same sex marriage and the words we use

originally posted:  Wednesday, December 03, 2008.  
revised: Thursday, December 28, 2016.

first off, i want to apologize as a christian, for the horrible ways i (and we as christians) have interacted with (or ignored) the lgbtq community in such shamefully unloving and ignorant ways.  i am grieved how we have elevated particular areas of societal brokeness and minimized other areas of our own brokeness as it happens to suit us.  i am working on this and invite folks to call me out on my stuff in love.

i’d like to speak, if you would grant me that grace, to the following terms that have been thrown around so loosely in recent days:

unfortunately, the english language has made a mess of this word. yes, the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourself.  the greek word for “love” used here is agape, or unconditional, love.  yes, this challenge is considerable for it means loving ALL people even those who sin against us.  yes, a man can and should love other men.  but this does not mean that men ought to enter into sexual union with other men. the greek word for that form of love is eros or sexual love. i ought to love (agape) my mother but this does not mean that it is in the same way right and proper for me to love (eros) my mother. eros love can not and should not be applied to any and all people. we cannot throw this term “love” around loosely for it means something and we must mean what we say.

true, we ought to treat people equally, or fairly, as all have been made in the image of God. but this taken without context and qualification is ludicrous and is not indeed how we live.  we do not treat our parents as we do our friends as we do our co-workers as we do our children as we do our elders. i do not speak to my parents as i do to a co-worker. i do not allow a child to drive a car as i do an adult. also treating people “equally” does not mean we treat all actions and decisions equally.  The California Constitution (the basis for the judges overturning prop 22, a decision that i feel is a misreading of the constitution) states:

“SEC. 31. (a) The State shall not discriminate against, or grant
preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

yes, all citizens of a human government should have equal civil rights in the sense of access to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.   all people should be treated with dignity and decency.  a person has the civil right to enter into a consensual civil union with any person of their choosing. however, if there is separation of church and state then civil rights do not translate to moral rights in the same way.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” he did not say we must do away with all judgment in how we treat one another; he was speaking to the evil of judging someone by their outward person.  it is important to note that the categories listed in that section of the constitution above are physical and usually visible qualities of a person, not qualities of a person’s interpersonal relationships.  Jesus himself talks about the dangers of judging someone in the oft quoted Matthew 7:1.  The spirit of that passage, however, is to warn of the brokeness of judging others at the expense of seeing ones own issues (and it is certainly not in the damning sense of eternal condemnation). we must not throw out the baby (judgment) with the bath water (judging in the hypocritical sense). the inward person must be discerned. marriage speaks much of one’s character and values.  marriage is about a person’s interpersonal relationships.  marriage of the same-sex is not an equal right spiritually as it is civilly.  let me attempt to explain why in the next term.

to God, who alone gets to set the standard of marriage, eros love is only in the context of a faithful marriage between one man and one women.  judging from the dismal divorce rates even amongst believers in the u.s. alone, this is a serious challenge for heterosexuals too (even just by sheer numbers).  God meant something quite particular when he decreed marriage.

then man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman, ‘for she was taken out of man.”  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. – Gen 2:23-24

Jesus even goes back to THIS passage to ground the discussion of marriage.  in eros there is a sexual union of two different parts. especially since one was taken from the other the two come together in a unique way; a way that is not the same as joining two of the same pieces. now we all know that marriage is not limited to eros but eros is something specific to marriage.

please understand, marriage of man and woman is not the end nor goal, for not all are married or have physical sexual union. no, marriage is only a pointer, or a shadow, to something greater…union with God. this is why God uses the analogy of the faithful lover as well as Christ as groom. marriage and eros are ways we can understand God’s special faithful love for us.  this is why sex and marriage is SUCH a big deal.  this is why to alter God’s design is so offensive and subtractive not additive.

this does not mean that those who are not married or have not had sex can not understand God’s love. for Jesus himself was not married and Paul, the great missionary of the faith, was not married and it’s hard to say our understanding of love is greater than them.  earthly marriage is just one means of understanding God’s love…if, however, we can directly experience God’s love in this manner and devote our hearts solely to Him, this indeed would be the greatest love. Those who can experience this without the trappings/burnings for human eros love are blessed.

Lastly (thank you for bearing with me if you stayed this long) but not necessarily most important to clarify (true, this is a little non sequiter…its just one of the things that have come up in my conversations with people on this topic):

people sometimes use the argument that “well all sin is the same, so why the big deal with this one?”  now although i totally agree that NONE of us are really in a place to cast any stones and that by committing ANY sin we are lawbreakers all the same, this notion of all sin being the same is suspect.   we understand, even in our corrupt humanity with our court system, that there are degrees of a crime.  we do well to consider that this notion came from somewhere.  when Jesus himself was being falsely accused of crimes through the state, pilate tries to use a power a play to get Jesus to comply to which “Jesus answered,  

‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.'” (John 19:11)

from this scripture I can at least infer that those with power over people have weightier responsibility and consequence (uncle ben was inspired).  now, i am not and cannot dogmatically lay out levels of sin (maybe romans 1 gives us a clue?  but even in this case, idolatry of self would be the worst).   but to say all sin is the same is simply not true.

we should be wary of justification or tolerance of ANY of our sin, especially sin (like lust…man, thats hard for me to hear) that the Lord warns may put us in the dangers of the fires of hell – so dangerous that it it warrants the analogy of plucking off a part of the body to save the whole.  so, in the end, we are ALL in need of God’s grace and as we grow in our understanding of just how wretched we are in not giving the Most Worthy his due, so it sheds light on how great is His love to bring us to Himself in spite of this.

as their are varying degrees of sin, the good news is that there are also varying degrees of love.  jesus’ beloved disciple, john, quotes Jesus’ in their last supper before His betrayal as saying this:

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Considering our transgression and disregard of an infinite God, how great then is the love that God demonstrates to us in laying down His life for us?


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