Wednesday, January 20, 2016

In the Wake of the Episcopal Church’s “Punishment” …

Holy Marriage vs. Gay Marriage
A Christian’s Case for the Haitian Model of Marriage

Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.  Matthew 22:21

Last week, as I write this, the worldwide Anglican Confession booted the American Episcopal Church out of their communion. The Episcopalians are in an organizational “penalty box” for the next three years, all because of their “secular” and profoundly politically correct stand in support of gay marriage. 

And not just secular gay marriage performed by a Justice of the Peace or by “Elvis” in Las Vegas. No, the Episcopal Church in the US has come out in support of offering to perform sacramental marriage, officiated and blessed by a priest, in a church, standing before God’s altar.

In this conflict of standards between the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church in America, basically it comes down to a simple dichotomy.  When it comes to marriage as a holy sacrament, the Episcopalians are for sanctifying gay marriage. However, the Anglican Communion – and, I believe, God – are against sanctifying gay marriage.

I’m sure that statement – and what follows – will outrage some gay Christians (as well as gay non-Christians), along with many of their non-gay supporters.  There are some people for whom playing the victim card (as I wrote about in American Thinker), or for whom attacking others instead of engaging them in reasonable discussions are their “default settings.” 

From these angry, always-ready-to-be-offended card-carrying victims, I’m expecting charges of homophobia and “hate speech” and worse. 

To that I say:

·       First, you don’t know my heart, and if you think you do, you’re almost certainly wrong.

·       My oldest and closest friend in life – the man who was, for more than 40 years, literally the brother I never had – was a gay man who was also a practicing Christian. He attended church regularly and sought out God, trying to find a balance between what he felt was his nature and what God had in mind for him. 

·       Bottom line:  I have no issues at all against individual gays – every gay man or woman I’ve ever gotten to know personally became a friend. However, I do have issues with organized pressure groups (gay or otherwise) who try to enforce their secular agendas on me, my family or my church.

So, if you don’t like what I have to say here, and you think that instead of a reasoned reply, your best and most effective response is to attack me personally, then all I can say is this:

Bring it on.

But set aside potential personal attacks – let’s return to the issue at hand.  This issue not only involves the Episcopal Church in the USA, but it now also transcends that one denomination. Pressures by gay activists and their supporters are reaching into every aspect of Christian church life. 

This issue matters to me for a couple of reasons. First, I was raised by my mother in the Episcopal faith, and I’ve always had affection for the Episcopalian Church.  Second, my wife and I have been visiting an Episcopal congregation here in town, with thoughts that we might join. 

However, the support by the Episcopal Church for performing the sacrament of marriage for gay couples has changed that.  Though we may continue to visit, joining that congregation is no longer an option for us, for reasons that I hope to make clear.

Consider this: the entire gay marriage issue is being mis-represented.  It is being framed by gay and pro-gay Episcopalians as being all about “gay rights.”  Yet this church issue actually doesn’t have anything at all to do with gay rights.  Instead, it’s about who the church is listening to – to God, or to those politically-correct activists.

Like it or not, the Supreme Court settled the gay marriage matter last year when they ruled that gays have a legal, constitutional right to be married – by the state.  Despite your feelings or mine, that legal rights issue is over.  In America, any two consenting adults can demand the right to be married by a JP or other licensed marriage officiator – including, at least in Las Vegas, Elvis – regardless of gender or sexual orientation.  Period!

However, that ruling has no force on churches which – under our constitution – still cannot be forced to sanctify a gay marriage that is in conflict with the church’s core, doctrinal beliefs.  At least not yet.

Despite what outraged gay Episcopalians (and others, gay or straight, Episcopalian or non-believer, who support them) have been saying, this whole issue isn't about "rights," let alone “gay rights.”  As noted, those rights have already been secured by the courts.  Rather, this whole cosmic kerfuffle is all about a denominational Church of God choosing to sanctify a behavior that embraces both intentional, habitual and unrepented sin.  

That choice – to sanctify before God an inherently sinful relationship – runs against everything the bible says about sanctifying any kind of sinful behavior. It also runs against 2,000 years of biblically-sound Christian thought.

Correct me if you think I’m wrong (and I’m sure that some will), but as far as I can tell, there is no equivocation in the bible when it comes to the sin of homosexuality. Nor does the bible equivocate when it comes to the sin of fornication, or adultery, or blasphemy, or theft or murder.   

This isn’t about homosexuality – God doesn’t “play favorites” among the various kinds sins.

It is true that some Christians act – and may even believe – that homosexuality is a “special” kind of sin.   The only “special” kind of sin I can find reference to in the New Testament is blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, a sin against which Christ warned in all four Gospels.

