Tag Archives: grace

“The Gospel and Same-Sex Marriage”

What is a Biblical response to same-sex marriage? How does the good news of Christ shape our thinking on this topic?

If you are asking these questions, then you will want to read The Gospel and Same-Sex Marriage. Edited by Russell Moore and Andrew Walker, it is the most recent book in “The Gospel for Life Series.”

same-sex marriage

The Gospel and Same-Sex Marriage is a short book (102 pages) with five chapters, each one written by a different author: Andrew Walker, John Piper, Jason Duesing, J. D. Greear, and Albert Mohler—all of whom are respected Christian thinkers.

Why is this topic important?

Although Russell Moore does not author one of the chapters, he does write the preface. In those few pages, Moore makes several excellent points, arguing “that the gospel isn’t just the start of the Christian life but rather the vehicle that carries it along” (xi). Salvation is far more than a moment of confession to God; it is a moment-by-moment conforming to Christ.

Theology doesn’t just think; it walks, weeps, and bleeds. … Our gospel is indeed miraculous, but … it’s also a gospel of the ordinary. (xii)

What is marriage?

In the first chapter, Andrew Walker clarifies key truths for the entire discussion by defining marriage and establishing its importance. He begins the book by explaining that marriage is “a gendered and complementary union” (9). Many of our churches have failed to understand how critical this is:

Once marriage is redefined as no longer complementary, the whole matrix of marriage’s function collapses. (11)

Not only is marriage designed to be complementary in nature, but it is also to be monogamous, exclusive, and permanent.

Why does the definition matter?

Walker also makes the important point that God-designed marriage brings blessings to both Christians and non-Christians.

It’s true [that] anyone can benefit from the good of marriage—whether they are a Christian or not. Society flourishes when marriage policies align with God’s design for marriage. … (20)

I have greatly appreciated the writings of John Piper on the subject of marriage, and his chapter in this book is no exception. Here are a couple excerpts from his essay:

God made man male and female with their distinctive feminine and masculine natures and their distinctive roles so that in marriage as husband and wife they could display Christ and the church. Marriage is designed to reflect the deepest truths of the gospel. (30-31)

The recognition of so-called same-sex marriage would be a clear social statement that motherhood or fatherhood or both are negligible in the public good of raising children. (38)

I agree with Piper that losing a mother or father is a tragedy. Do we want “to make that tragedy normal” through our laws? Is it right to willingly deprive a child of a mother or father?

How did we get here?

Dr. Mohler does a great job of evaluating the factors in the cultural landscape that activated this moral seismic shift. He identifies these four “massive developments: birth control and contraception, divorce, advanced reproductive technologies, and cohabitation” (89). I agree with Mohler’s assessment that the Church’s compromise on Biblical marriage created a profound weakness for both the Church and the surrounding culture:

[When] the culture lost its mind on marriage, far too many churches decided to join the irrationality. Thus, evangelical churches began to treat divorce as a non-issue, even as the Bible includes the strongest statements imaginable about the permanence of marriage and the sinfulness of divorce. … Ultimately the evangelical abdication of responsibility for divorce set the stage for a loss of evangelical credibility to speak to the larger issue of sexuality and marriage. (92)

Dr. Mohler also examines some of the pro-homosexual strategy that proved to be immensely effective in triggering the moral tsunami.

What should we do?

My favorite chapter, however, was written by J. D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in North Carolina. He urges believers to engage in the marriage discussion with grace and truth, as Jesus did.

And when we are full of grace and truth like Jesus, we can expect to see the response he did—to repel the proud and attract the broken. (64)

We must speak the truth if we are to love well. Greear reminds us that we are commanded in the Scriptures “to rebuke the works of darkness” (65). Isn’t that being judgmental?

