I’ve just realised the blog where these articles were posted in 2013 is no longer online. I wrote these articles at the time when New Zealand was debating and finally legalising same-sex marriage.
I was prompted to consider these articles again after watching a 16 minute human interest story broadcast last night (Sunday, 16 July 2017).
An enormously complex issue; socially, politically, culturally, theologically, relationally, etc. covered in the mainstream media in 16 minutes!
In the best of times it is sad and painful to see real-life, family struggles rehearsed on TV, let alone on today’s crazy world of “reality TV”.
New Zealand politicians (many) pride themselves on being progressive. The media (seemingly the world over) pride themselves on being culture changers/influencers.
For those who believe God’s good design for men/women and marriage is universal and timeless, we must be wise, loving and yet clear in this new world in which we now live and minister.
These were originally published a four seperate articles. I am not including them all here as one post.
To Attend or not to Attend? This is Soon to be the Question
It is the first week of July, 2013 in New Zealand. You go to the letterbox and there it is. You’ve been expecting it, but in some way hoped maybe… just maybe, they wouldn’t invite you. It would have made things a bit easier.
But, you are. You are invited to your sister’s wedding. The date is set for the 24th of August. She is planning to marry her long-time partner, who happens to be another woman. Yep, this will be one of the “same-sex” weddings performed in New Zealand within the first week they are legal.
You and your sister grew up in a “church going home.” Over the years your understanding of the Gospel and the Scriptures has grown stronger and clearer. At the same time, your sister, though still calling herself a Christian, has drifted away from a commitment to Christ-alone for salvation and trusting Him for joy and fulfilment within His holy will for her life.
To add to it, the phone rings the next week. It’s your sister… She explains that since Dad passed away last year, she can really only think of one person who she’d want to walk her down the aisle… you.
Now, she knows your view on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. You’ve shared with her over the years, with patience and compassion, how God’s Word is very clear on this, and an active, practicing homosexual relationship is sin and displeasing to God. You’ve shared with her over the past year or so that marriage is defined by God, not man, and therefore by definition must be between a man and a woman.
The truth is, in the past when seeking to explain these things to your sister you have become angry and even harsh in your tone towards her. This has grieved you and you have sought her forgiveness, yet still affirming your conviction on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
She knows this will be something you will take seriously and therefore doesn’t expect an answer straight way. You hang up the phone… What’s next?
The first passage that floods your mind is James 1:5, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
So you pray, “Lord, you know I lack wisdom, please help me.”
You love your sister, you really do. How can you best love her at this time? Do you attend and walk her down the aisle? Do you attend, but don’t walk her down the aisle? Do you not attend at all?
Other passages come to mind:
Romans 1:32, Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Will your attendance be seen as giving approval for something God condemns, as you are called upon to be a witness to the union? If attended alone wouldn’t, would walking her down the aisle, having to say publically you willing give your sister to another woman in marriage?
Is this one of the areas where I am free to choose either option? Go or don’t go? Yet, what if my choice to go would cause another Christian to stumble? One who has been saved from a lifestyle of homosexuality and still struggles with same-sex attraction (Romans 14:20, 21; 1 Corinthians 8:13).
What about Luke 14:26 & 27 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Is this a matter of competing allegiances between Christ and your family?
This, like many of the more complex issues in our lives, is better thought about before it happens rather than waiting until we’re in the middle of it.
Over the next few posts, I would like to consider how a Christian might think through this very real and difficult scenario Biblically.
To Attend or not to Attend? This is Soon to be the Question – Part #2
(In this post I switch to first person pronouns throughout, not because this scenario actually relates to me or either of my sisters, but simply for ease of writing and a more personal form of communication.)
As I try to think through this very real scenario, I find myself very torn. This is only the beginning of the complications that will arise as our culture shifts further and further from a sense of Biblical norms.
It seems like we must, firstly, acknowledge that for those who are in this type of scenario, this is very difficult on a number of levels. Even after thinking things through carefully and prayerfully, regardless of the decision there will be an awkwardness and unsettledness.
It seems to me that Romans 1:32, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” is going to provide a grid for me to think through as I consider my role in a situation like this.
Would my actions in this scenario, in any way, be understood to be granting approval for a known, public sinful lifestyle?
If my sister had participated in the filming of a pornographic film, would I attend (whether I am male or female) a “premier” showing of the film to celebrate her success?