But homosexuality is not a “special” sin – it is merely the often-condemned sin of carnal lust, with a twist.  1 Corinthians (pronounced “First Corinthians”) condemns homosexual acts, but in that book Paul does so in the same breath as he condemns nine other kinds of equally egregious sins.

Also, God makes a big difference between the temptation to sin between man with man, or woman with woman, and the act of giving in to the temptation.

God’s anger is not directed toward the person who feels inclined toward homosexuality – or adultery, or fornication, or theft, or any other sin, whatsoever. His anger is directed toward the person who acts on the temptation.   We are all tempted by sin, every day.  Yet God judges us not by our temptation, but only by our ability to resist temptation. He further judges us, after we fall – and we will fall, all of us – based on our willingness to repent of that sin. Then by our trying, as Jesus admonished us, to sin no more.

For example, many men and women are tempted in the direction of infidelity and adultery, which are egregious sins.  Our divorce statistics show that far too many people cave in to those temptations, and not once, but habitually.  Yet our “stay married” statistics show that many people manage to resist those marriage-destroying temptations. Instead, they choose to remain pure within the bounds of their marriage.

Yet there remains a  profound difference between the church sanctifying a marriage among two sinners who are not intent on committing habitual sin, and the church violating everything the bible teaches on the subject by sanctifying a marriage based on the intent to habitually sin.  One marriage represents an honest attempt by two repentant sinners to place God’s commands ahead of man’s weakness.  The other so-called marriage enshrines man’s weakness and sanctifies his intent to keep sinning, all in violation of both teaching and tradition.

This does cut both ways.  This is not just about homosexuals choosing to marry, and to do so in a Church and blessed by God. It can apply in other ways as well, if only hypothetically.

Ask yourself:  “What would God and the Church do if a couple, upon getting married, vowed to stray from their marriage bed every chance they got? Would the church sanctify that marriage?”  

Of course not. 

No priest or pastor is going to give God’s blessing to a marriage doomed to failure by the parties’ prior commitment to sin in such a fashion.  The church sanctifies a marriage based on the shared vow to “forsake all others”, and to “love, honor and cherish for as long as we both shall live.”

Jesus made it clear that any sin (except, as noted, for blaspheming against the Holy Spirit) is forgivable.  This includes the sinfulness of the homosexual act.  There is no question that such acts are sinful in the sight of God.  On that issue, both the Old Testament and the New Testament seem clear and unequivocal.

·        You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination (Leviticus 18:22)

·        If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act … (Leviticus 20:13)

·        Therefore, God gave them up to the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature, rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. (Romans 1:24-25)

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.  And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper (Romans 1:26-28)

·        Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither the fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves; nor the covetous; nor drunkards; nor revilers; nor swindlers shall inherit the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
However, note two things. 

First, as Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 6:11, the sin of homosexuality can all be forgiven through Jesus. 

Second, while the sin of homosexuality is a barrier to inheriting the Kingdom of God, it is not the only such barrier – and all may be forgiven.  Barred from the Kingdom are fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, the effeminate, thieves, the covetous, drunkards, revilers and swindlers are all also barred from inheriting the Kingdom of God.  Paul noted this in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

In God’s eyes (except for blaspheming the Holy Spirit), all sins are equally damnable, and equally forgivable

Yes, I know that attitude is politically incorrect. However, God isn’t bound by the transitory expectations of hedonists who want what they want, when they want it and the way they want it, all without the risk of condemnation or judgment.

Homosexual acts are forgivable.  However, that sin (like all other sins) can only be forgiven as long as the person who commits the sinful act repents and tries to turn his back on that sin.  Jesus says, in John 8:11 and John 5:14, and min many other verses, "I forgive you of your sins – now go and sin no more."

God’s forgiveness comes linked to repentance, as well as to a commitment to at least try to sin no more.  Yet a “sanctified” gay marriage is entered into by two people who intend to keep right on sinning.  How can the church sanctify, through a holy sacrament, that kind of marriage? 

Whether it is two gays pledging to keep engaging in homosexual sex or two straights pledging to engage in extramarital affairs at every opportunity, no church can honor God and still sanctify such a union.

Which brings us back to the Episcopal Church I was raised in, and the Church my wife and I have been visiting locally.  While we had been visiting, we had not joined, in large part because we are uncomfortable with this denominational policy of sanctifying sinful behavior.

But we were on the fence until the events of this past week.  This Anglican Communion ruling against the Episcopal Church brings it all to a head.

This Church has (in my opinion) made a serious doctrinal error by embracing man's (politically correct) standards of the moment in the place of God's eternal standards. I further believe that the Anglican Communion was right in citing scripture reflecting God's view on homosexual acts.

