church and state

In 2007 I was still in seminary when I had my favorite class, Christian Ethics.  We had one day6373450589_189544607c_b that was entirely a debate on the topic of Gay marriage and Prop 8. For the first few minutes this discussion seemed like it was going the way you would imagine, then I asked a question that stirred up the pot.  “Is it our place as Christians to dictate to the world what they should do?”  I then explained that we should never retreat from speaking biblical truth into culture, but the question I asked was, do we push our values on the world and then judge the world for not following them?

In my post on my views on homosexuality, it was my intention to clarify where I personally stood on the issue. As a pastor this is the most common question I get. I was not trying to send a universal prescription to the world.  As a church, we need to be careful not to judge the world and impose a set of values on it but to offer grace and truth to it.

1 Corinthians is a letter to an early church that could not have had more problems.  Specifically in chapter 5, the writer, Paul, gets super angry at the church for one thing.

A guy was having sex with his stepmom.

I broke paragraphs for effect.  Its true, read it.  The dude was having sex with his step mom.  Paul threw a bit of a conniption fit at the church because they knew about it and did nothing.  Then he wrote something down that is priceless to the discussion of gay marriage legislation today.  He wrote this:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

In the context of what Paul is saying is to only pass judgment on people within the church.  He even literally says, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?”  It seems like we get this backwards every now and then.

I heard a guy speak on the news, he was on the steps of the Supreme Court and he said, “Homosexuality is an abomination before God, this nation is going down for this decision.” While I think that homosexuality is a sin, I would argue that trying to make culture conform to my lifestyle is one of the least loving things I can do.

Lets think about heaven and hell for a moment. The way I would describe what the Bible has to say about it is that God doesn’t push himself on anyone.  People who go to heaven want it, because they have a relationship with God on earth.  People who go to hell want it, because they don’t want a relationship with God, and he isn’t going to force them to choose Him.  This is free will and the nature of free will is that it reveals a God with a loving nature that will not force you to choose.  Gay marriage seems to be what our culture wants.  While my Biblical stance is stated clearly here, I am not going to stand in the way of what culture wants, even if what culture wants doesn’t seem like the right thing to me.   When it comes down to it, each American enjoys the 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law. I for one would not want to stand in the way of that.

I know that there will be many Christians who would like to argue with me on this point.  I really don’t see the necessity of it, I support the democratic process, which includes the three branches of our government: executive, legislative and judicial. The only reason I see to actively work against the state if they are actively oppressing its citizens, then the church will have the duty to protect the oppressed.  In my mind the state has decided what it wants.  That is totally within the right of the state to do.  As I understand God’s kingdom, my allegiance is to the state falls a ways behind my allegiance to God and family.

As we move forward on this issue Christians we need to be careful to not impose values as law but instead to offer truth for consideration.  As Peter writes, we need to live such good lives that we make the gospel attractive at all times.  It appears to me that during the debate on gay marriage we effectively formed two camps that are ready to go to battle.  Have we been living up to the way of life that Peter talks about?

We can’t continue to dictate to the world a lifestyle that they don’t freely submit to.  That is not freedom.

We can’t dictate a way of life that people would never freely submit to anyway.  Do salt and light dictate lifestyle or should salt and light offer something better?  What will you do as salt and light?

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