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Jun 28 2015

THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO GAY MARRIAGE

Gay Marriage

As you know from my most recent blog post, tolerance in general has been heavy on my heart and mind. With the recent decision from the Supreme Court about gay marriage and all the heart-breaking comments I’ve seen in my news feed, that has only intensified. I’ve been slow to write because while any moron can start a blog–I’m exhibit A–I am very aware that this blog gives me a platform for which I will answer. I have had many comments from readers that my words have encouraged, convicted, or clarified. Each time, I’m humbled and think, “Holy cow. What I write has the potential to shape someone else’s faith or world view. I’d better get it right.” Please know I’m a work in progress and don’t get everything right. Take whatever I share and weigh it out for yourself because I’m blogging about the stuff with which we’re all wrestling. Tonight, I’m wrestling with the Christian response to gay marriage.

First of all, at least for now, I am choosing not to discuss “where I stand” on the issue of gay marriage (whether it is right or wrong or should or shouldn’t be legal). It isn’t because I’m undecided or shy about sharing what I believe. Quite the contrary. Being opinionated, stubborn, and standing my ground has always come quite naturally for me. However so far, I have decided to remain neutral publicly on that topic for one reason. When I see someone change their Facebook profile picture to a rainbow or see someone else post about their right to defend traditional marriage, I think to myself, “There is good in that. They believe in something passionately, and they’re standing by it.” I feel that way about either side.

But here’s why I don’t do it. I don’t want to be on a “side” of the gay marriage battle or any other similar issues. Why? Because battles yield casualties.

I have wrestled long and hard with how political and vocal I should be (or not) about various topics through the years, and I wrestle still. I don’t believe Christians should be wallflowers. I think it’s perfectly wonderful for Christians to be political; it’s down right patriotic. But as it comes to matters like the one of gay marriage, I’ve realized a sobering truth.

Walk through a scenario with me?

Let’s say John Doe is a Christian and believes the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin; therefore, he is against gay marriage and is vocal about it. Let’s even say he works hard to be respectful about it (good for him–that’s better than I can say for some I have seen). He believes in loving the sinner but hating the sin, so he works to be respectful and compassionate as he points out sin is and why he is standing against it….

Now that he’s done that, who do you think his audience is? Who is left in his circle of influence? Who is listening to his opinions and the Scriptures he shares? Other church people who believe it the same way he does; that’s who. If John Doe believes in loving the sinner, and he believes that the homosexual falls in that category, then why would he want to push that person away with his loving-the-sinner-BUT approach?

I promise you all of the talk about our country going to hell in a handbasket isn’t doing anything but causing more division. If we want to reach sinners, we need to throw out the label of “sinner” all together. Labels don’t win people. Love does. Jesus actually had those in sin wanting to spend time with Him. It wasn’t because he labeled them; it was because He loved them. Right there in the middle of the sin. Conversion wasn’t a prerequisite. Nor was conservative politics, people.

Frankly, when I wrote my article, Is Tolerance Biblical?, I thought I was on to something. I thought I was putting good stuff out there, and then I read someone else’s, and she blew me out of the water. Beth Woolsey out-blogged me on this–you should totally read it. You can read her first article here and her follow-up here. I don’t want to steal all the thunder from her, so I’ll whet your appetite with just one of the points she made. It moved me to tears and changed my heart. Here’s the excerpt:

Jesus defended the woman [caught in adultery and about to be stoned] from the crowd. Dare I say it? Jesus defended the woman from us. The Righteous Stone Throwers. Jesus sent us away. And then Jesus – and only Jesus, without the crowd there at all – told her to sin no more. You know why? Because it’s Love’s job – and only Love’s job – to change people’s hearts. Jesus never – not even once – tells the crowd to tell the woman to go and sin no more. Because it’s not our job, folks.

At no time are we, the crowd, instructed to point out the woman’s sin.

At no time are we, the crowd, encouraged to exclude the woman.

At no time does Jesus beckon the crowd back and say, “I told her to sin no more, now you go tell people not to sin, too.”

The only instruction that we, the crowd, receive from Jesus is to examine our own lives for sin.

