Monday, June 29, 2015

Post SCOTUS: What's a Christian to do?

Last week the Supreme Court ruled to overturn laws concerning Same Sex Marriage by requiring all states to recognize the desires of those who wish to marry a person of the same gender.  I know that some of my fellow Bible believing Christians view this as a huge blow.  I have seen your posts and comments.  I have seen emotions running from fear to anger to just plain shock.  And so, I wish to offer this word of encouragement.  Jesus has already overcome the world.  By His death, sin, the devil, and this world have already been conquered.  We are merely experiencing its death throws.  And by the resurrection of Jesus, we have already been given new life and a hope in what is to come.  Jesus has already gone to prepare our places so no matter what happens here we have nothing to fear.  As Paul said nothing the world can bring against us can compare to the glories that await.

Brothers and sisters, if you are worried about what the Supreme Court ruling means for the church and our future turn to Scripture, join with your fellow Christians in fellowship and prayer.  Find your peace at Christ’s table.   Our hope is in Jesus, not in nine judges.

Whatever you do, do not lash out. 

Often, we humans turn our fear into anger and we begin to lash out.  We respond with angry and sometimes vile words.  I have already seen this happening with fellow Christians responding to those who favor the Supreme Court’s ruling.  We need not be insulting to remain true to the confession of the Biblical faith.  We can speak an unwavering truth without words we know that will hurt, words that hurt not for the truth they speak but the baggage they carry.  The last thing we need is to make it easy for them to lump us together with Westboro Baptist.  As I point out to the addicts I counsel, being honest doesn’t excuse being mean.  We can maintain our confession that certain thoughts and activities are sins without resorting to being mean.  

Instead follow the words of Rev. Matthew Harrison.

As faithful Christians, we shall continue to be obedient to just laws. We affirm the human rights of all individuals and the inherent and equal value of all people. We respect the divinely given dignity of all people, no matter their sexual preference. We recognize that, under the exacting and demanding laws of God, we are indeed sinners in thought, word and deed, just as are all (Romans 3:9ff.). We confess that the “blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all our sins” (1 John 1:7). We confess that God’s divine law of marriage and the entire Ten Commandments apply to all, and that so also the life-giving sacrifice of Christ on the cross is for all. It is a “righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:22).

What does that mean?
We need to rethink our political strategy.  I am the first to say the government’s job is to enforce morality.  By this statement, I mean enforce the second table of the Ten Commandments which largely boils down to how we behave towards one another.  However, for too long, many of us have thought we can build and maintain a “Christian” nation via our laws.  We bought into a lie.  We cannot have a Christian nation through laws.  The Christian nation exists not in the form of earthly government, but in the Church united in the body of Christ.  And, Christians only come about through the life changing work of the Gospel and the Gospel falls under the realm of the church not the realm of the government.  And so, we need to rethink how we have been going about things politically speaking.  Honestly speaking, we were never going to win the same sex marriage debate.  Once the world learned God wasn’t about to go and open heaven’s flood gates on it, the world was going to do what the world wanted.  Any attempt right now that we make to overturn the ruling is going to make us look like people trying to grab back the privilege we supposedly just lost.  And in turn, make it easier to paint us as bigots.  I think we can afford to take a long view right now.  Other work needs to be done.  We need to win the hearts of the people and it will not be easy.

We start by becoming a sympathetic figure.  We do what we should have been doing all along.  We treat people as nicely as we possibly can.  Give people respect even when we do not think they deserve respect.  We need to be overwhelmingly generous with our words and deeds.  Centuries ago, the pagan Romans complained about how Christians were making them look bad because we were so generous.  That’s a complaint we need to hear again. Think about it this way.  It is easy to hate the faceless person whom you can label with an evil name.  To quote the Blues Brothers, “Illinois Nazis, I hate Illinois Nazis.”  Illinois Nazis are faceless.  They are easy to hate, because really who likes Nazis.  They are only known for getting in the way of what we want.  The same thing, happens with the word bigot.  In many ways “bigot” has become the new “nazi.”  Who likes a bigot?  They are all haters.  It is very easy to be labeled the bigot when you are the faceless entity who seems to be getting in the way of what people want.  We cannot afford to be the faceless entity.  We shouldn’t have been anyways.  We should have been friend and neighbor.  We will need to do everything we can without compromising our confession so as to not be called the bigot.  The bigot is easy to hate particularly in this world enthralled with the idea of reliving the Selma days.  On the other hand, the neighbor who lives next door and will give you the shirt off his back is really hard to hate.  I’m not saying that being outrageously generous and kind is going to be a magic pill to turn people around. People will still be people and there will be those who scream bigot when they find out you do not support their pet sins whatever they may be.  But, it is still harder to do so to someone you know personally.

We cannot lose our confession or we will cease to be a help to our brother.  We hold to the Law of God ourselves and repent of our failings while continuing to immerse ourselves in the Gospel.  We will not survive if we cave in on our confession.  And if that happens who will be there for our brothers and sisters when sin drives them to rock bottom and they are left with a broken life.  So, we continue on confessing that which we have been given to confess - the revealed will of God given in Law and Gospel.  We must hold fast just as the martyrs did in the face of Roman persecution.

We cannot lose our confession of the Law because without the Law the Gospel is empty words.  We ourselves need the humbling words of God’s command.  We need to see our sin for what it is.  One, because we ourselves need to repent.  Thus, we need to see ourselves for the broken people we are.  If we compromise on the Law in the name of being liked and we only end up losing sight of who we are.  And in the end we will reject the Gospel itself.
Neither can we lose our confession of the Gospel.  Without the Gospel all is lost.  There is no hope and there certainly is no compassion.  During these troubling times we are going to need the hope of our victorious resurrected Savior more than ever.  And there are people, having been given over to their sins, who are going to need the life renewing gift of the Gospel.

In short, keep calm and proclaim the Law and Gospel

Lastly, we may need to rethink our role in society.  There may be roles we as Christians can no longer take.  This is nothing new for us Christians.  A Christian could not engage in prostitution or filming pornography and remain true to the faith.  Similarly, we may need to rethink taking positions were we would be involved in officiating or licensing immoral acts of any kind.  We may even have to rethink being in the catering business, simply because it may not be worth the fight.  At the same time, we need to work on strengthening our sense of community as a church and limit our involvement outside the community.  I am not advocating a complete withdrawal from the outside community a la the Amish.  Rather, we need to limit the outside world’s influence over our community.  The things in the outside community that are good should be acknowledged, but at the same time, we should limit the exposure our children have to the bad parts of the outside community.  We may need to see to educating our children ourselves, either through parochial schools or home education. I am not sure how much longer we can safely rely on public schooling, as it is simply too prone to following the predominant culture and our kids need a better foundation before facing the false views of the world. We may also need to cut ourselves off from much of what passes for entertainment in our world,  while at the same time encouraging high art amongst our more artistically inclined Christian community members.  

 In the days of Rome, our own predecessors in the faith also had to rethink their role in society.  The Apostles counseled them through this process.  Paul writes extensively on this idea. He encouraged slave owners to, if possible, free their brothers in Christ or, if not possible, to treat them as a free man.  Christians ceased participating in things that linked them to the pagan religions such as eating meat sacrificed to idols and no longer participating the in municipal festivals to pagan deities.  The ancient Christians created their own art, extended charity to the surrounding community, continued to serve in helpful vocations, and served the population as a whole.  All the while, they maintained a degree of separation and accepted the consequences of the separation.

It is not an easy road we face.  However, the One we follow down the road has already overcome it.  We continue to be the church.  We live, breathe and proclaim Law and Gospel.