I have seen a lot of back and forth lately centered around the recent push to legalize same sex marriages in our country. On one side there is the Turn Or Burn crowd that believes homosexuals are on a course – straight to hell. On the other side – there are the Progressives that want to start publicly questioning whether or not the Bible is really clear about homosexuality or maybe we have misinterprated the Scripture for all these years… Which gets the Turn Or Burn crowd even more fired up and they not only attack gay marriage – they start attacking the Progressive Christians – questioning whether or not they are really even saved… Which gets the Progressives in an uproar and they start talking about how judgmental Christians are so much like the Pharisees and that they really are misunderstanding God’s endless grace and mercy! And the cycle goes faster and hotter and more intense and it just doesn’t seem to stop…
The problem with these debates is that the focus is all wrong… on both sides. Let’s start with something simple. Read Matthew 7:1-28.
I’m not going to put the whole text here. Click on that link or open a Bible and read it… it’s full of really good – easy to understand stuff – straight from Jesus. I’ll just point out a couple of the most direct instructions he gives us.
Matthew 7:1, 12, 21 “Judge not, that you be not judged.”; “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law…”; “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Read the whole chapter – it’s awesome but let’s focus on these ideas for a second – because somewhere we forgot Jesus called us to love – not judge… we are supposed to treat others the way we want to be treated… And just because we claim Him – does not mean we know Him…
For a lot of us who claim Christ, on the judgment side, sin inevitably starts getting classified and ranked… and when I say something to the effect – that ranking sin is not important… inevitably the question back is, “So Jason, are you saying that if I drive over the speed limit that in God’s eyes – it’s the same as if I murdered someone?” No. At no time have I ever said anything of the sort! These lines of questions boil down to the same root defense mechanism… “my sin is not bad as so and so’s”… What I am saying is that we are confusing our concepts. The bottom line is that sin is sin. Sin is any act that changes the focus of our heart from Jesus to any thing other than Jesus. My sin is mine and yours is yours. You know in your heart when you have stepped away from the path we pursue towards God. You have the Bible to be reminded daily of what is in God’s purview for your life and what is not. The confusion happens because we equate the level of sin with a system of justice. If I break the speed limit, I face a fine. If I take someone’s life – I could in turn face the loss of my life at the hands of the authorities. Our brains want to do the same thing with God… If I am committing a small sin – I should get a mild punishment from God… vs if I take a life then God is going to punish me more severely. That is where the rub happens… because that is not how God works at all. His focus is on us – not on our myriad of sins. He wants us to all leave our life of sin and fully embrace Him – always! Without our acceptance of the gift of His Son… our sin – regardless of what it is, big or small… condemns us.
This is the hardest thing for some people to hear me say… God can and will forgive a murderer just as He will forgive a chronic speed limit breaker… Not because in His eyes the sin are equal – but because in His eyes – the blood of His son was shed for all of us! All we have to do is accept it, claim it and give our hearts to Him! And that is the key! Do we accept His authority, submit to His will and claim His forgiveness? Individually, we know if we have. No one else. But try to explain that to the parent of someone who is murdered and understandably they will become angry. How could God ever forgive such a sin?!? Because God can forgive even when we cannot. He is God and we are not.
And so the same principles apply to same sex marriage. Turn or Burn Christians get outraged that potentially same sex marriage could be legalized. “That is sin!” they cry, shout and scream! “We CANNOT condone sin! It will bring devastation on us because God will turn His back on our country when we openly accept sinful acts such as this!” … but I wonder why same sex marriage takes the brunt of the outrage over things like gossiping, greediness, over eating, committing adultery, getting divorced, telling lies, coveting our neighbor’s possessions, turning a blind eye to widows and orphans – or enter any other number of actions counter to Jesus here? Should we have passed laws banning or correcting all all of those things as well? I mean, our government doesn’t outlaw any of those things and yet we never believed God had turned His back on us as a result…
Now before you get a letter writing campaign started calling for my head because you say that I am for gay marriage – calm down. We will not be performing same sex marriages at our church. That is not what this is about. This is about us as Christ Followers refocusing on what God has called us to do. To love God and Love one another. To not spend our time judging but instead spend it caring. To not take on the responsibility of God in deciding who will enter heaven and who will not – but to instead take on the responsibility He did give us… to be His light in the darkness. We don’t have a calling to condone but we don’t have a calling to condemn either. It’s a refocus of our calling to love and personally live in full pursuit of Him always in all ways… When we do that – people come to know God in a real way because then it is all about Him and not about us.
Again… hear me clearly. I won’t perform same sex marriages if they are legalized. Not because I believe gay couples are on a Turn Or Burn course (and trust me when I tell you that I am NOT a Progressive either) … I won’t perform same sex marriages because of the same reasons I won’t marry a straight couple who openly are living outside of God’s plan for them. As a pastor, I will always, in all ways, try my best to follow His Word in my life and lead others in the same way. If gay marriage is legalized by the government nothing bad will happen to the idea of marriage – it will still be all it ever was to us and in the eyes of God.
Try to remember that Jesus never instructed us, His followers, to fight the “good fight” and defend our “Christian Faith” …His instruction was simply – as he said it in Matthew 22:37-40 – to just Love God, Love People and everything else will be taken care of in the process… And that feels like a very good focus!