Even though Jesus told many people that their works were evil, he still did not condemn that world. How could that be? Because after telling us the truth, Jesus brought us close. … You judge someone not when you assess their position, but when you dismiss them as a person. (66)

Greear emphasizes “our failure to grapple with our own inherent sinfulness.” He does a great job of retelling the parable of the man who was forgiven a huge debt but who then refused to forgive someone else’s very small debt. Greear says:

If you are characterized by disgust over someone else’s sin rather than being  overwhelmed at the forgiveness that God has given you, you are desperately out of touch with the gospel. (70)

After explaining God’s design for sex, Greear addresses the struggle that many people have to conform to God’s plan and “to change their sexual passions.” He points out that this is part of “the already-not-yet dimension of the Kingdom.” In others words, the atoning work of salvation is finished, but the transforming work of salvation is a process. Sometimes God heals immediately, “but sometimes we have to wait for the resurrection for ultimate healing” (73-74).

[Sometimes] God allows people to struggle so that they can be a testimony to God’s sustaining grace in struggle. It seems that the latter is actually God’s normal way. … [God allows this] to convince us—until our dying breath—of our desperate need for grace. (75)

In fact, I think that ongoing victories that spring from a continuing struggle can be just as great a miracle as a one-time removal of the struggle. This is what God did for Paul. God did not remove “the thorn” from Paul’s life. Instead, He gave him grace upon grace, day after day. God may not give complete deliverance from a struggle, but He always gives victory over temptation. Rather than giving us one dramatic victory, God may be giving us thousands of daily victories.

God’s people are most loving when we respond to others with authentic mercy, which looks beneath surface issues to discover true core needs. Greear notes that when “Jesus dealt with someone in sexual sin, He never started with the sin. He always started with the root issues behind the sin.”

For example, when Christ speaks with the woman at the well, “He shows her that her addictive behavior is driven by a soul thirst.” And with the woman caught in the act of adultery, Jesus expressed acceptance of her in a profound way. It was this acceptance of her as a person which then gave her the power to turn from her sin.

As we dialogue with others about sexual choices and marriage, we want to be motivated always by grace, which says that people are valued and loved, regardless of their behavior. The Bible explains that sin is a problem, not because it violates an arbitrary rule, but because it robs us,  it deforms us, and it destroys us. God longs to make our spirits healthy and thriving—fully alive, full of joy, and fully satisfied. God is the generous, trustworthy Lover of our souls.

I certainly recommend this well-written, thought-provoking book. It is critical that Christians understand Biblical truth concerning “same-sex marriage” and then share God’s unfailing love and compassion as we live as salt and light in our communities.

__________________________________________________

Painting by Henryk Siemiradzki, public domain.

Forgiveness as Resurrection

Jesus was not the first person to be raised from the dead.

forgivenessHis disciples had seen Lazarus walk out of a tomb after being dead for four days. They had seen Jesus lift a dead boy out of his coffin and back into life.

But as amazing as those things were, they did not affect the disciples the way the resurrection of Jesus did. Seeing the resurrected Christ changed His followers dramatically. They became obsessed with the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection  became the basis for their faith and the driving force for their lives.

The resurrection of Christ is absolutely unique in all of history:

Others were raised from the dead, but Jesus Christ raised Himself.[i]

He defeated death from within.

Before He died, Jesus made this startling prediction: “Destroy this temple [that is, my body], and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19-22, NIV). Jesus told His disciples, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:18, NIV).

forgiveness

Christ chose to walk into death and then to walk back out, demonstrating a power greater than the power of death. Lazarus and others were given a temporary reprieve from death: they were retrieved from death for a while, but then they died again.

But Christ won more than a postponement; He actually conquered death. He faced it head-on and completely dominated it.

The core of our faith, just like that of the early believers, is the Resurrection of Christ. Death is the fierce power of our sin, but there is a power that is even greater: the purity, the deity, and the love of Christ constitute an absolutely unsurpassed power.

We sometimes fear that forgiving means surrender or passivity. Nothing could be farther from the truth:

Forgiveness is looking evil in the eye, calling it what it is, and then proclaiming victory.

