Politics—I’m not much of a fan. The two party system we run rarely affords me a candidate I actually agree with across the board. If I dare say I’m more interested in a third party candidate, I have heard the rebuke come, “A vote against person X is a vote for person Y.” Really? So I should just sell out what I believe in order to get person Y out of office when I have a lot of issues with person X? It’s complicated.
I think sometimes we as Christians are guilty of not really delving deep enough into how the gospel should inform our political activism (and by gospel here I mean the full story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation—if it all points to Jesus, then it is all a part of the gospel about Jesus). At the core we need to realize that America is not God’s chosen nation and never will be. God had a chosen nation once. Its entire purpose was to bring about the Messiah who would create a unique people from among the nations and not of a nation. All legislation, to a degree, is legislating morality it is legislating somebody’s belief system. Laws of the land should be protective, but we must remember that laws passed in Washington or our state capitols will have the same success of changing people’s hearts as a law written on stone tablets.
We as Christians should realize that people’s greatest need is Jesus, and we cannot legislate people into believing in Jesus. So what do we do then about the whole same-sex marriage debate?
Sometimes we like to be pithy. It has been echoed recently, “Only God has the right to define marriage.” This is true—only God has the right to define morality, and we will ultimately be judged according to God’s moral standards not according to any government’s. But how should this idea actually apply to our political polices? When we use this line in terms of the marriage debate, we are typically speaking of the one-man-one-woman idea, but is this the only definition God has given to marriage? What about Ephesians 5? What about Malachi 2? Places which speak of marriage being a covenant infused with the Spirit of God…places which speak of marriage being a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. Are these also not a part of God’s definition of marriage?
Yet how does this work in terms of the civil laws concerning marriage? Non-Christians are not able to live out the Christ and church aspect of marriage. They fail to meet the standard which God has established. Should we as Christians support initiatives to prevent non-Christians from being married, civilly, under the laws of the government based on that same rallying cry that only God has the right to define marriage? Or should our main concern be about protecting churches’ rights to perform and recognize marriages according to their own standards?
The other day I heard someone say, “Gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children, because what they’re doing is just not natural.” I agree, homosexuality is not natural in God’s design, though it is a “natural” effect of the fall into sin. But if our greatest concern as Christians is the gospel, why don’t we take a similar stand against non-Christian heterosexual couples adopting children? By keeping silent on such an issue, we allow children to be adopted into homes where the gospel will not be shared with them, the Bible and prayer will not be valued, and church will not be attended. Even more, though the couple practices the same standards of man-with-woman sexuality as we promote, might they not have corrupt standards in other avenues of sexuality? Might they not be okay or even promote pre-marital sex and pornography? Are these sexual perversions not equal in their sinfulness to homosexuality? And what about these couples’ potential views on abortion, the environment, drugs and alcohol?
I am by no means saying that we as Christians should be taking a stand against non-Christians marrying or adopting. Most of us probably think such a stand would be silly. But some of the arguments we apply against the ideas of same-sex marriage and adoption are not far removed from arguments against these things.
So what should drive our political views here?
First, I think we need to remember that church and state are separate entities. This, of course, does not mean that we should set our moral values aside when we vote—that is impossible from any side of the equation. How we vote and what we believe are intrinsically tied to our values. But it is not through the state that we save people. When a country is diversified in belief, sometimes the laws of the state need to be broader than what we would find comfortable in terms of the morals of the church. If we want to see a revolution in marriage and people being free from the bonds of their sins, no matter their orientations, then our focus needs to be more on prayer, service, and sharing the gospel than on laws and constitutional amendments.
Second, I think we need to be willing to extend grace outside of our comfort zone. Part of the marriage debate is over some of the civil aspects of such unions. The legal definitions applied to a couple affect things such as health insurance, certain rights of “families” in terms of hospitals, the way we pay our taxes and so forth. What do we gain for the sake of the gospel when we look at a person and say, “I don’t agree with your decision to have a sexual relationship with a member of the same sex, therefore you cannot share health insurance with your partner”? Though we may not verbally say that, it is often a result of our opposition. Would it not be an act of love and grace to say, “I believe your decision is a sin, but I think you should still have the rights I have when it comes to (fill in the blank) benefits.” Is it not possible to both take a stand for marriage and righteousness and yet extend such civil benefits to same-sex couples?
Third, we need to speak more loudly to our own sins than we do to the sins of others. Paul deals with an issue of sin in 1 Corinthians 5. He concludes it by saying, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church who you are to judge? God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you.” Granted, Paul wasn’t really writing to people who had the potential to vote on issues such as we do. But Paul is clear where our primary concern should lay when it comes to being judgmental against sin. Paul is more concerned with what goes on inside the church than what goes on in society outside. This does not mean we keep silent about sin in general. We obviously have to speak to people and let the Word inform them they are sinners desperately in need of Jesus.
We should never back away from the truth that homosexuality is a sin before a holy God, just as we should never back away from the truth that heterosexual immorality is a sin before a holy God. Both equally condemn a person to hell, as does any sin, unless there is repentance and a turning to Jesus in faith.
But we downright tend to get angry about things like homosexuality and speak of a homosexual “agenda” like it’s some great offense to us that is going to ruin our children. Yes they have an agenda—to live life according to their values and promote them. Our agenda is the same. It’s just that their values are not informed by the grace of the gospel. Why does that anger us? Why does that offend us? Why does that make us afraid? The Bible says, “Expect it! They’re sinners! That’s the way they act.”
I don’t think the great threat to our children, to our country, and to our way of life is the morality and sin of the lost. Their agendas won’t destroy our church and families. The real threat is our own blindness and refusal to deal with our own sin. We are supposed to be the holy people of God. Yet how many of our churches fail at accountability, discipline, and restoration? How many of us are a part of churches that have people on our roles who live together and are not married? Who divorce for ungodly reasons? Who buy alcohol for their high school children’s parties? Who cheat on their taxes? Who hold grudges against other church members? Who backbite and bicker? Who don’t even show up?
And our problem’s with the sinful world?
Do we need to say to sinners, “Your ways lead to hell and you need Jesus”? Absolutely. But equally as much, if we are going to speak to people’s sins in a way not to judge but to persuade them to Christ, we need to keep our own house in order.
With these things in mind, I try to shape my political beliefs. And it’s much more complicated, I think, then how we popularly speak about it.
I must admit, as a whole I am still working through my views. On the one hand, I do think homosexuality is a sin and I do not think same-sex marriage fits anywhere under the umbrella of God’s design for marriage. I don’t think any faithful church or pastor will promote same-sex marriage. On the other hand, I don’t think such a view demands the exclusion of a civil union or recognition where a same-sex couple is granted certain legal rights (as mentioned above) which they do not currently have.
I think we try to make this a black and white issue, and in terms of sin and salvation it is. But I also think the issue has a lot of gray area when it comes to certain laws of the land. To me, at least, it’s complicated—and I don’t think we can find the answer in pithy statements.