Church and Ministry
A Church's Kingdom Approach in Response to Gay Marriage
By Peter Lundell
Since Adam and Eve, marriage has been defined, both biblically and socially, as the union of a man and a woman. How does the church respond after a divided Supreme Court decided that homosexuals have a constitutional right to marry? Even Justice Kennedy's prevailing court opinion on this radical (and perhaps inevitable) shift appeared to be based more on ideas of love than on the Constitution.
Indeed, love is the hallmark of a Christian. And Jesus makes clear in the Great Commandment of Matthew 22:36-40 that love is first of all, and primarily, given to God. Secondarily, love is given to people. Even then such love, infused with the primary agape love of God, is greater than any normal human love.
Agape love does not follow changing opinions. It honors and gives itself to God as he has revealed himself in Scripture. Then it selflessly gives itself to doing what, according to God, is best for people.
Once we debate and settle our views of right and wrong—which is beyond the scope of the particular point I wish to make—what do Christians do?
We start by remembering who we are.
Should followers of Jesus stand up for their rights to freely practice their beliefs? Of course. But if we focus our energy on battles over our rights versus others' rights, we miss what Jesus is all about.
Jesus is not about rights. Jesus is about redemption.
My aim as a pastor is that my church, which loves God and loves people, is a community of redemption—healing and restoration of body, soul, and spirit in the image of God.
Therefore, we will not get tangled up in talk about rights. In the Kingdom of God, rights are arguably irrelevant. Biblically, we have only one right: When we receive Christ, we are children of God (John 1:12).
Here is a critical point from a Kingdom perspective: Focusing on rights makes healing impossible. A doctor can do little for a patient who insists on the right to be sick. A sinful or broken person finds no redemption when insisting on the right to be unredeemed.
When we encounter homosexuals, or they come to our church, we welcome them as we would anyone else. This is Jesus' example in Matthew 9:10-13. They get no special acceptance or condemnation. Jesus' purpose, and ours, is redemption.
I do not wish to argue the general issue (which is already done by many others) except to say that, even though God's love is wide (1 John 4:7-8) and mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13)—and regardless of personal opinions or changing social opinions—believers are under authority. If not, we cannot claim to be followers of Christ; we would be followers of ourselves.
Romans 1:21-32 sets the precedent that when people turn from God, he "gave them over" to their "sinful desires." He starts with sexual impurity, then details female and male homosexuality, then includes a wide panoply of sins.
We then look to Paul's sin list of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, which is similar to Jesus' sin list of Mark 7:21-23. In Paul's list four out of ten sins listed are sexual, and two of them regard homosexuality (male prostitutes [catamites] and homosexual acts, along with adultery and sexual immorality in general). But we also see idolatry, thievery, greed, drunkenness, slander, and swindling. Now include Jesus' list: sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly.
No one gets away as being without sin. Everyone gets nailed. We can find many other exhortations about sin throughout the Bible. And none of them allow the church to turn a blind eye to one kind of sin while confronting another. We're all guilty and in need of redemption—and that's exactly the Bible's point.
Paul's list finishes by saying in verse 11 that these are the practices people in the church have come out of. But we were washed, sanctified, and justified in Christ by the Spirit—the church is a community of healing for broken people. All of us are, or were, broken in some way; all of us are redeemed or in the process.
Of course there will be complications and questions. But if we claim to follow the God of the Bible, we are under his authority. Thus we must establish a clear and basic foundation of who we are and what we do. Churches are, or should be, communities of redemption for broken people. Rights, whether real or supposed, are not the issue.
Whether people accept or refuse us is their choice. But we remain open as a Christ-and-Bible-centered community of redemption.
We may be loved; we'll likely be hated. The Bible is abundantly and repeatedly clear that those who follow Christ will be hated. In a free country like the USA, we're simply not used to it. But if we're truly following Christ, doing what he does will be far more important to us anyway.
Copyright © 2015, Peter Lundell. Excerpted from PeterLundell.com: Live well in the face of eternal reality, posted June 30, 2015. Used by permission.
With a pastor’s heart, Peter Lundell connects people and their life issues to a real God so they can live well in the face of eternal realities. With a quarter century of missionary, pastoral, and teaching experience, he brings new perspectives to interacting with God that most people overlook. He holds an M.Div. and D.Miss. from Fuller Theological Seminary and resides in Southern California. He authors books on Christian spirituality. Visit him at www.PeterLundell.com.
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