Over the weekend, in a 5-4 ruling the US High Court ruled in favour of recognizing marriages between people of the same sex. This means that the 14 states which had not previously ruled this way would now be forced to allow same-sex marriage.
This makes me feel really sad.
I was born in the US and I am sad for the people of the United States both gay and straight. I am sad for what this means for the American community under the hand of God. I am said for what this will mean for many other countries in the world who, intentionally or not, follow Americas lead. I am sad for the many identifying with this revision as evident by the way they are engaging with this topic (e.g. changing their facebook profile pictures to show their support).
‘Love Wins’. Does it? And what kind of love is it that wins?
There is a narrative that I think many Christians find themselves caught in the middle of concerning this debate. It goes something like this…
Love is good.
Therefore you should be loving.
If you don’t accept love, then you are against it.
Therefore you are not loving.
The tragedy here of course is that Christians are called to be loving – to love God (Matt 22:37) and to love each other (John 15:17), to love others (1 John 3:11). In fact, Christians are told if they love God they must also love their brothers and sisters (1 John 4:20-21).
The tragedy is not that Christians have failed in their duty to love (although I am sure there are occasions when that has happened), but that they are being accused of being unloving because they are trying to push back on this issue.
Why do Christians have such an issue with love – is it just because it is homosexual love?
I think that is only part of it. I have no doubt that the love between two men or the love between two women when pronounced is real. In fact I have no reason to think that they may love one another any less than the love that might between a man and a woman.
My issue here is not with love. My issue is with what it acceptable. Not to me (who cares what I think!) but God.
The apostle John speaks a lot about love – in his gospel and in his little letters the whole concept of love is repeated over and over again.
In 1 John 3:11-18, Christians are encouraged to ‘love one another’ and two examples are given – the way not to love and the way to love.
The first is the example of Cain who in Genesis 4:2-8 brings fruits of the soil while his brother Abel brings fat portions from his flock to offer to God. For whatever reason (we are not told) God finds Abel’s offering acceptable. Cain is angry.
The question for Cain at this point is effectively how to react. There is a right way and a wrong way. In fact God explains that choice to him ‘If you do what is right, it will be accepted, if you do not do what is right, then sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you’ (Gen 3:7). Cain chooses badly, attacks and kills his brother.
John uses this story to explain something about love. When you love, love in a way that is acceptable to God. Cain is the extreme anti-example. He hated, his hate led to murder and death as the ultimate conclusion.
The second contrasting example is that of Jesus. John says ‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us’ (1 John 3:16). In Jesus, we see a display of sacrificial love, where one puts the needs of others before his own.
When Jesus stepped up to the cross, he did that as the only one who didn’t need the cross to make himself acceptable to God. When Jesus stepped up to the cross, he did that to make me and you acceptable to God. When Jesus stepped up to the cross, he not only gave his life so that we might have life, but he demonstrated what real love looks like.
John encourages Christians to love like Jesus. To love in a way that is acceptable to God first and foremost. And, like Jesus, to love one another sacrificially, ‘not [just] with words or tongue but with actions and in truth’ (1 John 3:18).
Jesus is the extreme example. He loved, his love led to life and eternal life as the ultimate conclusion.
The Christian call to love hasn’t changed (and it is much simpler):
Love that is acceptable to God is good.
Therefore you should love like Jesus.
What makes me most sad, is that our world has not just been redefining marriage, it has been redefining what true love is. And it has now gone so far that it has taken the best example of love (Jesus), disregarded (him), and has now chased after a ‘love’ that is totally unacceptable to God.
Let’s be people who pray fervently for our world and this issue. Pray that we can engage with this issue in gracious, loving ways that display our love not just with words but with actions so that we can show a love that is acceptable to God. Pray that through this issue, we will be able to point people to Jesus.