Paul's Ponderings

Spiritual Formation. Discipleship. Christian Living.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

A Rock and a Hard PlaceThe Church will always be involved in politics. That is because politics, according the Oxford American Dictionary, are “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area.” This means that Christians, by virtue of what we believe, will at times be in conflict, in one way or another, with the standards and laws of the community.

Reading through the book of Acts we discover that Christians were arrested time and time again because of the way they lived and the way they encouraged other people to live. The teachings and the actions of the Church were in conflict with the culture and expectations of the Roman Empire.

Even if you adopt a Christian Anarchist view, like I have done, you will not be able to escape the reality that the Way of Christ has political implications. This is why it is very important to remain informed about what is happening in the political arena of life.

In the United States the Church currently finds herself between a rock and a hard place. This quagmire is the issue of gay marriage. On the one hand you have the reality that God's ideal for marriage is between one man and one woman. This is confirmed by Jesus when he said:

“He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts. But 'God made them male and female' from the beginning of creation. 'This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.' Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” (Mark 10:5-9; NLT)

Jesus points back to the God's original design for the family and says it all began with one man and one woman. This is the ideal. All the deviations from that ideal God has allowed because people's hearts are hard. God has, and will, use people who are living outside of that ideal.

This is why the progressives are right in pointing out that marriage has evolved over time, but they are wrong in their final analysis that gay marriage is just the next progression in that evolution. They overlook the reality that this evolution has been away from God's original design, and not towards something better.

On the other hand you have to take into account that Christians are called love our neighbors, that God desires everyone to be saved, and that Jesus reached out to the marginalized and outcasts of society. The Church can't stay true to her mission if she insists that some people are outside the bounds of God's grace.

The issue facing the Church in the United States is how to stand in support of God's ideal for marriage and remain loving towards people, whether they are homosexuals or supporters of gay marriage, who need to experience God's love and grace.

What makes this tough is even if you try to find a compromise between God's ideal and society’s shifting ideal of marriage and support something like civil unions, you are still liable to be called a bigot for holding your view. The cultural tide has already shifted on this issue, and gay marriage is all but inevitable. This means the Church cannot simply ignore the issue and hope that it will go away. The Church needs to discover how to respond to homosexual marriage, because the issue is not going away anytime soon.

So what are Christians, who hold to God's ideal for marriage, to do?

  1. We need to recognize the depths the idols of romance and relationships have on our lives. The majority of Americans believe that a romantic relationship is essential for a meaningful life. Our music and movies confirm this reality. It is also seen in the divorce rate as women leave their husbands to pursue different options and justifying it by saying, “I love you, I am just not in love with you.” It is seen in the husband that has multiple affairs, because those relationships make him feel alive. It is seen in the homosexual couple seeking to marry, so that their love can be accepted and celebrated by the community. One of the first steps we need to take is to repent of this idol so we can speak authentically about what marriage truly is: a dynamic duo for God's Kingdom.
  2. We need rethink how we handle divorce. The Church in the United States has grown far too accepting of this practice. Unlike gay marriage this is something that Jesus speaks directly about, and we have ignored him. Why? One reason is because we do not want to offend the divorced people within our congregations. It is much easier to point fingers at people outside the walls of the church building. A second reason is because we see divorce as a one time act that is easily repented of, but homosexuality is an ongoing reality. Yet, both situations call for grace, forgiveness, encouragement, and love. It is also important to note that you cannot claim to defend traditional marriage and overlook the destruction divorce brings to families and communities.
  3. We need show love to people who are struggling with homosexuality. We don't need to try to change them or set them up with a person of the opposite sex. Neither does this mean that we endorse a homosexual lifestyle. Rather it means that we make time to listen, that we do what we can to help, and that we include them in our community. The key is that we help them experience the warmth of God's love and not just expose them to cold reality of God's truth.
  4. We need stop talking like homosexuality is an unforgivable sin. Many of us struggle with sins such as anger, greed, gossip, and hatred yet we are not excluded from the Church. What makes homosexuality different? I think it is because many Christians find it repulsive. Therefore homosexuality is elevated on the list of “terrible” sins, while the more acceptable sins are overlooked and even enjoyed. It is this double standard that contributes to the Church's inability to authentically address the issue.
  5. We need to stop trying to shape culture through politics. It just doesn't work. The reason it doesn't work is because the Church is trying to use the State's power to conform society to a certain standard, a standard that the rest of the world doesn't recognize. In the end, rather than shaping culture, barriers and obstacles are erected between the Church and people who desperately need Jesus. What needs to happen is for Christians to authentically live what they claim to believe, build friendships with people outside the Church, and pray for God's Kingdom to come. It is through the influence of authentic faithful lives that opinions and standards are shaped and changed.

Right now Christians find themselves between a rock and hard place culturally. We are in a no win situation. To stand up for God's ideal for marriage will make us bigots and to surrender the ideal of marriage to the shifting opinions of culture means we are not being faithful to God. What are we to do?

There is no easy answer. What I know is that our current game plan is driving people away from rather drawing people towards Jesus. That is what is most important. It is only in Jesus that people are able to experience the all encompassing love God has for them. That is what we must be most concerned about.


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1 Comment

  1. Reader, thanks for taking time to respond. I have been on vacation and have not been able to respond to your comment before now.

    First, it is good to be reminded that we live in a society that titles and names are so important. To use the wrong one means to offend people, even if it is done out of ignorance. As Christians try to influence culture we need to remember this sensitivity many people have.

    Second, the primary audience of Paul’s Ponderings is Christian. That means I am going to write in such a way that they will understand what I am saying. My terminology on this blog will never rise to the level that you find acceptable, which is fine because my audience is not the LGBTQ community.

    There is a wide gap between many different segments of society in regards to language and what is acceptable. As a Christians we should never intentionally seek to offend anyone, but we also should never allow the fear of offended another person keep us from saying what needs to be said.

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