Forgiveness rises taller and stronger than the evil that came against it. It removes the “sting” of evil by removing the harm from the hurt[ii]. It removes the poison of bitterness and the curse of resentment.
forgivenessWhen we are hurt by others, we experience something like a death: there is a kind of grieving, perhaps the ending of a relationship as it had been, and there may even be—as Lazarus’ sister pointed out—a “bad smell” to the whole affair. But forgiveness says, “This is not the end of the story.”

After His crucifixion, the body of Christ was placed in a borrowed tomb, not His own. Similarly, forgiving involves walking into someone else’s evil, not our own. We stand for a moment in the dark “tomb” of someone else’s sin, but then, like Christ, we choose to walk out into the garden, where the Spirit makes all things new.AAM8X0DRXY

This is why Christ-followers must forgive:

Forgiveness is the Resurrection again.

A49952BF7AForgiveness is first the Cross raised as an identifying banner over us. Forgiveness is then the Resurrection, demonstrating the power of the Spirit of God within us. He brings the power to obliterate evil and to transform ashes into beauty.

3C2AEB6A2A

When given the opportunity to forgive, we can respond to our debtors with these truths in our hearts:

You hurt me, but I will not hurt you back.

My willingness to forgive you is my willingness for God to forgive me.

When God poured out the riches of His grace to me, He included all the grace that I would need to pass on to you.

I do not seek your punishment. I seek your redemption and your healing.

5FS7RIUMKC

How has forgiveness brought Resurrection power into your life?

{Read Part One of this series here: A Spiritual WMD.
Read Part Two here: Forgiveness as Self-Help?
And read Part Three here: Forgiveness: A Power Way to Hold Out the Cross.}

—————————————————-

 

[i] The Resurrection was an awesome performance of the Trinity, the Son acting in concert with the Father (Galatians 1:1) and the Spirit (Romans 8:11).
[ii] 1 Corinthians 15:55

What Fills Your Marriage?

Here is a book that I would recommend even if it were nothing more than its title: Grace Filled Marriage. But now that I have finished reading Grace Filled Marriage, I am glad to say that I can recommend not only the title but also the entire book!

If “grace” refers to all the gifts springing from goodness and love—gifts such as acceptance and forgiveness and kindness—then grace is exactly what every marriage needs.  In this hope-filled, easy-to-read book, author Tim Kimmel explains what it means to fill a marriage with grace.

Here is a collection of quotes from the book:

GraceFilledMarriage[M]ost marriage don’t struggle from a lack of love; they struggle from a lack of grace. (3)

Love is the commitment of my will to your needs and best interests regardless of the cost. (65)

[We can be spouses who believe that] divine grace [is] bigger than human disgrace. (113)

The primary feature of a heart of grace is that it lives to trust God. (118)

When you and your spouse are talking your way through tough issues, the goal of the discussion should always be unity, never victory. … If you consistently win arguments with your mate, guess what you get to sleep with every night? A loser! (161)

… God is glorified when we fight for our marriage, pray like mad, and trust him to deal with our unrepentant spouse. (161)

He’s a bigger God than any mess you or your spouse could have made. (172)

[Problems are] opportunities to enjoy a front-row seat to [God’s] sustaining grace. (186)

Love that comes from God is unique: … it’s delivered in abundant quantities … and graciously (as though it’s an honor on the part of the giver). (217)

True greatness is a passionate love for Jesus Christ that shows itself in an unquenchable love and concern for others. (218)

Jesus passionately met our needs. He wants his love pouring through us to passionately meet our spouse’s needs. (221)

There’s a lot resting on your mariage. Big stuff. God’s kingdom stuff. Even though you record your marriage in years, there’s an eternal dimension to what your union represents to God’s grander redemptive story. There are a lot of people whose lives will be impacted by how you live out your love—even people in generations way on down the line from you. (234)

Your marriage is worth all the grace that you can pour into it.  May God fill your life today with His generous, lavish grace.