As the church seeks to love others and be faithful to God, much is being written about what the church should do in response to the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage (SSM). The good news for the American Church is that our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world have already been through this and while America may be different, we have much to learn from them.
I had the privilege of talking to a few pastors from different countries where SSM has been legal for a long time. It is always great to remember that we are a part of a global body of Christ.
These conversations with them were immensely helpful as we seek to stay faithful to the clear position of Jesus’ teaching on marriage while maintaining his posture of love and humility.
Here are 3 lessons I learned from them:
1. We Don’t Need to Fear the Future
While God tells us not to fear all the time, the church has a tendency to react in anxiety and expecting the worse. We fear the loss of many religious liberties and other difficulties the church may say. We must reject fear because we never respond in faithfulness to God or love to others when we fear.
As I listened to my brothers and sisters from other countries, they had the same fears, but none of them materialized. In most cases, the excitement of the ruling calmed down and society returned to a normal pace with a few new realities around us. Many of them simply shrugged at the news in the US and moved on to focus on the mission of God.
We don’t need to fear the future with God in control. He is greater than any government and will be with us whatever the future may bring. Be comforted.
2. Our Business is More than Behavior
This stood out to me as simple, but always good for us to remember. When we fight for marriage to be a certain way or fight for legal validation of the behavior that flows from the gospel, we inevitably get distracted from the gospel.
Behavior flows from belief, so we must begin with what people believe more than how they act. The battle over differing views of marriage moves our message from Jesus-centric to behavior-centric. This a subtle, but important shift. One leads to the other, but behavior-centric messaging doesn’t always lead to Jesus.
This move will allow us not to magnify marriage more than Christ does and re-invite us to celebrate singleness as Christ does. It reminds us, as Jesus did with His disciples in Matthew 19, that the kingdom of heaven was more important than marriage.
Our business in magnifying Jesus over a magnifying glass on behavior.
3. Love Your Neighbor, Not the Government
It is safe to say the American church has been focused on loving the government and political engagement. The motivations and dreams of a government that honors God are admirable, but they can also be a massive distraction from God’s mission.
If we listened to the words of Jesus, the greatest commandments are to love God and love our neighbor. His words on government are short and sweet, but he tells an entire story to prove his point on tangibly and actively loving your neighbor.
As the church, the government not being intertwined with theology may cause problems, but it also awakens us to opportunity that is much closer to us. We get the chance to disconnect from the 24-hour news cycle and the political campaign trail to connect with our neighbors and change our neighborhoods with our love.
These interactions served as one more reminder that we have a lot to learn from the global church in how to follow God in our current time. We get to embrace the humble posture of learner from the global church and seek the Kingdom of God with them.