Responding to the Supreme Court Decision on Same-Marriage: A "More Excellent" Way




In an historic decision that was handed down yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States essentially legalized same-sex marriage in America.  

As soon as I saw the news alert of the SCOTUS decision on my iPhone, I immediately thought of my many friends for whom I knew it was incredible, and joyous news.  But I also had friends in mind who I knew would be filled with anxiety and disappointment.  

It didn't take long to start seeing the reactions of both sets on my Facebook feed, text messages and emails.  The fact that I have such a diverse group of friends actually brings me joy.  To quote pastor and worship leader Carlos Whittaker, "if your [Facebook feed] only looks one way, you probably need to go make some new friends. It's better that way."  

All of this was going through my head yesterday when I was asked to be interviewed by one of our local newspapers on the topic.  Not all of the things I said during the interview actually made it into the article, but I was pleased with the bit that did:  

“For me, this is a unique opportunity for Christians and the church to do something different,” he said. “I have a unique opportunity to speak grace and peace into a situation. Typically the reaction from the (Christian community) is swift and judgmental and sometimes hate filled.” Bloder said the LGBT community was fighting so they could have marriage, which he said is taken for granted. In fact, he said the divorce rate for conservative Christians is the same rate or higher than other demographics. “A lot of Christians will say this is an assault on marriage,” he said. “Assault on marriage happened a long time ago.”  (read the entire article HERE)
I'd like to expound a bit on the quotes that made it into the article.  

First, I do see this is a unique opportunity for Christians and the church to embrace grace and peace.  Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgendered people fully expect the "Christian" response to the SCOTUS decision to be negative.  

But what if Christians did something different? What if we put ourselves for a moment in the shoes of people some of us see as "other?" What if we could feel the years of pain, isolation and exclusion that so many GLBT people have felt and continue to feel even now.  

And then what if as Christians we allowed ourselves to love, and to speak words of grace?  What if those of us who struggle with all of this said, "Even though I don't understand, and this goes against all that I have been taught to believe, I will simply love you in the name of Jesus?"   Wouldn't that be a more excellent way of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ?  

Second, I also see this as a wonderful moment for Christians to focus on ways to strengthen marriages in our own communities of faith.  As I said in the interview, the divorce rate among Christians is just as high as any other demographic in America.  

The SCOTUS decision isn't an assault on marriage. The assault on marriage began a long time ago when as a society we began to embrace a culture of immediacy and selfishness--a culture that even Christians have found difficult to resist.  

Read what Justice Kennedy said about marriage in his majority opinion: 
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. 
Even if you disagree with the SCOTUS decision, you have to admit that such lofty language concerning marriage is inspiring.  The fact that many GLBT citizens of our country have struggled for most of their lives to have what so many of us heterosexuals take for granted should make Christians stop and think. 

Third, I have seen my fair share of posts, and quotes by Christian leaders, pastors, pundits, etc. on the SCOTUS issue that begin with the words, "The Bible says..."  

If we begin any debate about same sex-marriage using the phrase "The Bible says..." as our first words in the debate--it's not a debate, no matter what side of the issue you are arguing.  It's a closed, dead-end, one-way conversation.  The truth of the matter is that the Bible says a lot of things that many of us Christians choose to ignore. 

Take Jesus' teaching on divorce, for example.  When asked if a man could give his wife divorce papers for any reason (which was happening in the first century, with no recourse for women), Jesus replied that anyone who gets divorced for anything other than sexual immorality, and then gets remarried, is guilty of adultery.  

Granted, I have some thoughts about that text and what Jesus was trying to do there, but still--lots of us who claim the Bible as their final authority completely gloss over that passage from the mouth of Jesus himself. Hey, I was divorced from my first wife... so...   

And then there's the strange instructions about women's uncovered hair, bangled jewelry and the like being out of bounds by BOTH the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.  I won't even try to run that one past my wife, dear reader!   

Listen, I love the Bible.  I study the Bible for a living.  In fact, I think the Bible needs to be part of this conversation.  As long as it's a conversation and not a monologue. And I think that all of us who lift the Bible up as authoritative and instructive to our lives should do so with extra humility--ready to listen, and to be formed and informed by the perspectives of our brothers and sisters of all stripes.  

Finally, to all of my friends who celebrated the SCOTUS decision yesterday, I invite you to do so with grace and forbearance for those who grieve it.  Resist the temptation to act out of triumph, which may be difficult for you to do considering how long you waited for this moment.  Still, grace is powerful and as the Proverbs teach us, "A soft answer, turns away anger."  

To all of my friends who grieve the SCOTUS decision, I invite you to also show grace.  Let your speech be seasoned with "salt," as the Apostle Paul urges Christians to speak.  And remember that you don't have to agree with someone to love them.

I love many friends who celebrate this decision, and I rejoice with them.  I love many who grieve it, and I mourn with them.  As a pastor who has the privilege of shepherding people on both sides of this argument, I need to be constantly asking myself how to show Christ in all of these deeply divisive cultural conflicts. I covet your prayers as I seek God's wisdom in my own journey.  

I will pray for you as you are on your own journey, too.  

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.  Amen.    

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