Beth’s words brought a wave of conviction… and relief. It’s not my responsibility to point out the sin in others. It’s the responsibility of the One who is sinless to do that. Love is a much easier burden to bear. It’s my job to freely give what I have received, and what I have received is love and grace and mercy in extravagance and when I least deserved it. We can’t judge people and cherish them at the same time. We have to make a choice. What if our choice was to focus all of our passionate energy toward loving people so well and so genuinely that even those whose lives are polar opposite to our own were drawn to us? Can you imagine?

I’ve pointed out several times that I’m a work in progress, and I’m writing about things with which I wrestle. Don’t be shocked if I seem to contradict myself at some point or change my stance on something. Wrestling can get messy that way, but here is where I am today….

When there is a division with the “pro-somethings” on one side and the “anti-somethings” on the other, the moment we identify ourselves with a side on the issue, we’ve alienated those who see it differently. That leaves you and me with a choice. We can speak out about what we passionately believe regarding the controvery and lose the chance to influence the other side. Or, we can choose not to side either way (at least publicly) and lose the opportunity to let people know where we stand.

I do not judge those who speak out on either side. As I mentioned earlier, I see good in standing firm on what you passionately believe, and I admire that trait in someone when done with respect.

But as for me, if I have to choose between making sure everyone knows what I believe on specific moral issues, or making sure everyone knows that I believe loving people is more important than anything else, then I choose love.

Is there a chance I’ll sit back on something when I should have been vocal? Yep. Might I be wrong? Affirmative. But as long as I’m still wrestling, and there’s a chance I’m going to be wrong either way, I want to err on the side of love. With God’s help, I hope I err on that side every single time.

For some reason, we seem to think that people know we’re Christians by knowing where we stand on so many things, but Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 NKJV, emphasis mine). People do NOT know we are His disciples by knowing all that we are for and against.

In Proverbs 10:12, Solomon tells us, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins” (NKJV). Peter tells us, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins'” (1 Peter 4: NKJV). Love doesn’t shame. It doesn’t put another human being on a stage and point out his or her sin. Love covers. I believe that we benefit from this as well. When we cover someone else with love, love also covers our own sins. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me. On the contrary, Matthew 7:1 tells us not to judge unless we want judgement pronounced on us. Remember that whole reaping and sowing thing? We must choose carefully.

And finally, Paul tells us, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Galatians 5:14 NKJV). The WHOLE law. It’s fulfilled by loving people, not drawing a line in the sand and pointing fingers at those on the other side of it.

So there it is. My opinions for what they are worth. Expect to hear more from me on this as I haven’t yet written everything on my heart, but for now, I’ll leave you with my personal prayer.

Lord, teach me to love people so well that they don’t give a flying flip about my political stance. Teach me to love like You–in such a way that those who believe and live opposite to me will be drawn to You because they feel loved and accepted UNCONDITIONALLY. Teach me to let You worry about what is sin and what is not because You’re holy, and I’m not. Help me to remember that it is Your job to love and convict; it is my job to love and drop the rock because I, for one, cannot cast the first stone.

From the heart of Dixie Mama… always say grace.

Thank you for reading.  If you believe this is a message that needs to be heard, I’d love for you to share it on your favorite social media sites.

8 comments

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  1. Adrienne Graves

    Thanks for this, Hayley! Beautiful truth hashed out…I can’t help but wonder, as I read Jesus’ words and life and try to follow His model of Love, how all of this claiming of His name, yet not loving extravagantly and graciously like He did, has grown into such a monster as to look more like the Pharisees of His day and less like those sitting around the table with Him. So many thoughts, but thanks for sharing yours. xoxox

    1. Hayley Cranfield

      Adrienne, so sorry to just now be responding, but thank you! Yes, so many thoughts on my end and still much left to share here (hopefully soon). I agree with you completely regarding our recreation of the Pharisees, and it breaks my heart. Between us and our blogs, maybe we can be little rays of light to spread some love?

  2. LindaLou

    I think you’ve done a great job expressing how I feel. We are all sinners. Let’s focus on God’s love and take care of each other.

