I wrote last week about the working definitions of pride and love as they relate to getting beyond the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Coincidentally, a debate reignited when North Carolina passed a ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions, which provides a handy scenario in which to apply and practice last week’s subject.
Whenever I struggle with complex issues like this, I can only go back to the basics: Love God with all my heart, mind, strength, and soul; and love my neighbor as myself. No command is more important than these—according to Jesus, anyway.
If God had singled out sexual immorality as the greatest sin, and homosexuality as the worst possible sexual immorality, we’d have a different situation. But God spoke at least as much against violence, for example, or defrauding one’s neighbor as He did about same-sex issues.
Think, Consider, and Ask
Therefore, when deciding where I stand, I consider what’s most important to God. I also contemplate how I’d feel if I couldn’t marry who I’m in love with—say, a violent person or one who embezzles from his company. With my mind and heart willing to consider compassion, I ask myself some questions and invite God to join me in my thoughts.
Does one type of sin disqualify people for marriage while others don’t? What about my own sins; and which ones? If I’m not following the top two commands, does that sin disqualify me from heterosexual marriage? I think most Christians would say No.
Some might say it revolves around repentance and forgiveness rather than the sin. To many Christians, the issue isn’t morality per se; the issue is forgiveness since moral failure is considered automatic and incurable. In this view, same-sex couples get less compassion, or outright abuse, not because they sin, but because they refuse to repent, and, in fact, often brag in their pride.
The issue isn’t as cut and dried as we like to think, and we get tangled up in sub-issues—or maybe they’re overarching issues. At minimum, they are: the definition and purpose of marriage, the relationship between agape love, pride, and sin, and the government’s place in trying to legislate morality to serve citizens. Each is a debate in its own right.
A Mixed Bag
Righteousness and sin aren’t just an external matter of behavior (or refraining from it). They’re also a pre-disposition of heart (will/spirit), mind (thoughts/emotions), and the physical body. So, can I know for certain the internal make-up and character of gay/lesbian people that produces the behavior? Behavior indicates it to some degree, but only God can know the whole combination for certain.
Righteous behavior can be sinful depending on the heart behind it—say, someone who tithes just to impress others. Sinful behavior can be acceptable depending on the heart—say, someone who steals to feed his starving family. So it could be said that what makes same-sex unions sinful is the willfulness more than the behavior. I’d guess that a few same-sex couples indulge the behavior not for love, but to be defiant, experimental, or maybe even trendy.
On the other hand, would so many people subject themselves to social abuse if they didn’t have to? Thus, maybe homosexuality is sometimes unavoidable because it’s inborn. If so, should this kind of love be considered a disorder—like compulsive gambling or diabetes? If it isn’t always a “choice,” is it sin then?
My point is that the argument, like most, is over multiple issues rather than one, each with its own supporters, foes, and debatable viewpoints from so-called experts with opposing agendas. It’s no wonder, then, that the Christian community remains splintered on any given religious, legislative, or political controversy.
Agape vs. Pride
The Bride of Christ consists of both males and females “wedded” to Jesus mentally, spiritually, and physically (in the sense of Christ-like behavior, not sexually, of course). It means that when humanity is united with humanity through him and his kind of love, he’s the Bridegroom. The consummation of this unity in loving God and loving neighbor as self is what marriage represents and foreshadows.
So it seems to me that if we ban a marriage based solely on what God says about same-sex sin, then we should ban all marriages based solely on what God says about all sin—especially willful neglect of Jesus’ two essential commands. If they’re indeed the greatest, then neglecting them must be the greatest sin whether you’re straight, gay, Christian, or atheist. And if even Christians won’t repent of that, how are we morally distinct from anyone else?
Pride is pride—the opposite of love—whether it’s gay pride or moral superiority. The fundamental mistake of the scribes and Pharisees was their blind insistence on having their own way, strutting like spiritual peacocks to boot.
Therefore, loving the sinner and not the sin means I’ve got my own plank to remove. My priority is to discern right and wrong in myself and move through forgiveness into the beyond of actually doing what God says I should do: love to the best of my ability, with His help.
If I also discern right and wrong in other people, it doesn’t mean I act on behalf of God as their superior judge, but rather, as their neighbor. I’ve come to realize that God can handle sinners without my indispensable counsel.
I didn’t always think this way. Transformation begins with renewal of the mind. So, when in doubt, I now prefer to err on the side of agape. Even if that means I’ve misjudged an issue, at least I’m saved from the strain of always having to have my way or win an argument. My new-found well-being in life with God is thus never in doubt.