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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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.

IF YOU LOVE GOD. . . (The dangers of an ultimatum)

“If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”  – 1 Corinthians 13:1-2

“Love is not premeditated – it is spontaneous.” – Oswald Chambers

We often find ourselves preaching about discipline, or denial, or tasks. We often find ourselves using the phrase “we should be doing these things out of our love for God,” yet often find ourselves condemning those unwilling to complete those tasks.

My question is what if those tasks aren’t completed because the person tasked with them knows they aren’t doing them out of love? What if the one tasked is simply  listening to what we’re saying? Do we give them an ultimatum to “do better or else?” Or do we tell them to seek God first?

I fear the answer is too often an ultimatum. I fear too often we give a “do it or lose us’ response. I fear we often respond with the guilt trip, rather than giving them a reason to love God to the point of obedience. I fear we aren’t really  listening to our own advice.

In our inconsistency and the inconsistency of others, especially in those we disciple, we should be avoiding the ultamatum at all costs, and should begin recognizing the problem at it’s heart. We must recognize the lack of love.

In our failed goals and failed attempts at showing our godliness and love for God out of task completion, we must examine ourselves and our peers, and ask ourselves: are we completing these tasks out of a longing to love God, and know Him better because of that love? Or are we completing these tasks because we’ve been told that if we don’t, we don’t love God?

“If you love me, keep my commands.” – John 14:15

This verse can sound very legalistic to us. It brings with it a tone of salvation to be earned. Yet to truly understand, we must change the language. What if the “if” in this verse was a “because?”

This verse is not about legalism, but rather the end result. It is about the fruit that pours out when we love our God, not the things we do to prove that we love Him. It is about what happens when we embrace Him and deny us – which is true love! And through that true love, we long to serve the one we love. It is not “if” we love Him, but “because” we love Him that we will do His will and obey His commands. It is not task completion that earns His love, but rather His love that leads to our obedience.

As Romans 6:11 says, we shall consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to Him, and in Him there is no legalism – only love.

Obedience is rooted in love. Love is not rooted in obedience.

GOD IS WITH US! (. . . and deserves introduction)

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me . . .” – Matthew 11:29

“Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” – Psalm 55:22

“. . . To those who have no might He increases strength.” – Isaiah 40:24

“. . . the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10

God is with us always! One of the many phrases I live by is ‘Head Up, Pride Down,’ which I use to remind me to keep my eyes ahead, focused on God and away from myself, and to always remember that my success is not my own. But there’s a part of this that’s missing. It doesn’t recognize the fact that our God is not only a god of guidance, but also a god of counsel.

Basically, I’ve added onto my life-phrase. I’ve recognized that God is with us always – not only ahead, but also beside! I have recognized that no struggle will be overcome in solitude. I’ve recognized He is forever beside us, and one end of our burden can be placed on His shoulder. Not only does our God lead us into battle, He fights with us in the trenches!

Look ahead as He leads, and beside as He loves.

With Him beside, our entire life should be affected – including our interaction with others. We must get to the point where we can feel the presence of God so strongly in our lives that our natural instinct becomes to introduce Him to those who may not feel His presence in the same way. I haven’t gotten to that point yet – or I haven’t yet fully realized God’s presence at all times. We, including myself, need to always remember that not only is God ahead of us leading the way, but is also beside us, showing His love. Realize that God is beside you in everything you do, and as your realization of this improves, the need to introduce Him to those around you will become second nature.

God, I pray that You let us feel Your presence in all we do, and constantly give us an awareness of Your presence, so our natural instinct is to introduce you to those who don’t know you.

This post was inspired in part by Oswald Chambers and his book, “My Utmost for His Highest. I’d like to share what I read.

“Jesus asks us to get beside Him and take one end of the yoke, so that we can pull together. The only way to know the strength of God is to take the yoke of Jesus upon us, and to learn from Him.”

“Where do the saints get their joy? If we did not know some Christians well, we might think they have no burdens at all to bear. But we must see! The fact that God is in them is proof that a burden is there as well. The burden that God places on us squeezes the grapes in our lies, and produces the wine, but most of us see only the wine, and not the burden.

No power on earth or in hell can conquer the Spirit of god living within the human spirit; it creates an inner invincibility.” – Oswald Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest, April 14)

KEEP YOUR HEAD UP

We are a humanity defined by our brokenness.

In my mind, realizing our brokenness is the biggest step in living a Christian life. Without recognizing our brokenness, we never will come to view Jesus as anyone other than a Hebrew teacher who was killed by the Romans. We will always hold the view of Jesus as ‘a good guy’ or ‘someone to look up to,’ but we will never acknowledge that He was also a savior, because we’ll never truly believe we are people in need of saving.

Without seeing ourselves as broken, we can never see Him as the only one able to repair us.

I have a few over-simplified views of what a Christian is compared to a non-Christian. My biggest idea is that a Christian is simply a person who has looked at themselves and noticed their brokenness, while a non-Christian is someone who has looked at themselves and looked past their cracks. A Christian has simply recognized a crack for what it is – no matter how small and insignificant it may seem – and found that Christ is the only one with the ability to repair those cracks. A non-Christian may have noticed their cracks, but go about repairing them only with temporary fixes. Not until a person recognizes their brokenness as well as the only way to repair it can they truly understand what Christianity is, which is repair through relationship.

Repair through relationship. This is the entire basis of Christianity, and one of the giant aspects of Christianity that people misunderstand. Christianity is so often viewed as legalism, or as ‘follow the ten commandments or off to hell you go,’ when in reality it’s less about obeying commands and more – in fact, entirely – about God’s grace for the times we disobey. The key is in seeing how God can use His grace to show us Himself, and as we discover more about Him, the more traits we pick up from Him, which can slowly repair our brokenness.

Remember back to your childhood. There was always that one person growing up that you wanted to imitate – whether it was a grandparent, parent, brother, uncle, or friend. You always saw this one person as the person who knew how to navigate life, and believed that if you wanted to navigate it well, you’d just do what they were doing. This is our relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the one we long to imitate – the one who lived life the right way. He is the one we want to model ourselves after – and we must be so focused on Him that we completely lose sight of ourselves, going about doing as He has instructed and taught us to do no matter how well or ill-suited we feel we are in His area of calling.

The key to living a Christ-centered life is simple – keep your head up. With your head up, you lose sight of yourself, and only see that which is in front of you, which is Christ. Although this is simple, it is not easy. You will get tired and weary, and wonder what your body looks like. But the moment your head begins to drop down is the moment you begin to see more of yourself and less of Christ, and the moment your focus begins to shift from Him to you. The more that focus shifts, the easier it is to completely overlook the power He has given you and see yourself again as broken, even though He now sees you as repaired. As you look towards Him, let Him tell you how He sees you, rather than feeling the need to look yourself. To Him you look new, and your brokenness is replaced – but if you look for yourself, you will always see the brokenness that once was.