How About another Blog on Gay Marriage?

By Bob Hiller

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You know what we need? Another blog about gay marriage! Well, good news, dear reader, I have one for you here. You are, indeed, welcome. (Sports news is slow this week, what can I say?)

If I have learned anything in the past week is that over-reaction has apparently replaced patience and kindness as one of the fruits of the spirit. The other thing I have been reminded of is that all of life is a game of justification. Augustine is known for saying that we all have a God-shaped hole in our hearts that only God can fill. I don’t know if I am a fan of that analogy, though, I do believe everyone demands justification. Everyone needs to be told that they are OK. We all want to be vindicated. How’s this for a broad stroke: all of history seems to be an effort of humanity to prove their rightness, or, righteousness. We need someone to declare us righteous. And, if they won’t do it, we’ll impose ourselves on them until they break and we win.

The massive push towards gay marriage in our country has been a part of this justification game. The LGBT community has been told for hundreds of years that they are not OK, that their very existence is anathema. They haven’t been welcomed by the church or the world. Their feelings, their actions, their struggles, their joys, and they themselves have been declared unrighteous: an abomination. They have been mocked, belittled, kicked out of their homes, and scorned. Yet, like every other one of God’s children, they have sought justification. And last week, after a long, arduous battle, they received justification from five Supreme Court judges when gay marriage was legalized. It was declared right. No longer the societal pariah, they have been set free. Happy Independence Day.

Miniature homosexual couple on a wedding cake. Gay marriage.

And we in the church are left reeling. What happened? We used to have a louder stranglehold…er…a more influential voice in this culture. We used to stop things like this from happening. We used to show society who God wanted ostracized and rejected into fearful submission. And, suddenly, that is gone from us? Where did we go wrong?

Roughly 666 other blogs have answered these questions in ways far beyond my feeble capabilities. But if I may, I would like to suggest that, perhaps, one of the reasons this is happening is that the church forgot her job. She’s forgotten that her role in the justification game is central: she alone has Christ’s authority to declare true justification for the sinner. That is why Jesus put His voice in her mouth, to declare sinners righteous in his stead and on his behalf! However, the church has taken on a new role for herself: a community of “life transformation.” That has ruined everything.

Now, before you over-react, you delightful Facebooker, let me explain. I fully believe that the Gospel transforms lives. I actually believe it raises the dead and sets prisoners free. But, that comes from the preaching of Christ for you, not from preaching transformation in you. This emphasis on life transformation, and not justification, has contributed to the LGBT community seeking justification elsewhere. We won’t give Christ to them. Instead, we tell them we’ll offer them “life transformation” so that, when the transformation from sinner to saint doesn’t happen on our terms, we hand them over to Satan, who is happy to justify them on his.

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See, the gay people I know did not walk away from the church because they hated Jesus and despised God’s law. At least not any more than the rest of us. No, they walked away because they were terrified of being rejected. They were terrified of God’s wrath. They were terrified of losing their friends and family. They were terrified of it because that is all the church gave them. They came looking for mercy, for hope, for support, and for Jesus, but instead we said we’d fix them with therapy and counselling. Not love for the brother, no blood-shed for the sinner, just therapeutic medication.

Instead of proclaiming repentance and forgiveness, instead of entering their suffering, instead of praying and weeping and fighting with our brothers and sisters (as we are called to do), we shipped them off to gay camp in an effort to fix them. When our formulas and meds didn’t work, we simply demonized them and used bible verses to justify our stance. We told them they were unrepentant idolaters who needed to drive out their own demons before they could be one of us. We withheld justification from those brothers and sisters who were being crushed from every condemning angle and we continued to damn them with our gospel (or is it law?) of life transformation.

We as a church have forgotten far too much of who we are. Our job is not to fix people. It’s to unabashedly and liberally proclaim freedom through the blood of Jesus to sinners. Ours is not to justify ourselves by the stances we take against this or that group, but to lay dead with them before the Word of the cross so we might all be raised to a new life. Ours is not to transform lives, but to enter into the suffering hell of our brother who, crushed by God’s Law, can’t seem to see Jesus anywhere. We are to placard Christ before his bloodshot, mascara stained eyes. Ours is to weep with them, to repent with them, to mourn with them, and to carry Jesus to them for as long as the battle lasts.

