The FIRST Command Is To Love God


Years ago I read a long, rather impassioned post about same-sex marriage from someone who identifies as a Christian, though not as a “Christianist,” defined as “those on the fringes of the religious right who have used the Gospels to perpetuate their own aspirations for power, control and oppression,” but then described as all those who lined up at a Chick-Fil-A to support Mr. Cathy’s right to give charitably as he sees fit without being punished by the government.

Posts like this make me seriously wonder if people know what the US Constitution says and/or if they care a whit whether or not someone else’s rights are being violated—even though they disagree with that person.

But of greater issue is that the blogger said,

“Love your neighbor as yourself,” repeatedly named as the greatest commandment, means that we must imagine ourselves in our neighbors’ positions and treat them as we would treat ourselves.

While making some valid comments about how Christians should treat others, the elephant in the post is that “love your neighbor” is the second greatest command, not the first. What a misstep!

And it is no small thing to elevate our treatment of others over our treatment of God. This is the way false teaching works. God gets relegated to second place, at best.

In truth, God specifically reserved the top spot for Himself. We are to have no other gods before Him.

Jesus spelled it out clearly, a statement repeated in all three of the synoptic gospels, when He was questioned about the greatest command:

One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. (Matt. 22:35-38, emphasis mine)

But the key point here is that Jesus was quoting the command from Deuteronomy 6:5. A few chapters later, Moses reiterates the point:

Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut. 10:12)

The command is repeated yet again toward the end of the book:

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes (Deut. 30:15-16a)

What’s hard to ignore is the fact that loving God and obeying God are tied together. Someone can give all the human reasoning they want for doing whatever they wish to do, but the fact is, when that person disobeys God’s law, He’s not loving God.

The potential stumbling block is that one of God’s commands is to love our neighbors. Hence, someone can say, I am obeying God when I advocate for same-sex marriage because I am loving my neighbors who have been denied their rights.

That statement is riddled with problems. First, and really the only point that matters, is this: it is not loving to enable someone to sin.

The problem becomes complicated, as I see it, when people bearing the name of Christ wish to enforce God’s law rather than to love their neighbor by refusing to enable his sin. It’s a difference in attitude and motive, first, but it’s also a difference in conclusion—as if obeying God’s law against same-sex unions will make the individuals in question acceptable in God’s sight.

The truth is, we are separated from God, not because we are immoral, or we lie, get drunk, gossip, or harbor pride in our hearts. Yes, those things deserved death, but Jesus Christ took on Himself the penalty we should pay because we are bankrupt and incapable of doing enough to even our account. Instead of accepting His free gift, though, some reject Him and remain in their sin. It’s that rejection that leaves them separated from God.

Jesus never said, Clean up your life so you can come to Me. Rather, His message is, Come to Me, and I’ll clothe you with My righteousness and give you a new life renewed according to My image.

Loving God and obeying His commandments don’t happen because we try harder. Loving God is a response to His first loving us. Obeying God is a demonstration of our love for Him. The elements are entwined, and we confuse the issue when we try to separate one strand from the others.

Or if we forget which is the greatest command.

This article is an edited version of one that appeared here in September, 2012.

Published in: on February 13, 2020 at 5:00 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,

Christians In A Non-Christian World


Peter006I know it’s hard for many Christians outside the US to comprehend, but believers here have lived for decades under the illusion that we’re in the majority. With the changes in our culture in the last seven years, and particularly in the last seven weeks, we really cannot deny the truth any more: we are in a post-Christian society and are in the minority.

This realization has caused great concern for many who have held out hope that the US would return to the ideals of our founders—that we would again recognize our Creator who, our Constitution tells us, endowed us all with certain unalienable rights. Barring a great movement of God’s Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of our people, we will not see a shift toward the things of God.

Changes once made are rarely rescinded. I don’t see same-sex marriage being disallowed by the Supreme Court or a Constitutional Amendment enacted returning marriage to its historical definition. Even with the Planned Parenthood scandal, it’s improbable that abortion will ever again be outlawed. And schools are already not allowed to teach creationism as one possible means by which the multiverse came into being.

How, then, will children raised on evolutionary theory as if it were fact, come to faith in a Creator God?

Let’s just say, Christians have our work cut out for us.

But shouldn’t that excite us?

