Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thoughts On Believers and The Gay Marriage Issue


I’ve had a number of conversations over the last week about how believers should respond to the gay marriage issue.  Most of us have been caught off guard by how quickly public opinion seems to have swayed.  We hear people talking about it at work and in the neighborhood, we read threads online, and we are bombarded with it by the news media.  Because the issue has rushed so quickly to the front of the national stage, many believers feel unprepared to discuss the topic from a biblical perspective.  Others of us have been struck by how unbiblically some believers are thinking and interacting on the issue.
Below (in no particular order) are my thoughts on how the Bible would instruct us.  This is not an exhaustive discussion, but just a few principles from Scripture.  Most of my thinking on how to interact with the culture on this comes from 1 Peter, which is an excellent primer on how to live as “elect exiles” in a world bent against us and our God.  As homosexual marriage more than any other issue threatens to put Christians at odds with the world around us, 1 Peter seems like an excellent place to turn for guidance.
1. We must count it a privilege and joy to be persecuted for the cause of Christ.  The believers to whom Peter wrote his first epistle were under some form of persecution that apparently was expected to intensify.  Peter exhorted them to “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet 4:13).  The apostle was not calling anyone to do anything he had not already done – having been beaten for proclaiming the gospel, Peter and the other apostles rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:27-42). 
Granted, at this point in America believers are only experiencing what we could call "soft persecution" – ostracism, defamation, ridicule, etc.  Things will most likely get worse.  Regardless, the biblical exhortation to us is the same.  When we are persecuted for our message, we are to rejoice.
2. As believers, we should view this debate not primarily as a threat to our religious freedom, but rather an extraordinary opportunity to share the gospel. It is a threat to our religious freedom and we are called to be sober-minded and watchful.  But conspicuously absent from 1 Peter is the admonition to fight for our own freedom.  That does not mean that it is wrong to be involved in the political process, to support politicians who espouse our views, to lobby Congress, etc.  Those things are fine.  However, our primary objective as disciples of Jesus Christ is not to defend ourselves or our freedoms, but to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We should view ourselves not first and foremost as a special interest group under attack, but as a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” tasked with proclaiming “the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9).
3. We must speak the truth in love.  The temptation to remain silent will grow stronger as acceptance of gay marriage becomes more and more the norm.  We are already seeing what happens to people who stand for biblical marriage.  They are ridiculed in the media, they lose professional opportunities, they experience strained relationships, their reputations are damaged, and they are labeled as bigots.  But silence is not an option for us.  We cannot keep quiet in the face of the normalization of debauchery as if sin no longer condemns sinners.  We must warn people about the judgment of God and give the gospel as the only hope for salvation.
Further, we must regard it as unloving to not speak the truth.  What could be more cruel than to withhold the gospel from those who are doomed in their sin just like we were?  Just because we assume that someone will disagree with the truth or react unfavorably is no excuse to be quiet.  Only God knows who will receive the gospel and who will reject it.  Our responsibility is to cast the seed far and wide.    
We also need to remind ourselves that it is unloving to not speak the truth in love.  It must be clear that what we communicate comes not from a heart of judgment or anger or spite, but rather from a heart of concern for the souls of all.
4. We must treat conversations about gay marriage as a one-way express lane to the gospel.  Every time the topic comes up, we should regard it as a gift.  Our tendency may be to try to make an apologetic argument for traditional marriage, which is fine, but we can’t do only that.  Apologetic arguments are not going to turn the tide.  Only changed hearts will turn the tide, and only the gospel can change hearts.  We cannot simply address this issue from a moralistic perspective.  We must speak the truth that homosexual behavior is an abomination to God, but that it is merely one of a plethora of sins that have condemned all of us to hell.  All people are born sinners and stand condemned by their sin.  The difference between us and the world is not that we are morally superior, but that we have found grace, forgiveness, and life in Christ (1 Pet 2:24).  We must present ourselves as sinners saved by grace pointing other sinners to the only source of life.  The biggest mistake we can make is to condemn homosexuality and leave it at that.  We must follow the example of the Bible and place judgment and salvation side-by-side.
5. We must understand the issue biblically and be prepared to answer questions and challenges.  When someone asks, “what’s so wrong with homosexual marriage?” or “how does homosexual marriage threaten you?” we need to recognize not only the slant with which the question is asked but also how to give a biblical response.  In my opinion, natural law arguments are not going to hold water in a relativistic culture.  We must appeal to a transcendent source of absolute truth, God’s Word.  That will require us to understand what the Bible teaches about God as the creator, ruler, and lawgiver, about marriage, gender roles, homosexuality, sexual sin in general, the family, and a host of other topics.
But we need to guard against getting involved in a traffic jam on the gospel expressway.  Remember the ultimate objective is to get to the gospel.  In 1 Peter3:15, we are exhorted to be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in us.  Traditional marriage is not the reason for the hope that is in us.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is, so that needs to be our main message.
6. We must keep our conduct among the world honorable (1 Pet 2:12).  In other words, we need to live godly lives even as we are being maligned for our beliefs.  This is a repeated theme in Peter’s first epistle, and the reason is simple: when we live godly lives in the midst of persecution or unjust treatment, our conduct testifies to the truth of our message and puts our revilers to shame (1 Pet 3:16).  Peter even predicts that on the last day our accusers will glorify God because of our good deeds (1 Pet 2:12).  Christ also suffered unjustly, leaving us an example that we might follow in his steps.  “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet 2:21-23).  Our focus should be on glorifying God in our words and conduct.  Nothing will discredit us faster than ungodliness.
Again, this is not an exhaustive discussion, but hopefully some will find it helpful.
If you have any questions about the issue or you have received questions from others that you don’t know how to answer, please either email them to me or ask them in the comment section of this post.  I’ll respond as soon as I can.
Don't let these things drive you to anxiety.  Rather, "humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting your anxieties on him, because he cares for you" (1 Pet 5:6-7).
Posted by Greg Birdwell

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