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Are we to preach the Law to crush the proud sinner? Of course. We just think it is “them” and not “us” who really need the crushing. Jesus disagrees.

No matter how straight or gay you think you are, repent and believe the good news: your sins are dead in the body of Christ, washed in His blood, forgiven. You are justified before God. Of course, it is not because of who you are. Who you are and who I am, that is the problem entirely. Gay or straight, who we are as people are rebellious, damned sinners by nature. On your own, you are not righteous, you are not right, you are not OK. But, Jesus is. And He is for you. His blood is shed in your place, and, so you have no doubt, He wants you to drink it with a group of sinful, self-righteous, broken sinners this Sunday. His promise for you is there in that bread and wine. No fear-mongering life transformer can change that. Even if you, who have been transferred from darkness in to His marvelous light, still find yourself foolishly wandering into some dark alley of sin for the rest of your life; the blood from the cross is still on the altar for you. So that, when your justifying SCOTUS god lets you down, or when your own self-righteous religion is exposed, Christ will still be here for you. Dear sinner, Jesus declares you righteous; His blood justifies you.

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17 thoughts on “How About another Blog on Gay Marriage?

  1. Being a delightful Facebooker (not even close), I say again that no one needs justification from a church that says sin exists before a Savior is needed, when some churches say it doesn’t and society is willing lie to them in such large doses. They don’t need a savior, because they already got one that will destroy them willingly. You want me to lie, too, or maybe just shut up so they will be happy with me and never seek salvation?

    Public denunciation of sin is not very effective, granted. I agree that the Gospel is the one thing that moves hearts. But the Word of God accomplishes his purpose when it is spoken. Public or passive acceptance of sin condemns the whole society. I think you should spend more time putting your compassion into speaking the truth in love.

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    1. Don, I am a little confused about where I told anyone to “shut up so they will be happy with us and never seek salvation”? If you could point me to the part of the post that implied that, I’d be happy to clarify. My point was more to say that the church has failed to say the right thing and deliver Christ to those in our midst who have already felt the condemnation of the law. We don’t need to clarify our stance on homosexuality to a person who is terrified God is sending them to hell. That is quite clear to them at that point. We need to speak the truth in love, that is Jesus, into their bruised-reed lives. I am not sure where I said something else…

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      1. I should apologize, I think. It was your tone that bothered me. It implied (maybe I read that in) that making public statements about morality, or fussing about a profoundly awful SCOTUS decision was a bad thing. I can’t imagine chasing anybody out of my church for sinning – it’d be empty, especially of me. I also can’t imagine withholding the truth to make someone comfortable, although waiting for an appropriate moment in a relationship that could support the conversation would be very important to me, before that kind of word could pass my lips. If someone is already broken by that word, I would find it unnecessary to go there at all. That leaves only Jesus. If we’re on the same page, I’m sorry I brought it up.

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  2. Don makes a calid point. i would add that I must question what all of heose gays who bolted from the church were really seeking: acceptance as sinners in need of grace with readiness to use the means God ahs provided, or acceptance and approbation on their terms?

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    1. Kirk,
      What did you find “calid” about Don’s point? 😉

      You may be right about some of those who left the church over this issue. Though, that has not been the case in people I have dealt with.

      I might add, I hope and pray that our proclamation of Christ isn’t withheld from someone until their motives are in the right place. Fear, brokeness, confusion, and guilt come in differing degrees. The art of Law and Gospel is to not broad-brush define a group of people and their motives, but to decipher which idols need crushing and which lives need restoring.

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      1. Bob, how does one judge a motive? One of the reasons we dwell on behavior is that we can’t see the heart, but only interpret what we believe to be its outward manifestation…and sometimes we do a rather crappy job. The church, like society in general, is on the one hand more “open-minded “/empty-headed, and on the other, growingly intolerant of that which doesn’t fit the Procrustean bedstead of social acceptance. We have an opportunity to be the only ones offering true community around Truth, but only to those truly broken by the Word.

