Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Civil Unions

This is a very long piece and may be of no particular use to you dear folks who are reading. This first paragraph should give you enough clues as to whether you want to invest the time to read or not. I would certainly understand if you do not. Those who know me will probably be surprised that I have struggled with my personal position on the issue of civil unions (e.g. gay marriage). My view of the legality of marriage as a Christian issue was obscured by my own inconsistencies. Since I knew God’s love and righteousness are never in conflict, I suspected my dilemma was rooted in my own misunderstandings and misguided heart.

I share my struggle not as the perfect analysis of the issue but as a seed that others might consider how their own worldview and even their own passion for God’s Word might impact their thought process. As a Christian, I knew I "shouldn’t" support redefining marriage but didn’t know why. My journey to a peaceful conviction on this has been an education in history and in understanding my worldview more fully. Ultimately it has led me to a deeper determination to learn, to know and to apply God’s truths to my own sins and my own life and a desire to see my brothers and sisters in Christ do the same.

Looking at Civil Unions

The same-sex marriage issue seems to have become little more than an opportunity for the church to battle homosexuality. The church’s arguments against gay marriage feel hollow to me—punitive, defensive and sin-centered. Homosexuality is a sexual sin like adultery and premarital sex but we often tend to demonize it. My perception, perhaps misguided, is that gay marriage is often simply a target for our distaste of that particular sin. Trite phrases bandied about such as ‘God created Adam & Eve, not Adam and Steve’ offend me and do nothing to define the issue. The ‘church’ seems to have drawn up to the civil union battle lines with God’s mandates against homosexuality (which I agree with) and advanced no further. Unfortunately those mandates alone failed to convince me that restricting marriage is the necessary conclusion to recognizing homosexuality as sin. For me, Godly convictions must be joined with an understanding of foundational issues and historical precedent to become effective ammunition. As I’ve struggled to find integrity in my personal beliefs, I have to come realize the battle is much more complex than I understood.

Though I would readily define myself as a passionate follower of Christ, the pro-gay argument that same-sex marriage is a civil, personal rights issue resonated more clearly in my heart than the conservative Christian position. Agreement with the arguments for individual freedoms and personal rights fits well with my own rebellious heart. I found myself questioning whether civil unions might not allow those engaged in a homosexual lifestyle to grow in understanding of love and ultimately draw closer to the source of love, God Himself. Not knowing that my country had a clear history of basing laws on biblical principles, I was pierced with the accusation that founding laws on faith-based convictions was equivalent to Christians taking the government captive. As I read the debates and opposing positions, I relied on my own understanding rather than God’s clear prescription because I have been trained by society to do that and because that is my natural proclivity.

Clarity on the issue of gay marriage is obscured by the emotional intensity of the debate and our individual desires for privacy in the sexual arena. However, the underlying question which focuses this debate for me is “Where should one look to determine proper standards of behavior in society?” Clearly, the issue of civil unions is rooted in the desire to separate civil law from biblical constraints. There is an appearance of rightness in the statement ‘You can not legislate morality.’ However, the reality is that all laws reflect morality—the question is ‘Whose morality?’

Historically in America, the morality of laws is founded upon the Word of God. In fact, the founders of our country warned that separating American law from biblical morality would destroy the nation. However, there is a growing desire and willingness to allow society (mankind) to determine what is morally good or bad. The Bible standard is being judged as archaic and even evil. The ‘gay marriage’ issue is a tool to reshape the social structure to reflect a more politically-correct worldview. Man’s track record for determining right and wrong is frightening. We need the guidance of God individually and nationally.

The church has recognized this threat to the biblical standard and risen to defend it. Unfortunately, the enemy (Satan, not the gay community) orchestrated this attack in an area where the church is weak: sexuality. The sacredness of biblical sexuality leads us to shroud private relationships and this shroud lends itself to misuse. The evil one capitalizes on this veil and the desire for individual rights of privacy encouraging its use as a mask for sexual sin. The voice of the church, God’s representatives, has been strangled by its own sexual immorality. High divorce rates among Christians, sexual abuse within the church, statistically high reports of pornographic addiction by believers and illicit sexual activities of public church leaders have decimated the ability of the church to respond to this threat with effective integrity. Yet while the bible standard has been devastated in the personal lives of Christians, recognition of its necessity and wisdom remains in the hearts of believers. It is right and good that the church seeks to encourage our country to consistently apply the Bible standard to every life.

Alongside the issue of who determines right and wrong is the issue of loving and affirming each individual. God consistently and constantly calls the church—His people—to love. Confusing love and affirmation is deadly. True love will not affirm behavior that is contrary to God’s directions. Love is of God and love is God—love must then agree with God. Gay marriage is impossible simply because it is a union based on overt rejection of God’s Word. Our ‘civil’ society may decide to call this union a marriage but God can not. It would be unloving and inconsistent for a follower of Christ to support a law which clearly rejects God’s laws.

Another consistent and constant call of God is that of obedience. It would never be the will of God for a Christian to encourage sin. Rather, we are to encourage people to seek Him, to know Him more fully and to honor His law in our lives. I believe calling sin, sin is the Christian’s responsibility and the most loving thing we can do for ourselves and others. God’s Word is the best, the only, foundation for life. As a Christian I must stand firm against gay marriage because it is in obedience to the will of God and therefore the most loving decision.

All of us who know the Lord have been drawn to Him through grace, not condemnation. We will not reach those trapped in homosexual sin through judgment and criticism. Nor will we reach them by encouraging sin. The path to sharing the love of Christ is in our obedience and love to Him. May we all more fervently seek to learn, know and apply God’s truths to our own lives—our own sins. The beauty of His holiness will appeal to those who do not know Him if only we who bear the name of Christ will submit to God’s ways and seek to live with integrity.

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