I mean, did we think God put us on earth for a vacation before heading off into eternity? Who do we thing Jesus was talking to when He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me”? And who is on the receiving end of the great commission? Aren’t we, believers in Jesus Christ, to be the ones who make disciples?

But in a society of “everyone’s already a Christian,” none of us has to step up boldly and declare our faith.

I was reminded the other day of one of my greatest failures. In sixth grade (I would have been twelve) I attended a school in a rather exclusive part of Santa Barbara, a rather exclusive part of SoCal. Not everyone was rich (we weren’t), but I’m sure a number of my classmates were. Further, I was in a group ear-marked for college. So these kids were bright, hard-working, well-behaved, their parents involved.

I, as a Christian, was trying to figure out what my beliefs had to do with everyday life. The year before I’d made a woeful attempt to be the loving Christian. At that time we lived in an Italian ghetto in downtown Denver. When a new boy came to school and everyone started picking on him, I decided the loving Christian thing was to be nice to him. I hadn’t foreseen two consequences. The new guy took to me like I was his life raft, and my friends started teasing me about him because of it.

In a very un-Christ-like decision, I reversed my original “be nice to him” mode. Surprise, surprise—he didn’t respond so well. Being betrayed was probably harder on him than the original bullying. We ended up at loggerheads which led to fisticuffs. And eventually a trip to the office.

So much for putting into practice Christian principles.

And now I was in California, the exclusive area with well-behaved children. No fighting or cussing or bullying. One day I was riding home on the bus next to one of the sweet girls in my class. She was a pretty girl, too, well liked, and kind, but on that day there was a sadness about her. I don’t remember what it was we were talking about, but I do remember that the conversation opened up so that I could naturally say something about being a Christian or trusting in Jesus, or having faith. And I sat there. Said nothing. Stared out the window. And the moment passed. To say something after that would be forced, awkward.

But, I reasoned, Trudy was probably a Christian already. I mean, she was such a nice girl.

Flash forward another year when we were in junior high—1500 seventh through ninth graders from all over the city, packed into the school. I didn’t have any classes with Trudy, and the first time I saw her on campus I almost didn’t recognize her. She’d made it big with the “in crowd” known for . . . a lack of virtue. I don’t know that we ever spoke again.

But how many times I wished I could go back on that bus and tell Trudy about Jesus Christ who wanted to rescue her from the dominion of darkness, who wanted to be her Redeemer and Friend.

All that to say, the illusion of a Christian world can make believers complacent. It’s a little uncomfortable to talk to people about such a personal thing as their belief in God, and as long as we think (or rationalize), as I did, that they’re probably already Christians, we won’t step out in faith and be the ambassadors God wants us to be. After all, you don’t need to be an ambassador among your own citizens.

Today the illusion is gone. Our neighbors and co-workers look at the world very differently than we do. They believe truth is relative; that humankind evolved from a primordial soup; that there is no god or if he does exist, he’s disinterested or unknowable or weak; that the Bible is full of myth and not authoritative but outdated; that humans have the ultimate say about their own body and their own gender and their own sexuality and whatever else they believe they can or want to control; that “sin” is passe; that humankind is good.

The thing is, our task today to bring the gospel to this foreign culture with their opposing worldview, is not so different from what the apostles faced as they went about making disciples in the first century.

May we step out in faith and the power of the Holy Spirit, as they did, to move the mountain of unbelief that oppresses our neighbors and associates. May we seize the opportunity to be ambassadors for Christ in the non-Christian world in which we live.

Love Without Standards


daddy-loves-me-648389-mThe word “love” and the word “hate” have been bandied about a great deal of late. The Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage is supposedly a triumph for “love,” while those who call homosexual activity sin are said to “hate.” But what do people mean by these words? Once I would have thought the meanings self-evident, but not any more. Blogger Matt Walsh pointed this out in a recent post which he started by quoting from recent comments he’d received:

    Bella: the Supreme Court matters more than some bigot with a sh*tty blog and ugly kids. Try again
    Anthony: Oh Matt, you are a perfect assh*le… Take your worthless version of the bible, and set yourself on fire. That would make my Sunday:)
    Marc: Matt Walsh is a F**king MORON!
    Steven: F**k you, you f**king worthless douche.
    Maria: Matt you really are a piece of sh*t.
    Brian: The world would be so much better off with you.
    Matthew: Go f**k yourself, Walsh. You not only are a bigot, but you ignore facts and twist and distort truths to make your false point. It’s a common tactic I see from people like you. Equality wins out, bigot.

