November 11, 2011

Part III: Applying the Answer

Is has been posited by me in my last post that the reason that homosexuality is wrong is because it betrays our responsibility to represent God, and that it misrepresents the divine nature of love. OK, that's great. But what does that mean for us as Americans, evangelists, and church goers? How do we as Christians take this theological understanding and apply it socially, politically, and practically?

The State of Unions

The first question that I think will be asked in terms of applying our opinion of homosexuality is whether or not gay marriage should be legal. Here we have a real conundrum. As someone who believes that homosexuality is wrong, I cannot really be for gay marriage. However, recognizing that my understanding for why it is wrong is completely bound in my understanding of God, I cannot really insist that a government which is not supposed to take sides in religious squabbles should be expected to support my position.

Here it comes to a question of how you understand your own opinion as it comes to government. For instance, if you understand our government simply as a representative democracy, then you may believe that it is the politicians role to represent your opinions, regardless of how the government is supposed to be set up. However, if you take such a position, you cannot really be upset when they also take up the cause of your neighbor with whom you so adamantly disagree. In such an understanding, the politician is ultimately going to represent the majority, and we aren't really the majority on this issue.

Fine. Well if you instead believe that we are a Republic, and those politicians are elected to represent not our opinions but our best interests within in the confines of the Constitution, you would then be closer to my own views. However, can we constitutionally justify the government siding with one religious view over another? There is freedom of religion in this country. I know that that often gets abused, but in this case it is legitimate. Even if we just stick within Christianity, the idea of freedom of religion meant that the government couldn't take the side of Baptists and outlaw infant baptism. That was the kind of thing our forefathers meant. Is it really any different about deciding who our church's are allowed to marry?

I don't really think so. Quite frankly, the government, especially the Federal government should just stay out of it. And it is really this view I think we should support. This is something that needs to be fought in the hearts and minds of the people. This battle needs to take place in books, pulpits, blogs, etc... It shouldn't take place in Washington, or even Albany.

This is why I have always supported the idea of civil unions. I don't mean a separate but equal idea, but removing the language of marriage from the law entirely, and replacing with the structure of the unification of property between two citizens, whether partial or complete. This is the principle reason why government is involved at all, so let's just step out of the religious aspect of the issue, and only deal with property rights. This would free the churches to deal with the issue on the ideological battleground.

Church Life

However, one shouldn't run the church like the government. The government is not a moral institution (it is amoral in nature); the church is though.

We still need to be careful though. We need to make sure that we are not treating them differently than anyone else who has a habitual sin in their life. We need to see them as a person who needs redemption. You don't kick someone out of your church just because they have sin in their life. Naturally, someone who is unrepentant in a sin shouldn't be given a teaching position, or a position of authority, but they can still attend service and bible studies. But if they are trying to teach other people that what they are doing is OK, or if they are causing strife within the church, or if they are flaunting their sin, disciplinary measures are clearly required, up to having them leave the congregation. However, this is true of any sin.

For homosexuality in particular, the church needs to be aware of why a person enters into that lifestyle, and offer alternative answers. I believe that a person enters into homosexuality because identity issues: it helps them find their place and role in society. The church can offer that same sense of identity: you are a child of God, made in His image, and represent Him to the world. You are part of God's family, and are love and accepted for who you were truly are (not necessarily who you think you are though).

However, that is a general answer. To truly answer a person's ultimate identity questions, you need to take seriously who they are individually. This isn't something that I can do in this post simply because the precise answer would be different for each individual. Everyone has a place in God's family, and it is part of the church's role to help a person find it.

One On One

"OK Martin, but how do I deal with homosexuals at my job, in the world, and in my life?" Excellent question!

First of all, watch your language. What I mean is make sure that what you are saying reflects your perspective, not the worlds. The world labels men who are effeminate as gay. Don't do the same. This enforces the kind of stereotype which pushes certain males to define themselves as gay just because they are more sensitive or gentle. Indeed, reject the entire label of a homosexual. There are no homosexuals. That isn't a type of person. Just because the world believes that, doesn't mean that you should. If you speak about the issue differently than everyone else, it will cause curiosity, and give you the opportunity to share the truth.

Second, care about everyone. Don't discount a person because of their political or sociological agenda. Recognize them as children of God, and deserving of the respect of divine image-bearers.

Third, be open with what you believe without being overbearing. You don't have to try and convince a person each time you talk with them (especially not the first time). Instead, simply state truth matter of factly, without judgment or coercion. Allow the truth to speak for itself, and only defend it when it is actually attacked. The best offense is a good defense. Perfect your defense.

And one final point before I close: remember that these are people. You don't know why someone is living a homosexual lifestyle. You don't know their life story. Do not interpret their life unless they give you permission. Do not explain their choices and decisions that they have not told. Instead, focus on God, and declare His glory and love unequivocally. Ask questions and don't give slogans. Remember, it is not our job to convert people. It is our job to teach them to listen for God. Let Him do all the hard work. After all, He's better at it.

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