In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States, I’ve seen a lot of ugly things said by those on both sides. I’ve tried not to read much of the reaction, because the vitriol depresses me and it makes me angry when people are unfair to those they don’t understand.
I have an opinion about the subject, which I’ve expressed before. I don’t have anything new to add on the basic issue, but a question Sunday from a social conservative — and fell0w Christian — has been gnawing at me for hours.
Speaking at the Kimberly Church of God in Kimberly, Ala., today, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court railed against the marriage ruling. Chief Justice Roy Moore is expected to try to stop probate judges in Alabama from granting marriage licenses to gay couples, and he’s been one of the loudest political voices insisting that the state has a responsibility to enforce God’s morality (as he sees it).
“Is there any such a thing as morality anymore?” asked Moore. “Sodomy for centuries was declared to be against the laws of nature and nature’s God. And now if you say that in public, and I guess I am, am I violating somebody’s civil rights? Have we elevated morality to immorality? Do we call good, bad? What are we Christians to do?”
I’d like to suggest to Mr. Moore and many other sincere fellow Christians that Jesus Christ answered that question long ago.
The premise of Moore’s questions is that government determines what is moral and what is not. This is a serious error — and you won’t find any support for it from Jesus.
When Jesus walked on this earth, He spent much more time with sinners than with the religious people of His day. He didn’t excuse the wrong that sinners did, but he lovingly showed them the truth.
You won’t find one example — in all of the Gospels — of Jesus asking for any sin to be stopped by force, government or otherwise. You won’t find one example of Jesus asking that His will be carried out by force. You won’t find a single time when He said, “In order to feed the poor, go forcibly take money from other people.”
Both left and right today try to force their own views onto who Jesus was, but Jesus wasn’t a political figure. You won’t find any evidence that Jesus supported coercive political solutions to the sin He preached against.
If you believe that homosexuality is a sin, nothing changed with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. If you believe that homosexuality is just a normal part of human experience, nothing changed insofar as the morality of the issue with the ruling. Governments don’t determine what’s moral and what’s not.
If you believe that certain things are sins, you have the same freedom today to preach about those things and to call people to repentance from sin. Nothing changed for you.
Roy Moore asked what we Christians are to do. Wasn’t Jesus clear enough about that?
— Jesus told us to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us.
— Jesus told us to give generously to the needy. He didn’t say to rely on government to take care of people. (And He also didn’t validate those who would steal from others to give to the poor.) He gave His followers this task.
— Jesus told us not to be concerned with building up earthly wealth, but to be concerned about spiritual treasures instead.
— Jesus told us not to judge other people. He told us to worry about the sin in our own lives instead of being so eager to tell others what’s wrong with them.
Throughout scripture, Jesus instructed His followers how to live. He never once said anything about taking over the levers of government and forcing other people to obey His commands. He told His own people to do things — and He told us to exhibit love in all we did.
He told us that we don’t have the things we need because we don’t have faith.
So to Chief Justice Roy Moore and my other fellow Christians, I say that Jesus has already given us instructions. We have been very deficient in obeying Him. Some Christians have been more obedient about these things than others, but most of us have something to learn and something to repent for.
My responsibility to love other people is far more important than my need to convince others that I’m right about anything — and that’s true for those of you who are stridently and angrily hating enemies right now.
Jesus has given us plenty to do. It’s time to set politics aside. It’s time for us to realize that Jesus didn’t come here to set up an earthly kingdom. Whatever you believe, preach it in love — and remember that Jesus gives every man and woman the choice about whether to obey.
It’s not your job to force people to be moral — or to determine what morality is for them.
Our job is to follow Jesus and emulate Him in the best way we know how. I’m not very good at it, but I have faith that He is slowly making me the man He wants me to be.
Loving others — whether we agree with them or not — is the first responsibility Jesus has given us toward others. He’s already told us what to do.