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      2. Kirk, I would actually throw that question back at you, though I think you’ve already answered it. My comment on “motives” was based on your first post where you said,

        ” i would add that I must question what all of heose gays who bolted from the church were really seeking: acceptance as sinners in need of grace with readiness to use the means God ahs provided, or acceptance and approbation on their terms?”

        How can you make such a judgment call about the motives of “all those gays”? It sounds like you and I agree that it isn’t that simple.

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  3. @Bob: very easily – by behavior. There are those who come with their sins seeking relief, and those who won’t be counseled from the word, demand acceptance and approval of their sins, and show not the least hint of remorse. What’s really on their hearts can’t be divined, but one can examine and act upon behavior.

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  4. I’m assuming that my conservative Christian friends will settle for nothing less than the homosexual Christian “crying uncle” before he can commune (assuming all other doctrinal commitments). But how loud must he cry? Here are the volume settings:

    1) Confess that homosexual sex is a sin
    2) Promise not to do it anymore?
    e) Promise to either change into a heterosexual or remain celebate for the rest of his life?
    4) Succeed at remaining celebate for some period to show he’s serious about his repentence?
    5) Have no relapses?
    6) Cease lusting after other men?
    7) What about masterbation?

    Which volume setting would meet the minimum condition for communion? Is that the setting you use for your heterosexual parishoners?

    How about Joe? Joe is married. He doesn’t have affairs. But, Joe lusts over the young woman next door, who he loves to bump into for a chat when she’s out in the yard. Joe lusts after the girls at the local gym wearing the yoga shorts and sport bras. Joe loves the Netflix movies and shows which are unrated and which have lots of nudity. When Joe is having sex with his wife, his mind is busy fantasizing about all kinds of women other than his wife. When his wife isn’t in the mood, Joe takes matters into his own hand. Joe knows this is all sinful and repents weekly, but has given up trying to actually stop doing these things, because he believes he is simul.

    So, what role does grace play for the homosexual? What does Christ and his church demand?

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    1. Jean, it sounds like you’re trying to be more merciful than God, sojust know that you will fail. I recall nobody putting up barriers to communion that they themselves couldn’t scale, so your points are all just a lame attempt at tarring and feathering the politically incorrect.

      So what are you calling for: allowing sodomite couple full communion privileges without any confesssion of sin or discontinuance of behavior? Would you show the same “magnanimity” to a heterosexual couple shacking up? How about a polygmaist, now that a mMontana trio is getting ready to challenge any legal action against them? After all, it’s ok if it’s legal, right? I can only think fo the celebate ssa man who has been a long-time fMily friend and uncle to my children wanting to straighten your thinking out.

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    2. That’s the tone I was talking about. You talk like Christians looking for repentance are making a mistake. That list of yours is extreme, I’ll admit, and not what is expected. People struggle with sin, and they hear the trouble that is with their God, and they hopefully repent. That means they know sin is sin and needs forgiveness. One would hope a measure of repentance comes with that, meaning, “I should be working at not doing this anymore.” That is sufficient for grace, and yes with instruction, even for communion.

      Who’s got into your face about those extremes you call forth? Can you not see, also, that some don’t care anything about forgiveness and want recognition of legitimacy, regardless of sin? It’s rather obvious to me by the way people have called for that legitimacy, even in some church bodies. And also certain in our society these days, given the great celebration over the SCOTUS decision in many circles. I’m not sure what you want, but I’m feeling like you are accusing somebody of something.

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  5. Jean, you like the Bible verses, so I would say Galatians 6 seems helpful here:

    Galatians 6:1-2 if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

    If someone gives up the battle with sin and uses the simul as an excuse, they’ve forgotten the One who has declared them a saint. Point them back to Jesus who gives the Spirit and drives us to battle our sins. Don’t seek to merely fix their struggle, enter it, love them, and give them Jesus.