    Remember, #LoveWins.

There’s nothing like being called a bigoted pile of garbage in the first sentence and being told in the next that love has won. Indeed, you know love has emerged victorious when a bunch of liberals are screaming in your face, calling your children ugly, and urging you to kill yourself.

O-o-o-k-k-ay! Whatever else you think of Matt Walsh, or if you’ve never heard of him before, he has a point here.

Saying “love” in the context of calling someone names and wishing them a painful death does not convince me that any of those commenters understands what love actually is. Rather, the way people seem to be using the term, I’m more reminded of the way toddler-type children behave than of true love. You know, it’s the I-see-it-and-want-it-so-I-should-have-it syndrome. But now society agrees because “love” is involved.

But love without standards is simply selfishness.

Parents, of course, are the best example of love. When their infant cries in the middle of the night, one parent gets up to feed the little helpless bundle. There’s no return for this sacrifice. The baby doesn’t thank the parent and undoubtedly won’t even remember that it ever happened. But a parent who doesn’t care for such basic necessities is guilty of neglect. There are no feelings here. Only other-needs and sacrifice.

No parent will get away with saying, I didn’t feel like getting up and feeding my baby so I stuck a sock in his mouth to keep him from waking me up with his crying.

In the same way, it’s not OK for a parent to say, I want my child to experience life, so there are no rules. If the toddler wants to stuff rocks up his nose, he can. If he wants to flush his sister’s stuffed pony down the toilet, he can. If he wants to jump into the backyard swimming pool, he can.

In actual fact, a loving parent will say no to these things. It is not loving to let a child handle dangerous things in a dangerous way or to do dangerous activities. True love means setting loving standards.

This principle works for husbands and wives as well. A loving husband won’t disappear with his buddies for a week or two, then show up at home as if nothing had happened. A loving wife doesn’t say she wants to have a second husband along with the first one. Husbands and wives may not always “feel the love,” but that doesn’t give them the license to act as if they are not married. If either of them acts as if they’re single, the other one is bound to conclude, you don’t love me. No one would be surprised if divorce followed.

Love has standards.

Sometimes those standards are for the good of the relationship and sometimes they are for the good of the other person. A husband who loves his wife won’t want to see her keep smoking. He knows she’s putting her health at risk, and he wants to see her get rid of the habit.

Of course, when it comes to adults, no one can make another grownup behave in a responsible, sensible way. But love has standards: if you love me, you won’t ignore me; if you love me, you won’t leave me if I get fired; if you love me, you’ll get help with your gambling problem.

Most of these standards are clearly understood, though some couples have standards certain people think are strange while others are so lax with their standards, those same certain people are left shaking their heads. In other words, the standards aren’t universally set. What is universal, however, is that standards exist.

People have some benchmark that shows their love, and often this benchmark puts limits on the other person. Without limits, there really is no love. No one says, I love you, so you can do whatever you want. You want to rob a bank? Sure, go for it. You want to jump out of a plane without a parachute? Hey, I love you too much to stop you. You want to sleep with prostitutes night after night, with no condom and still sleep with me? Well, I love you, so of course I’m fine with that.

Love without standards is no love at all!

And yet any number of people are horrified that Christians believe God loves us any other way. Your god is hateful, they say, because he tells you who you can or can’t love. Well, yes, He does, not because He’s hateful, but because He loves us.

He knows that letting us do whatever is not healthy. He wants the best for us, and out of His love gives us guidance so that we can find what is good and right and best. He not only gives us guidance, He gives us help and strength to say no when we need to—though we still manage to go our own way too often, and suffer the consequences He warned us about.

Slowly, as we mature, we accept God’s standards as evidence of His love for us. He’s actually pretty clear about those standards:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Cor. 13:4-8a, ESV)

Are Christians Really So Hateful?


church2I’ve pretty much had it. Every article I read about the response of Christians to the same-sex marriage ruling by the Supreme Court seems to be an indictment. Some serious head-shaking at the missed opportunity Christians had, but didn’t seize, to show the love of Christ. Recrimination over Christians responding in anger. In other words, in one form or other, it’s been, Shame on you Christians for reacting so badly to the Supreme Court ruling that has changed our culture.

