Ever had an itch that you really needed to scratch and either couldn't reach, or felt reluctant to scratch because you thought it wouldn't bring relief? That feeling, in my opinion, is one of the most annoying feelings one can experience, much like the hiccups or the pins and needles sensation from leaning awkwardly on a limb. Ever since I began blogging on Not At The Dinner Table, I have had an intellectual itch that I have been somewhat reluctant to scratch. It seems like it was so long ago now, but it was only a little over a year ago that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that states must allow same-sex marriage.
Do you remember 16 months ago? Do you remember how important the issue was to the evangelical right and what the ruling meant for the country?
As all of the controversy was happening around me, I was spending a lot of my time trying to figure out how I, as a follower of Christ, was supposed to do about all of it. I was becoming increasingly convicted that a large part of the Church had spent most of its time, energy, and treasure on waging war against homosexuals in a way that I could scarcely imagine Christ participating in. I was also heartbroken to see that an increasingly large part of the Church was compromising scripture by declaring homosexual sin to be no longer sin.
One of the preachers I sit under taught (on a different topic) that an integral part of following Christ is to both speak Truth and extend Grace. That hit me right where I was in my struggles with what was going on around me at the time. Time and time again Christ shared hard truths with people (woman at the well, woman caught in adultery, etc.), called them to repentance, and extended perfect Grace to them. This has been revolutionary, because it gives me a practical way to live my convictions and love my homosexual family members, friends, and acquaintances.
But none of this helped me with the situation at hand. So, I continued to let itch. I continued to ponder how to respond to the mandated legalization of same-sex marriage. I was recently surprised when I came to find my answer in a short sentence uttered at the end of most marriages:
By the power vested in me by God and the Great State of ________, I now pronounce you husband and wife.
How many times have you heard the above statement? If your experience is anything like mine, then you hear this 1-3 times each year when some friend or family member gets married. I never thought anything of it until just recently that it is an incredibly odd statement. A person who is granted power and authority by God to marry two individuals must also get that power and authority granted to them from the state! In this moment I became a someone who does not begrudge homosexuals the ability to marry.
Marriage, as it currently exists in our nation, is merely a contract between two people to live together and share financial responsibility with and for one another. This is why the state grants power and authority to marry. This is why I have no problem if two people of the same sex wish to enter into a contract of this type and even call it "marriage." When the people in these contracts decide that they wish to break the contract, they can legally do this by going to a court of law and coming to agreeable terms for ending their contract with one another and dividing assets.
What should Churches do? For starters, we should not compromise the truth of the scriptures and substitute the ideals of our culture for the ideals of our God.
Personally, I see a day coming where pastors who refuse to marry same-sex couples will no longer be given power and authority from the state to marry any couples at all. Good! Followers of Christ need to wake up and remember that marriage, for us, is not a contract between two people. Marriage is a divine mystery of two individuals becoming one individual. Marriage is a man leaving his family and giving himself sacrificially to his wife. If we, as followers of Christ, actually changed our mindset and approach to marriage in such a way as to leave the government to make the contracts and look to Christ's love for the Church to define what our marriage is, then our churches would change. Christians would no longer look to the courts when their marriages were falling apart...they would look to the God and to the Church because that is where the true authority to marry comes from. How much different would divorce look if it was a process that a couple went to the Church for? Ending a marriage wouldn't be the assembly line process that we have in courts across America churning out broken families as fast as McDonald's churns out burgers.
Church, why have we wasted so much of our time trying to change or preserve a governmental system, when it is US who needs to be redeemed and made whole? Why do we continue to follow the World's pattern and definition for marriage as a social contract, when we have been given a clear picture of what marriage truly is? Stop worrying about what the World thinks marriage is and start focusing on what God has shown us it is.
Does this solve all of our problems? No. Will this end same-sex marriage? No. Will you be able to start looking at your homosexual neighbors as God's children in need of His Truth and His Grace? Lord willing.