Engaging the World

Once again, the US is talking about gay marriage.  Amidst pre-school carpooling, laundry-folding, and making vats of spaghetti sauce, I catch snippets of Nina Totenberg’s commentary on Proposition 8 arguments to the Supreme Court.  Many on Facebook have donned red “=” profile pictures.  There are renewed calls for Christians to boycott my beloved Starbucks over Howard Schultz’s alleged chastisement of one traditional marriage supporter, telling him to sell his stock and go (the real scoop on that story can be found here.)

In the midst of this media blitz, let’s talk about how we should engage the world, Christian friends.

First, what the Bible says about marriage is relevant if you have acknowledged Christ as your Lord and King.  The Bible is our primary tool for discipleship and using scripture to proclaim who God is and what He has done for your personally is the expectation for His children.  But when it comes to public policy, most non-Christians feel it inappropriate to cite scripture in the discussion- just like you would likely reject the use of the Quran in arguing for the laws of our land. Despite the flawed perception that the US is a “Christian nation,” we are not a theocracy.  Following God’s law is not something that we are to force on unbelievers (1 Cor. 5:13), rather obedience to God’s commands is how we, His followers, show God our love (see all of 1 John).

In this debate, it’s easy to throw down a Bible verse or say “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” but it is not effective or fair. Christians, it is important that we have a convincing, secular, and statistically-supported case when we advocate for traditional marriage.  Yes, deeper-conversationGod ordained marriage. And if He did, we don’t just have to “take it on faith.” There will be measurable social, physical and economic indicators that support the goodness of His design. There will be drawbacks and deficiency when we deviate from it.   Studying and understanding these factors is harder than quoting a bible verse here or there, but it is more effective.

This is one example of how to approach the issue.  The status below was posted on Facebook yesterday followed by a thoughtful discussion:

A question for those of you who support “marriage equality”: Same-gender-headed households with children necessitate the denial of access/relationship to one (or both) of the biological parents. As far as the children are concerned, the family will always begin with brokenness (dispossession of a relationship with one parent) and loss of the benefit of input from both genders for life. The desires of the adults may be satisfied, but the natural rights of the child are denied from birth. Do the civil rights of adults negate the natural rights of children? Should we endorse and institutionalize a family structure that requires loss for a child? Which parent is unnecessary, the father or the mother?

Here are several posts that were written for the purpose of equipping you to engage in this discussion on civil policy:

Second, because you are an ambassador of Christ, how you engage this topic is as important as what you say. Ask God what He wants you to do.  Perhaps it is not to initiate a conversation at all (especially on Facebook), but rather to “let your light shine before men,” in other ways and other venues (Matt. 5:16).  But if you find yourself in a discussion on this topic, please conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.  (Col. 4:5-6)  When things get heated, stop.  Do not continue the conversation until, before God, you have honestly blessed the one with whom you are speaking (Romans 12:14).  Perhaps you need to bless them and pray for them, or with them, right then and there.  Winning the argument is not God’s highest priority for your, them, or Him.  Demonstrating what life with Christ looks like, especially in difficult situations, gives the greatest credibility to His Word and truth.  Don’t miss the opportunity to die to yourself and magnify Christ to the world.

Third, take courage and stand firm.  We are not called to be aggressors, but we are called to be immovable.  Know your stuff, and then prepare yourself for combat (Ephesians 6:12-17).  This life is a battle, not against people but against the powers of this dark world.  When we are born of God, we overcome the world (1 John 5:4).  But this takes courage.

I have seen Revelation 21:8 quoted in discussions on homosexuality to point out that the sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But look at what is listed first in that verse: “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

There is no attacking of people in the true Christian life, neither is there a shrinking from justice- in this case, advocating for children’s rights.  This battle will be used by God to refine, purify and make us spotless until the time of the end (Daniel 11:35).  And in the face of an increasingly hostile culture, we need courage to stand for Christ so that both His grace and His truth are made manifest.

Unlike the “=” sign for the support for marriage equality, there may not be a pithy symbol for those who would stand for man/woman marriage.  There is only you.  Living, breathing, imperfect you.  You who are seeking to be salt and light and preserve a culture descending into all manner of brokenness.  You who find strength as you sit at Christ’s feet daily so that He can direct every thought, word, and step.  You whose mind must be trained on truth and whose heart must be set on love and justice.  You who must always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks of you, and to do so with gentleness and respect.

Your method will give power to your message.

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10 thoughts on “Engaging the World

  1. THANK GOD, we have Christians like you truly trying to explain this situation to the world. I am a father and grandfather and great grandfather, and I am very concerned about the CHILDREN in this new proposal of some people. Are these people ONLY thinking about their own personal feelings and overlooking the offspring which they will be charged to raise to adulthood. Thank you AGAIN, and AGAIN, and please keep your good information coming.