One article, for example, in listing out six ways Christians blew it, said this:

We could have looked around at the hurt generated this past week; at the deep sadness so many LGBT people and their loved ones felt at being the center of such violent arguments and the horrible aftermath of them, and responded in love. We could have moved toward them with the mercy and gentleness of Christ, seeking to be the binders of the wounds. Instead, far too many of us felt compelled to rub salt deeply into them. We basically walked past those who were down—and we kicked them hard on the way. (John Pavlovitz)

My first thought is, Where are all the posts responding in anger? I haven’t read them. Perhaps I was somewhere else when all the kicking took place. I haven’t seen it. In fact, I didn’t see a lot of LGBT people in deep sadness. Most I saw were celebrating by putting rainbows on their Facebook avatars and rushing to the court house for marriage licenses.

On the other hand of course is the exhortation that we Christians aren’t taking this same-sex marriage ruling seriously enough (see Matt Walsh), or that we’re not doing enough to fight it or are doing too much to fight it.

I come away from it all feeling beaten down, like Christians who believe the Bible are misbehaving.

The topper for me was an article that actually came out some time ago about the Christian’s attitudes and actions being more like the Pharisees than like Jesus Christ. The conclusions were reached from a 2013 research project by the Barna Group, a Christian research organization. The conclusions were reached by identifying five attitudes and five behaviors of Christ and five attitudes and five behaviors of Pharisees, then respondents were asked which they agreed with.

This could have been a very interesting study, but in truth, the statements seemed more consistent with Love Wins than with the four Gospels.

Here are the attitudes and actions chosen to represent Christ:

Actions like Jesus:

I listen to others to learn their story before telling them about my faith.
In recent years, I have influenced multiple people to consider following Christ.
I regularly choose to have meals with people with very different faith or morals from me.
I try to discover the needs of non-Christians rather than waiting for them to come to me.
I am personally spending time with non-believers to help them follow Jesus.

Attitudes like Jesus:

I see God-given value in every person, regardless of their past or present condition.
I believe God is for everyone.
I see God working in people’s lives, even when they are not following him.
It is more important to help people know God is for them than to make sure they know they are sinners.
I feel compassion for people who are not following God and doing immoral things.

I’m more mystified by the attitudes attributed to Jesus, though I don’t think the actions are accurate either. God-given value? I don’t know how His conversations with the Pharisees revealed Jesus’s belief that they had God-given value. When someone was setting himself against God, Jesus openly opposed them.

Did He show God is for everyone? When He told the Samaritan woman that He wouldn’t heal her child because He’d come to the Jews, did that communicate His belief that God is for everyone?

Other places in Scripture let us know that in fact God takes no delight in the death of the wicked, that He desires all to come to Him, that His plan was for the nations to follow Israel’s example as His chosen people, and that now He has brought together people of all nations and tribes and tongues into His body, the Church. But was that Jesus’s message? I don’t think so. He praised those of faith and commended the Samaritan woman on that level (and therefore healed her child). But He didn’t start a healing ministry in Samaria. I think you’d have a hard time validating the idea that Jesus showed God is for everyone.

I could go through the whole list, but that’s not my intention here. The point is, I don’t think those actions and attitudes are a fair reflection of who Jesus is and what He said and did when He was on earth. So comparing Christians to that caricature of Him is bound to make Bible believers look different from the artificial construct.

Reading that report was the last straw. Christians are being blamed and bashed, but a lot of the unpleasantness isn’t coming from people who believe the Bible.

I think it’s telling that no Christians rioted in the streets or burned down gay bars or bombed a gay pride parade. I haven’t read a single blog post in which a Christian cussed out gays. If these things are happening or if a vocal group like the Westboro Baptist few is hurling insults at homosexuals, it’s more an indication that they are pretend Christians than evidence that Christians are behaving badly.

Please, can we Christians at least stop bashing Christians!

No, we aren’t perfect. We have not prized marriage as we should and have left the door open to the perversion of the covenant God invited men and women to make with one another. Yes, this redefinition of marriage is a game changer in our culture, but it doesn’t change the mandate we have to share the good news with the lost.

Rather than pointing fingers at what we didn’t do in the past or should have done in the present or had better do in the future, perhaps we can let Scripture guide us into all truth. Who knows better and who cares more for the Church than Christ? We are, after all, His bride.

