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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I didn't want to write about gay marriage anymore

I kinda thought I wasn't going to write about gay marriage anymore. I thought, naively, that once the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was legal, we were done.

But I was wrong.

Today, a clerk in Kentucky is refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. She's saying it's a religious freedom issue, she's saying she's refusing on "God's authority."

I no longer believe same-sex relationships are a sin. I can no longer say with confidence that the Bible is clear in condemning gay marriage. But I know and respect lots of folks who disagree. I'm not asking anyone to change his or her mind. This has nothing to do with that.

But I do wish we could agree on this: We need to choose people over theology. We need to choose actions that display the love of Christ, that bring people closer to him. God is in charge of the judgment part. We can trust that he'll be fair - he can see our hearts, our true intentions, all the things that others can't see. Jesus didn't come and die on the cross so that we could take God's place as the Decider of What's Right. Part of the problem when Adam & Eve chose that infamous apple was that mankind no longer trusted God, saying instead, "we want to decide for ourselves the difference between Good and Evil!"

The clerk in Kentucky does not need to believe that same-sex marriage is okay. I would tell her she can absolutely hold that conviction. She can hold it near and dear to her heart. But I would also tell her that she's free. She's free from having to decide what others should do. She's free from having to worry about whether she participated in someone's sin. She can make sure that everyone is treated fairly under the law, even if she holds a different belief. She holds an elected office in our government - her job is to uphold the law of the land. She can even do so in a way that glorifies Christ, with grace and humility.

As Christians, we have a unique opportunity to bless all those who come across our paths. God is gracious. He is the God of second chances, he loves us. Nowhere does he say "change first, then come follow me." As a Christian, I can listen to others, I can support them, I can tell them "God is FOR you." And I can even tell my friends when they are doing something unhealthy, harmful, or destructive... but I must first to earn the right to speak that way to them. We can't just do it willy-nilly to folks if we aren't actively involved in their lives, actively loving them.

Think about it this way: good things won't bear bad fruit, right? And we've seen that the strategy of refusal, the strategy of keeping people out, of declaring that we have to "stand on the Bible" or "stand on the side of God," has pushed people away from Jesus. I know of zero stories of people deciding that they want to know more about Jesus when his followers have pushed them away, called them an "abomination," and refused to acknowledge (or denied access to) their civil rights. The Kentucky clerk believes she's doing the right thing. I know she does. But as a follower of Jesus, I'm frustrated. I'm frustrated that the nation is seeing her actions, that the nation is seeing that following Jesus means pushing people out, that it means a religious conviction is more important that a person. Her job isn't to define marriage or even approve of it.  If she knows and loves a gay couple and she wants to be involved in their life together and earn the right to tell them what she believes the Bible says about their relationship, I respect that much more.

Christians, we are free from judgment and free from being the Judge. God sees our insides. He sees our hearts. If you believe that he would condemn a same-sex marriage, yet you provide a marriage license for a couple because your job is to uphold the law, he's not going to smite you. He never placed us here to be the Moral Police. He never told us to force others to believe as we do or to follow the same creeds. We get to be free from that. And imagine if we engaged with gay people. If we invited them to dinner, got to know them as individuals, brought them chicken soup when they were sick or a margarita to celebrate a job promotion? What if we laid this "issue" aside and made it about people, about humans, about souls? That couple in Kentucky wants to be married... those are two people, two precious souls. Two men who love one another, who want to commit to spending a lifetime together. I remember my excitement going downtown to get my marriage license with my husband. I remember the giddiness, the love, the respect I had for the institution of marriage and how excited I was to make such a strong commitment to the person I loved.  And it breaks my heart that this couple's experience has been so tainted.

God loves people. I know he does. I believe he loves people more than he loves rules. I believe he'll judge us fairly. I trust him that way. Let's trust in that too and not let our differences divide us.

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