I’m not sure that I could offer wiser, more insightful, more challenging thoughts than Dr. Russell Moore’s response yesterday to the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. So, if you only have time to read one blog post about it, skip this one and CLICK HERE to read his.
There are three suggestions I felt worth posting on this particular blog site focused on equipping parents to grow kids with grace and send kids with gospel. I am NOT trying to offer a response to the Supreme Court ruling. These are NOT my political thoughts. My three suggestions are more from a dad’s heart.
# 1 _ as parents, may we not just declare something “wrong,” but rather may we ask Jesus to help us learn why something might not be what God intended.
When we parent for moralism, when we hope our kids will just turn out “good,” we tend to declare “right and wrong” rather than teach what makes something right or wrong. Declaring “right and wrong” without processing the why behind it tends to result in judgmental thinking, self-absorbed moralism, and guilt-driven behavioral choices. Jesus spoke against each of these. Why? Because judgmental thinking inhibits loving relationships, self-absorbed moralism prohibits loving concern, and guilt-driven behavioral choices exhibit the stifling fear and consuming shame we actually feel inside.
Doesn’t sound much like the “love one another” and “secure in God’s love” stuff Jesus taught.
When we parent our kids attempting to learn together why something might be “wrong,” or better said why something might not be what God intended, then we tend to value relating with God and with our neighbors rather than valuing our own performance and self-fulfillment. This tends to result in kids who learn to relate with God, who live confessing selfishness to God and to those close to them, and who love not expecting neighbors to live perfectly, selfless. In these kinds of relationships, grace and gospel define relationships.
Here is the point. The church is quick to declare same-sex marriage and homosexuality as wrong. But do we know why? The answer is not just “because the Bible tells me so.” I mean to cause us to beg God for wisdom on His thinking behind why He did not intend it, as well as to cause us to think about the heart and soul issues that are evidenced in this symptomatic behavior.
It seems from God’s Word that same-sex marriage and homosexuality are not what God intended. Simply read Romans 1. But church, if you do, please don’t forget to read on into Romans 2. Paul rebuked his readers in chapter 2 for judging the behaviors of people mentioned in chapter 1. Paul challenged them to recognize their judgmental hearts not filled with love. He went on in Romans to highlight his readers’ never-ending need for the gospel of Jesus and their choice to forsake the mission of God to go love those lost and alone in exchange for cultural comfort and self-righteousness.
That is what happens when we value law more than love. We begin to bow to law’s demands often forsaking to bow to love one another.
# 2 _ as parents, may we not forget our own never-ending need for the gospel nor the fact that the culture around us has yet to be transformed by trusting that Good News.
One conservative family group whom I happen to value greatly included these questions in their response to yesterday’s ruling.
“What does it mean? How did this happen? How should we process this loss, and where was God in this defeat?”
The questions insinuate that God’s team suffered a loss yesterday. The questions imply a surprise that people would have ruled this way. The questions infer confusion as what to do now.
May I suggest that God’s team suffered no loss yesterday. Can we conservatives let go of this notion that we are on God’s team. The General of His Angel Armies told Joshua outside the walls of Jericho that God was not for them or against them:
When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in His hand. Joshua approached Him and asked, “Are You for us or for our enemies? ” “Neither,” He replied. “I have now come as commander of the Lord ’s army.” Then Joshua bowed with his face to the ground in worship and asked Him, “What does my Lord want to say to His servant?” The commander of the Lord ’s army said to Joshua, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
(Joshua 5:13-15 HCSB)
God’s intentions are much grander than a moral society.
May I also suggest that the church needs to quit being surprised that people choose to act in ways that God never intended. Read 2nd Corinthians 4.
We, WE meaning all of us as heterosexuals and homosexuals, are wrecked by a selfishness and a shame and an insecurity that we alone cannot overcome. May we not forget our desperate, ongoing need for the gospel. Its personal reminder to us that Jesus came near because He loves, not because we were lovable. Its cultural implication that people prefer hiding in darkness to embracing the Light (John 1:1-14). Its compelling nature that sent Light into darkness, and now the Sent One sends His followers as ambassadors of light-giving life (John 20:21).
