Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My Thoughts on the Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

If facebook is any sort of fair indicator, most of the people in my life have strong feelings about Friday's same-sex marriage ruling. I do not. Just call me Switzerland; I am neutral. My hope is that you'll read my heart, here, which will require your reading straight through to the end. No, really. All the way to the end.


Let me start by saying: I'm glad that the spouses and children of veterans in same-sex marriages will receive survivor benefits and burial rights. I believe that--regardless of his or her sexual orientation--if someone dies in service to the United States of America, his or her family should be afforded protections.

I'm glad to know that, as a legal spouse, an LGBTQ partner will be recognized as next-of-kin for the purposes of visiting in the hospital; making emergency medical decisions; and making funeral arrangements. (Read more from Caleb Wilde, here.)

I could continue but won't; suffice it to say: I'm glad that same-sex couples will now have access to the same 1,138 benefits, rights, and protections as other married people.

I haven't started waving a rainbow-colored flag, though, because many (not all) of my brothers and sisters in Christ are hurting. They view the marriage of same-sex couples as legalized sin, and they're brokenhearted over the direction in which the United States is going. I care about their disappointment and angst. I really do.

If I'm being honest, I don't know how to get around certain scriptures, myself. I'm not particularly interested in trying because, in this country, people have freedom of (and from) religion. Married couples have access to benefits whether they're religious or not, and before Friday's ruling, a heterosexual couple who'd never once donned the door of a church were, upon marriage, granted (or given access to) benefits while other non-religious but committed couples were not. Marriage has long been more (or other) than a union before God; it's a richly beneficial institution. The government is all over it.

It gets trickier, of course, when we consider the intersection of the LGBTQ community and the church. (We mustn't forget that we have LGBTQ individuals within the church, already!) Some Christ followers are concerned about their freedom to denounce homosexual activity; others are concerned about their freedom to avoid contributing to or participating in marriage ceremonies between same-sex couples; still others are concerned about the extent to which LGBTQ individuals will want to participate in church or its leadership. I understand those concerns but hold none of them.

I think these are exciting times. I think the more opportunities the church has to interact with the LGBTQ community, the better. My prayer is that everyone will grow: that the church will evolve into a more empathetic, compassionate entity...not one without convictions, certainly, but one without the sort of animosity that becomes a stumbling block to anyone who would enter relationship with the One--the only One!--who convicts us of sin and changes us. My prayer is that LGBTQ individuals would know they are loved: that they were created out of love, that they are seen and understood by their Creator, and that they can trust Him to light their individual paths.

You know, in the wake of Friday's same-sex marriage ruling, I've already experienced a fair amount of coaching in terms of what I should (or should not) be thinking, saying/writing, and doing as a follower of Christ. I just want to say: no. I don't mean to discourage those who are called to coach; certainly, some people are desperately seeking guidance, right now. But I am not a person seeking guidance.

My thoughts and words are my own--no one else's--and I stand upon them. I'm in a great place. I took a fleeting moment of doubt to the Lord just yesterday, and He reminded me: He made me the way I am. I am Switzerland. I love all people, and I don't mean that in a vague sort of hands-off way. I mean that my spiritual gift is mercy. I mean that I'm called to enter pain: that the work God has given me to do is the work of healing wounds.

I interact with Christians, sometimes, who criticize me for a lack of boldness in matters like these, but I'm plenty bold. Hear me say, here and now: I'm confident that where I am is where I'm meant to be.

When I lived among the non-heterosexual in Dallas, there was a preacher who stood on the corner of Cedar Springs and Throckmorton and howled for LGBTQ souls. I'll admit to looking down on him; honestly, I thought his vehemence scary and off-putting, and I never saw a single person interact with him. But as I've continued to grow in Jesus, my heart has softened toward that stranger. His style wasn't mine, but that doesn't mean He wasn't called to that work. 

So I tell you one more time, in one more blog post: I'm not interested in advising you in terms of what to think, say, write, or do. I'm interested in encouraging you--whomever you are--to seek the face of Jesus. Ask Him to work in and through you: to reveal any and all sin in your life and to help you overcome it. Ask Him to reveal His will for your life. Ask Him to give you Kingdom work.

Know that if--at any point, whomever you are--you wish to have a conversation with a sinner (because I am chief among us) saved by lavish grace who will not judge you, I'm available. That's the work to which I, Brandee Shafer, have been called.

19 comments:

  1. Brandee, this is what I like best about your blog...your ability to get straight to the grace-filled heart of the issue while avoiding the controversial extremes.

    I, too, have struggled with what to say (if anything) on this topic. It's not that I have no opinion...it's that my perspective is a bit more multi-dimensional than most and (admittedly) incomplete. It would likely be misunderstood by those in both camps...would likely unintentionally hurt some feelings...and is (quite frankly) not studied long enough or thought thru well enough for me to feel comfortable defending against the absolutely guaranteed controversy.

    I especially liked "I am Switerzerland" and "That's the work to which I, Brandee Shafer, have been called."

    Thank you for sharing your heart.

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    1. You're a good guy and a good friend, Joe. I know another good guy and good friend who likes to talk about how God never wastes our hurts. I think God never wastes anything at all. I'm thankful for the experiences I've had that allow me to see people as...just people. I'm thankful, too, for the deep sense of peace I have at this moment.

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  2. I love your spirit of Mercy and am so grateful for your boldness and honesty. Honestly? It takes courage to admit what you've said here today. So many are demanding we pick a side. I believe God desires for us to wrestle with issues that involve his children. I'm afraid to say that any issue involving human beings is never as simple as black and white. Hugs to you, Brandee, and a big hurrah.

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  3. I love every brave truthful word here and find my feelings very similar to yours. I'm thankful that you took on the topic because I've been asking myself if I have to declare a side. You took me down some avenues I just haven't been able to walk trough on my own and I'm grateful Brandee! When Amber posted last week I told her that the way she is working out her salvation with fear and trembling is beautiful and I think the same of you. This is Grace. This is Truth.

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement, Marcy. I'm glad my words made sense to you and worked for you.

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  4. Just this: So much Amen, my friend!

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  5. Yes. This. I hear my own conflicted heart and compassion and mercy here. It's complicated! These are not labels or things at which so many of us through stones, they are beating, hurting, living hearts. I see both "sides." Switzerland indeed. And as I read on a post yesterday, why are we expecting non-believers to confirm to biblical principles? Love them. Seek Jesus. Abide in Him. Grow together in relationship. Love well. Let Him do His heart work.

    Thank you for working out your love and faith in "public" that those of us like-hearted may know we aren't alone. And those of us standing on street corners too. You WalkAgape here. (We should talk more about that.) Thank you, friend.

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  6. I love Switzerland. It's one of the most beautiful places that I have visited. The only thing that I am confused about is how it ever became a mainstream idea that Christians should judge/hate the homosexual population. Jesus never taught this. He only loved and healed people--all people--never making their healing contingent on their sex life. In the beginning marriage was a man, his wife, and all his concubines. Jesus came and opposed this. He taught that celibacy (or living like a "eunuch") would help an individual enter the Kingdom. (Matt 19:12) People we outraged. And distraught. This was too hard to do. Paul then wrote to the Corinthians to help calm people down from teachings that seemed intangible. He outlined all sorts of various sexual sins (in too much detail for me to assume that the man hadn't struggled with it himself). Paul acknowledged, EXPLICITLY, that it was better for "a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." (Cor 7:1) He then offered the people a CONCESSION, that if they must engage in sexual behaviors, the best they could do was be monogamous. This was the point of his letter. The oldest form of marriage (polygomy) had been outgrown, pleasure sex was out (Matt 19:12), but for those who weren't quite up to the task, he said, at least take one partner! Sex is a carnal pleasure, and should be used sparingly. Of course, I am not saying that I am all in--just clarifying the Scriptures that have been used against gays for so long--because everyone wants to ignore the Scriptures that they set aside in daily life. Personally, I have set aside many. I have been greedy; but I have a constitutional right to hoard. I have been a glutton; but I have constitutional right to eat an entire box of Twinkies. I have abused sexuality; but I have a constitutional right to be with a willing partner. Constitutionally speaking America has done what's right. From a Christian standpoint, I just don't see the support of oppression or hate of anyone. Jesus defended the prostitutes. He wrote in the sand to defend the adulterous woman. Am I to assume that he loves lustful adultery more than monogamous homosexuality? Especially since he never uttered one word against gays? I am taking a huge liberty here--but I don't think Jesus would mind the loved ones of gays being able to be insured and present for one another during hospice stays, etc....no matter their genders. Love is love. And it prevails.

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    1. I have set aside so many scriptures, too, and am currently (not currently as in related to this "issue," post, or comment...currently as in over the last few months, and especially in terms of my interactions with others who live in my house) doing some really hard work in the realm of self control. Most exhausting work. I fail all the time and in many ways. The Apostle Paul did, too, and acknowledged that. I struggle with Paul. He has very high standards.

      Someone challenged my thinking (as reflected in this post), today. When I said I was glad about the ruling for the reasons mentioned above (benefits, etc.), he said he was not because, in his opinion, true mercy is allowing people to experience the consequences of their sins. He suggested that making things more comfortable for those in the LGBTQ community who would marry is doing them a disservice. He said it with so much conviction and kindness that I was completely disarmed. Still thinking about what he said. How would you have responded?

      You write beautifully. Thank you for being here.







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  7. My immediate response to the idea of deprivation of rights as a form of mercy is that it's not fitting in a Christian context. Let me first say that LUST is a sin--with no specification as to the type of lust. For arguments sake, let's assume that we all agree to ignore the entirety of Paul's letter, and harp on one line. We still have the problem of all the other sins that we Americans do show (real) mercy for. We don't, out of mercy, refuse healthcare to the glutton! We don't say, "Please leave Weight Watchers because the Bible says you've sinned and your continued suffering is really our mercy to you for your crime."
    According to Matt 19:9 America would be just as justified in outlawing divorce as prohibiting same-sex marriages. The courts couldn't grant new marriages out of "mercy" for the sinner. People would have to suffer lonely lives because of one bad decision they made. What kind of mercy is this? I know a lot of people who would quake in their shoes if their new marriages were overturned. People use their common sense when reading THIS Scripture. They think to themselves, "well obviously God doesn't want me to lonely, and miserable, so I think He'll overlook my remarriage." But that same sentiment SHOULD not apply to the gay population? They should be forced to live lonely lives? This preposterous! We can't ride the fence. Either God wants His children happy or He doesn't. My suspicion is that the hatred of the gay population has everything to do with them being a minority. It also takes the heat off our own failures. Hypothetically, I can feel ok about the wrath I felt at my boss today because the spotlight is on someone else's crime. Let's keep attracting attention to them.
    Additionally, Jesus teaches that God's love is better than that of our earth father's love. If this is true, then He would never--should we ask for a diamond as a symbol of love (or bread)--"hand us a stone." Imagine sending your own children into a fiery eternity because they didn't meet all the regulations outlined in the Bible. It seems impossible and heart wrenching. And God loves you MORE than you love your son! Your Heavenly Father sees you as the perfect creation that you ARE becoming!
    In addition to that, Jesus also teaches of God's IMMEDIATE forgiveness. At the very moment that we recognize the true error of our ways we have repented. (This is different than feeling guilty for getting caught, but being able to commit the crime again.) This is the very moment of God's forgiveness. When the paralyzed man was lowered through the roof, Jesus did not perform some weird hocus-pocus chant. He said, "Son, your sins are forgiven." This is what the sinner needed to hear in order to get up and walk. He needed to know that WHATEVER he had done was already forgiven--not possibly after death--right now. Jesus brought God right down to the people. The idea of forgiveness in the NOW was so liberating. People had previously been told to wait and face judgment, fire, and brimstone. Jesus knew God, and Jesus said they were forgiven. And while this story is literal--it is so much more than that--for buried deep down inside each one of us is a paralyzed part of ourselves that is just waiting to "take up our mat and walk." We need to let ourselves be lowered through the roof of forgiveness. Let today be the start of our new, more loving, more righteous walk. The gay marriage ruling is so profound because it is one step closer to forgiving others--and moreover ourselves--right here right now. It has the potential to be the dawn of the New Earth that was foretold. (Isaiah 65:17 & Revelation 21:1) And when we get up, need I mention, that we should help our homosexual brothers with their mats as well? We are all walking towards the same Kingdom. Some of us, though, are still paralyzed (feigning mercy) but really needing to hear of our own forgiveness as well.

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    1. Thank you, again, for being here. I appreciate the conversation and its availability to others who may be wrestling with the same sorts of questions. You've given me some more things to ponder. Regarding your statement that focusing on homosexuality "takes the heat off our own failures," I would like to recommend Jerry Bridges' Respectable Sins to any believer who might be reading here. Our small group participated in a study of this at one point, and it was one of my favorites we've ever done because it really delved into the "small" sins each of us likes to dismiss. I finished it thinking this is what I'd like to hear/learn in church. I left one church because my Sunday school teacher wanted to talk about homosexuality every single week, and I didn't get it! None of us was gay, and there were so many other things we could've been discussing.

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  8. THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! I am absolutely certain that God sees you as one of his chosen. You have made the decision to be a child of Christ. Accepting, tolerant, EMBRACING! God cannot look down on a person who realizes that all of us are equal in His eyes. And that all people deserve to be treated equally, period.

    Peace <3
    Jay

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    1. I love you and am glad we are friends.

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  9. Beautifully done, Brandee. Thank you.

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  10. Hello again Brandee! I apologize for monopolizing your blog, but sometimes the most obviously things escape me, and I can’t live with myself if I don’t defend the integrity of the ancient Scriptures. I can’t believe that this idea had escaped me during the gay rights uproar! You see, Jesus taught that the servant who doesn’t know the will of his master will be punished less harshly than those who know it and don’t uphold it. (Luke 12:47) At first this seems unfair because the Bible says the same thing no matter where you read it, or what your personal agenda is…so are all of us who have read it going to be punished more severely? This got me wondering, what is “knowing” the will of God?
    We all read the same rules, but we all set aside a different selection of the ones that we don’t want to/can’t easily uphold. To me this is indicative of not really knowing/understanding God’s will. I will use the extreme example of one of my dear friends. When she was 14, she was told that her curfew was 10 PM. I guess she didn’t “know” why her parents had this rule, and that summer she snuck out her window, went to a party, and was raped. Obviously she never snuck out again. This was a crash course in not knowing her master’s will (in this case her parent’s will), and then quickly knowing it better than anyone. Life is a swift and fierce teacher. Many people think that life’s temptations are from Satan—I think they are from God. To me Satan has no power, because God is omnipotent. And He will give us every opportunity to really know His will, because He doesn’t want us getting out of here without that knowledge. He wants His children to come Home to Him!
    Homosexuality falls in the same position of defiance of God’s will. (Sex for lust—no matter the partner—is not condoned by Scripture. We could get into the why’s of this—but that’s another blog, eh?) As long as no one is being harmed, then the freedom to marry should be a basic human right. We can’t throw the Bible in the way of that right, while over looking all the other legal sins. (Billionaire shouldn’t be granted a bank accounts; sloths should be turned down for employment when they finally hand in an application; the soldier shouldn’t be glorified when he returns to the country if he committed murder while abroad.) It’s not black and white. There are 50 shades of gray (sorry—I thought it was fitting for the topic) as to the will of God. Solomon says “a time for war” while Jesus says “turn the other cheek.” And so it is that every man can read the same book, but not “know” the entirety of God’s will. But God knows this, and Jesus has explained that we are all held accountable for what we do know. And we need to trust that God will work out the temptations of each of us, and turn them into lessons. This is why prostitutes (and prodigal sons) are entering the Kingdom before their self righteous brothers. Christians refusing rights to gays is simply playing the role of the self righteous—casting ourselves as God as we punish on earth—and pretending that He doesn’t already have our salvation covered. He’s 10 steps ahead. To me, Jesus’ words might well have been, “the homosexuals and tax collectors are entering the kingdom before the teachers of the law.” We can see, by the uproar that his basic human right has caused, that this might be a timeless lesson by the world’s best teacher.

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  11. And sorry for all the typos--it was 3 AM!

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