Love Wins.

In writing this piece, I know I will disappoint, frustrate and anger many people. Still, I hope you find compassion and love here. I am not writing for those who agree with me, I already know your thoughts, but for those who disagree. You’re probably busy celebrating right now – a sensible response, but maybe you’ll take the time to reflect with me.

Today marks a historic day for the United States of America. Today, our Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, voted to forbid states from banning same-sex marriage. It is a rare treat to be a part of memorable history. We know our children’s children will learn this date in school. The implications of our actions will be felt long after we are gone. Today, we belong to something greater than ourselves.

We know the Court’s function is to uphold and represent the original intentions of the Constitution. But how can you uphold an intent that was never conceived? The justices have the unenviable task of wading these waters on a regular basis, and not just with regard to same-sex marriage. Like everyone, they are subject to their cultural, historical, educational, familial and other biases. The decision today is, in my opinion, more a reflection of modern culture than an attempt to uphold historical intentions. Popular opinion is a fickle mistress and today she and I disagree.

In reviewing several articles already circulating in the news, one line has struck me again and again. Justice Kennedy, in his majority opinion, stated: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” he wrote. β€œIn forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

I agree wholeheartedly with his statement. No union is more profound than marriage. Marriage is the embodiment of the highest ideals. In marital union, two people become something greater than once they were – they become one. Justice Kennedy, we agree.

My question is, however, why? What is so fundamental in marriage, what is the essence, that makes marriage so unique? Why is marriage different than dating?

I cannot fully answer this question myself with a checklist or simple solution. Marriage is a mystery. It is a mysterious reflection of a greater union between Christ and His Bride, the Church. Just like a statue is a reflection of the great man (or woman) who once lived, so marriage is unique because it represents something greater than itself. We don’t remember the statue, we remember who the statue represents.

Marriage is given to us by our Creator and as such, is defined by Him alone. Despite the appearance otherwise, no individual, court, or state can define marriage. In restricting marriage to one man and one woman we represent greater diversity. In marriage we see the full reflection of God – male and female – created in His image.

By limiting marriage to Biblical standards, we are not trying to limit fundamental rights or attempt to crush anyone’s identity. I know that sounds like foolishness, but bear with me. Yes, to those who desire to marry a member of the same sex, I would restrict your freedom. However, all of us operate under some level of restrictions. No parent would argue it is beneficial to place no limits on your child’s desires – even genuine heartfelt desires. However, by maintaining the Biblical view of marriage we continue to affirm the dignity of all, male and female. We affirm each of us is necessary to reflect the full image of God. We teach ourselves that we are not defined solely by our sexual identity. Or any other identity, for that matter. We have an identity that is supreme above all – we are image bearers of God. This identity is not dependent upon our actions, the courts, our desires, or ourselves. It is given to us by virtue of our Creator without any merit on our part.

When we find ourselves frustrated by the limitations on us as created beings, we remember the God who limited his ultimate freedom and restricted himself to become a son of man, a human in all our limitations, to rescue us from our greatest need. We were condemned to death and we have been given a chance for new life through his death on the cross to pay for our sins and his resurrection and defeat of death.

To come back to the initial question, why is marriage unique? What is its essence? Marriage is unique because God made it unique. In unfathomable love, God created a way for traitors, haters, murderers, liars, and bigots to be made right. In doing so, He gave nothing less than Himself. His commitment is demonstrated in part through the mysterious union of a man and a woman coming together in a unique way through which they become greater than themselves.

The essence of marriage is the unwavering, unfaltering, unending commitment of God to his people reflected in the unwavering, unfaltering, unending commitment of one man and one woman to each other through marriage.

Today, our nation disagrees. The beauty of being an American is we can disagree. Those of us who are disappointed must remember our hope lies not in the American court system or with any human power, be they just or unjust, but in the God who will one day make all things right – love will win.

Keep Out! Christianity in the Public Square

Keep OutRecently I’ve noticed a lot of attention given to the claim “Christians are being forced out of the public square.” Whether it is an evaluation of Tony Dungy’s remarks, opinions on the Israel/Gaza conflict, gay marriage, Hobby Lobby, or any other issue; the claim is loud and widespread, and so it seems, Christians are not welcome here.

I think this is absolutely true. However, my concern is we as Christians will see this more as a threat to be afraid of than an opportunity. Yes, Christianity is not as ubiquitous as it once was. Yes, overt Christianity is not as prevalent as it used to be. Yes, there are people who want to shut down the voice of anyone who disagrees with them all in the name of “tolerance.” At the same time, I don’t think this is either all bad or all true.

First, through “persecution” and suffering we are refined (for the record, I do not think Christians in America are experiencing persecution and to claim so, I think, is a slap in the face to our brothers who are being persecuted). Our true beliefs, our true faith is revealed when our idols are exposed. For many years, what was claimed to be Christianity was a version of the prosperity gospel mingled with Christian ideas. To become disillusioned from these falsities – even if it means exposing a deeper lack of faith is a good process; without a clear understanding of where we as a society are we will not be able to see the contrast between Truth and falsehood.

Second, church growth is often spurred in trials. Early Christians faced death for converting and yet we see numerous examples of thousands of people committing their lives to Christ in one day. In a fully depraved society, the light and hope of the Gospel shines that much brighter in contrast. Believers must be equipped, prepared, and courageous to speak the truth in a winsome way to anyone who questions. Then we can rest knowing it is the Holy Spirit who moves people, not our eloquent words.

Third, much of the hostility towards Christians is a result of an inability to communicate clearly and truthfully the “why” behind our beliefs. Why do we, as a society, have laws against murder? Because we believe murder is wrong–>Why is murder wrong? Because it harms another person–>Why do we protect against harming another person–>1. It is good for society, 2. People have value. Why is it good for society? Because God established us to live in community – we thrive together. Why do people have value? Because we are created in the image of God an derive our worth from Him.

As Christians, we must be prepared to reason and articulate our beliefs – by finding common ground “Murder is bad” we can begin a dialogue about ideas of significance: not “are corporations people?”, but instead, (why) do we believe people have value?

Fourth, when faced with hostility we must respond in recognition of our status as aliens and sojourners. Our hope is not in this world. Our eyes are set on a future when all wrongs will be righted and all injustice will be made true. As representatives of Christ, we can expect the same treatment Jesus faced as he walked this Earth; including mockery, hostility, betrayal, and death while learning from his response speaking the truth, righteous anger, self-sacrifice. In the midst of great agony, Jesus displays greater compassion both through empathy with his torturers, “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.” and ultimately through his willing death for rebels, murderers, betrayers, and liars. Like me.

Lastly, though our freedoms may come to an end, though we may be forced out of the public square, though we may experience persecution one day our hope is not in our voice, our freedom, or our our likeability, but in God who created our voice, who gives ultimate freedom from sin and death in Him, and who sees us both as we truly are and as we will be fully redeemed and loves us through it all.