By Bob Hiller –
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.
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.
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.
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.