Driving recently by a small country church, I was struck by the message displayed on the church sign: “Marriage is between a man and a woman.” Clearly, church leaders were protesting recent statements made by political leaders in support of gay marriage. While the message is sound teaching within the context of the church, what purpose does it serve when posted for those outside the church to see? Does it invite the spiritually needy to come hear the good news of Christ, or does it turn them away?
Too often, today’s Christian cultural leaders pick and choose which Christian values to impose on society in general, often with a spirit of accusation. It’s wrong, however, for us to offer compassion to some while actively discriminating against others. Do we publicly harangue, for example, those husbands who leave their families for another? Do we politicize the matter in an attempt to legislate against second marriages? Do we proclaim on radio and television the evils of their lifestyle and how they will be punished by God? Yet the Bible verses used to demonize gays also condemn adulterers. Why do we offer compassion and forgiveness to heterosexuals who are unfaithful while mocking and demeaning gays who choose to remain celibate or faithful to a single partner for a lifetime?
Committed couples who are gay should have the same rights and privileges in society as committed couples who are straight. They should be offered the same social benefits and the same common courtesies as other couples. While church leaders must never be forced to renounce biblical teaching by performing gay marriage ceremonies, Christians should not be protesting gay unions outside the church body. By doing so, we forget our own moral turpitude – as if, before God, we are somehow more worthy than our neighbor. Jesus’ arms, however, are open wide to receive all who repent and embrace him as Lord and Savior. He alone can declare us righteous, and he alone can work in our hearts to truly transform us.
We are to live properly among our unbelieving neighbors so they can see the love of God in action. “Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.” Jesus calls on us to love those with whom we disagree. We are not simply to tolerate them or to quietly ignore them. Instead, we are called to actively do good, to bless, to pray, and to help meet practical needs – always remembering that our most righteous deeds are no more morally acceptable to God than the worst abuses of our enemies.
In his book The God Who Is There, Francis Schaeffer observed that “Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world.” Can Christians demonstrate the love of Christ while maintaining that practicing homosexuality is morally wrong? Several years ago, members of a conservative Baptist church offered free bottles of water to gay activists marching under a hot sun. While not endorsing the gay lifestyle, the church pastor explained that he wanted to dismantle “that sense of self-righteousness and superiority [that] runs rampant in our church.” His solution was to follow in the footsteps of his Master, who “came not to be served but to serve others.” Jesus’ message is clear: “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”