I’m not sure why we think it’s OK to beat up on the Church. After all, we’re clothed in the righteousness of Christ; we’ve been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; we’ve been rescued from the dominion of darkness; we’ve been saved by God’s grace, through faith. We are who Christ is making us. When we rail against the Church, aren’t we, in a way, railing against God Himself?

Published in: on July 8, 2015 at 6:51 pm  Comments (18)  
Tags: , , , ,

Hateful, Mean Christians


Anti-Christian_sign_in_Federal_Plaza_ChicagoMore than once I’ve read the charge that Christians are hateful and mean. It goes along with the idea that God is a wrathful tyrant. The concept started with the idea that He is, and therefore we are, a kill-joy. But it’s gone far beyond that notion.

Now Christians are considered hateful because we who adhere to the Bible’s clear teaching, oppose same-sex marriage. How unkind to deny people a meaningful, loving relationship that everyone else gets to enjoy simply because of their sexual orientation.

Christians are also haters because they want to deny women the right to choose for themselves what they do with their own bodies when it comes to pregnancy. This language is, of course, euphemistic speech for the right to have an abortion.

Christians are haters because they send people to hell for the smallest things, like telling little white lies or drinking too much at the New Year’s Eve party. In fact, they assign people to hell if they don’t believe in their Jesus as if there’s only their way or the way to hell. How hateful can they get?

The thing that people who take these views don’t realize is that Christians don’t send anyone to hell. God Himself doesn’t send anyone to hell. Rather, hell—or death, not just physical but spiritual and relational—is the consequence of the sin God warned Adam against.

Furthermore, God put into motion His plan of redemption to rescue us from hell. But telling people about this bailout, this merciful deliverance from the destiny we’re heading toward, is considered hateful.

It makes no sense. Would a good neighbor see a fire across the street and do nothing? Would a good parent watch his child drink bleach from the cleaning supplies and not intervene? Would a good citizen watch a kidnapper force a young girl into his car and not at lease call 9-1-1?

In all these circumstances, the minimum action a person would take is likely to raise the alarm. And if possible, the person might even step in to stop the harm that’s underway. Parents are even expected to do this and would be considered negligent if they didn’t prevent a child from ingesting that which is harmful.

But when it comes to raising the spiritual alert, Christians are considered hateful. It makes no sense.

Western society has gotten to this place in part because we’ve moved from instructive action to preventative action when it comes to the next generation. By that I mean, we are less likely to show young people why and how than we are to pass rules against.

For instance, when it comes to abortion, we’re quick to preach abstinence until marriage and to reinforce the fact that the product of conception is life and therefore should not be killed. These are preventative measures.

But how good are we at coming along side unwed pregnant women and helping them financially or emotionally? What kind of counseling are we giving to the scared and confused teen caught in her own sin? Are our actions and attitudes the equivalent of picking up stones in judgment of the sinner?

Except, in that situation the one who dies is the baby, not the mother whose sin resulted in the little life she thinks she has to terminate.

The Church should come along side sinners and offer the same grace that has been offered and is being offered to us. And the next generation should be involved in the process. This kind of modeling is instructive.

Yes, we should talk about purity, but a healthy marriage will instruct young people in a far more effective way than telling them when to start dating and how much or little sexual activity is OK.

Christians should not stop shouting warnings to a world sliding away from God. Life without Him is dark and riddled with instability and insecurity. It’s meaningless and fraught with conflict. We most certainly should charge across the street and shout fire or rip bleach bottles out of little hands or scream for someone to stop the kidnapper as we lay hold of the young woman to wrestle her out of his control.

We see the danger awaiting our friends and family and neighbors. We know what they need in order to move from darkness to light. Why would we stay silent, even though any number of bystanders may misunderstand and mis-characterize us as haters?

Which is worse, to be misunderstood and slandered or to do nothing to point others to Jesus Christ? When we tell others about who Jesus is, we are doing the most loving thing possible. But in this day when evil is called good, and good, evil, it’s no wonder that our loving actions are misunderstood as hateful.

Of course pretenders who claim the name of Christ, but who live as legalists, don’t make things easier. They accumulate negative press while the thousands upon thousands of Christians who go about serving their neighbor, loving them as Christ would, receive very little recognition.

