Last night my wife and I got away for our eleventh anniversary. We’re in Michigan on vacation with family, so we slipped away for the night, got a hotel downtown Grand Rapids, and took to the city. We ate fresh seafood, drank good wine, and simply enjoyed our relationship. Eleven years with each other; eleven years of being known; eleven years of commitment and fidelity; eleven years. It’s been good.
No. It’s been great.
Today the Supreme Court announced its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges declaring same-sex marriage to be the law of the land. All 50 states will now recognize the right of gay individuals to marry.
When I dig into my humanity – the part of me that connects with others, that empathizes with the person next to me, that longs to see every human flourish – I’m happy for the LGBTQ community. Granted, this is an odd, somewhat tenuous position to hold since I believe that marriage, in God’s eyes, is between one man and one woman. Still, on the heels of celebrating the love between my wife and I, I honestly want others to experience what we have. I want others to be secure in their most significant relationship with another person. There is an incredible amount of peace, joy, and growth that comes from being joined to one person for life. Making promises like marriage vows that are big and audacious and, when you stop and think about, tantamount to throwing all caution to the wind out of love for another person is beautiful. I don’t want anyone to miss out on that.
Reading the Bible I have come to the conclusion that my humanity isn’t just wrapped up in my emotions and desires but must be conformed to the humanity of Jesus. I know there are many who read the words of the Bible and the words of Jesus and come to a place where they can be open and affirming. I just can’t. I know that some will call me a bigot for that, but that is where I am. There are reasons I’ve come to this position, but I’m also continuing to learn. I’m reading books and, most importantly, having conversations with my gay friends. Just because I’ve come to a conclusion doesn’t mean I’m right or that I fully understand every perspective. So, I’ll continue to learn.
I don’t feel threatened by this decision at all. I don’t think my rights or my marriage or even my beliefs as a Christian are under fire. Anyone who thinks that is missing the very clear language in the decision that says,
Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.
This decision recognizes that the world is changing. There will be people who always fear change, seeing any change as conspiratorial and apocalyptic. Christians have sat under many a preacher who has preached that perfect love drives out fear and that we, as a people of the resurrection, have nothing to fear, not even death. And yet, we are often the most afraid of the cultural changes that are happening around us. But aversion to change makes it difficult to have honest, constructive dialogue about issues. If we are to be a part of the culture’s conversation we need to put our sermons into practice. It is time to be a people of peace, not fear.
I do believe there will be even more changes coming. We can’t fully comprehend the impact of this decision on society, church, and individuals. Some of what comes from it will be good. Some will be new challenges to navigate. But that’s why we need to refrain from inflammatory language. We are going to have a lot more conversations.
My hope is that we will be able to have those conversations in a different manner than we have in the past. During the Reformation we killed each other over baptism. I believe it is a much more central belief than gay marriage. Over time, the church has found ways of co-existing with differing beliefs about this central practice. Some baptize babies and some dedicate. Some sprinkle and some hold ’em down ’till it takes. Despite our differences, and they can be significant, we aren’t killing each other over them. In fact, The Gospel Coalition has both paedobaptists and believer baptist among its founders. Maybe, in the same manner, we will be able to co-exist on this issue as well.
Regardless, one of the ways we can be level headed as we move forward is by recognizing that this changes nothing about the gospel. Nothing. The gospel of Jesus that the Kingdom of God is near to us because God came near to us in Jesus. And he is still near. Jesus has always been near to the broken-hearted, the outcasts, and the sinners. God isn’t going to jettison his Spirit out of America or off planet Earth because of this decision. America isn’t going to be judged for this any more than we would be judged for our other sins (my friend Benjamin Corey has a good post about this). This gospel will survive this. The church will survive this.
In fact, the church may even learn how to better love our neighbors, those who believe differently than us, because of this.