Gay Marriage is Now Legal. What Does This Mean for Me?

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Over the past couple of days you have undoubtedly heard the news. The SCOTUS has officially made Gay Marriage legal. In the days that have followed I have read all sorts of reactions to Supreme Court’s ruling. The ranges of emotions have been jubilation, indifference, anger, rage, sadness, and depression. These reactions didn’t exactly catch me by surprise as I have been living in a state that gay marriage has already been legal in. When the state’s Supreme Court passed it caused all of those emotions I mentioned were all expressed here. In the five plus years that I have lived here I have seen all of those emotions continue. I have had 5 years to process my thoughts on the matter. I have 5 years to prepare for when the SCOTUS passed down this law which I believed was inevitable. For what it is worth, here is my $.02.

  1. The SCOTUS did not change God’s word. Despite what numerous religious teachers are now teaching on the subject, God’s word is clear on the matter. Under the Old Law those that engaged in such activities were to be put to death ( 20:13). While I certainly am not arguing that homosexuals should be treated such, I state this so that we begin to get an understanding about how God feels about sin. The same treatment was given unto other sexual sins, as well as disobedient children and those that violated the Sabbath. God hates sin. He wants us to detest sin in our own lives. Paul wrote concerning homosexuality in Rom. 1:24-27. There he tells us it was unclean, a dishonoring of our own bodies, a result of vile passions, against nature, shameful and error. He goes on in chapter 1 to list other sins that were worthy of punishment including gossiping, unrighteousness, faithlessness, murder, envy, hate, pride and disobedience to parents. No law made by man has the power to change God’s word. It is true. It is sure. It is forever.
  2. The SCOTUS cannot make me participate in sin. There are many things that are legal (that is, not against the laws of the land) that are unlawful (that is, against the laws of God). Just because I can have the right to engage in them does not mean that I have to engage in them. Prostitution is legal in some parts of our country. But I don’t have to engage in prostitution. No-fault divorce is legal in most states, but I don’t have to divorce my wife because we don’t always agree on things. Drinking alcohol is legal, but that doesn’t mean I should go out and get drunk every night. The legalization of gay marriage does not mean that I must engage in a sinful activity. I don’t have to react with hate, spite, or violence even if I disagree with their decision. I certainly don’t have to participate in homosexual behavior. And even though I am a preacher I don’t have to officiate a wedding. Now, I realize that there are some concerns that that last point might one day become an issue. But, as it stands right now, I am not being ordered to perform a same-sex wedding. (I haven’t even been asked to perform a same-sex marriage even though I live in a state that it has been legal for more than 5 years and in a county that according to the last numbers I saw on it issue more same-sex marriage licenses than any other county in the state save one.) But, even if it does, I still can say no. If I am fined, if I am thrown in jail it they still cannot make me. We as Christians need to realize that if we indeed suffer it won’t be the first time Christians suffered as a result of their beliefs. Peter and John both were ordered to no longer preach Jesus. They didn’t stop. They were beaten. They were thrown in prison. John’s brother James was beheaded. They didn’t stop. Likewise, I can choose not to sin!
  3. The SCOTUS’ ruling does not give me the right to discriminate. Paul wrote in I Cor. 5:9-13 about how to react to those that live immoral lives. Paul warned about associating with the wicked. However, he did not say the wicked in general. Paul so that any so-called brother that engages in wickedness was to be purged from the church. He also wrote the following, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world (I Cor. 5:9-10).” He did not at all mean those of the world. When I hear Christians make statements like, “I wouldn’t want to serve a homosexual couple.” “I don’t want my kids being taught by a homosexual.” My stomach just gets uneasy. Do these same “Christians” feel that way about the alcoholic? The guy beating his wife? The guy that steals office supplies? The person living in adultery? The unbeliever? Just because I don’t agree with a person’s lifestyle it does not give me the right to be bigoted, hateful, spiteful, rude, etc. Jesus certainly didn’t agree with the lifestyle choice of the woman caught in the act of adultery in John 8. He didn’t shun her either. He was moved with compassion and tried to teach her. Rather than being afraid that by showing compassion to another human being might me you agree with their lifestyle come to the realization that God showed compassion upon you even when you were in your sins when he sent his Son to die for you!