I would think not…
Let’s consider the “attend and walking her down the aisle” option…
It seems that in any wedding ceremony, even the most irreligious, the role of the one walking someone (historically called the “bride”) down the aisle has a generally understood purpose: the giving of the “bride” to the “partner” (in this case another female).
To walk my sister down the aisle and give her away in marriage to another woman seems to me to communicate several things. Firstly, I agree that what is happening here is a marriage. Secondly, I am willingly supporting an active homosexual lifestyle. Thirdly, I am publicly declaring that the union of this couple is a good thing and should not end until the death of one of the parties.
To actively participate in anything that communicates even one of the above points in regards to a same-sex marriage would be to go against the clear teaching of Scripture.
As a result, it would seem clear, that I cannot walk my sister down the aisle and “give her away.”
In my next post, I will consider whether or not to attend even if I cannot walk her down the aisle. (The more common and complicated scenario that people will be facing in the very near future.)
To Attend or not to Attend? This is Soon to be the Question – Part #3
Since the first post in this series, I have received emails, FaceBook messages, Twitter Direct Messages, etc. all from people who are facing a scenario very similar to the one I’ve described, or they expect to before the year is over.
This is no hypothetical dream world. There are real people, real families, real relationships affected by what we are discussing.
So, my heart is heavy. I find myself weeping over the brokenness of our world, the damage due to sin, and rejection of Christ and His will. Firstly I weep for what I see of all of this in my own heart, then for what I see all around me. I long for Christ’s return. Even so, Lord Jesus come…
Yet, He has not returned, not yet. And in this window of time in which we live, we are called to live faithfully for Him, to Him, and by His strength.
It is after a long discourse, where Paul reminds us of our risen, returning Saviour that he encourages us with these words, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Having already established that I cannot walk my sister down the aisle and “give her away in marriage,” I still have the question; “can I attend?”
Ironically this question would be answered very simply by Christians a generation ago, though there would not have been a scenario for the question to arise.
Here’s what I mean.
Today a wedding is seen by most as a spectator sport. It is a place to see and be seen.
However, it wasn’t that long ago (even still in many Christian wedding ceremonies), when the attendees saw themselves as witnesses. Sure only two people actually sign the wedding license as legal witnesses, but all present are witnesses to the making of vows.
Even in a secular wedding ceremony it is common for the celebrant to say something like, “We are gathered here together to unite in marriage — and —.” You see the “we” in that statement? Although many who are in attendance may not consciously see themselves this way, they are a part of the ceremony. They are being asked, either implicatly or in some cases explicitly to witness this couple making their vows and to serve them in the future by holding them accountable to those vows.
Even if we were to acknowledge that this aspect of attending a wedding ceremony has so been lost to our culture, we can safely assume no one will see my attendance as a formal statement of approval to the wedding, marriage, or the vows, does this remove all concerns?
I don’t think it does…
It seems to me that if we were to look for a cultural synonym for how weddings are generally viewed today, we could use the word celebration. Surely, most everyone would agree that a wedding of any kind is understood as a time of celebration. You will even find on invitations, often, something like, “come celebrate with us…”
Celebrate… Hmmm… Can I celebrate with this couple? Can I celebrate the public display of an open homosexual lifestyle? Can I celebrate the denial of God’s design for marriage, sex, and personal intimacy?
I know I cannot partake in a role when I am seen as giving my approval for and even declaring right and good something that God calls sin. If my attendance were to be perceived as such, I could not attend.
Yet, even if I knew everyone present (or at least everyone I knew personally) would not take my presence as approval, can I join this celebration?
It seems to me like I have found myself right back at Romans 1:32 & Luke 14:25 & 27.
I love my sister, but I love Christ more. I long to maintain a relationship with my sister where I can continue to show her deeds of kindness and share the Gospel of Christ with her and her partner. Yet, I cannot celebrate, let alone, approve of something for which Christ says is sin.
The next phone call will be mine to initiate and it is one I don’t look forward to. To tell my sister I cannot attend her wedding will not be received well. Not by her, our Mum, or extended family (remember this is written first person, but hypothetical for me). I am likely to be the recipient of direct anger and indirect avoidance.
Yet, I have often observed that long-term family division does not, generally, result from one single event where there has been offence.