I take the Anglican Communion’s action as rebuking the Episcopal Church.  “Rebuking” in the sense of 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Personally, and from a purely secular perspective, I don’t care who marries whom in a civil marriage.

But as a Christian, I cannot see a gay marriage being sanctified. Such a marriage enshrines a sinful foundation, which is not in accord with God’s law as I understand it.

Of course, we are all sinners, but there is a huge, fundamental difference between struggling against sin and embracing sin as a lifestyle choice. The Episcopal Church, with its openly (and apparently actively) gay priests and bishops, as well as its embrace of gay marriage, seems to have forgotten this lesson.

God loves and forgives sinners, but the Church is expected to follow the rules, not rewrite them to suit the politically-correct flood-tide of transitory public opinion. The Reformation took place because the Roman Church lost sight of this. In the process, Western Christianity was torn asunder.

Sadly, those who insist that being politically correct is more important than being justified before God are inviting another “Reformation.”

 However, there is a solution that should satisfy people of goodwill on both sides of the gay marriage debate within the faith. 

In many places throughout the bible, I find references to God’s double-standard.  God doesn’t expect heathens to follow Christian principles, since they don’t know Christ.  However, He doesn’t (and I mean REALLY doesn’t) expect Christians to slip into the pattern of following secular principles. 

I think that this fact could – properly applied – go a long way toward resolving the gay marriage kerfuffle that’s going on in society, and among Christ followers.

I could be wrong here, and if someone with a better understanding of the bible can point me in the right way, I’d be deeply grateful. Until then, allow me to offer a few thoughts on the subject. 

Starting with Haiti.

A while back, a friend of mine got married in Haiti – twice.  First, he and his new bride had a sanctified-before-God religious wedding, conducted in a chapel and presided over by the two ordained gentlemen (a priest and rabbi) who ministered to the two people getting married.  Then, following the reception – a celebration of their “real” marriage – my friend and his bride complied with local laws and had a secular marriage, performed in the office of the Haitian equivalent of a Justice of the Peace. 

In Haiti, as a matter of policy, the state recognizes that a marriage is a state-supported contract used for taxing and benefit purposes. That is essentially a secular marriage, and under Haitian law it should be performed by a JP.  However, the Haitian law makes it clear that a sacred marriage is something entirely different – it is a sacrament performed in a church or synagogue by an ordained priest, pastor or rabbi. The state has no power to intervene or control that, just as the church has no say in the secular wedding.

Frankly, I think they’ve got the right idea here.

Embracing this dualistic approach could help us Christians to put behind us the semantic and spiritual battles between the one-man-and-one-woman Christians and anybody-who-wants-to gays and their liberal supporters.

It’s hard for most Americans – especially those of us who’ve actually been there (as I have) – to view Haiti as being ahead of the good ol’ USA in any dimension, but this time, I think they are.

Why does this matter?  It matters because it offers a conflict-free resolution to the thorny question of gay marriage.

Though the Supreme Court has blocked states from banning gay marriage – meaning that gay marriages are the constitutional “law of the land” – millions of Christians still hold fast to the idea that a marriage is a sacred rite performed between one man and one woman.

This is where the Haitian model comes into play.

If we Christians embrace that the belief that the only “real” marriage is one performed by their priest or pastor, then regardless of whatever gays and lesbians swear to in front of a justice of the peace, that is between them and the state, and has nothing to do with our faith.  In this scenario, we have no need to attack gay marriages.  To us, those aren’t “real” marriages, and frankly, what they are is none of our business. 

We don’t need to condone them, but as Christians who are in no way involved with them, we also don’t need to attack them.

If you’re also a political conservative who has political issue with gay marriage, by all means, speak your mind.  But please do so as a conservative, not as a Christian.  Why?  Because, realistically, what gays and lesbians do in front of a justice of the peace (or in their own bedrooms) is their business, and what they do doesn’t touch us as Christians.

The problem (if any) arises if gay couples ask for – or demands – a sanctified church wedding. To them we should respectfully and lovingly explain that God’s commands will not allow us to do this.  We can bless them and pray for them, but we cannot sanctify their union.

God does not follow the polling numbers. He doesn’t wait to see what is trending on Twitter before making up (or changing) His mind.  God is not Politically Correct.  And, with His hand held out to sinners with the offer of forgiveness, God still maintains that a sin is a sin – yesterday, today, tomorrow. 

The Church forgets that at its peril.

As always, I could be wrong - I claim no direct line to God's thoughts, so these statements are my beliefs, based on my own reading of scripture.

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