become a topic which undermines the righteousness and justness of God, because as Christians we know God does not change his mind, and only humans attempting to play god can make such a change. Which, if the world was led to believe God had changed his mind on same-sex marriage, the entire credibility of the Christian church and God’s righteousness would be questioned by those without a strong understanding of our God or a strong understanding  of the human condition of sinfulness which Christianity teaches.

So the question is this: When does the battle for equal state-ordained rights meet the battle of preserving the public view of an unchanging, righteous God and the marriage He has ordained? (I say public view because God does not need us to defend the claim of His righteousness, although I believe it is an important claim to defend because of the easily persuaded nature of humanity as a whole.)

I fear this may be a never ending, chicken or egg paradigm, yet I will attempt to expand on this question. In my mind, the argument cannot be won by either side because of the state-based, rather than Christianity-based, center of the actual law regarding marriage. I understand that marriage grants the family certain rights and privileges regarding taxes, among other things, so I will focus my attention here by offering a seemingly offensive hypothetical. If marriage was a covenant offered by the state which did not offer any extra tax or other incentives, traditional or same-sex, where would same-sex marriage stand on the priorities of this nation? Also, if the term ‘marriage’ halted usage in state affairs, and all marriages were dubbed ‘civil unions’ by the government, and only ‘marriages’ within the church, treating the two as separate entities (and unfortunately adding paperwork to the process), where would we stand on this issue?

With these questions in mind, which are my attempt to basically see the views on the other side of the argument, I will address the questions I have often pondered regarding my Christian faith in this debate. I have already discussed the importance of God’s decrees due to His unchanging, just nature as understood by the church, so my questions tend to regard my own personal responsibility as a Christian in this debate.

As a Christian with an understanding of reserving judgment for those inside the church, when does same-sex marriage become my cause to fight against, and when does it fall under the Christian foundation of retaining such judgment from those who, for lack of a better term, are naïve of God’s law and His desire for us to live accordingly? I think the answer lies in one basic question, and that is this:

What does the love I strive towards – and my call to love as Christ loved (John 15:12) which is to love through sacrifice – call me to do? Does it call me to love through acceptance, or to love through the observation and identification of the behaviors God sees as sinful in others?

This has brought me to this realization: We are to love people in a way that points them away from sin, and towards Christ, because, as Christians who believe sin results in death except through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23), if we do not love people by pointing them away from sin, we are loving them by pointing them towards death, which cannot be love, while Christ made it abundantly clear that it is our duty to show Christ to others and bring them closer to Him. So with this I am led to conclude with these questions: Will the legalization of same-sex marriage increase the sin present in humans, especially since we as Christians already view homosexuality as a sin, and homosexuality is gaining acceptance in our society daily? Or will the often-times misunderstood, sometimes hateful condemnation of same-sex marriage within the Christian community cause more people to run from Christianity than the number of people within the LGBT community who would be led to Christianity through a love-based pursuit of the LGBT community after the fact and the acknowledgement of equality regarding sin as well as redemption through Christ?

Seeking God’s wisdom, and in need of His grace,

J.

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WHAT IS LOVE?

Apparently today is the yearly day of love, so I’m going to ask a simple question:

What is love?

Baby, don't hurt me

Night at the Roxbury, Saturday Night Live

(Get the Night at the Roxbury scene out of your head, and I’ll continue.)

This is a question I’m thinking about a lot, since properly loving people is supposed to be the goal of a Christian. Yet even though I’m called to live a life defined by love, I’m still terrible at actually doing it. Because love takes a lot of courage, and I’m a coward.

The other day I asked God to give me the courage to love, and I had no idea why. It just sort of came out of my mouth, or popped into my mind, most likely because God knows me and knows I’m terrible at loving like I’m capable of.

So for my sake, it’s a good thing our culture has redefined Love as something much easier, because it lets me off the hook.

We’ve transformed love into a feeling.

Into kissing and sex. Love in our culture has been largely redefined as sexual, and because  love isn’t something we think about as something which requires great courage, I’m allowed to be a coward while still being seen as a good person. Merriam-Webster defines this love as “a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties.” This is the love people make money off of. This is the love Nicholas Sparks has made millions of dollars on, and the love that has convinced us that flowers are romantic and began the holiday we are celebrating today. And this is also the love that has led to a 50% divorce rate, because it’s the love that we can fall out of because it’s the love based on feelings, and feelings change.

But the dictionary doesn’t stop here. Merriam and Webster continue on towards a better definition: “unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.” As a Christian, this definition is much more accurate. It is the center of the message we find our hope in. It’s the center of our religion. Without unselfish behavior and benevolent concern for others, we’d all still be sacrificing lambs and hoping God would have mercy on us.