We don’t put legs to our faith in order to gain accolades or to create good photo-ops. But perhaps we should be more vocal—giving God praise for what He does through His Church. In the Old Testament, the recurring motive for what Israel did was so that the people would know that the Lord is God.

Maybe that needs to be the motive behind what we Christians do—not on the sly, but openly, boldly. “I’m spending time at the homeless shelter, not because I’m a nice guy, but because Jesus is Lord, and I wanted the opportunity to tell you that”—that sort of thing.

Hateful? Christians ought not be hateful. It’s a test, in fact, according to John, a measure of who is a Christian. How can we say we love God and hate our brother? The two are mutually exclusive.

But maybe we’ve forgotten how to show our love. Then again, maybe our love will look like hate in the eyes of those who have rejected Jesus. The first, we need to fix, the last we need to let go.

No Longer A Democracy?


Supreme_Court_US_2010Most history teachers are quick to correct people about the form of government established by the Constitution of the United States. It’s a republic, not a democracy.

Truthfully, since the 1960s the lines between the two have become blurred, as more and more states turned away from caucuses and closed door deals to choose Party candidates through the primary elections.

But nothing has been more democratic than the initiative process in California in which the people themselves decide on proposed laws and state constitutional amendments.

The initiative process brought Indian casinos to the state, the lottery, and medical marijuana. It even raised taxes while the state and its people were still reeling from the recession. California, it’s pretty clear, won’t be confused with a conservative state.

However, in 2000 Proposition 22, the Knight initiative, was passed into law, stating that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” This law, similar to the Defense of Marriage Act passed four years earlier by the Federal government, added protection to the Family Code which already defined marriage as “a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary.”

Over four and a half million voters passed this law–61% of those who went to the polls. In-court wrangling ensued. In 2008 the California Supreme Court lumped a number of these appeals together and ruled that the law was unconstitutional.

Immediately Proposition 8, an amendment to the California State Constitution known as the California Marriage Protection Act, was put on the ballot. Here’s the text in its entirety:

Section I. Title

This measure shall be known and may be cited as the “California Marriage Protection Act.”

Section 2. Article I. Section 7.5 is added to the California Constitution, to read:

Sec. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

For the voter pamphlet then-Attorney General Jerry Brown renamed the proposition, “Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.” He gave the following description in the election ballot summary: “changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.”

To this day the media refers to Proposition 8 as a ban on same-sex marriage.

Despite the changed terminology, despite a wall of media giants opposing it, the amendment passed. Over seven million voters decided in favor of the traditional definition of marriage–over 52% of those who went to the poll.

So how can a court undermine the state constitution?

It’s still a little baffling to me. The California Supreme Court upheld the amendment, but then a suit was filed in a Federal District Court in San Francisco.

On August 4, 2010, U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker overturned Proposition 8, stating it is “…unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause because no compelling state interest justifies denying same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry.”

A merry-go-round of stays and lifting of stays followed, and in the interlude when Judge Walker unilaterally overturned the will of over seven million voters, a host of same-sex couples “married.”

The problem escalated when Attorney General Brown refused to defend the amendment in the appeals court. Another round of arguments cleared the way for proponents of the amendment, a county here in SoCal, to step up and defend the amendment. The California Supreme Court once again ruled in favor of the people, issuing an advisory opinion that the proponents of Proposition 8 did have standing, and could defend it.

However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, by a 2-1 vote, declared the amendment unconstitutional.

The court found that the people of California, by using their initiative power to target a minority group and withdraw the right to marry they once possessed under the California State Constitution, violated the federal Constitution.

Of course, you need to remember that they only had the “right to marry” because the court had declared Proposition 22 unconstitutional.

The dissenting judge, Judge N. Randy Smith, noted in his dissent that states do legitimately prohibit sexual relationships condemned by society such as incest, bigamy, and bestiality, and impose age limits for marriage without violating constitutional rights . . . He wrote, “The family structure of two committed biological parents – one man and one woman – is the optimal partnership for raising children.” He also said that governments have a legitimate interest in “a responsible procreation theory, justifying the inducement of marital recognition only for opposite-sex couples” because only they can have children. (“California Proposition 8”)

Despite this ruling, the stay remained in place as the appeal went to the US Supreme Court. As you may know, that ruling came down yesterday: “On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in Hollingsworth v. Perry that the proponents of Proposition 8 did not have legal standing to appeal a U.S. District Courts’ ruling that the proposition is unconstitutional. The state government had refused to defend the law.”