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  6. Thanks for the post. Refreshing and pastoral. I logged on to see precisely what you’d say here. I’ll follow up on the same theme next week, not to belabor things but to add some constitutional and theological stuff. Here’s the thing. You are right, pure and simple. I know that folks will be glad to jump in on the same old issues, but since we’ve not met: thanks for being a pastor who shares the good news. Thanks for being a pastor first and a cultural pundit second here. The key reason why you are on track is that you rightly understand that this is NOT about compromise or licentiousness or perviness or wanting to be liked. It’s about doing what your primary vocation is: to cure souls. You also reject the (I’d argue, heterodox) view that we should worship at the altar of the state to get our work done. That’s the problem with the left and the right. The left too often conflates the earthly and heavenly kingdoms such that they try to use the state to force people to be altruistic (and altruism is Christian) while the right tries to enforce sexual morality through the state. Both are dangerously close to idolizing the state. Instead, on this Independence Day, let’s all celebrate together–gay and straight, Christian and atheist–that even when we disagree, we aren’t Nazis or Communists, or under the thumb of the Brits. We are free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, and we do that best when we love and serve each other. We also should count our blessings this day that when political winds shift, it doesn’t always require a bloody coup our piles of college-student-protester corpses. We are a land where we can have serious conversations without violent regime changes. For that, let’s all thank the Creator and give our greatest intellectual opponents a patriotic high five.

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  7. I was reading through Kierkegaard’s Works of Love today for a different reason, and thought of your blog quite a bit. His key point is that we are called to love our neighbor, and our neighbor is everyone. Love is demonstrated by Christ who poured himself out without end for us; an infinite love. This love, by definition, can not be counted or kept track of as it would lose it infinite nature and looses it key characteristic, thereby no longer being love. We fail, always, at this and need Christ himself to continually pick us up and keep loving. How does this work out in the real world? By constant failure and return to Christ. By fear and trembling. By love without distinction. Seems like from him the clarity of how to live is somewhat lost in the midst of the out-pouring nature of this love, but then again our Archetype’s life was somewhat unclear in this way, too. How we live a life lost in the infinity of love while pursuing the moral life we are called to live is hard and ought to be a struggle. It is a broken, real world and the Church doesn’t help anyone by making it more clean that our experiences betray.

    Some notable lines from my man Soren (the last one is what made me think of this blog most):

    – “Erotic love is determined by the object; friendship is determined by the object; only love to one’s neighbor is determined by love. Since one’s neighbor is every man, unconditionally every man, all distinctions are indeed removed from the object.” 77
    – “…for by being a Christian he does not become free from distinctions, but by winning the victory over temptation of distinctions he becomes a Christian.” 81
    – “At a distance every man recognizes his neighbor, and yet it is impossible to see him at a distance. If you do not see him so close that you unconditionally before God see him in every man, you do not see him at all.” 89
    – “All are that which they essentially were, something we did not see because of the difference we see; they are human beings.” 95
    – “Christianity has not come into the world to teach this or that modification in how you in your particularity should love your wife or friend but to teach how you in your universal humanity shall love all men.” 143

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    1. I hate to speak the obvious, but only Christ could pull that off. I think even Kierkegaard would have to admit it’s a fair impossibility even for a serious Christian. Of course, as smart as he was, he almost always missed the point of Christianity.

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      1. You are right that only Christ could pull that off and that is Soren’s entire point. Life without Christ is one lost in an endless sea of despair as you come to the realization that failure is the key defining feature of your life past, present and future. Only in repentance and forgiveness can we ever hope to life the life we are called to live as Christians as we take on Christ anew each day.

        One thing that is great about Kierkegaard is that he often got what we often never do about Christianity – it is about living and not about being. It seems to for him to being “Christian” at the time was about arriving at a point he wasn’t sure he could ever consistently remain. He saw people going to church, calling their self Christian but never acting as Christ did. A corrective that seems like a healthy thorn in the side for us all.

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      2. Follow-up to clarify the living/being point: it seems that this is the lived reality of simul iustus et peccator – at once righteous and sinner.

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