Moderator's Comments - Posted 1 August 2017
We may have read last month of a renowned American Christian author being interviewed on the subject of Same-Sex Marriage (SSM). He gave an uncertain answer on the subject, and the next day he had to retract.
In the context of being prepared to suffer for what we know to be right, Scripture says: ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.’ (1 Peter 3:15). Further, God says to do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.
Are we ready to give an answer? When we’re called on to give account, will our words be clear? I ask myself such questions often, particularly with the current Australian debate about SSM.
It frustrates me that I find myself out-of-synch with the world and out-of-step with my neighbour. I don’t feel good about that. I love people. Every man, woman and child is a person with inherent dignity and God-given beauty. I respect that and love them for it. I love humanity. Yet, I watch the news report of another march for so-called ‘marriage equality’ and I feel estranged from them. It’s not because I don’t like them, rather I’m out-of-step with them. I can’t walk with them.
I see beautifully crafted rainbow banners that people carry, but I can’t identify with them. I wince at the high-jacking of this glorious symbol of God’s mercy and covenant promise, and I wish we could redeem its use for God’s original purpose (‘Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures … this is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on earth.’ Genesis 9:16, 17).
It saddens me to see the misuse of God’s symbol of the rainbow, because it has a much higher place – of dignity and glory. It’s part of the glory of God’s presence in heaven, as the very throne of God in heaven is adorned with the rainbow (‘before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.’ Revelation 4:3).
I listen to pleas and the very articulate debate for changing the Marriage Act, but I can’t affirm their cause or rejoice in their partial victories. I ask: Why? Why, when I have a deep respect and love for them as my neighbours. I don’t want to be out-of-step with my fellow Australians.
I believe we owe an explanation to those on the ‘opposite side’ to this debate because I sincerely believe we’re not that far apart in motive. I believe we’re each seeking the common good and love for our neighbour. How then do we end up so out-of-step?
It’s a question of higher honour
We have a different view of what is the ‘common good’ – informed by different sources. We have a different picture of what human freedom and fulfilment looks like.
It’s a question of higher loyalties. There is a higher call on our love for mankind: love for mankind’s creator. There’s a higher call at play. Bottom line: creator trumps creation. Jesus’ teaching affirms as much when he says that the first commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and the second is to love your neighbour as yourself. First things have the higher call. Whereas society’s wisdom says that the best chance of happiness is to follow your inclinations, please yourself and create your own idea of bliss and best experience.
Holding on to what we know to be true
As a Christian, we submit heart, soul and mind first to God’s revelation and our conscience is bound to follow that. God’s written word says that sexual practice between male and male and between female and female is unnatural and offensive to him as creator, (‘God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.’ Romans 1:26,27). A matter of shame to God must also be shame for us.
Jesus taught as much. Jesus teaching on marriage is recorded in Matthew’s gospel (ch 19) and then again in Mark’s (ch 10). He defines marriage as between one male and one female, locates its origin as a design feature of creation, and authorises only this arrangement. By this definition, Jesus condemns all other arrangements.
So our conscience is bound to submit to this standard, even if it leads us to be out-of-synch with people we love.
Let our word be our word
Let’s never be in the position of having to retract. When we’re called on to give account, let our words be clear. We have a profound and sincere love for our fellow mankind, and because of that we honour God’s view of fulfillment above and beyond all other views.
Christians are wrongly accused of hating the homosexual. It’s not a matter of hating anyone, it’s a matter of loving God more and loving what’s best for mankind beyond anything else. We honour God above all. And because of that, it’s a question of disagreement as to the definition of marriage, not hatred for any person of LGBTI persuasion.
We don’t rail legalistically against supporters of SSM with righteous finger-wagging – as if it’s all to do with our standards of morality against theirs. Rather, we stand against SSM because of monumentally important biblical doctrines of what honours and pleases God. And, we need men and women in parliament who will see what’s at stake and be like William Wilberforce was in his day. Wilberforce spoke and acted as he did because he was driven by God-centred and God-exalting biblical teachings. It was said of Wilberforce that ‘he was a radically God-centred Christian who happened to be a politician, and his true affections for God based on the peculiar doctrines of Christianity were the roots of his endurance in the cause of justice.’ (John Piper).
The push for change could come swiftly
Are we reading the signs? On one occasion, Jesus’s criticism of the crowd was: ‘You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?’ (Luke 12:56).
There are uncertain sounds coming from Canberra. Will the Prime Minister hold to the Liberal Party commitment to seek the opinion of Australians first prior to any consideration of change? Or will he fold? When will this plebiscite come (be it by poll or postal)?
Alternatively, will Senator Dean Smith get his way and we see the sudden emergence of a private members bill to move to a parliamentary conscience vote? If change comes, what will be our rights as Christians committed to the teachings of Jesus and the Word of God? Will rights of Christian churches and institutions be preserved?
Though we’re reading mixed signals from Parliament, let there be no mixed signals from the church. Though we hear rumours in Canberra of deferrals, reneging and equivocation … is our word our word? Are we ready to give an answer, even if that makes us unpopular with people we love?
The push for change is denial of what’s best
If the primary reason for our profound sadness with SSM is because of our higher loyalty to God’s revealed will, the secondary reason is that SSM denies what’s best for mankind.
- SSM denies the anthropological truth that men and women are different in design and function, and therefore diminishes the beauty of the complementary natures of a man and a woman – because it’s by that difference we are able to enjoy each other and complete each other:
- SSM denies the biological truth that a man and a woman are needed to reproduce, masking the self-evident design differences through which we are able to perpetuate the human race;
- SSM ignores the historical and social truth that every stable world nation and recognisable people group in recorded history, and every major world religion, has viewed marriage as solely between a man and a woman.
- SSM is not going to better Australian society. Young people will be confused about their identity, families weakened, children robbed of the stability of a mum and a dad. It’s a poor option.
John P Wilson