Friday, June 26, 2015

Seven Responses to the Supreme Court Judgment Over Same-Sex Marriage

TITLE: SEVEN RESPONSES TO THE SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT OVER SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 22:37-40
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: June 26th, 2015
37Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”(Matthew 22:37-40)

Group celebrating the Supreme Court Decision
(Photo Credit: abc7.com)
As widely expected, on June 26th 2015, the United States Supreme Court has declared that same-sex marriage is legal throughout the United States. That means states that had been resisting homosexual marriages would have to comply. In a landmark 5-4 decision, gay advocates all over the world are celebrating. President Obama in a nationwide address from the White House calls it “a more perfect union.” Many people throughout the country are celebrating, aided by popular media that are unabashed in splashing the rainbow all over their areas of influence. It appears like the whole country is approving of this “historic” decision. That is furthest from the truth. It has only made even more public the deep divide the country is facing.

What are people celebrating about? Why are some quarters unhappy? What should Christians supporting traditional marriage do? Over at Christianity Today, Mark Galli share “Six Things To Do after the Supreme Court Decision on Gay Marriage.” Writing to conservative circles, he urges us not to sulk but to rejoice in the Lord, for such joy is never dependent on things of this world. True joy is always based on what Jesus had done. He calls for all to repent from all manner of sins. During this time, we are in danger of looking at the speck of another person’s eye and forget about the log in our own eye. We are encouraged to rethink about our faith and how to live out our faith as a result of this court decision. It is going to be very tricky for people to navigate their practice of faith without becoming embroiled in legal matters. We are to re-engage once again using the freedoms that we have been blessed with. Do not be too quick to say that Christians are persecuted on the basis of this court decision. Real persecutions exist outside of North America that are worse. There is also the opportunity to reach out in order to build constructive relationships with all people from all walks of life. The gospel must still be preached to all the world, and sexual orientations are not to be seen as a barrier. Galli comes back full circle to tell us to rejoice once again with a future outlook. There is much to be done and to be hopeful about in the joy of the Lord. A friend of mine commented to me that God will eventually prevail. That is true but more importantly, we need to anchor our faith with conviction in Christ and lived out in wisdom. No court decision is going to change that. In this week’s reflection at Sabbath Walk, I want to share about seven things that we can do.


A) Wait and Don’t Overreact

For highly contentious matters, there is always a tendency toward knee-jerk reactions that seem to demonize the other side. My advice is: don’t. In heated moments, we can say the wrong things and suffer the unfortunate consequences. A popular pastor said that he was willing to be burned to death if same-sex marriage was legalized. With today’s court decision, the world look on to see what he would be doing. This reminds me of Herod’s silly vow to give his daughter whatever she asked (Matthew 4:6-7). When the daughter’s mother, Herodias asked for the head of John the Baptist, Herod was trapped by his own vow. That’s one reason why the Bible warns us not to give a vow so quickly lest we are unable to fulfill it.
It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.” (Ecclesiastes 5:5)
There is always time to pause and to refuse to let ourselves be rushed into saying things we would regret later. So do wait and do not overreact.

B) Remember It’s a 5-4 Court Decision, not 9-0

A win is a win, so says people who sees the final result. In a success-driven world, we are always saying that everyone remember the winners not the losers. I have also been reading news articles that praised the Supreme Court’s decision as “overwhelming,” “triumphant,” “nationwide right,” as if the whole country appears to be gay in, gay out, and gay everything. It is important to note that it was a marginal tie breaker and could have gone either way. A 5-4 decision represents a roughly 55% for legalizing gay marriage. It was not unanimous. A sizeable number of people still do not agree with the decision. At least from the Supreme Court judges’ perspective, four out of nine had cast the nay vote. This issue will not easily go away. Just as I had advised in point 1 for believers not to over-react, it is also important for gay rights group not to be arrogant about the court decision. In fact, if rights are the all-important freedom for everybody, just as people are given the right to believe in gay marriages, they need to also respect those who do not hold similar views. This is what freedom of belief is all about. Respect the diversity around us.

The decision is not representative of every single American.

C) Love over Law; Not Laws over Love

Human Love as PlayDoh Love
Love is not bound by laws. Laws are bound by love. In a free-love society, the tendency is to see love like a Play-Doh entity and mold love into whatever we want it to be. True love is in Christ. Do not love a person on the basis of what he believes. Love a person on the basis of what Christ had done.
11For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. (1 John 3:11-12)

Christ died for all, not just a group of believers. While the Supreme Court decision is about a law over same-sex marriage, it has no say over what love is. For there is no law against love, but love will cover over a multitude of sins. Jesus has said:
37Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”(Matthew 22:37-40)
Even the laws of the Old Testament are under the greatest commandment of God, that is to love God and neighbor. Human love as that is based on human preferences are merely "playdoh love," the kind of love defined according to what we want, what we feel, and what we insist upon. Such is not God's love for Divine love transcends human preferences. Human love changes from time to time, from definition to definition, and from preferences to desires. God's love remains constant. Always.

