marriage today in the church and society

“Haven’t you read,” [Jesus] replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Matthew 19

Eugene Peterson, one of the very best Christian writers in my lifetime, himself a pastor had an interesting exchange in the past few days in which he seemed to affirm same sex marriage, and then immediately retracted that, and clarified his position. See this interesting post from Christianity Today.

My own position is to side with what scripture up front seems to make clear both in regard to marriage, and same sex relationships, or homosexuality. Of course scripture itself is nuanced, and challenging on some levels, and always must be read in light of its fulfillment in Christ. That said, it seems pretty clear why the traditional view not only holds strong with most Christian denominations and traditions, but surely will remain so in generations to come. Perhaps what might change is how people who have same sex attraction are received into the church, although that probably varies from church to church now.

Denominations and churches which accept and practice same sex weddings, and ordain those who are thus “married” I have seen, either argue that scripture itself leaves room for “covenant” gay sexual relationship, that when scripture does address this subject the few times it does, it is referring to something else altogether. I have read the arguments myself, and find them less than convincing in comparison to traditional teaching and interpretation of scripture. Or there are those “Christian” leaders who simply question Biblical teaching, even at times suggesting that the resurrection of Christ can be taken either literally or metaphorically, in others words that one can be a Christian without believing Christ’s physical, bodily resurrection. While I disagree, I can respect the former, but not the latter.

I think it’s a tragedy when whole groups are ostracized by the church, and now I’m thinking of the LGBT group. But any church, or Christian who doesn’t hold an affirming view of such relationships, will be seen as attacking the person. I doubt that enough work is being done to reach out to these people. At the very least they should know that they’re loved, and welcomed. I’m not sure myself just how to address this, though I think I know what my tentative suggestion might be. But I would want to be part of a group of men and women prayerfully deliberating on that.

As to my own view for society, I say that the church should not try to dictate what the state wants to do. The state, or government is not the church, and can’t be held to the church’s standards. Nor should the church be forced by the state to adopt the state’s standards. So I would hold to a separation of church and state, at the same time hoping that the church’s influence through the gospel might rub off on the state. But never at the expense of compromising the church’s own complete allegiance to Christ and the gospel.

It is quite a challenging and hot topic today, a sea change having taken place in society, with some impact on some churches. It’s simply a new time for the church to learn to live in a culture which doesn’t define marriage in strictly a traditional way. The church will continue on, but hopefully with new insight in helping those who feel rejected by the only one who can change any of us, and receives us all.

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thoughts on the horrific violent act against the lgbt community

We in Christ stand with the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community against the horrific act of hate in the brutal, senseless murders of at least 50 people. We grieve their loss as ours, as well. And we stand with our Muslim sisters and brothers against such violence, as well as the thought of any retaliation against them, which would be equally as senseless and evil. These are all God’s children, created in God’s image, lives which are sacred and beloved.

Any denigration or targetting of any group we condemn. Hate has no place in our hearts as humans, and this is emphasized to us as followers of Christ. The only hatred we can have is against evil, expressed in anger, which as someone else aptly said must morph into grief and lament before the crucified God.

Hate and evil go on in this world, and socieities must take strong stands against even language and corresponding acts which marginalize groups, and make groups of humans to be the others as in not part of us. No, all of these people are part of us, even when we may not share the same faith or moral understandings. We must not think that everyone has to agree across the board on everything, and there are especially some things we guard as sacred. Not only “the right to life” for the unborn, which ought to be a given, but the right to living according to one’s faith and upbringing, or with no religion at all. There has to be room in good and just societies for the differences among us. A nationalism which invokes some superior way of being human along ethnic or religious grounds is to be repudiated and condemned.

As Christians we know that it is the gospel, the good news in Jesus which is the game changer, and nothing less. In that good news is the eventual promise of judgment in rooting out all of the evil of this world, and righting every wrong. We don’t know how God can settle the score on so many things. And we grieve and lament over those who could be so deceived as to take part in such pure, unmitigated evil. Wanting justice to come, but also mercy- both.

But we don’t flag in our hope grounded in the promises of God in Christ, that someday violence will be no more, and true justice in the shalom/peace of God’s kingdom will bring in the fullness of what we as humans can hardly dream of, but which is present now in its rudimentary, beginning form in and through Jesus by the gospel in the church. We don’t lose hope, realizing that the warfare we face as those in Christ is not a physical warfare, but a spiritual one (Ephesians 6:10-20). And so we pray against evil, and for the penetration of the saving gospel to overturn and destroy strongholds of Satan, bent on the destruction of others.