Without unselfish behavior, there would be no Christianity,

because unselfish is a synonym of Jesus Christ, and an antonym of  natural humanity.

And with this definition of love – Christ’s definition of love defined as unselfishness – I’m back to being a man in need of courage. I’m back to being a man who is naturally selfish yet has recognized Christ’s unselfishness, as well as His desire to make me unselfish – His desire for me to “love as He loved.” And because of Him, I am slowly improving. Or rather He is slowly improving me, because I am naturally selfish, yet God is naturally the opposite. And He has promised to make us the opposite as well.

And because I’m a coward, I’ll keep on praying for the courage to love, and keep on trusting that He’ll help me and continue showing me what love truly is – continually changing it’s definition from a feeling to a sacrifice.

What if you rethought the phrase, “we give love to get love.” What if you shortened it to only giving? Would you be as eager to love if you knew there would be no reciprocation? I hope I would, because I know He would, and I know He did.

LOVE: A REBRANDING

Love. It is the one common thing every person on earth searches for during their lives. Everyone wants to be loved, to feel love, and to make love. Yet not many in our society really wanted to go through the effort to give love, or to show love, so we have slowly decided to redefine love.

We redefined “love” as not only a temporary feeling of butterflies in stomachs and giggles, but as tolerance. And then we redefined tolerance as accepting everyone’s views as equally right, rather than its old definition of respecting people’s differences. If you love someone these days, you won’t tell them when they’re wrong. Because correction might hurt feelings, and hurting someone’s feelings isn’t love, it’s narrow-mindedness and bigotry. Through our redefining of love, we’ve come to the conclusion we all should get participation trophies, because it’s easier to buy a trophy than it is to say no.

Before I started writing this, I was listening to Bob Marley to get into the mood. I figured if I’m going to write about love, I should listen to the guy who helped define it. And that’s when I started to realize that Bob Marley had no idea what he was talking about. Or at least we have no idea what Bob Marley was talking about (it turns out he was a lot more militaristic than modern society makes him out to be). Take “One Love,” for example:

“Let’s get together and feel alright.”

Bob Marley - a man who tried to redefine love

Bob Marley – a man who tried to redefine love

We’ve redefined this love as “getting together,” and as a state of “feeling alright.” We’ve redefined love as irresponsibility. This is not love. This is the result of a society which can’t be told they’re wrong. This is the result of passivity, because our society today is too afraid of what comes along with real, truthful love. The truth is, only one man has ever lived a life of complete love, and his life was synonymous with discontent and discomfort. He said many wise things about love, and he called a lot of people out on the wrongs they were doing. And he said love is the most important thing we can do. He also said,

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” –John 15:13

Many people read this verse and see it as a challenge – as a question asking, “Would you die for your friends?” They think it over and say, “Yeah, I think I would,” and walk off proud because they’ve stepped up to the task. But this is only one small piece of what Jesus is talking about. Jesus isn’t talking about finite death; he is talking about daily, hourly death. He is giving love it’s true definition: sacrifice. This is why Christianity preaches abstinence, and living only out of need, and giving to those without. It is even why Christianity preaches against abortion – because we believe a living fetus is to be loved as equally as the woman who created it, even though we know believing this means the woman will have to make huge sacrifices.

Are you willing to sacrifice your own happiness for your friends?

If not, I can’t say you love them. Jesus was the one who defined love because He is the only one who truly lived it out through sacrifice. He came to this earth with the power to defeat any wrong done against him – with the power to do it the easy way by conquering the unjust and becoming the ruler of the nations – the way most Jews expected – yet He didn’t do that. He didn’t destroy the wicked, He paid their way. He disciplined himself to perfection, and because that is something we can’t accomplish, He sacrificed himself in order to see us as perfect. He took the hard way out, because it was the only way to create a way out for us. He sacrificed because He knew it was the only way to love. It was the only way to rescue everyone – the good and bad alike. He sacrificed himself because He loved all.

Our society can’t seem to grasp this. Our society is too busy hiding behind the lie that sex is love, or acceptance is love. Our society is too busy letting people define love as something that feels good, while watching our marriages crumble and our lives turn meaningless because we’re too afraid to do things that are hard. We’re too selfish to do things we don’t want to do. We’re too proud to think someone else is more important than ourselves. And until we begin to see ourselves as the “least of these,” as Jesus taught and lived, we will never sacrifice our own momentary happiness for the happiness of the people we love.

