September 28, 2012

Love Your Wife

Love your own wife
As Christ loved the church
Paul's word's here are brief
But I admit that they hurt

Will I chase for myself
This life's fleeting pleasures?
Or will I give to my wife
Make her good my endeavor?

Paul said that Christ
Was our chiefest example
One who laid down His life
Whose love was shown ample

Will I rise to this challenge
By trusting His power?
Or will I shrink back
In the darkest of hours?

Oh God I cry out for the faith
To trust You every day
And pursue my dear wife
Lord, for Your help I do pray

September 25, 2012

Questions, Comments, and Answers on Same-Sex Marriage

I want to use this post to address three points, all brought up in comments to the last one.

First, I want to address the comment made by an Anonymous individual whose main thrust in argument was that prohibiting homosexual marriage
a)prevents no one from sinning, and
b)is a violation of religious freedom.
On point "a", of course I agree with that. I can never do anything to stop another person from rebelling against God, because ultimately that is a heart issue, and I cannot see their heart, let alone change it. That being said, laws exist not because their existence precludes the possibility of evil, but because sinful human beings need both encouragement towards right behavior, and punishment for wrong behavior. Simply put, laws exist for the good of society (see Romans 13-or the entire Pentateuch). If a person believes, as I do, that the basic human relationship that society is built upon is the relationship of husband and wife in marriage, then encouraging and fighting for a definition of marriage that keeps that relationship held in honor, along with keeping it properly understood, will not harm society, but rather be helpful to it in the extreme. This is not a violation on religious freedom. Name for me one religion that as one of it's basic beliefs holds that homosexuals have the right to marry people of the same gender. Good luck finding one. In the closest possible parallel, one could look to Mormonism, which in it's early days held that polygamy was a good and noble thing. Was that embraced and tolerated by everyone else? No. Because while they had every right to believe that in America, we did not allow the incorrect belief of a minority to change the definition of one of the building blocks of civilization.

Second, Sydney brought up the fact that many professionals now hold the belief that sexual orientation is genetic. The argument being, "people are born with these desires, you have no right to criticize or oppose them." I would like to first say that while many Christians reject this notion out of hand, I do not. There is no doubt in my mind that a man could be born with more sexual attraction toward other men than towards women. This in no way contradicts anything in the Bible, it seems to line up with conversations I have had with homosexual friends of mine, and beyond not contradicting Scripture, it in fact upholds what the Bible has to say. Romans 1:26 says that when people reject God, He gives them up to their dishonorable passions. Passions, desires, etc, are not (necessarily) something we choose to have. We often times are simply inclined, either by birth or by upbringing, to prefer one thing over another. But simply because this is true does not make it good. This whole world is shattered by sin, most of all the human heart. We are by nature wicked, not good (Ephesians 2, Romans 3). Which means it is not just possible, but 100% certain that you are born with desires which do not please God. These desires, and our slavery to them, has us under the just wrath of God. For some people that desire is a romantic or sexual attraction to someone of the same gender. For many of us, it is that same desire toward someone of the opposite gender who is not our spouse, which God calls equally wicked. Notice that a prohibition of adultery makes it into the ten commandments, a prohibition of homosexuality does not. So in essence my response to the idea that people are "born gay" would be, okay. I was born a lying, adultering, thieving, God-hating idolater. Was God cool with that? No, He sent His Son to bear the wrath due to that sin (John 3:16, Romans 3:23-26). I have the choice to accept God's grace towards me in Jesus, or be turned over to my sin and suffer for it both here on earth and eternally in hell. This is the same for all people. Homosexuality is not special in that sense. The same passage there in Romans 1 which condemns homosexual relations also condemns things like disobedience to parents and gossiping. We're all born sinners, the question is whether we trust in Jesus' payments for our sin and His power in our lives to free us from the bondage we were in, or do we embrace our sin and bring down God's eternal wrath on our heads?