Our Nation is Broken

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This past week my heart was broken yet again by another act of violence in this country. This time a young man sat through most of prayer service, pulled out a gun and murdered nine church going persons. As the week unfolded we learned more about the nature of this crime. The immediate report was that this was a hate crime. I honestly prayed that it wasn’t. I prayed that this young man had some other issue besides racism in his heart. As more information poured in and his alleged manifesto was revealed online I was beside myself.

Here we are fifty years removed. Yes, that is fifty, half of a century removed from the Civil Rights Movements in this country. And in some ways it feels like we are right back where we started. The animosity seems to be at the highest point since I was born. (I was born in the late 70s.) It seems like around every corner I am watching acts of hatred spew forth. And what frightens me most is that hatred is not something you are born with, it is something that is learned. This means that this young man has been taught by someone. Perhaps parents, perhaps a teacher, perhaps a friend (I simply don’t know) but someone taught this young man to hate. This hatred moved him to act. He convinced himself that he had to do something.

And in the midst of this hatred, unexpected loving act took place. Many of the families forgave this young man. My initial reaction was shock. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. My second reaction was shame. I didn’t know if I could do the same. I didn’t know if I could show up to services and worship my God only to have a visitor gun down my family. I don’t know if I could show him love in that moment. Therein lays the problem in my heart. And the sad thing is that this problem isn’t just in my heart. It sits in many so called Christians’ hearts. Love is not our chief motivator.

By love I do not at all mean that live and let live, tolerance laden form of love that is being constantly spewed out there by those that incorrectly quote scriptures like, “the bible says judge not lest you be judged” and “the bible says love your neighbor.” (Thus loving our neighbor is to never judge them). By love, I mean that type of love that moved Jesus, while hanging from the cross to say, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” I mean that type of love that moved Stephen, while he was being stoned to death to say, “Do not hold this sin against them.” Not once did either of those men ignore their behavior. They did not say what they did was okay. They did not “tolerate” their religious beliefs. What they did was basically say, “Even though what you believe and what you are doing is wrong I am not going to hate you for it. Instead, I am going to love you.”

This is what this world needs more of. It needs more people looking at those that hate them and saying, “I will love you still.” It needs more people looking at those that despitefully use them and saying, “I will love you still.” It needs more people acting like those families in Charleston, SC. I am not saying that they were perfect, but I know this… this past week they showed us all the perfect way to deal with the broken world we live in. The answer to our world’s woes is not more laws. The answer to our world’s woes is not more gun control. The answer to our world’s woes is love. Genuine Love. Divine Love.

Your Words Do Hurt Me

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As a child I was not in the best of shape. At about the age of 8 I started gaining weight. This weight continued to get out of control throughout most of my life. (I was over 365lbs at my worst moment). I was also a rather shy kid, I read a lot of books and was not particularly gifted at athletics. As such it made me the blunt of most jokes as I grew up. The reality is, kids can be cruel. These harsh words made me bitter for years. It made it so that I didn’t like people. I didn’t want to be around people. And I certainly didn’t like talking to people. It seemed like whenever I talked to someone they made me feel bad about who I was. I thought that when I grew up, when I no longer had to deal with childish children that the bullying would be over. As such, I tended to make friends with people older than me. (In my mind age meant maturity). As I went off to college, I learned that bullying didn’t end in high school. Even in a “Christian” college I faced bullying. (Albeit in a much smaller scale than high school). I was made fun of because I was socially awkward. I was picked on because I guess I made myself an easy target. I was a tall, overweight, nerdy, shy farm raised kid that was really out of his element in Tampa, Florida.

When I finally entered the workforce things started to get better, but I still saw the bullying. As I started preaching, the bullying didn’t stop. I actually had one person tell me I was not an effective preacher because I could afford to buy a new suit. I had another tell me I sweat too much (something that is beyond my control). And the reality is, it still hasn’t changed.

