Wedding Supper of the LambI 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. (more…)

St. Augustine arguing with donatists.

St. Augustine arguing with donatists. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why do Christian leaders and laypeople alike suffer moral collapses that rival the rest of the world? Why do we often remain powerless, confused, belligerent, stressed out, or discouraged? Why are we so quick to shrug and say, “Well, we do live in a fallen world” as if God left us with no means or responsibility to change?

The reasons are numerous and complex, but we can simplify one of them: We’ve overlooked Jesus’ warning about the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.

Academic, political, military, or religious debate and conflict nearly always begin in the higher institutions of learning or upper echelons of society. By the time it filters down to ordinary folk, we’re confused and torn in different directions. Far from anything new, it was this way in Old and New Testament times, and in every time period since.

Tangled

A fairly recent example is from the early part of last century. In a backlash against the emerging Modernist school of thought, a large segment of the Protestant leadership in America declared Five Fundamentals to be essential to Christian faith. Accordingly, to be a Christian and thus saved, a person must check off all five items on a mental checklist, i.e., “believe”:

1.) The inerrancy of Scripture. 2.) The virgin birth of Jesus. 3.) Jesus’ death as atonement. 4.) Jesus’ bodily resurrection. 5.) The historical fact of his miracles. Prestigious seminaries debated this for years, so it was hardly a unified view, and still isn’t; but proponents came to be known as Fundamentalists.

Oddly, nothing of morality, conformation, Christ-likeness, or the at-hand kingdom of heaven made the list of essentials for well-being and eternal new life. Neither did the two fundamentals that Christ himself gave: Love God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul; and love your neighbor as yourself. (more…)