So there you have it folks: seven million Californians disenfranchised via a series of moves that would have made carpetbaggers proud.

We have a judge who disregarded the will of the people and an Attorney General who ignored the will of the people. And the Supreme Court, instead of standing up for the people, says, well, your state government didn’t defend your vote, so it’s as if you voters never had a say.

That whole process is not the way a democracy works. An oligarchy, with power in the hands of a few, yes. A democracy? . . . May it rest in peace.

Published in: on June 27, 2013 at 6:02 pm  Comments (15)  
Tags: , , ,

The FIRST Command Is To Love God


I just read a long, rather impassioned post about same-sex marriage from someone who identifies as a Christian, though not as a Christianist, defined as “those on the fringes of the religious right who have used the Gospels to perpetuate their own aspirations for power, control and oppression,” but then described as all those who lined up at a Chick-Fil-A to support Mr. Cathy’s right to give charitably as he sees fit without being punished by the government.

Posts like this make me seriously wonder if people know what the US Constitution says and/or if they care a whit whether or not someone else’s rights are being violated–even when they disagree with that person.

But of greater issue is that the blogger said,

“Love your neighbor as yourself,” repeatedly named as the greatest commandment, means that we must imagine ourselves in our neighbors’ positions and treat them as we would treat ourselves.

While making some valid comments about how Christians should treat others, the elephant in the post is that “love your neighbor” is the second greatest command, not the first. What a misstep!

And it is no small thing in elevating our treatment of others over our treatment of God. This is the way false teaching works. God gets relegated to second place, at best.

In truth, God specifically reserved the top spot for Himself. We are to have no other gods before Him.

Jesus spelled it out clearly, a statement repeated in all three of the synoptic gospels, when He was questioned about the greatest command:

One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. (Matt. 22:35-38, emphasis mine)

But the key point here is that Jesus was quoting the command from Deuteronomy 6:5. A few chapters later, Moses reiterates the point:

Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut. 10:12)

The command is repeated yet again toward the end of the book:

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes (Deut. 30:15-16a)

What’s hard to ignore is the fact that loving God and obeying God are tied together. Someone can give all the human reasoning they want to for doing whatever they wish to do, but the fact is, when that person disobeys God’s law, He’s not loving God.

The potential stumbling block is that one of God’s commands is to love our neighbors. Hence, someone can say, I am obeying God when I advocate for same-sex marriage because I am loving my neighbors who have been denied their rights.

That statement is riddled with problems. First, and really the only point that matters, is this: it is not loving to enable someone to sin.

The problem becomes complicated, as I see it, when people bearing the name of Christ wish to enforce God’s law rather than to love their neighbor by refusing to enable his sin. It’s a difference in attitude and motive, first, but it’s also a difference in conclusion–as if obeying God’s law against same-sex unions will make the individuals in question acceptable in God’s sight.

The truth is, we are separated from God, not because we are immoral, lie, get drunk, gossip, or harbor pride in our hearts. Yes, those things deserved death, but Jesus Christ took on Himself the penalty we should pay because we are bankrupt and incapable of doing enough to even our account. Instead of accepting His free gift, though, some reject Him and remain in their sin. It’s that rejection that leaves them separated from God.

Jesus never said, Clean up so you can come to Me. Rather, His message is, Come to Me, and I’ll clothe you with My righteousness and give you a new life renewed according to My image.

Loving God and obeying His commandments don’t happen because we try harder. Loving God is a response to His first loving us. Obeying God is a demonstration of our love for Him. The elements are entwined, and we confuse the issue when we try to separate one strand from the others.

Or if we forget which is the greatest command.

Published in: on September 3, 2012 at 6:17 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,

Thoughts On President Obama’s Evolving View Of Marriage


Yesterday, in the wake of North Carolina passing a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and amidst his plans to attend Hollywood fund raisers, President Obama declared that his evolving views on marriage now lead him to believe that same-sex partners should be allowed to marry.

