Long-time family friend, Cyndi Simmons, hosts the radio program Heart of the Matter, a ministry “for women seeking the elegance of God’s wisdom.” (Find her at http://clsimmons.com/). Cyndi asked if I would provide some pastoral feedback on the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision that legalized same-sex marriage in all fifty states. I hope you find my responses to her questions helpful.
Q: How do we get past discouragement over this ruling?
First, remember who God is and do not be afraid. I don’t know what does this for you, but I just returned from vacation on the beach. Standing there at sunrise, where earth and sky and water meet, sensing with my whole being the endless rhythms of wind and wave and feeling in my bones the vastness of creation, helps me remember who is really in charge of the planet. It isn’t the Supreme Court. The puny voices of two men and three women will not overturn nature or the decisions of nature’s God. Human civilizations rise and fall like the tides. Ours may be falling, but that is no cause for alarm for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.
Second, remember that resurrections don’t happen without crucifixions. We are witnessing the death of many things in our culture: the death of family, the death of churches, and the death of reason itself. I believe we are also watching the death of cultural Christianity, which I see as a good thing. Keep your eyes on Christ the first fruits, and watch with hope for what comes next.
Third, from a strictly earthly point of view, keep in mind that Americans love the underdog. The same sex community has successfully painted itself as the underdog for over thirty years. Now they’re the top dog. I expect that the victors will soon increase oppression of their opponents. When they do, if we seek the good of the city and continue to serve our communities, public opinion will shift, and we will become the underdogs.
Q: As women, compassion energizes us. We want to have compassion on these confused people. How can we do that without accepting their bad choices?
Because Christ has had compassion on us, we can have compassion on anyone, not just sexually confused people. But how we express that compassion depends on whether they claim to be church members or not.
Rosaria Butterfield’s memoir, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, is extremely helpful in understanding how to love your homosexual neighbor who doesn’t claim to be a church member. Other resources include Such Were Some of You, by Pure Passion media; Loving Your (LGBT) Neighbor, by Glenn Stanton; Sing Over Me, the biography of Dennis Jernigan, and the works of John Stonestreet and Eric Metaxas and the team at Breakpoint.org.
For church members, the Apostle Paul clearly delineated this for us in 1 Corinthians 5: 9-13. If someone “calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler,” we must not associate with him or her, not even to eat a meal. The reason is a compassionate one, so that the one caught in sin may understand the gravity of the issue, that by their choices they have alienated themselves from Christ and his body. Hopefully this drastic measure will help bring them to their senses. But it is a last resort, and should be preceded by the careful application of the principles of church discipline Jesus gave us in Matthew 18, along with the sensitivity expressed by Paul in Galatians 6:1. (Note: churches that are unwilling to engage in discipline against the rest of the sins on that list are being hypocritical if they discipline the sexually immoral).
I should include here that, because there is so much cultural Christianity in western civilization, as a pastor I make a distinction when applying this teaching between members of the church I lead, and people who claim membership in other churches. I am only responsible to discipline someone who has covenanted with God and my congregation to uphold the standards we have embraced. That said I should include that I do not associate with pastors who have embraced LGBT theology, because they are held to higher standards.
Q: Based on Romans 12:1- 2 our devotion to Christ is 24/7. How can we effectively live out our faith as society becomes less tolerant of what we believe?
The good news here is that living under persecution has been standard operating procedure for God’s people from the get go. You and I became adults in a historical blink of time when Christianity was ascendant. The Bible is full of examples of how to live faithfully as aliens on planet earth. The book of Daniel, which I plan to teach through this fall, is a good example, as is Esther. First and second Peter also comes to mind. The point is that a treasure chest of spiritual riches awaits us in these books, but we’ve never seen them because we’ve never had to.
The complete interview airs Thursday, July 9, on http://clsimmons.com/.