The recent referendum in the Republic of Ireland has resulted in 62% of people voting in favour of legalizing same-sex marriage. Some Christians are upset about same-sex marriage being made legal but I am not one of them and I want to take a few moments to explain why.
If you are already upset by what you have just read then can I ask you to calm down and to carefully read and think about what I am writing before your judge me.
We are living in a time of great change. For many years the church shaped the way that some nations were governed as laws and a way of living were heavily influenced by Biblical morality in those countries. All this is changing and certainly in the UK and even in the Republic of Ireland, the church doesn’t have the influence that it once did.
The Bible is the only absolute authority that Christians have and the part of the Bible that most closely mirrors the type of change that we are experiencing is the time of exile that we read about in the book of Daniel.
Daniel and his friends were among the group of people who are taken away from Israel to Babylon.
In Israel, the laws and way of living are shaped by scripture.
But things change
In Babylon, scripture had no influence over the law and way of living.
One of the things that set Daniel and his friends apart was that they were unwilling to compromise on their beliefs. They refused to eat food that had been defiled and they also refused to worship a statue or even to worship the king himself.
They were willing to die for their beliefs and they were determined to be true to the teachings of the Bible. Despite this though, it is worth noting that,
- Although they were absolutely clear about their beliefs, they made no attempt to tell others that they must also accept their morality.
- Although they would not worship the king, they didn’t start a campaign to tell others not to worship the king.
- Although they wouldn’t eat the defiled food, they didn’t try to win others over to agree with them.
Their pattern of life in a land where their faith had little influence over the law was to be true to their God rather than judging others.
Their priority of life in a land where their faith had little influence over the law was to be true to their God and to hope and pray that other people would follow him.
In the time of Daniel, people who had no allegiance to the one true God were free to worship a statue without criticism from Daniel or his friends. Daniel and his friends made it their priority to live out their faith so that people could see who God is. In other words, rather than telling other people why they were wrong, they showed people what a real and living faith could look like. Daniel was found not to be worshiping the King because he prayed publicly each day and as he lived his faith openly people were drawn to God.
I wonder if we in the church have gone astray?
Are we better known as being against things than we are for living our faith openly so that people can see the love and power of God at work?
Are we more enthusiastic about issues of morality than we are about people knowing Jesus?
When Jesus was on the earth he was known as the friend of sinners. Whilst he was clear about morality, people’s acceptance of a Biblical moral code wasn’t necessary for him to accept and to know them.
For example, instead of telling Zacchaeus that he was a thief and a cheat, Jesus asked to go to his house for a meal. Jesus doesn’t hold a placard denouncing Zacchaeus’ type, he goes and connects with him and sees his life transformed as a result.
When people knew Jesus they were transformed.
Some Christians want to transform people to make them more suitable to know Jesus.
Christians who are against gay marriage feel like they are honouring Jesus by telling people who do not share our beliefs that they cannot live a certain way and I’m not sure this is what Daniel or Jesus did.
Jesus was very clear about the way that his followers should live and I think that if we want to follow him as Lord, then this should involve us being willing to obey the teachings of the Bible.
I can think of no example in the gospels of Jesus compelling people to live a certain way. Jesus spoke the truth and challenged people to obey, but he then left them free to choose rather than trying to force them to behave in the right way. The woman caught in adultery should have been condemned by Jesus but he told her to go and sin no more. Jesus refused to enforce the law that demanded that she should be punished for adultery. Jesus didn’t condemn her, but his challenge was clear. She should live in the way that her faith taught, but the choice was hers to live as she pleased.
I hope that I am willing to stand up for my beliefs like Daniel was, no matter what the cost. I want to be clear about what I believe and about what the Bible says but I also primarily want to lead people to Jesus rather than spending my time telling them how they should and shouldn’t live.
I am not in the least bit upset that people who don’t know Jesus want to engage in and support gay marriage.
I am upset that there are people in this world that don’t know Jesus.
I have tried to write this in a personal way. This is my belief about how we should approach this and similar issues that may be contrary to what we believe. I have tried to ask questions and make suggestions rather than trying to be black and white about how we respond. If you disagree with me, I hope that you can disagree in the same spirit by asking questions and pointing to scripture.
Don’t forget that when Christians disagree, that there should be lots of grace involved.