Why just this last week I competed in the Grinnell Games, a local weekend of racing and other outdoor gaming events that our little town hosts annually. Last year I ran my first half marathon at the Grinnell Games. This year I ran my 1st Trail Run. It was quite a muddy adventure. It was more of a mud run than a trail run after all the rain we had the night before, but I finished the 10k race in just over 1 hour 6 minutes. The next morning I ran a 5K with two of my children. I listened as some people talked about how seeing my children running was an inspiration to them. I smiled and told them that my children inspire me to run as well. As the results of the morning race came in I learned that I finished in 27:31. It was the fastest I have ever run a 5k. I finished 23rd overall. (I am still in shock as a type that). The fat, slow, unathletic kid finished 3rd in his age group and 23rd overall. I was on cloud nine. But, before the day I was over someone called me overweight loser.

Now, I know what I had just accomplished. I know that I am no longer that guy that is overweight. (I also know that I am no Olympic athlete either). But, hearing those words hurt me. They cut me deeply. It sent me back to my childhood as I heard the chants, got pushed around, and laughed at.

I know that we like to say things like stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Well that simply isn’t true. Words hurt. Words can cut deeper than any knife can. And Saturday afternoon I was cut deeply. Just as deeply as I was as a child. My friends, be mindful of how you are using your tongue. Do you use it to build up those around you? Do you build up your children? Do you build up your spouse? Or do you use your words to make everyone else feel bad about who they are so that you can feel a little better about who you are?

Judge Not

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I thoroughly enjoyed running my second half marathon two weekends ago. Now that the race is over and I can reflect back upon everything, I am already excited about my next race (which incidentally is this weekend). I will be running in two different races on back to back days. On Friday night I will be running a 10K trail run and on Saturday morning I will be running a 5K with my older two children at the Grinnell Games. I still am amazed at how far I have come these last two years. When I first started this journey I was the poster child for what not to do. My trainers were not ever certain that I could keep up (or that I would keep going) because I was so out of shape. Even when the weight started coming off I didn’t know how to exercise correctly. That seems really odd to even write that. I mean how can you not know how to do exercise? Lifting weights is just lifting weights, pushups are just pushups, sit ups are just sits ups and running is running right? Nope. My form was atrocious. In fact, my form was so bad it is what led to my injuries when I was younger (I tore both rotator cuffs because I was not using proper form doing a bench press lift). And last year, before my first half marathon I injured my hip because my running form was all wrong. My trainer and I had to retrain me about 1 month before the race so that I didn’t have that problem again. (I have been running for a year and have not had that problem creep up). I have also noticed that my running shoes are lasting longer. I realize that is likely do to all the weight I have lost, but I am not heel striking when I run like I used to (when I get tired my form sometimes reverts to my old habits). Today, I am not the poster child for what not to do, I am the poster child for what is possible.

As I ran my second half marathon I caught myself critiquing the way people were running at the beginning of the race (I wouldn’t dare critique a tired runner). I noticed a lot of bad running out there. I know my form was not perfect, but I heard bad heal strikers, I saw people bent over running, I saw what I like to call the corkscrew runner (a person that runs bent over and uses their arms like they are driving the tops of their heads into a piece of wood). I immediately thought, this person will not finish well. While I struggled at the end of my race, I never saw those runners again after I passed them. When I had a problem I couldn’t see well enough to help others. Today, now that I can see clearly, I have the ability to help those whose running form, lifting form, etc is all wrong.

As I was running, my mind immediately when to Jesus comments in Matt. 7. Most of you likely know the verse. Jesus said, “Judge not lest you be judged.” Even those that know nothing about the bible are familiar with this bible passage. (I have had it quoted to me on numerous occasions). However, that is not all Jesus said on the subject. He went on to say (in that same section of scripture), “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, Let me take the speck out of your eye, when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matt. 7:3-5).” Jesus did not simply say, Don’t judge. He said, don’t judge someone else when you have a similar problem. I couldn’t see what was wrong with others because I was doing many things wrong myself. Now that the log is out of my eye I can see clearly enough to help others.

