Thursday, June 11, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage, Exile of the Christians, Relevance and Irrelevance

LEVITICUS, to a lot of Christians, is an irrelevant book, as perhaps is the entire Old Testament. Why, after all, do we need something old when we have something new? But this is why: Leviticus holds us as a set-apart people. But not set apart in just any old way — set apart for God’s very purpose, for God’s ultimate use, for God’s consummate glory.
Just how are we to do that?
Well, it’s important at this point to acknowledge that being set apart for God’s purpose, for God’s use, for God’s glory means we have the answer to our conduct on issues like same-sex marriage. It’s simpler than we ever thought.
Indeed, this is exactly how we are Christian! We find it hard to be Christian — to be set apart as the world would see us — when nothing controversial is couched.
We only stand out as set apart when we are attacked, or when we can be good in a special way, as was the Good Samaritan. We see, here, that the world attacking us over the same-sex marriage issue is a God-anointed and God-appointed opportunity, for has God not said:
“[B]e holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart…”
Our opportunity is to suffer the scourging well. That is how we live out God’s purpose for our lives, and be of God’s use, for God’s glory.
So if we count it, even for a moment, to call the central message of an ancient and ‘irrelevant’ book, relevant, then we might have a key to understanding how to traipse through the mess that is the church and same-sex marriage. (That is not to besmirch the church; ethical issues will ultimately besmirch the church in and of themselves, just as the church, itself, being made up of broken human beings under the headship of Christ and impelled by the Holy Spirit, will find itself running afoul of the social police, whether by action or inaction. The key is we rest easy knowing that this is the way it is supposed to be in these last days!)
“[B]e holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart…”
This theme in Leviticus is an important datum point for us who call Christ, “Lord!”
Forget about the context when reading Leviticus, but don’t forget that context matters. Recall that context sets apart this book from a time we can’t relate with in so many ways. But the one true theme for Christians to gather around — for contemplative and directional solace — is the origination of our common, eternal context: we are saved anew, afresh, set apart for works of glory, for the establishment of God’s kingdom over the earth — and the gates of hell will not hold the movement back.
When those yet to believe (and even those who apparently do) castigate our holy book or the church, because they choose not to see the differences in context, and they rubbish us for the ‘naivety’ of our belief, how are we to respond?
“[B]e holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart…”
We cannot afford any response that doesn’t cover the Kingdom and name of God in glory. Our response needs to be holy. Are we then to fight and argue? Perhaps. But what of the conduct? Peaceable, generous of spirit, quick to suffer reproach — not ‘righteousness’ clothed in self-righteousness nor facts of matter without love. Most of the time, praise God, we are given the grace to suffer — “Lord, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Not that that is to be a superior attitude! Let pride and resentment be far from us — neither of them glorify our Lord.
If it isn’t clear yet what this is about, let it be clearest, here. The scourging of God’s name, afresh, is the very place we are purposed to be Christian. It’s the very place where our holy Word is true as we read it; we are destined to suffer many things. But suffer them well is our capacity, our aim, and our privilege; for the glory of God.
This is where the irrelevant things come to merge with the relevant things.
Whilst it is irrelevant to us, personally, what the world says — about same-sex marriage or about us Christians, among a plethora of other irrelevancies — we find our relevance in the very opportunity not to rail against it, but to live in our mortal bodies, the incarnation of Christ. Jesus suffered them well. We are to go and do likewise. And we will experience great joy and peace in such a resignation. What we are called to do is actually quite easy. Not that it won’t be hard. What we are to do has been told us. All we need to do is abide.
Whilst we disagree with the very sinews of our being, we even more fervently love that person that God loves just as much as us. For the person set against us, the church and everything we value they spurn; this person is still most worthy — of our love, of our fellowship, and of our prayers for their safekeeping and wellbeing. Let it be that we give them far more than we will receive from them.
Nothing else is relevant other than to love. Everything else gets in the way. If we can leave everything else aside — our differences of value and opinion — and live and let live — we abide with our Lord in suffering well what is ever now before us.
As a people set apart, let us make it every aim of ours to enjoy the knowledge of God’s will for us. As we traverse every given moment — for all moments are given of God — let us enjoy the peace that God’s Spirit gives us passage into; a way forward indiscernible to the vexations of God. The way through is easy, yet it requires surrender. Surrender is both easy and hard — depending upon our approach to it.
Let us be a blessing, even, and especially, when we are cursed.
This is not a popular Christianity, but it is a biblical Christianity. Believe and be saved!
By our love we win over the world.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

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