I grew up on Forest Park Court, in West Carrollton, Ohio. That was me, tearing around our little cul-de-sac on my small blue, bike. It had the hardest, metal seat, but I didn’t care. It was my bike and my bike was awesome and I was scary fast.
I had a set of neighbors on both sides of me. On our left was the Tholens, and their son Eric was Robin when I was Batman, because none of the older kids would ever let me be Batman. Those older kids had no clue how good of a Batman I truly could be.
In a ranch home to the right lived our neighbors Bob and Jerry. Bob and Jerry were a gay couple, and had a dog that barked at me a lot, but would lick my face silly when I jumped the fence to play with him. They had a genuinely kind demeanor, and spent a lot of their Saturdays talking with my ultra-conservative, but over-the-top-friendly mom. You could catch them and mom chatting it up on any ol’ summer day, while the guys were working their backyard and mom was hanging our laundry out on the line to dry. We lived next to them for several years, and they were always smiling, and we all always had something nice to say to each other.
Mom pulled no punches when she shared her faith with people, and though I don’t remember, I’m pretty confident mom had talked about such things with all of our neighbors. Yet no matter what Bob and Jerry and mom might have disagreed on, there was always a warm smile between them, and always something pleasant to say.
Let’s be honest, okay? Gay marriage was nowhere on the radar in the early 1970’s, and social media wasn’t even a concept. Folks! We didn’t even have the game pong back then! True story. Anyway, this narrative is quite different in 2017, as gay marriage is a legal right, and social media often dominates our communicative landscape. Times have definitely changed, in some ways for the better, and in other ways maybe not.
I wonder what the relationship with Bob, Jerry, and my mom would look like in 2017? First, let me say mom isn’t on social media (I’m just so not even going there, lol), so she has different inputs than many of us experience. Second, my gut tells me there’s probably no chance she’d be hanging laundry out on a line, but other than that change, I don’t think a thing would be different in their relationship. But maybe, if Bob or Jerry asked mom her views on gay marriage, maybe things would change. I’m not so sure, though.
This all leaves me considering just one not-so-simple question – “How do Christians communicate what the Bible says about gay marriage and similar topics, and do it in a way that best reflects the heart of God and the teachings of the scriptures?”? In the next few paragraphs, I’ll do my best to give a few very brief thoughts on this.
First, we ALWAYS lead with love and listen to the stories people have to share. There is a link at the bottom YOU MUST click on, where we see this type of love demonstrated in a powerful moment by my friends David and Lori Benham. I think their words and actions have some serious teeth, and encourage us in our obedience and love of others.
After we lead with love, I passionately urge each follower of Jesus to be honest with what the scriptures have to say within this topic (or any topic for that matter). So, love is first, followed by truth. Many progressive Christians will offer a buffet of enlightenment and philosophical arguments that Jesus would support gay marriage, but in the end, they take scripture completely out of context and ignore the passages from God’s word that lead people into a true and deeper relationship with Jesus. Honesty in these discussions is just so very crucial. They overlook their audiences thirst for truth, their hunger for God’s word, and even minimize their impact on the souls they connect with. Instead of being a beacon of truth, and helping folks struggling with sin (and I’m talking anything anyone might struggle with here), they shoot for some flimsy cultural acceptance and to gain some street cred. Let me just step back though, and be as clear as possible – Jesus never once supported gay marriage, and only ever supported marriage between a man and a woman.
“He (Jesus) answered, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-6).
Jesus words here, in Mark 10:6-9, and throughout the scriptures clearly show us that God not only had plans around what marriage would look like, but it was He who was the creator of marriage. How could we as self-proclaimed followers of Jesus publicly denounce his words and God’s specific terms within marriage and think this is actually helping anyone? When has being deceptive and misleading people regarding the scriptures ever been helpful? How can any Christian leader ever share the Gospel and preach a false message regarding gay marriage and think anyone, especially the gay community is okay with this?
We do not love the folks in the gay community if our relationships are built upon my deliberate lies. We do nothing but mistreat our friends if we know the path to freedom, love and grace, yet deny them the same path with our words. How can we claim to be followers of Jesus, and then manipulate and twist the scriptures to make us feel better? I’m sorry, but I cannot bear such a burden.
I want the world to know the true Jesus, the one from the scriptures, the one who sacrificed everything for all of us. He died on the cross for sinners like me, and for good people like you. He bore the colossal burden of our sins on his back, and was tortured and bloodied and murdered so each of us could have a direct path to the Father and be with Him in paradise for all of eternity. This is who Jesus is, and twisting truths doesn’t make Christians anything but liars. Our dear friends in the gay community should be overwhelmed by our burning desire for them to know the real Jesus and spend eternity with us in the presence of the one, true God. Love is our message. And love without truth isn’t love.
One brief note: I mentioned earlier these discussions are tough, so understand this post is not a condemnation of the 84 year-old Eugene Peterson. These questions and issues can be difficult, and I understand each of us wants to lead with love. We all should be very grateful for Eugene Peterson, and his ministry, and that gratefulness includes not judging him, or his motives. He’s a really good dude!
In closing, my friends the Benhams recently faced a similar situation at their church, and God’s love and grace completely stole the show. I greatly encourage each of you to click on the link below and read a piece David recently wrote. Not only is this an example of God’s goodness in action, but a true testimony of how we can powerfully follow Jesus in the world we live in today, and provide hope, love, and courage to those who need it most.