If there has been general strife and tension within the family (even if under the surface) for years, then something like this may result in very long term or even permanent division.
If, we have been able to maintain loving family relationships through the years even when we’ve had significant differences, the division that comes as a result of this may be longer than previous periods of tension, but may not be long-term.
However, even if it is, if I have come to this conclusion because I believe it is what is honouring to the Lord and pleasing to my Saviour, I have to trust Him for the outcome.
In the strength that Christ provides through His Spirit I can follow Romans 12:17-21 and within a few weeks of the wedding invite my sister and her partner around for tea (dinner).
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I have endeavoured to write a “kind of thinking out loud” type blog post on a very delicate issue. Not because I am actually “thinking out loud”, but to show the kind of process I might go through in considering such a scenario. In this type of detached format, it can all come across rather clinical and seemingly without feeling. I do understand, when one is facing this situation for real, there will be much emotion and wrestling. Firstly, I believe that is why it is imperative for Christians to think carefully about these things before they find themselves deep into it. Secondly, I believe a Christian can think carefully and prayerfully through all of this and come to a different conclusion than I have presented here. Though we may differ in our conclusion, I believe they will be better off having thought through it carefully.
Everything’s Different… Nothing’s Changed…
Did you notice this morning as you woke to a new day that everything was different here in New Zealand?
Last night the New Zealand parliament voted to pass into law the Marriage Amendment Bill, making New Zealand the 13th country in the world and the first in Asia-Pacific to legalise same-sex marriage.
We should expect to see the first same-sex/transgender weddings in New Zealand in August.
A term and a societal institution which has been understood and practiced a particular way in all of New Zealand’s history along with all of human history across all cultures has just been disregarded, redefined, and dismissed. The word marriage still has the same definition in my dictionary today as it did yesterday “the formal union of a man and a woman, typically as recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife” (Oxford English Dictionary), but according to our government and society at large this is no longer the definition.
Yet, nothing’s changed…
As a Christian, I recognise three significant items that are as true today as they were yesterday.
Firstly, God is sovereign and He does all things well. Most of the members of our parliament would not see themselves as serving the sovereign and good purposes of the Creator of the Universe, some may even be purposely attempting to work against Him, yet they are His servants. His will is being accomplished and He will use even human government with all of its inadequacies to glorify Himself.
God hasn’t changed.
Secondly, the definitions of terms can change over time, but when something has been instituted by God its meaning cannot be altered regardless of what politicians, cultures, or even dictionaries say. Marriage is still and will always be an institution designed by God for the lifelong, convental commitment between one man and one woman for His glory in order to picture the love Christ has for His church. You see, marriage has been marginalised and maligned in or society for decades. It has been seen as a disposable commodity or something that can simply be bypassed for cohabitation, etc. The passing of this bill is significant to be sure. Yet, it is not an isolated event. It is the next step in an erosion process that has been picking up speed for decades.
God’s hasn’t changed His design for marriage.
Thirdly, our opportunity as Christians, to speak boldly and clearly into our culture with the truth of God’s Word continues. We’ve always been called to be lights in a dark world. As moral darkness grows deeper around us, our light can show brighter and brighter.
Yet, here is the sticking point…
If we have not been upholding and celebrating God’s design and purpose for marriage before today; if we have not been boldly & clearly challenging our culture and those around us with the transforming power of the Gospel without concern for personal ridicule before today; if we haven’t been speaking out against sin publically and privately before today, we won’t suddenly start now.
Our commission hasn’t changed.
My Christian friend, my pastor/minister friend. If, over the past year or more you have been unclear on God’s design for marriage; if you have cowered from boldly proclaiming the Gospel of Christ and calling people to repentance, please repent. You are very close to looking no different than the culture around you. There’s no light left to shine.
Do not lose hope. Do not bow to the idols and pressures of this world. We serve a resurrected, returning Saviour and therefore can “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58 ESV)
If you are reading this blog as a non-Christian, scanning websites on this historic “day after” please know our commitment to Jesus Christ compels us to speak clearly and boldly on those things He has ordained. He is our Lord and Saviour. He died for our sin so we could be forgiven. He rose again from the dead so we could have hope – a hope that is not rooted in this world. You can have this same forgiveness and this same hope by confessing your sins and trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
If you do this you will see that everything is truly different and everything does change!