D) Learning to Engage

This is similar to Galli’s call to re-engage. I want to add in a few more thoughts about this. Before we venture out to do any forms of engagement, learn from those who had experience in ministering with gay people. One such person is Wendy VanderWal-Gritter, Executive Director of New Direction Ministries based in Canada. She urges us to build bridges of understanding by not being distracted by three things. Firstly, do not try to assume a “root cause” for homosexuality. This can become a distraction that makes us fixated on some theoretical proof or scientific evidence about homosexuality. For every pro we can see a con. We are living in a world where we can use science to prove anything, so barking up that tree would be a red herring. Secondly, do not focus on “orientation changes” where we try to find solutions for gay people to do a change. When groups try to focus on doing that, it can lead to unpleasant results. It will fail to understand the person for who he/she is. Instead, we may be trying to force that person into our mold. Thirdly, do not politicize the whole matter. It is easy to use political lobbying to try to overturn whatever legal matter. VanderWal-Gritter urges us to practice “gracious spaciousness” so as to cultivate bridges of understanding instead of fences of distrust. Learning to engage means learning to engage constructively, not destructively.

E) Study the Scriptures (Again)

In times of heated debates and arguments, it is tempting to expand our own understanding of Scripture as if the entire Bible is talking about our point of view. No. Do not use the Bible as if the entire 66 books are talking about homosexuality. The Bible is concerned with much bigger things. This is the approach of Kevin DeYoung, to let the Bible be what God says it is. In “What the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?” DeYoung, a pastor at University Reformed Church writes about the tensions between what the Bible says and how our hearts feel. Quoting Jackie Hill-Perry’s “Love Letter to a Lesbian”:

You see what God has to say about homosexuality, but your heart doesn’t utter the same sentiments. God’s word says it’s sinful; your heart says it feels right. God’s word says it’s abominable; your heart says it’s delightful. God’s word says it’s unnatural; your heart says it’s totally normal. Do you see that there is a clear divide between what God’s word says and how your heart feels?” (Keving DeYoung, What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality, Crossway, 2015, 117)
DeYoung’s book is a must-read as it distills exactly what the overall Bible story is about before going through several verses about homosexuality and learning to deal with the objections made by the “revisionist” group.

F) God is Supreme, Not the Supreme Court

Remember once again that the Supreme Court may have made a landmark decision. That does not make them a god. The world has not ended yet. The Book of Revelation has this glorious coming of God. God is the ultimate Judge.
6He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”(Revelation 21:6-8)
Human rights are basically driven by humanism tendencies. In a culture where humans reign supreme, it should not be surprising when human decisions take priority over God’s. As humans, we must not go on a rampage or a self-righteous programs that seem to project a holier-than-thou attitude. That is not the way of Christ. We are all sinners. We are no different from a thief or an adulterer when we sin. Eventually, we all must answer for our deeds. God is Supreme, not the supreme court. For the latter only reflects the cultural reality. God is for all periods of time.

G) Pray

The Seven Responses to the Supreme Court Ruling
I have intentionally left this toward the end because prayer is often the first reaction by people. The reason is because I sense that prayer can sometimes be a cop-out for hidden angst and deep-seated emotions. By dealing with practical issues early, I hope to calm the soul and to prepare readers toward a more prayerful disposition. Otherwise we may tend to use prayer as some form of a weapon against fellow people, forgetting that we battle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and the powers of darkness. Remember who the enemy is. Remember the bigger picture of God’s story. Remember who is truly in control. We pray with all these clearly in mind.
The mainstreaming of homosexuality in society and the redefinition of marriage and the family that render them genderless institutions have never arisen in any age of the church before like they are today because these are historically and culturally unique and novel developments. And so, never have Christians had the call and opportunity to interact with, enter relationships with and befriend those who are involved in and working for these social and ideological changes. There is no past generation for us to observe how they did it. We are it. We’re the ones on the stage, with camera rolling. We are the generation that following ones will look to see and learn from. What will our example be? What will they be able to learn from us and will it be an example worth following and emulating? Or will we teach them to do just the opposite because we got it wrong or merely shrunk from the challenge?” (Glenn Stanton, Loving My LGBT Neighbor, Chicago, IL: Moody, 2014, p199)
Let us respond with Christlikeness. There is no other way.

THOUGHT: It is more important to love what God loves than to love the things that people love. In the same light, being holy is far more important than to be happy.

sabbathwalk

Copyright by SabbathWalk. This devotional is sent to you free of charge. If you feel blessed or ministered to by SabbathWalk weekly devotionals, feel free to forward to friends, or to invite them to subscribe online at http://blog.sabbathwalk.org . You can also send me an email at cyap@sabbathwalk.org for comments or inquiries. Note that views expressed are personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any person(s) or organization(s).

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