My first wedding…for a friend, that is! Twenty-one years young.
Officiating wedding for older son’s best friend, Tyler. David was best man. Special time!
Let’s get one thing quickly out of the way. I believe homosexuality is contrary to God’s design. I also believe marriage is between one man and one woman.
The legalization of homosexual marriage to some degree makes me feel like Marshall McLuhan who went to movies not to watch the movie, but to observe how other people watch movies.
Some good things have been said by Christian leaders. Unfortunately, there are too many other Christians depressed over what all this portends for America. This declinist narrative focuses like a laser beam on how the sin of homosexuality is to blame for a myriad of societal ills.
My concern may be best stated by using an illustration. Imagine that you want to start a landscape company. You eagerly knock on your neighbors’ doors and announce the new venture. The responses you receive range from amusement (“you can’t be serious”) to outright anger. Why? The answer is simple. Your yard is terribly overgrown and quite the eye sore. You’ve received regular warnings from the Homeowner’s Association.
I’m not a cynic about the church, even here in America. It is God’s primary means of accomplishing His will. Some of the best people I know go to church on a regular basis. And that includes some pastors!
However, I do have grave concerns about our laser-like focus over the horrors of legalizing homosexual marriage. Yes, we need to say something, but I’m afraid our quickly cutting to the chase on this issue leaves many important things unsaid.
My suggestion would go more along these lines:
We believe homosexuality is a sin. We also believe that gluttony, gossip, adultery, sex outside of marriage, racism, unscrupulous business practices, the love of money, divorce, and a whole host of other things are sin. Unfortunately, we have not done a very good job in communicating a comprehensive view of sin. We have been selective. Too many times we have been motivated by fear. We have avoided addressing certain sins for fear our giving at church will plummet. Too many of us have come across as both hating the sin of homosexuality and the homosexual. We could go on with other specifics, but hopefully you get the point. Our selective outrage has made us not act like Jesus. We have been rather poor at modeling the “grace and truth” approach of Jesus.
In our quest to proclaim the righteousness standards of God, I’m afraid our selective outrage presents a gospel which is no longer the gospel. Consider another illustration. Picture that you are driving a car. In the passenger seat is a non-Christian. You tune into your favorite radio station. The problem is that you are not fully tuned in. You are so accustomed to the static that you fail to hear it. You turn to your non-Christian friend and expectantly ask what he thinks about the “amazing” music. Surprisingly to you, he is not impressed. You are baffled by his lackluster response but your habitual listening to music cum static has dulled your ears.
I’m afraid many Christians in America love listening to music cum static and therefore think it worth telling others about. Our penchant for focusing on some sins and not others (especially those which are common in the church) has made us tone deaf to what we believe are courageous and prophetic pronouncements, but could more accurately be labelled Pharisaical.
During my years of doing radio interviews, I had the chance to interview Cal Thomas. Thomas was one of the major leaders in the Moral Majority. I was interviewing Thomas on a book he co-authored with fellow Moral Majority leader, Ed Dobson. The title gives away the thrust of what the authors were trying to address: Blinded by Might: Why the Religious Right Can’t Save America. It was a courageous and candid confession of zeal gone awry. Among other things, the Moral Majority would purposely give prominence to certain social issues knowing these would increase their financial giving.
I’ve been reading through various statements on the recent ruling about homosexual marriage by the Supreme Court. In the pages of Christianity Today Mark Galli reflects the tone that should be more widespread in the Christian church:
Another temptation now is to point the finger at the forces—political, social, philosophical, spiritual—arrayed against the church and its moral teaching. Without denying the reality of “principalities and powers” (Eph. 6:12), we do well to ponder this: What actions and attitudes have we imbibed that contribute to our culture’s dismissing our ethics? Our homophobia has revealed our fear and prejudice. Biblical inconsistency—our passion to root out sexual sins while relatively indifferent to racism, gluttony, and other sins—opens us to the charge of hypocrisy. Before we spend too much more time trying to straighten out the American neighborhood, we might get our own house in order. Blessed are the poor in spirit who mourn their sins (Matt. 5:3-4). (Emphasis added)
In the same vein, my dear friend, Pastor Jeff Teague, likes to expose how much we Christians tend to be insensitive to our own sin. Utilizing his considerable acting abilities, Jeff asks with faux disdain, “Why is it that Jesus only hung around sinners?” Many bite and respond with something like, “Yeah, that’s right. He did hang around with a lot of unsavory types.” By their response, many reveal that they feel different and therefore distant from the sinners Jesus regularly spent time with. Then Jeff answers his own question, “Because sinners are the only people who exist!”
So yes, be ready to share about God’s design for marriage, but realize your answer may cloud more than clarify if it does not come with some honest comments about the sins which many times find safe harbor in the church.
I am married to the woman in the picture above. Doreen is wise in many ways. In light of me counseling some married folks recently, Doreen shared her insight with me:
“Our jobs as wives is not to make our husbands who we want them to be. Rather, it’s to encourage them to become who God has created them to be.”
Seems like pretty clear counsel, but how many of us follow it? And by the way, this also applies to us husbands!
A dear friend asked me to compile my list of recommended reading for counseling couples. Here is what I sent him:
An eclectic, odd, but hopefully wise list of reading recommendations for premarital (and marital!) couples:
The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason
This is not your typical “how to” marriage book which is what makes it so good. Beautiful writing combined with wonderful insights.
Good Christians, Good Husbands? By Doreen Moore
Granted, there is bias with my recommendation, but professors at three seminaries now use it, a CEO told me it was one of the best books he’s ever read, and J.I. Packer said this:
“Resourced by thorough research into the marriages of Wesley, Whitefield and Edwards, this is a truly wise book on the problem of combining ministry and marriage to the glory of God and the good of all concerned.”
John Adams by David McCullough
Well, not the whole thing (!), though it is an incredible read. Rather, for the correspondence between John and Abigail.
Booked by Karen Swallow Prior
Actually, it is just one chapter from Karen’s terrific book, the one on Madame Bovary. After I interviewed Karen, I told her I wished every couple in America would read that chapter. They would learn to have a better and more mature view of love.
The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership by Steven Sample
I know, it seems like a book on business leadership, but it really is a book to help you develop discernment and wisdom. It offers sage counsel on how to navigate the choppy waters of American life.
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
I have read several of Gary’s books. Even though this is not one of my favorites of his, there are some important themes he covers.
Two minutes of great wisdom:
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow and musician Chris Martin recently announced they are “consciously uncoupling.”
Apart from the euphemism for divorce, my wife had an interesting insight. The word couple, though used by many of us Christians, is not a great word for depicting marriage. Sure we are still two persons coming together, but Christians hold to the union of one flesh. The word couple focuses too much to two distinct persons.