  2. YES! So very, very true and inspiring in every respect. I get so annoyed with the Bible-quoting on this issue (and others) when it is being discussed in a secular context – especially when those are the only folks the mainstream media (conveniently) seem to be able to find to speak in opposition to same-sex marriage. There is so much relevant, non-sectarian information out there – let’s be prepared to discuss the issue in a manner that is appropriate for the audience, whomever that may be at any given time. Jesus often quoted Scripture, but he also spoke in parables, asked questions – and sometimes said nothing, letting His actions speak for Him. It all depended on His audience and His wisdom. In the same way as with the issue of abortion, we can speak to the question of same-sex marriage in a way that is universally accessible (if not universally convincing) to everyone.

    Great reminder that we’re not expected to win every battle. Our job is to plant the seed.

    • Thank you for your comments, friend and for rightly tying this back to Christ regarding how He judged how/what/when to speak based on the needs of His hearers. Paul too presented His case for the gospel based on the audience’s frame of reference- scripture for the Jew, philosophy for the Greek. Should have included that in the post!

  3. I wholeheartedly agree to your approach here. If we believe that Scripture describes absolute Truth, we should rest confident that this Truth will reveal itself in logical discussion as well as biblical law, and action is more important than discussion in either case.

    I will say, however, that I have my doubts about whether the rights of children are a strong enough argument to stand in this case. I think it is a valid concern that the children of gay couples face a unique set of difficulties, and many of them will struggle because of it. My question, though, is whether the children’s rights in these cases are MORE valid than in the case of, say, divorce or a single-parent home. Will we also force all unwed mothers to take a husband for the children’s sake, or restrict divorce? I am always a little shocked at how many of my close friends — many of whom grew up in Christian homes — had absent fathers or were tossed between their separated parents for years until they reached the age of independence. Like the author of “Growing Up With Two Moms,” they reached maturity feeling isolated and, in some cases, unable to relate to the opposite sex (as do many young adults even from the healthiest homes). Are their rights less valid? How far can we extend the hand of protection, realistically?

    I put this forth only as food for thought. Either way, your grace in handling the topic is lovely and refreshing. It delights me to find fellow Christians shattering the image of bigotry one discussion at a time.

    Thanks again for checking out my site.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful questions. As referenced in other posts, anytime you leave the “nuclear” family there will be brokenness, and with each scenario children will have to deal with the fall out. Divorce and cohabitation and out of wedlock births are a much greater threat, in terms of numbers, to children in this country than same-sex marriage- but we are not seeking to institutionalize those. The difference is that when we legalize same-sex marriage, we are incentivizing that form of family- in essence promoting it. And that is where the distinction lies. I think that the US rightly permits all manner of alternative families, and I am in no way advocating that other forms of families be outlawed. But when it comes to promoting marriage, it should be the family structure that holds all necessary components of a thriving childhood.

      Thanks again for your comments. I really appreciate the dialogue!

      • I’ve been off-blog for over a week, so I apologize for this ridiculously late response, but —

        You make a good point. Coming from a society where we are taught to trace half our adult troubles back to difficult home lives as children, it seems counterintuitive to promote — and you’re right, it does promote — one such potential home life. I will say, fairness, that I think this is also one of those cases where the enormous controversy surrounding the situation gives a mammoth boost to its promotional power. But even supporting the cause, I hesitate to support much of the propaganda. The mind’s capacity to be swayed by advertisement is a troubling thing.

        • Truly! That is why I started blogging. I LOVE the natural family- married father/mother/children because I see the beauty and wholeness of it, and I have tasted the brokenness of the other side. While I support natural marriage, there are very few posts, slogans, articles, bumper stickers, that I will adopt because they they are usually unbalanced and give off the impression of “Us against Them.” I blog because I felt that there were so few outlets that were framing this discussion rightly, without sensationalism, and defining themselves as what they were FOR rather than what they are against.

          Thanks again for your comments!

  4. That verse in Revelation 21 has always haunted me, more than a little: especially how it puts cowards before unbelievers. (Perhaps that’s part of the purpose of the book: to encourage its audience to stand firm for the faith.) But the verse is also one I use when talking to people about issues like this.

    There’s a few interesting articles about equality on a site called “The Witherspoon Institute”. The article’s called “The Red Herring of Marriage Equality.” There’s another one called “Same sex Marriage and the Assault of Moral Reasoning.” I think it’s in the latter that it talks about how we define marriage that determines whether we can speak of equality.

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