Finally, Donna asked how one balances the fight against same sex marriage with a brokenness for the people on the other side. And this is actually probably the easiest question here to answer, although the hardest to put into practice. We need to keep in mind that everything Christians do and say must ultimately be connected to the Gospel. Hence my focus in the last post about shifting away from a traditional or cultural view of marriage to a Biblical view of and vision for marriage. If I am fighting hard for one man plus one woman for life because it is my tradition, then the people attacking that tradition are my enemies. If they are my enemies then I probably will not have a loving attitude towards them, nor will I desire to see good come to them. The focus is on me, my rights, and my way of life. But if I am approaching marriage, and all of life, as a Gospel issue, then my focus shifts radically. As I said in point one here, fighting for marriage in one sense is fighting for the good of society. If I was right in the last post when I said that at the foundation, God created the family unit and marriage relationship as the building blocks of human society, then to fight for these things is to fight for the good of all people-even if they do not agree that it is better. A healthy society is good for all its members. Furthermore, we want to as Christians individually and corporately as the church, encourage and help to build good marriages (I highly commend John Piper's "This Momentary Marriage," Andreas Kostenberger's "God, Marriage, and Family," and Justin Buzzard's "Date Your Wife" as excellent resources). A healthy marriage is a healthy picture of Christ and His church, and that is what with world needs to see.
I do acknowledge the difficulties of this in a legislative, political sense. And this is where I would beg believers not to peg their hopes on reforming society. We want to do what we are able to encourage Biblical, Christ-exalting values. But we must realize that these will typically not be embraced by those who do not embrace Jesus. And so while political action, social action, and most other kinds of action are good-what is most important is the Gospel, and telling people the Good News of what Jesus has done. Which I suppose is a long way of saying this-our beliefs should not be held in balance with our action, our beliefs should drive our action. And the solid rock where our hope and motivation lies is not marriage, it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must keep the ultimate in view, or our view of things such as marriage become incredibly skewed and our motivations are polluted by our agenda, instead of being soaked in the blood of Jesus cross. I want everyone, homosexual, heterosexual, married, unmarried, adulterers, fornicators, faithful spouses-everyone-I want everyone to know that apart from Christ they are hopeless sinners under God's wrath, but that Jesus comes and satisfies the wrath of God for us. He offers us life and freedom from a whole world full of sin. 

September 22, 2012

Why Christians don't understand the same-sex marriage debate-and thus are losing it.

I want to make a few brief comments on marriage, and the debate over whether or not homosexual marriage should be created by our government. I use the word "created" very intentionally.

Note: none of my thoughts or ideas here are original, and most are being expressed by some in this ongoing national debate. However, they are certainly the minority, and so I have decided to add my small voice to the choir.

It seems to me that, while not universally, the general slogan of those opposed to same-sex marriage (from here on "SSM") is that they "support traditional marriage and traditional values." Less frequently I hear of a support for "Judeo-Christian" values. Here is my rub with both of these terms, especially the former-they utterly miss the root of this entire issue. The question is not whether marriage should conform to what is traditional. If it were, of course marriage could change into whatever we would like it to. This is because traditions and values change with time, geographical location, and culture. Simply because something, in this case monogamous heterosexual marriage, was embraced for the first 200 or so years of the American experience does not make it worth preserving. Sorry to burst your flag waving bubble. Even the fact that such an institution is embraced across many cultures, throughout much of human history, does not make it worth preserving. Slavery has been embraced, to varying degrees, by many cultures spanning nearly all of human history, on every continent (sans Antarctica, I don't know of much slavery happening there). Do we cry out for it's preservation? No.

So what makes marriage different? Is there a legitimate case to be made against SSM and for "traditional" marriage? Yes, there is. While the argument I will present is certainly not exhaustive, I do believe it to be far more compelling than most anything being presented to us in most attempts to save marriage. I want to briefly address both what marriage is foundationally, and what it is ultimately.

