EVERYONE it seems is having a go at this subject, so I might as well weigh in, for what it’s worth. My contribution will be shorter and much less intellectual and biblically-savvy than others I’ve read. I will keep within my own bounds of God’s leading on this occasion.
As the same-sex marriage debate reached tipping point recently (in Australia), and there was a forlorn sense in many church leaders that defeat was imminent, I began to see the role of the enemy in all of this. Satan is licking his lips, salivating at the sprawling banquet before him.
This topic — because of its platform and breadth — has the capacity to tear the church apart from within. Many in this day will take an allegiance: and both sides will call it biblical, ‘of God’, and worthy of taking the hill for.
Yet it is one issue.
It is one issue, but it is also one issue that promises to reconfigure the church.
The divisions within the church, on this issue at least, have always been there, but now we will see, more evidently, brother against brother and sister against sister. Indeed, it’s already been happening on social media — that global mega cyber church community where everything goes, but the effusive are shut down by vocals not always representing majorities. Social media is a fickle monster not always, and often not, serving the good.
Are we in the end of days? It certainly feels like it.
As I read over Daniel chapter 11 years ago I wondered how prophesy might be guiding us in our age. Doesn’t it have something to say to us in every age? I’m thinking of verse 32; my paraphrase: “With flattery those Christians who are seeking to remain popular will be corrupted from their relationship with God, but the people who know their God will firmly, yet sensitively, and with much wisdom and care, resist such flattery.” The world wants us to bend their way, and Satan is masterminding it all. Likewise, Satan is also — at the same time — hardening the hearts of staunch Christians who would settle for a hateful message. Neither method works for God. Two wrongs don’t make it right.
But let’s, also, look at the broader geopolitical canvas.
Let’s add the public advent of Islamic State into the mix and where that’s going — the proposition that, one day, we might be fighting off Sharia law. We may soon be fighting a war more like a virus; a war of a one hundred thousand ‘little’ battles of terrorism, from within every country on the planet; authorities commonly in damage control. Global human trafficking and the fleeing of thousands from unsafe homelands is another silent atrocity that never gets enough press. The global fiscal state of play, also, seems to be something we are all forgetting. Then there’s the real tsunami coming: the warming of our planet. But we easily forget the cold war nuclear weaponry threat of the seventies and the eighties and the threat of HIV/AIDS in the nineties, or even the ill-fated assault on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) of the early noughties.
Same-sex marriage we know to be wrong, but would we die on a hill like that when the law has become the world’s possession? The key in terms of Daniel 11 is, will we fold under moral pressure? — and, very much more importantly, when and how? Will we fall for the flattery of the world, or will we rail so much against it that we lose would-be followers of God — and estrange ourselves from the Lord — in the process? I don’t think it’s anything about same-sex marriage. This is not to disparage the lobby against same-sex marriage — they are doing important work to voice what we, as Bible believing Christians, think (or ought to be thinking).
This period of time raises more questions than it does compel us to insist we have all the answers. Such an arrogance — to suggest the Christian worldview is compelling — will be rejected by the world. We cannot hope to convince the world as to our Christian views. We should not be attempting to. To summarise Bonhoeffer, that would be both foolish and dangerous.
We should rather keep all our views in balance, given the plethora and magnitude of the moral and ethical major issues at hand. (Do I even need to mention the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner case that has broken overnight?)
As pastors and leaders it’s important we make primary room to be shepherds, exemplifying love. Church goers and other concerned persons deserve to have room made for them to express their concerns (about any issue, not just same-sex marriage).
A pastor can be an important ‘hearer’ for the people God has called them to love — i.e. anyone in their orbit. It would be better for pastors to provide the care of their role than make it their ‘thing’ to advocate a side in a moralistic war.
Let’s not forget we’re not talking the abolition of slavery here, notwithstanding the very destruction of the fabric of family in our midst. But the devil has been active in revelry against the family for at least two generations already. Let us pray for those called to advocacy and lobby; those equipped and those influential to do so. Let us support them without losing sight of our role and goal.
It’s the shepherd’s job to look out for the wolf; to protect the sheep, not invite the wolf into the fold. Same-sex marriage may well come. It should not affect how we love people. If we compromise our love by being forced into a side we fail our calling. The pastor is no politician.
When same-sex marriage law comes into being, we, as pastors and diligent carers and shepherds, still need to be a place where the lost are welcome, are unconditionally embraced and included, and where the needy can find healing.
Of all times in history, it’s most important that the church be the church today. Christ’s church is a place where there is good news for the poor, where the captives are set free, and where there is proclamation of the Lord’s favour.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.