And we speak out for just and good laws. The banning of assault weapons, which have no use in a good society, good only for mass killings, ought to be high on the political agenda here in the United States. We must beware of a trust in guns to save us from evil, which is unthinkable for the follower of Christ, and is not wise in any society of this world. Unless we want to go back to the days when for example politicians in the United States used to settle disputes through gun duels which could end in the death of one or the other.

We pray for our enemies, and we pray for God’s kingdom to come, and will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. As we grieve and lament, and pray for and help those who are victimized in the latest act of evil.

A Meditation on the Orlando Shooting- CT

Pope Francis Unequivocally Condemns Florida Man’s Gay Bar Shooting Rampage

 

racism today

Tomorrow marks the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’sI Have a Dream” speech. As a result of the Civil Rights movement in the United States, laws banning discrimination were passed. There is no doubt that there are freedoms now that were unknown them. The apartheid that was in place in the south is a thing of the past. The Voting Rights Act banned discrimination in voting. Yes, things are better now.

And yet the sin of racism is rooted in the heart. Black people, or African Americans continue to be sinned against oftentimes in subtle ways by society. And that sin is not only in the hearts of White people. Some African Americans harbor hate in their hearts over the injustices of the past and present. It is always good if a nation seeks to address problems politically by setting laws to ban unjust behavior. But more is needed, indeed a change of the heart.

The gospel of King Jesus is a gospel of reconciliation. The walls due to sin between us and God, and between us and each other are broken down by the cross of Christ. This gospel is political in the sense that it is meant for society. But that society of change is found in the kingdom of God come in Jesus. So that we ought to see this reality in the church, in local churches. The church should lead the way in showing the world something better. How the church is to do this is debated among good Christians.

I would be among those who would want the church to be intentional in expressing a culture which includes all ethnicities, particularly Black people, since that is where the racial sin of our society has been present. Yes, we don’t have to keep reliving the past, nor should we forget the past, either. But we need to be a community as church in which the new society of Jesus is front and center. One marked by a love which crosses boundaries often divided by hate. The gospel is meant to change individuals and societies, but the change is always in Jesus and should be seen in the church. And as the light of the world and the salt of the earth, that change hopefully will impact societies at large, even as it did in the United States, some fifty years ago.

And so we need to face the sin of racism in our own hearts and go to the cross where we will find forgiveness, reconciliation and a change of heart. We need to keep working on this since in this life we don’t arrive, even as followers of Jesus. Some may overcome the sin of racism completely, but others may still prejudge those who are different than us. As followers of Jesus, we learn to follow together, seeing Jesus in every sister and brother of every ethnicity. And being a neighbor to all, together in and through Jesus.

grace brings a society

On Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog there is a series of posts going through the book of another blogging friend who like Scot is a professor and New Testament scholar, Daniel Kirk. This book looks like an excellent read.

Today there is a post on the gospel being inherently social. Yes, amen to that! We need to hear this message in the highly individualistic and privatistic culture in which we live.

There is no doubt that individuals have a relationship with God through Jesus which is personal. God loves each of his children in a special way. We all have a personal identity. This is important and we can’t lose sight of it.

And yet over and over again we find scripture concerned about one’s group identity, or community. The culture of scripture is closer to much more of the world today, than to the United States where I live. It was family oriented not only by design, but by necessity. And it wasn’t much about individual freedom or rights, but responsibility within the family, and from that, living well according to the norms of one’s people. Which in those days meant a union with others which if broken, was gravely serious.

Not so in our day. We break and divide over any number of things. We Protestants are known for our divisions. The political divide in the United States today seems as deep and wide as ever in U.S. history.

But the gospel brings with it a new society oriented in grace, which at its heart is inclusive of all. This becomes the priority, not only this gospel of Jesus, but also the results of it, a kingdom community consisting of all who would follow Jesus from across deep divides. Bringing together people who before were not only at odds, but out and out enemies. And introducing a new dynamic by the Spirit of a body which in love works together from its head, Christ, to care for each other, and be a witness of him to and for the world. Showing a new society in the way of Jesus, indeed a new humanity, bent in love on God and others. Being about “us” in God’s kingdom in Jesus, not about “me.” In the good will of God in Jesus.