After hurdling down this road as a nation for some years, it is drawing nigh to the time when North Carolina will cast in its lot with others on the legal nature of marriage (well, reiterate or contradict its present legal nature) with the proposed Ammendment One seeking to modify the state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. While there are numerous angles to view and to evaluate this legislation, I’m presently interested in what should be the response of the church to it. As a member of the Church in North Carolina, what questions should I ask, and what actions should I take for or against it, or should I act in neutrality? Here a my thoughts:
1. What part will this ammendment have upon the purposes of the Church?
This question assumes much, and so first I should seek to remove some of those assumptions. There are some who feel / believe that a purpose of the church is to sanctify the land in which it resides. In other words, the land should be governed by “Christian” law, so to speak. For when we debate these things, it is no debate how the Bible views homosexual relationships. They are “unnatural”, an “abomination”, and are full of sin. In other words, they stand against God’s design for human sexuality. Those who profess to be Christians who claim otherwise, obviously do not heed the Words upon which their faith is supposedly based. There are also the clear arguments from what is referred to as “Natural Law,” but that does not need to be addressed at this time.
However, when heeding this truth from the Scriptures, how does that make us respond as the church to members of our state who are outside the church? In other words, was the Law of Christ designed to govern those outside of Christ as well as those who are in Christ and to make the church his enforcers, or was it designed to govern the church alone? And if the Law of Christ does govern the state, what effect would that have upon the church?
To answer the first, I believe that (contrary to the opinion of many) that Word of Christ is designed for the People of Christ. To put it another way, I believe that the Law of Christ is designed to govern those outside of Christ as much as the law of Honduras is designed to govern American citizens. Though this is a poor illustration, my point is that the Law of Christ, which includes that axiom, “Love others as I have loved you,” is only fully applicable to those whom Christ has loved to the point of his death and substitution (assuming, of course, Particular Redemption).
This point is further shown in Scripture in that the Law of Christ is demanded of those who have died with Christ and to that Other Law, and not vice versa. In other words, we who are in Christ are not saved by binding ourselves to this thing which we call the Law of Christ by keeping it, but we are bound to it after we have been redeemed. Indeed, it is futile to attempt to keep such a Law apart from the Power of Christ residing in us.
As for the church’s duty in the state, Christ said we are to be a city on hill, shining out light into the darkness of this world. Paul puts it in clearer language saying:
I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people–for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a peaceful and quite life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1Tim. 2:1-4).
To put it differently, I believe that Christ and Paul are both commenting on the nature of the church and its effectiveness in these texts, and that they are both saying the same thing, namely that with regards to the outside world and its governance, the church is to be actively praying for it and its leaders, but not acting as its legislators. The church’s duty, therefore, is to live righteously itself, even within the world it resides, so as to be a light of Christ to it. This manner of living is designed to manifest itself in quietness and peace, which also carries with it the ability to draw those who are in darkness into the light.
To ask a simple question that corresponds with the text from Paul, How would you characterize the politically active portions of the church, particularly with regards to marriage legislation? Would it quiet and peaceful? Would it be as a city on a hill? Or is more after the liking of every other secular political institution and activist? Personally, I feel that we as the church collectively are characterized by the latter more than the former.
Which brings us back to our main question, “What part does this ammendment have upon the purposes of the Church?” In the light of these texts, it seems as though the effects upon the purposes of the church have less to do with whether or nor it passes and more to do with how we respond in the mean time and afterward. Will we be that light upon the hill that shines quietly and brilliantly into the darkness, or will we be just another secular voice being drowned in the sea of secular opinion? For I fear that morality in this country will fail despite the Church’s greatest arguments and activism, and all that will remain afterward is how we have conducted ourselves.
More thoughts to come…