First, marriage is foundationally a creation of God. Human beings are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Part of that image is the capacity and desire for loving, communicative, relationship. And the first relationship God gives man is marriage. God says that it is not good for man to be alone, the first thing in all of creation that God deems to be anything other than "good" or "very good." And so he creates a helper suitable for Him. We see this all in Genesis chapter two. Every other form of human relationship is built upon this framework. Churches, clans, and communities are built on families. Governments, being built upon the culture created by churches, clans, and communities, are thus ultimately are at their foundation built upon families. And the human family begins with a husband and wife. This one man plus one woman for life relationship, as instituted by God in the garden of Eden, is the cornerstone of human civilization. So at marriages foundation it is instituted by God, and as such we are not at liberty to define it. He already has. And He has designed the rest of human existence in relation to this relationship. This being the case, it not only is not our place to define it, but it would seem to be to our disadvantage. I'm not much for analogies, but if I'm building a house and decide to take a bale of straw, call it my "cornerstone", and proceed to build-the results will be, shall we say, less than satisfactory. Call a bale of straw a cornerstone does not make it a cornerstone.

This is an important part of the discussion, and it's probably a necessary place to begin. But it is not the biggest reason for keeping marriage defined the way God defines it. For that we need to look at Ephesians 5:28-32,

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Here the apostle Paul gives us marriage's ultimate meaning-it is meant to picture Christ and His church. As Christians we have to know this. Certainly, marriage is the building block for healthy churches, cultures, and nations. It absolutely is the best environment for raising children. One man plus one woman for a lifetime is "simply the way it's supposed to be." Marriage as defined in the Bible just plain works. But this is not enough. Again, if our appeal is merely to "traditional" values, pragmatism, and the created order, we have a solid argument, but I'm not so sure that it is compelling. Paul's argument in Ephesians five is over-arching. He says in essence, "yes, God built this into the creation order-but for a higher purpose. To show us Himself. To show us His love." This is why defining marriage in agreement with God is a matter of utmost importance-because anything different does not display who Christ is and how he loves His church. Distortions of marriage lie about God. A man who radically and self-givingly loves his wife as his own body images Christ. A wife who in joyful love submits to and respects her husband displays a beautiful picture of the church. Anything outside that is a lie about the very nature of God. This is why divorce is a dreadfully wrong, why polygamy is a dreadfully wrong, why adultery is a dreadfully wrong, why fornication is dreadfully wrong, why pornography is dreadfully wrong, and why homosexuality (and by extension, SSM) is dreadfully wrong. Because marriage speaks to the very nature of Christ's covenantal, loving relationship with His bride, the church.

Let me end on two practical notes.

1- The reason it is imperative for us to see this is simple-there are people fighting tooth and nail to push this through, and a lot of people sitting on their hands either because they don't want to offend anyone, or because of some stupid political position saying it doesn't matter what the government does with marriage anyway (ala, Ron Paul). This is absolutely wrong. The issue does matter because of marriage's design to reflect the relationship of Christ and His church. Ad the government's position on it does matter, because in our country marriage is a legally recognized institution, and if something besides real, biblical marriage is allowed to be called "marriage" because Christians simply sat on their hands and said "it doesn't matter what the government says" we lie to the millions of non-Christians in our country, and the billions in our world who watch and see that the issue of marriage obviously isn't a big deal to us. And if something designed to tell us about our God doesn't matter, then how much does our God really matter?

2- The battle is not against flesh and blood. Homosexuals who think they should be able to be "married" are not the problem. Democrats and liberals in congress and White House are not the problem. The ACLU is not the problem. The problem is sin. Sin blinds people to spiritual reality, and until Jesus comes in and lifts that veil so that they can see, they won't get it. And so for Christians, we have to quit playing defense. Quit acting like a bunch of babies crying because someone is trying to "take your traditions away" and make the world different than the comfy one you were used to. You ought to be broken for someone whose view of marriage has been so skewed by experience, by culture, and by their own sin that they cannot see how beautifully God has designed it to function both as a picture of His own love, and as the most intimate of human relationships. Quit being afraid of sinners. Be broken for them. Quit treating them like the bad guys. Realize that we're all the bad guys, and that God loved us enough to kill His Son in our place despite that.

You see, if this is a character of God issue, then it ultimately is a Gospel issue. And any efforts we make to keep marriage defined as one man and one woman, need to be made with that in view. We don't fight for marriage for the sake of marriage. We fight for marriage because Jesus radically loves His bride, and we want everyone to know that love.

About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (