Saturday, April 11, 2009

Discipleship and Same Sex Marriage

I expect this one might elicit a lot of comment.

Our church is in Iowa. The Iowa Supreme Court just declared that same sex couples have the right to wed in Iowa. Uh-oh. As a church that strives to be biblically faithful, what do we do now?

Within hours of the announcement of the decision, I started receiving e-mails. They basically said the same thing: “That this thing happened is the fault of the pastors and the churches. You didn’t do enough to mobilize people to oppose this.” Ouch. I suppose I agree, at least on one level, with the critics. This is what I would say: I don’t think the pastors or churches of Iowa did enough to make disciples of Jesus Christ. If we had done that, this decision may never have been reached.

To be clear, for the record: Jesus isn’t in favor of same sex marriage. Jesus affirms marriage between a man and woman. Jesus, as God of the Old Testament Come to Be With Us in the Flesh, isn’t down with the current world order, including but not limited to, same sex marriage. Nowhere in Scripture can you make a case that the God who so clearly created marriage meant it to be for anyone but one man and one woman. It doesn’t mean that Jesus hates gay people or that they are worse sinners than the rest of us. It merely reinforces 2,000 plus years of Church teaching that any sexual relationship outside of biblical marriage is a sin. Even heterosexual people have to deal with that. It’s what the Bible says. Take it up with the Author.

Here’s what I’m thinking: as a church, our prime directive from our Founder and First Martyr, Jesus Christ, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. We can’t make disciples of Jesus if we demand that before they follow Jesus they have to live “the right lifestyle.” Jesus didn’t demand that of Peter, a surly fisherman. He didn’t say, “Clean up your act and then follow me.” He just said, “Follow me.” And they did. The life change and transformation in the disciples clearly takes place along the way. So too with modern day disciples. So we can’t expect sinners to become followers of Jesus if we demand they quit sinning before they meet Jesus. Doesn’t work. Only Jesus can change people’s hearts.

I’m also struggling with the fact that “everyone” who is “anyone” in church stuff these days is saying that we live in a post-Christian society. In other words, the church, pastors, religious people, don’t get authority because of who they are. They have to prove their relevance and earn their right to have any authority over their followers or society as a whole. That probably means that going out as a congregation and protesting in the streets won’t win us any disciples or even help our cause. Yes, I’m saying that we have come to a point in our culture where our society doesn’t care what the church says and isn’t impressed by picketing Christians. That’s probably why we still have institutionalized abortion on demand as well. It isn’t that we, the pastors or the church, haven’t said something. It’s that nobody out there much cares.

I’ll bet, and I don’t know this for certain, but I’d wager that most of the Supreme Court Justices in Iowa go to church. But I bet that they have been trained in law school and by society as a whole and perhaps even by their own church (shame on them), that what they believe about God must somehow be separated from their decision making process in order to be truly fair. This is the point at which I think we’ve failed. A disciple cannot separate out what he believes about Jesus from the decisions he makes about life, liberty and happiness. He or she would not be a disciple if that were the case. To be a disciple is to be a learner, a follower, a practitioner of the Teacher, Jesus. You cannot separate the man from the message. And a disciple cannot separate the message and the man from the decision making process. Where we have failed as a Church is in allowing people to compartmentalize their faith and believe that “for the good of society, I need to keep my religion out of my decision making process.” Rubbish. It’s at that point when good societies loose their moral compass and head straight for the rocks. This is why I said at the start, “I don’t think the pastors or churches of Iowa did enough to make disciples of Jesus Christ. If we had done that, this decision may never have been reached.” We have failed to take our societal presuppositions head on.

There are a lot of folks at work to overturn the decision of the Supremes. I think we also need to be stepping up our efforts to make disciples who will take what they believe into the courtroom, the classroom, the workroom, the boardroom and the bedroom. Thanks for reading. Peace be with you. PJ

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