The truth is, I as a Christian, and us, as Christians, have a long way to go. We have become so focused on relevance in our culture that we have neglected relevance to God. We have become so focused on living comfortably and selfishly that we have forgotten how to live any other way. We have preached so much grace and forgiveness for the world that we have started to believe we are of the world, and forgotten that as soon as we accept God’s grace we are called to allow the Holy Spirit to restore us to righteousness through complete surrender.

Yet despite our failings, I am encouraged. I am encouraged by our generation’s attitude of all in or not in at all. I am encouraged by our generation’s hatred of lukewarm. I am encouraged by our generation’s desire to serve the world and sacrifice for the sake of the world, and our progress towards redefinition. The world may be getting sicker, but the church is slowly getting healthier. The church is realizing following Jesus and His teachings are more important than following what people say about Him. The church is realizing living a life of love – of complete sacrifice and surrender – is the only way to healing. It’s time we share our realizations. It’s time we show the world our new (old) definition of love.

LOVE = SACRIFICE.

1 John 4:19 – “We love because He first loved us.”

We sacrifice because He first sacrificed for us.

I’m not sure we’ve realized . . .

Simply love.

This is the Gospel defined.

The older I get – the more interaction I have with God – the more I recognize the faults of humanity-defined Christianity, and the more I am taught Christianity is a simple definition. The more I recognize the attempts the church makes to earn it because of the denial to just simply receive. We even do it with good intentions, saying things like, “faith is shown by deeds,” yet changing the definition of Paul’s words to mean “If you don’t do good deeds, you must not have faith.” We believe in God’s grace, we sing about it in songs, and we even thank God for it when we do something stupid. But our minds are programmed differently.

Time for a reprogramming.

It’s not in our nature to just simply accept. We’re not taught to be given something without giving something in return. Human relationships are often defined by give and take. We’re given to, we give back. We feel loved, we show love. Christianity isn’t like this – at least not consciously.

Christ asks for nothing in return. Nothing we can possibly do can be done to earn what He did. And He knows that. He knows that the more we try to do good deeds, the more we look at ourselves and rate ourselves based on those good deeds. He knows the more we try to not to bad deeds, the more we think about bad deeds, and the more likely we are to do them.

The truth is, there is no checklist in gaining acceptance or overcoming temptation. Because checklists say the wrong thing at the top: “Here’s how you do it.” Nothing in Christianity can be accomplished with the right motives if we write out a list of how “you” can do it. Because the word “you” is not the word “him.”

This is where love comes in.

The more focused on God I become in life, the less I consciously try to have an impact for Him, and the more impact I have, because the more I fall in love with Him. Look at all the greatest evangelists you know. How many of them have testimonies full of failure sin and destruction, only to reach a point where they realize God forgives? I find myself jealous of “born again” Christians sometimes, because they’ve been through the worst of the worst, and fall deeply in love with God when they truly realize that He forgives and the past has been erased by His blood. They never have a moment where they can take Christ’s actions for granted. They never have a moment where they’re doing it for approval.

They never have a moment where they worry about being a “good Christian,” because they realize there’s no such thing. There’s only a good God. And there’s only one response to His goodness – unbridled, passionate love. They’ve recognized that they’re story has a joyful ending, and they don’t understand how they can’t share that ending with people whose story might be in conflict.

If you’ve experienced the source of Joy, why haven’t you told anyone yet?

I’m not sure many Christians have truly experienced The Source. I’m not sure many Christians have moved past the stage of “good Christianity” in order to recognize the good God behind the to do lists. I’m not sure many Christians have changed the heading on their checklists from “how you can do it” to “because He did it.” I’m not sure many Christians are doing it because they love Him, and want to get to know the One they love. I’m not sure many Christians have realized the dysfunction found in a relationship centered around giving to the Lover rather than loving the Giver.

When our purpose is to love the Giver, it makes it a lot easier to truly love everyone He gives to. Because along with giving life, He also gives His heart in exchange for ours – and His heart is one of love. And when He overtakes our old hearts with His, we become givers as well.

All because He gave, and we simply accepted.

LOVE AS I HAVE (PART II) – IDENTIFYING HIS LOVE

Here’s page 2 of my last post, which can be read here. Just a little reminder of what exactly His love looks like in my humble opinion. I’m definitely not a theologian, but as a man growing more obsessed with Christ’s character as I grow older, these are the observations I’ve made. I think I left out most of the obvious things we think of when we think of LOVE in order to address the character of LOVE which we (certainly I) often run away from, or completely ignore. Correct me if you see fit. I promise I can take it.

The next page of my last post, LOVE AS I HAVE