Now, I write this not so that you all might be better exercisers. I write this that you might be inspired to be a better person. You see, Christ did not say, leave the log in your eye. He did not say, stop helping people. He said, get the log out of your eye so you can see clearly enough to help get the speck out of your brothers. There are many out there over the last couple of weeks blasting Bruce Jenner for his lifestyle choice. (And yes, I called him Bruce and yes I do believe he has something in his eye). However, if I, or anyone is going to call him out for his sexual immortality we better not have a log in our own eye. What makes his sin different than the man who is watching pornography on the internet? What makes his sin different than the woman who longs for Gray to do all those things to her? What makes his sin different than the unfaithful spouse? What makes his sin different that the high school couple who made their prom night “official” by getting a hotel room? The correct answer is nothing. They are all considered sexual deviancy by God’s word. So, before we start judging, get the log out of your eye!

Celebrate When You Can

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On Saturday I ran my second half marathon. It was not the nicest of mornings to start. It was rather cold that morning. I think it broke 50 before the race started. To make matters worse, it misted for a good 30 minutes before we started the race, and it was rather windy. Most of the people waiting for the start of the race just stood there shivering. I was really looking forward to starting because I knew once I started running I would get warmed up rather quickly. My first half marathon had very few runners in it compared to what I saw this past weekend. There was never a moment when I was out there by myself. This worked to my advantage (and disadvantage). I started running a little harder than I should have at the beginning as it helped me set a really, really good 5 mile split. I think this opening charge helped me to set my personal best. However, by my 11th mile my legs were spent. I have heard of the runner’s wall before. However, I never really experienced it like I did Saturday. When I hit that wall my legs were done. My heart, lungs, etc were fine. But, cramps set in and I couldn’t push on. I had to stop several times and stretch, and I ended up walking long stretches to keep on going. When I crossed the line I was disappointed. I was disappointed in myself for not running the whole thing. I was disappointed in myself because I failed to hit my initial goal of 2 hours. (As race day approached I said I would be really happy if I could at least get 2 hours and 10 minutes). I didn’t get that either. Staring at me on the clock was 2 hours 18 minutes. I was physically exhausted and emotionally frustrated. I grabbed by medallion (or participation trophy), some Gatorade, a couple of snacks and headed to the car to drive home with my tail tucked between my legs. In the two days that followed I was reminded of how far I have come. I was reminded of what I have actually accomplished. I shade more than 35 minutes off of my personal best from last year. And that is something worth celebrating.

It seems like human nature to zero in on our failures rather than our successes. Yes, I failed to get 2 hours. Yes, I failed to get 2 hours 10 minutes. Yes, I failed to run the whole thing. Yes, I failed to even finish in the top ½ of my age group. However, you know what I did do? I finished. I finished better than last time. I did finish in the top 1/3 overall. I didn’t quit. I walked away making plans for my next one. (Last year I wasn’t certain I would ever run another ½ marathon). I did what I could do. And that is worth celebrating. In Mark 14 we read of an occasion where Mary came and washed the feet of Jesus. After doing so she broke a very expensive bottle of perfume to pour over the feet of Jesus. His disciples, especially Judas Iscariot, rebuked her for it saying that what she did was wasteful. They were convinced that they could find a better use for the money that she spent on the ointment than washing the feet of Jesus. Jesus rebuked them saying, “She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her (Mark 14:8-9).” What she did was commendable, worthy of celebration. So much so, that Jesus said that wherever the gospel is preached her service would be talked about. (Here we are 2000 years later still talking about it). No, she didn’t transverse land and sea proclaiming the gospel. No, she didn’t perform some miracle. No, she didn’t fix an elaborate meal. No, she didn’t build Jesus a house. But, she did what she could and that is praiseworthy. When we focus on the things we can’t do we rob ourselves of the joy of knowing what we can do.