A few people have asked me if I’m going to write anything now that the results of the postal survey are out. I haven’t been sure if I’ve had anything to say, or anything useful or unique to add to the conversation, but I’ve at least had some thoughts so I’ll try to jot them down. When the survey was announced, my original post seemed obvious. It was easy to be high minded, and idealistic, calling people to be careful and loving during the “plebiscite”. Now that all is said and done, as a Christian everything feels messier, more fragile somehow, which makes it more difficult to figure out what to say. I’m sure there are people out there who have written better things than me, and people who can give you an insightful post-results analysis from whatever side of the discussion you find yourself on. I have been trying to figure out what would I say to all Christians, no matter how they voted. This is what I came up with:
Whether you were a Yes or a No does not indicate your salvation
I know that statement is probably pretty obvious. Of course, we’re saved by trust in Jesus, not by how we respond to a postal survey. However, what this whole affair illustrated is that within the Christian community, as in other communities, this issue of same-sex marriage has been deeply divisive. I know people who saw no reasonable way that a Christian could vote “Yes” and I know Christians who saw no reasonable way that a Christian could vote “No”. Some made their decisions out of deep faithful commitment to God and his word, some made their decisions for a myriad of other reasons, some noble, some not so much.
The danger I see is that we will let this issue divide us. We can’t buy into any “us and them” rhetoric. Whoever you are (straight, queer, or something else, conservative or liberal, Australian, non-Australian, or dual-citizen) if you’re a Christian, you’re a Christian first, and everything else second. The salvation of Jesus transcends sexual orientation and your views on these things. That’s not to say none of these things matter, but that some things matter more.
The goal of Christ in the life of the believer is not to leave them as they are but to transform them to be more like him. For each and every one of us, commitment to Christ will mean giving up things that we love, leaving behind beliefs that we held dear, and finding our deepest identity in him.
If all this is the case, then whoever is committed to Christ is my brother or sister, no matter where they stand on this issue. We must treat one another like family, not like the enemy. We have to be willing to listen, to learn, to challenge, to care, to change, to commit and remain committed. Because Christ is our uniter, we cannot let lesser things divide us.
Now is the time to love
Throughout the campaign there was a lot of talk about love. Everyone claimed to be loving, and to know the best way to love. It’s time to put talk into action. Now is the time to love. To love your friends, to love your family, to love your neighbour, to love your enemy. All of them are created in the image of God. It’s time to be practical in your love. Have coffees, beers, meals and holidays with the people you claim to love. Particularly, with the people who might not otherwise know it by your words or actions. Be a friend, be a brother, be a sister, show your love goes deeper than politeness and platitudes, and that people are people and not projects. Don’t worry about having to tell people why you disagree with them, instead tell them what you love and appreciate about them, find out how they’re going, care about their actual lives, pray for them and with them. Love builds up.
We may be tempted to retreat into our safe bubbles, but this is the very time we need to advance – to mend what’s been broken and build bridges where there are only divides. That message you’ve been meaning to send, that phone call you’ve been meaning to make, that hang out you’ve been meaning to arrange, organise it, do it now. Now is the time to love.
The Big Things Haven’t Changed
I said before that “same-sex marriage does not threaten the Lordship of Jesus” and that is still true. God wasn’t surprised or stymied by the outcome of the postal survey. Jesus is still in charge of the universe, the good news of his death and resurrection still has power, we still find hope and forgiveness in him, we are still called to be his faithful witnesses to the ends of the earth.
Things are obviously changing in our society. Some Christians have expressed concerns that this will make it harder to be Christian. If you’re feeling that, that’s ok. As many have pointed out before me, we follow a crucified saviour, we can’t expect it to be easy. And if you are finding it hard, keep in mind how difficult life has been for those in the LGBTQI community. May whatever difficulty you face help you better understand the difficulties of others and lead you to love with more compassion and grace.
But whatever happens, let’s be known as the people who love. People who love with our words and love with our actions. Who love each other, who love the world, who love the people we agree with, and love the people we disagree with, who love those who are rich and powerful, and love those who are poor, sick, and marginalised. Let’s be known first and foremost not for our opinions, but for our love, for our love for God and our love for his world.
I know that some of you will be concerned that I haven’t come down on one side or the other. I deliberately haven’t stated my position because I know that as soon as I do I will immediately alienate plenty of people who disagree with me. But if you’re really interested, you can ask me. Better yet, invite me out for a beverage and we can talk like humans. It’ll be fun, we can be friends. But here, I’m leaving my position unstated till I think it’s time to do otherwise.
In a related vein, some people will be concerned that all my talk of love might come at the expense of truth. There are plenty of people out there who can tell you what to think and what the Bible actually teaches on these issues. The calls to hold fast to truth, or discover truth, are plentiful. Of course God’s truth is important, we must always seek to know God better and more faithfully. Please don’t ever sacrifice truth for the sake of seeming more loving. On the other hand, please don’t ever sacrifice love for the sake of seeming more truthful. The tension of truth and love will always be felt, and may we always seek more truth and more love from the God of truth and love.