Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Evaluating a Comment

Tony Jones has started a comment of the day feature on his blog. I found his first comment of the day very interesting, and I thought I would share it with you as well as adding a comment of my own. The comment is from a commenter identified as Jimil. This is what he said:

For our constitutional scholar, there is no right of sodomy, nor is there a right to sit at a lunch counter, nor is there a right of self defense. In the United States we have a living constitution that affirms fundamental liberties. Most recently, Justice Scalia found a new right of self defense in the Second Amendment and thus protected the rights of individuals to own handguns for self defense. Similarly, rights of privacy have been found. It is good that our Supreme Court protects us from government intrusion in private matters.

For our Bible says so crowd, I suspect you know your argument is completely flawed. I suspect you know dozens of behaviors condoned by the Bible that you do not accept (slavery & polygamy) and restriction you reject (women speaking in church & wearing clothing of mixed threads). I'm not sure why you would bother posting something so dishonest. You did not open the Bible and discover a revelation that homosexuality was wrong.

This, is a serious point, "The person who hates homosexuals will say 'go ahead, there's nothing wrong with it'. But true love warns of dangers." I believe in my heart that those who suggest the love of gays & lesbians is equivalent to smoking are harming gays and lesbians. I think it is evil and missing the lesson of Jesus Christ that it is Love and not Tradition that acts as our guide. That said, I recognize the concern, and I take you at your word.

The world is evolving out of this prejudice. Soon, we will look back at this as we know looked back on prohibitions against interracial marriage. Then, as now, people called the relationships unnatural and worried about the children. Then, as know, there were many hateful bigots attacking people with wickedness in their hearts. But, then, as now, there were people genuinely concerned and worried for the fellow humans. I disagree strongly, but I respect the position.


I believe one of the most important things we can do as followers of Jesus Christ is to examine the thoughts, philosophies, and “truth” that we encounter each and everyday. If we are not intentional about examining these things then we risk being lead astray by a nice sounding lie. Not only should we examine the thoughts we encounter, but we need to share our thoughts as well, for the purpose of exposing other people to different thoughts.

That is what I want to do with Tony Jones’ comment of the day. Jimil brings up some points I think need to evaluated and addressed, especially if we are going to deal honestly with same-sex marriage. It is easy to start throwing stones, and not address what is being said.

First, let us look at this idea of a “living constitution” and rights. What is the purpose of the Constitution? To put it simply its purpose is to limit the size and authority of the Federal government. The responsibilities and authority of the Federal government are plainly outlined in the Constitution, and if a responsibility is not given to the Federal government then it is a responsibility of the State government. Marriage, in a legal sense, is a responsibility of the government. Since we do not find the responsibility of regulating marriage given to the Federal government, then we can assume it is an responsibility given to the State governments.

The people of California are perfectly within their legal right to define marriage between one man and one woman. At this point we have not made a moral statement, just a legal one. The people of California who do not like the law can either stay their and try to convince the rest of their citizens that it needs to be changed, or they can move to a State that allows gay marriage. That is part of the beauty of our Constitution. Laws can be changed and the direction of the government can be altered by the will of the people.

Now, if we as citizens of the United States want to give up the States’ right to define marriage and give that responsibility to the Federal government, then we can amend the Constitution. It is the the process of amending the Constitution which makes it a living document, not the ability of judges to interpret the Constitution to fit their opinions. Legally, homosexual marriage is State issue, and if the majority of the people desire for the definition of marriage to be between one man and one woman, then they are free to do so. That doesn’t mean it can’t be changed, but the change must be done legally.

Second, is it dishonest to call homosexuality a sin if we ignore other parts of Scripture? The first issue we have to deal with is whether or not the Bible tells us that homosexuality is a sin. I think it does. Romans 1:18-32 is one text that shows this. Another is 1 Timothy 1:9, 10. On top that, same-sex marriage is contrary to God’s design for life. Check out what Jesus said in Mark 10:2-9, which I will comment on in a moment.

Am I highlighting the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality and ignoring other parts of Scripture? Probably, but let us look at the examples the Jimil brings up. Does the Bible condone slavery? I don’t think so. It makes allowances for slavery, just as it makes allowances for divorce, but the Bible doesn’t condone divorce. Jesus said of divorce (Mark 10:2-9) that God allowed for divorce as a concession to the hard and evil hearts of people. It was God’s plan from the beginning that a man leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife (further evidence that God doesn’t recognize same sex marriage). I would suggest that God allowed slavery for the same reason, as a concession to our evil and hard hearts. The reason I say this is because as we move into the New Testament we find the seeds of change that are planted which lead to our present understanding that slavery is wrong. One of those seeds is 1 Timothy 1:10 where the apostle Paul lists slave traders (as new translations of the Bible correctly translates) as people who contradict right teaching. Another seed is found in Colossians 4:1 where the apostle Paul tells slaves owners to be just and fair to their slaves. What is more just and fair than granting their slaves freedom?

What about polygamy? While there may not be a “shall not” about polygamy in the Bible, I don’t think that God condones it. I think that it is obvious, by what Jesus said, that marriage is between one man and one woman. But there are other reasons why I think polygamy was something that God allowed rather than condoned. One reason is the men of faith in the Old Testament who had more than one wife. God reveals these families to us in all of their disfunction. Jealousy, favoritism, and other family problems were rampant. Isn’t it possible that God allowed us these stories to show us the negative consequences of not following His design?

Let us take some time and look at some of the commands God does give us. In Deuteronomy 17:17 God tells Israel that when they have a king, the king should not take many wives. While God doesn’t condemn polygamy here or specify that marriage is to be between one man and one woman, He did reveal to them the dangers of having multiple wives. Again, I think God is making a concession to people for their hard hearts. His desire is that as people follow Him that they would mature to the point of accepting His design for their lives.

It shouldn’t surprise us then as we move into the New Testament that we do find a command about one man and one woman as God’s design for marriage. Not only do we have the words of Jesus in Mark 10, but we also have the guidance of the apostle Paul. In 1 Timothy 3:2, Paul tells us that a leader of God’s people must be the husband of one wife. The way I see it is a progression from the command about kings of Israel, where the restriction was simply not to have many wives, to a command of only one wife for the leaders of God’s people, the Church. Rather than condoning polygamy, God allowed it so we could mature in our thinking and understanding and eventually accept His original design of one man and one woman as marriage.

Jimil also claims that we ignore biblical restrictions like women speaking in church? There is debate within the Church on this issue, but one thing we know is that women have taught God’s people from the beginning. In the Old Testament there was Deborah who was called a prophet (Judges 4:4). In the New Testament we run into Anna the prophet in Luke 2:36. Then there were the missionaries, the wife and husband team of Priscilla and Aquilla. Since it was unusual for the wife’s name to be mentioned first, it is thought that this meant that Priscilla was the leader/teacher of the duo. I would suggest Paul’s restriction of women speaking in church was a general rule for a culture where women tended to be less educated than men, rather than an universal law for all Christians.

The Old Testament restriction of not mixing fabrics went the way of the dodo along with the food restrictions Israel had to observe in order to be separate from the world. What did Jesus say about food? In Mark 7:17-19 Jesus tells His disciples that food can’t make you unclean because it doesn’t come in contact with your heart, and by saying that Jesus declared all food acceptable. Let us use this principle for the law of mixing threads. What we wear doesn’t come into contact with our hearts, and so it doesn’t matter what it is made of, all types of fabric are acceptable.

Jimil claims that we who say that same-sex marriage is wrong are following the way of tradition rather than Jesus’ lesson of love. I dealt with this a little bit in my pondering from yesterday, but let me summarize what I said. One of my favorite stories of Jesus is His encounter with the rich young ruler. In Mark 10:21 we are told that Jesus looked at this young man, who had an interest in God and eternal life, with genuine love, and yet Jesus allowed him to walk away from God’s Kingdom. Why? Because the young man didn’t trust Jesus enough to provide him with life. The young man believed that his happiness and life depended on his riches, and he walked away from Jesus. What does this tell us about the love of Jesus? It tells us that in love Jesus told the young man the truth about following Him. Jesus didn’t water it down, and what He asked of the young man was difficult, as difficult of leaving a romantic relationship, and Jesus allowed the young man to choose whether or not he would do it and follow Jesus.

If we are to follow Jesus’ lesson of love, then it means that we are truthful about what it means to follow Jesus. It is not loving to allow people to believe they are part of God’s Kingdom when they are not willing to trust Jesus with their lives. Sure there will be people who say that it is not fair, unloving, and intolerant, but it is the truth. This principle has application for more than those struggling with homosexuality, it has application for all of us who hold on to parts of our lives rather than trusting Jesus to provide us with the life God created us to live (Ephesians 2:10).

My greatest desire is to help people live the life God created them to live, and that life is found on the other side of trust and obedience. Let me be very clear about this point: The life God created us to live isn’t about marriage, sex, or romantic relationships, it is about following Jesus. Jesus told us that if we are not willing to give up our relationships then we are not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:37-39). If you can’t give up a romantic relationship in order to follow Jesus, then you are not worthy of Him. That goes for those in sinful heterosexual relationships as well.

The last thing I would like to comment on is the statement Jimil makes that “The world is evolving out of this prejudice.” I don’t care if the world is evolving, because how I live isn’t based on what the world says. The apostle Paul tells us:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2; ESV)


What the world thinks about homosexual marriage is irrelevant, what matters is what God says. Unlike the examples I have given about slavery and polygamy, I don’t see the seeds of change found in Scripture. What I find is the opposite. What I see is that God reinforces the idea that marriage is between one man and one woman. That is God’s design from the very beginning.

The Church needs to tread very carefully about how we allow the world to influence us. Read the letters to the seven church found in Revelation 2-3. What you will discover is that Jesus has harsh words for those churches that allowed the world to influence them, whether it was their doctrine or how they lived. We can delude ourselves into thinking we are being loving and tolerant, and be very far from God.

3 comments:

Raycol said...

See www.GaysAndSlaves.com for why the Biblical condemnation of homosexual practice does not apply today.

Paul said...

Raycol
You will have to do better than that. I have heard all those arguments before, and they are all weak.

Rick D. said...

Paul,

Solid stuff - far less heat, lots more light on what are painful issues when we are forced to confront them. Thanks!

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