Romans 10 makes it plain. How would someone know without those sent coming near? We as the church don’t consistently do what God intended. And we are surprised when the culture around us does not?
May we love first as we have been loved. May we not judge first, act surprised first, expect moralism first. The expectation that any of us should naturally and consistently do the “good” thing flies in the face of the gospel and makes a mockery of the cross (read Paul’s letter to the Galatians).
May I further suggest that there is no confusion as to what the church must do. For, the mission that the sent ones have been invited into has not changed. Let me explain in the third reason for this post.
# 3 _ as parents, may we ask Jesus to help us overcome fears and stigmas that cause us to disengage from culture and instead embody the gospel of Jesus with presence and friendship.
The Sent One put on skin and took up residence among us (John 1:14). It seems to me, that we, who call ourselves His followers, have not followed Him in this way.
We have spent billions of dollars creating spaces for moralists to safely gather. We have spent billions of dollars on engaging marketing and inspirational events inviting the like-minded to attend. We have spent billions of dollars on riveting, straight-forward, presentation tools. But we have had very little real presence. Very little long-term, relational, loving residence in the midst of a culture we are surprised by when they don’t preserve our moralism and are bewildered why they don’t proclaim our Messiah.
What if the ruling handed down yesterday is more of a judgment upon the ones who claim to be betrothed to the Groom than it is a judgment in favor of those wanting to be together as grooms or as brides?
If presence was not required for the communication of the gospel, then God Himself would not have taken up residence. They will know we are His learners, His followers, by our love (John 13:34-35), and love is impossible to experience without nearness.
This is the rub isn’t it?
Can I confess that the ruling yesterday scares me to death as a father with regard to what will now be the cultural norm for my six children? Can I confess without trying to sound too much like a prophet that the ruling yesterday concerns me as a pastor with regard to what is about to be proclaimed the next line-in-the-sand, civil rights issue with which the church will be forced to wrestle? Can I confess that the ruling yesterday causes my heart to ache as a follower of Jesus with regard to its exposure to my own lack of nearness?
Nearness is the rub. Homosexual exhibition near my kids. Same-sex couples visiting our worship gathering. Gays as friends.
How careless of the Heavenly Father not to consider this when He sent His Son! Jesus at a party with drunkards! Jesus with a prostitute washing His feet! Jesus over for dinner in the home of sinners!
Wait a second. The Father allowed that.
In fact, Jesus came near to me. When I was still drunk on my indulgences. When I had whored my worship out to other things that made me feel valuable. When I was leaving Him off the guest list for dinner. He demonstrated His love for me.
And a demonstration of His love is the only catalyst for the transformation of a life.
We seem to forget that the work of God is that people believe in the One who was sent (John 6:29). The work of the church is not therefore to declare how dark darkness is or to try to modify how dark darkness is. The work of the church is to help people believe in the One who was sent. Only in believing that He came near, in love, not to condemn nor to leave us the way we are, but to help us to love abundant life secure that we are fully loved. Believing in the One who was sent changes us. And going near as sent ones helps to enable that belief (read Romans 10).
May we awaken. But not the awakening we pray for typically. The need is not a grander worship experience or more moving preaching. The need is not a more effective evangelistic strategy. The need is presence. A gratefulness for His. A willingness to go near with Him.
The homosexual community already knows what we think of them. I wonder if they know what Jesus thinks of them? How would they if His sent ones aren’t actually going near as friends?
And how irrational of us as moms and dads to think that our kids would go to college valuing God’s love given away over God’s laws legalistically demanded if they don’t see us live near in gracious, family-like community?
How about we cultivate into the hearts of our children a surrender to what God intended – loved sinners trusting grace repenting of our own sin as we grow in our security to love – as well as a commitment to what He is making us to become – fishers among the lost and lonely? How about we respond to the ruling yesterday confessing our absence as a possible portion of what brought it about? How about we ask Jesus to help us with our fears of raising kids near to sinners?
Lord, have mercy on us. We so need Your help. Please give us wisdom and courage to love as You have loved us.