In Australia at the moment there is much debate about same sex marriage.1
What do I think about same sex marriage? I believe it is not the ideal for society, and I base that on God's view as I understand His written word, the Bible. It is clear to me that God's intent for the family is that it comprises a man married to a woman and that children are conceived, born and raised within that context. There is no room for polygamy, for adultery, for homosexuality, for infidelity. Any and all of these are contrary to the ideal God has expressed.
As a society are we bound to these expressed concepts and ideas? Ideally yes, experientially no. There are consequences for disobedience, for sin, for choosing another path than the one God has indicated as His ideal. Anything contrary to that can and must and does have consequences. The primary consequence is separation from God and it is a path that man (and I use that as inclusive of the whole human race) has chosen - one of independence, of autonomy, of thumbing our noses at God's ideas and ideals.
But God is love (an argument quoted by both sides of the same sex marriage debate). And God's love is not one of ignorance or blinkered acceptance. It is a love that says we have made wrong choices and provides a way of forgiveness and escape from the consequences of those choices. That way out is Jesus Christ - who came to this earth as a perfect example of humanity - who did not, had not and would not sin, and who willingly allowed Himself to be killed by crucifixion to pay the price and take the penalty for our sin. And if we accept and believe in Jesus' sacrifice for our sins then we receive forgiveness from God for our wrong choices and the penalty for them. But that acceptance and belief comes with its own responsibilities, its own set of conditions. And one of those conditions is obedience - obedience to what we know, believe and understand to be God's ideal for us. And that ideal includes God's ideal for marriage, for the family, for the appropriate expression of sexuality and sexual relations.
Now the church has a problem, and it is a problem caused in part by wanting to be acceptable and accessible to society - and that is of frequently moving the goalposts of God's word. The church moves the goalpost of what is acceptable behaviour so as to not alienate people who don't believe the same thing. The goalpost has been moved on divorce, on remarriage of divorced people, on adultery, on idolatry, on greed, on lying, on gluttony, on pride. The goalpost has been moved so many times that many in the church don't know where it belongs. We put it where it's convenient, where it won't alienate or upset. But the goalpost was never meant to be moved. God's word was provided as trustworthy and complete and accurate and inalienable. But we have done everything we can to demonstrate the opposite. We indicate it is no longer trustworthy by not living by it. We have expressed concern for its accuracy by ignoring it. We have alienated it by ignorance and deceit and rebellion.
As a result the world looks at the church with incredulity, with pity, with contempt. What do we believe? Whatever is convenient. How do we live up to this ideal of God's standard? Poorly and only if it suits us. The church has little credibility to speak to the world because we have compromised on so much of God's word. Obedience is optional; belief is negotiable; standards are variable.
To the world I say God's ideal is heterosexual marriage, not homosexual marriage. But God's ideal is to have belief and faith and obedience to Jesus; to live with honesty and integrity and humility and peace and faithfulness and truth and love - and that applies to all regardless of what side of the debate you fall on.
One of the catchphrases of the same sex marriage proponents is "love is love". That's not correct. Not all love is equal. Not all love is ideal. Not all love is healthy. Not all love is honourable. God is love and He has expressed that in and through His Son, Jesus. Acceptance of Jesus' offer of forgiveness and God's ideals includes repentance and choosing not to sin. That is not limited to beliefs about homosexual marriage but about views on adultery, on pride, on lying, on idolatry, on unlawful killing, on injustice.
The church on the whole has done a poor job in loving those who are different. It has failed to display and demonstrate God's love well. And the challenge has always been how to demonstrate that love but not encourage sinful behaviour. Jesus did it easily. To the woman caught in adultery2 Jesus offered hope and forgiveness; but it came with the command for obedience - to go, but sin no more. And I believe the woman did that. She wanted whatever life and hope and future that Jesus was offering such that she would turn from her sinful behaviour. But the church doesn't display that same attractiveness or compassion or hope. It tends to offer judgement and condemnation as a first resort. The church picks up plenty of stones and just waits for someone to throw one.
To the world I say sorry. Sorry that I, and the church have so poorly portrayed and displayed and promoted and preached God's good gospel - of the redemption that is available through belief in Jesus. I am sorry that I have portrayed by my actions and beliefs the view that obedience is optional; that forgiveness is not dependant on repentance; that one can accept and receive salvation simply by belief and not by a change of behaviour and of a change of heart.
We have a choice and that choice is not simply about whether we think same sex marriage is a good idea or not. Our choice is what we believe about Jesus. Do we believe He came, died and was resurrected? Do we believe He died for our sins? Do we want that forgiveness and hope and redemption that He offers? At the end of the day that is the question that really matters.