    1. Hayley Cranfield

      Thank you, LindaLou :)

  3. Kathy

    Thank you for writing this. As an atheist, I have found the reactions to this ruling from so many so called Christians to be extremely, extremely disturbing. So to see a Christian blog expressing what true Christianity should is all about was very refreshing. The big difference between you and the others Is that you spoke of love instead of hate. And while I do understand that you don’t like to take “sides” on this, I also believe that all the people on the “pro-equality” side are speaking with love as well. Love for the millions of people in our society who have been forever denied the “right” (and yes it IS a right!) to spend their lives loving who they truly love.

    I have never understood how these so called Christians could possibly think that Jesus would be happy with the way the hateful way they treat homosexuals! Going through such great lengths to see to it that these people can never legally marry the person they love, and in some cases trying to make it so gays can’t get jobs or housing or receive services that everyone else does. Thst is NOT what Jesus would do! In fact it’s probably the exact *opposite of what Jesus would do. And I never did buy the old “love the sinner, hate the sin” excuse. If you truly love someone, you would not ever try to change WHO THEY ARE.
    Another thing I never understood is, why are some Christians so obsessed with the “sin” of homosexuality? They say they just want to be allowed to “follow their faith”, and since their interpretation of the bible condemns homosexuality, they think they couldn’t possibly attend a gay wedding, or provide flowers or a cake, or food or music or a venue for a gay wedding. My question for these people is, if your god commands you to have absolutely nothing to do with a gay wedding since it doesn’t go along with your ” faith”, are you also forbidden to attend the wedding of a couple who lived together before they got married? Or the wedding of a couple who have cheated on each other? Or a couple who have lied to each other before? Or a couple who will be serving shellfish at their wedding? Or couples with tattoos? Or what about couples who have been divorced? Or, what about women who marry men on death row for muder? Why are all these people allowed to get married but not gays?

    Do Christians seriously not understand that not everyone shares their religious beliefs OR their “definition of marriage”? There are plenty of couples who believe in an “open marrige”. There are people who get married who NEVER wish to have any children. There are people who don’t think it’s necessary to to promise to stay together permanently. “Marriage” means something different to
    to practically every couple. What makes Christians think that the whole world needs to follow their god, heir religion, their definition of marriage, family, and morality?

    Sorry to have gone on like this. I’m just really glad to seethat there are “good Christians” out there. Good job.

    1. Hayley Cranfield

      Kathy, first of all, thank you. Thank you for your encouragement and kind words toward me. I don’t know if you’ve been to my facebook page, but the conversation has been lively there ;) I will say that between my page and other pages where I’ve been able to view comments that I have had far more positive comments from Christians than negative ones, and that makes me smile.

      You’ve raised a number of good questions here, and I’m planning to address some of them in upcoming blog posts. I’d love it if you stick around. I will touch one just one issue now, and that is that Christians are no less a mess than anyone else. We are CHOCK FULL of shortcomings, weaknesses, and all sorts of things that need to be worked on. Please know that when Christians act in hateful ways, it’s because God’s still working on them. (And no, please don’t think I mean that as an excuse; I don’t. There’s not one. But if I am to express love to those who are different, I do need to acknowledge there is grace for Christians who still “don’t get it” as well. My hope is that this blog will cause some of them to think through this a little deeper and let God work on their hearts.)

      If you watch me for long (or even read my blog for long), you’ll discover that my message here certainly isn’t about my pointing out how we should all live perfectly. That’s a fantasy at best. The reason I write is because in spite of my failures–past, present, and future–I have a Savior who loves me and corrects me and works on me and is more patient than I can comprehend. His grace makes my life beautiful in ways it could never otherwise be. It’s my hope that I can share that journey with those who are interested in learning about Him whether up close and personal or from a measured distance as a matter of curiosity. And it’s my goal that if I can’t get everything else right, I at least do my best at the two things Jesus said were most important: loving Him with all I have and loving others like I love myself.

      Thank you for sharing your heart, and I would welcome your comments anytime.

  4. Chris

    Refreshing

    1. Hayley Cranfield

      Thank you, Chris!

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