My thoughts about these developments in the US culture will be somewhat rambling because I haven’t had time to process everything into a cohesive whole. So as they come to me:

Words. Words matter. Yes, definitions evolve over time, but not because someone imposes a new definition from without. In the case of marriage, thirty of the fifty states — thirty-one, if the courts hadn’t gotten involved in California — have passed laws or amendments (we passed both) defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. In fact, every time the issue has gone before the electorate, the people have voted for the traditional definition of marriage. The only states in which same-sex marriage is legal, legislatures (and perhaps the courts?) have dictated it.

The fact that we need the qualifier, “same-sex,” shows that in the minds of those discussing marriage, there’s a distinction between marriage and same-sex marriage.

Learning from children. In explaining his new position, President Obama said he believes it is a generational thing. His daughters have friends whose parents are same-sex partners and they think nothing of it. Since when did adults surrender standards of right and wrong to our children? If President Obama’s daughters thought nothing of teens street racing, would his view on that subject evolve?

Relativism. The concept of evolving views of right and wrong fits so perfectly into postmodern relativism, so I’m not surprised at the President’s shifting opinion. (I have to admit, I’m also cynical enough to wonder whether or not Mr. Obama didn’t want to insure that the big donors in Hollywood would be liberal in the amount they give to his campaign. But that’s a side issue.)

Relativism basically says there is no moral standard other than the one a particular group of people agrees upon at any set time. Hence, in this day and age of equal rights and tolerance, those values trump all else. Except when it doesn’t.

According to a relativistic way of thinking, countries that permit sweatshops should not be flagged for human rights violations because there really are no such things as human rights. Who gives humans any rights?

I suspect that’s where Western culture is headed, but it’s not there just yet.

Evolving Definition of Marriage. If a societal institution like marriage can be redefined once, why not twice, three times, or as many times as we want? So in five years (or sooner), someone will want marriage to include a man and multiple wives or a woman and multiple husbands. Why not a man and his dog? Or how about a man or woman and a consenting child? Who is to say that these can’t also be considered marriage if marriage becomes a fluid term?

Marriage and Sin. I’m always dismayed when I hear Christians talk about homosexuality as if it is the unpardonable sin. The truth is, the Hollywood movie stars so many people revere, or many of the sports figures who get caught up in the celebrity lifestyle, engage in “fleshly lusts.” Meaning, homosexual individuals are not in a special class. All of us, homosexuals or straight, have gone astray. We all stand in need of forgiveness and redemption.

Homosexuality does not make a person sinful. A sinful person chooses to sin and that might take a wide variety of forms. Is a person more sinful if they cheat on their income taxes or sleep around or engage in homosexual behavior? Answer: there is no “more sinful.”

There might be more consequences, but the one issue each person must resolve is what do they do with Christ? Is He the very cornerstone of their faith or is He a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”?

The Distraction of President Obama’s Declaration. All the discussion of President Obama as the first President in favor of same-sex marriage (as if this was an issue thirty years ago, or even twenty) has taken the focus off some other critical developments.

In California, for example, there’s a bill in the Senate that would would ban children under 18 from undergoing “sexual orientation change efforts.” (You can read about it here.) In other words, parents could not seek help from a professional for their children in an effort to steer them away from homosexuality. Would the parents themselves be unable to counsel their children in this way? It’s a frightening thought, but most people aren’t talking about it because they’re talking about Mr. Obama’s evolving opinion.

There’s also a courageous man in China who stood against forced abortion and has sought asylum in the US. What are we hearing about his situation?

Unfortunately, the President seized the bully pulpit (what a politically incorrect term!) and his opinion has overshadowed other stories that are newsworthy. (Sort of like the Secret Service scandal overshadowing the General Services Administration scandal).

The Place of Leadership. One more reflection on our President’s “historical” stand. When God sent prophets to Israel and Judah, declaring their sin, He pointed the finger at the priests, false prophets, and kings who led His people astray.

I think the leaders in America are letting down her people as well. The Supreme Court did so in 1973 when it issued the Roe v Wade decision legalizing abortion. Countless religious leaders have done so by buying into health-and-wealth messages or deconstructing the Bible or re-imaging Christ.

What’s so incredibly sad to me, though, is that we have the Bible available in our own language, translated over and over again to make it easy to understand. In other words, we are without excuse. It isn’t the leaders’ fault when we ignore the best and primary source that gives what we need for Salvation.

In the end, that’s where we’re at, isn’t it. As Peter says, “for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word and to this doom they were also appointed” (1 Peter 2:8b).

Published in: on May 10, 2012 at 6:41 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: