Pastor Peter’s “Letter to My Grown Children: #lovewins”

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An open letter to my grown children

Hi guys,

The big hoo-ha in recent weeks had been the US Supreme Court legalization of same-sex marriage. The LGBT and liberals gloat. Most Christians groan, fret, get angry, panic, etc. I like to suggest all this commotion is but a red herring to the real issue.

First, I believe the core of this “battle” is the meaning of a word and not LGBT rights. My litmus test is this: If the issue had been to grant “civil-union” rights to homosexual couples similar to normal marriages, we will not see such angst or gloating. If homosexuals win full rights to civil-unions, they get their rights and Christians get to keep the term “marriage.” But the liberals have selected the more ambitious platform of “marriage” rather than “civil-unions” and they won.

On this, my take is that while the Supreme Court has the human authority to determine rights, they do not have authority over the meaning of a word. They can hear the case for same-sex couples to have equal rights as heterosexual couples in “civil-unions,” “domestic partnerships,” etc., but they have no right to change the meaning of a word. Be that as it may, I have not the energy to get involved in this word game – even though this word game brings with it significant social ramifications.

Second, I think not all the ramifications of this legislation are bad. We must not naively believe that all Christian opposition to same-sex unions flow from right views or good motives. Let me illustrate.

Let’s say I own a hotel. Today, I don’t inspect the marriage licenses of man-woman couples checking into a room to ensure they are not engaging in extra-marital intimacy. But when I see a homosexual couple, I refuse to rent them a room and say it is against my religious beliefs and my conscience. Is it really a matter of conscience? Both situations represent a non-biblical practice of sexuality. But I wink at the heterosexual sin and act against the homosexual sin. This is a selective conscience. And why do I have a selective conscience? Is that not prejudice? There is a biasness against the LGBT that is real. You may agree with my theology about homosexuality but you cannot agree with my practice as a hotelier with selective conscience.

This legislation, wrong as it may be, may go some ways to dismantle the sinful discrimination we practice against the LGBT. And this in turn will open opportunities for us to reach out to them; hopefully without our prejudice, and without their defensiveness.

The third reason why I’ve remained on the sideline is that I view America as a post-Christian country, as a secular state. Yes, America retains vestiges of Christian values, more than most western countries, but it is secular and we should expect a godless judgment, which may or may not be ungodly. It is simply a judgment without god, and therefore godless. Godless legislators may inadvertently arrive at godly or ungodly decisions. But their decisions are grounded on godlessness.

The fourth reason for my non-engagement is that there is actually some merit in the argumentation for a legislation that allows legal choice (even though the legislation as it stands is morally wrong). Liberals are actually correct to say they can choose anyone they want for sexual intimacy. Choice is a God-given right. We can choose evil. The ability to choose does not make something right. Cases in point: Hitler chose to kill millions. Genghis Khan chose to become the world’s bloodiest warrior. God has given us free choice, even the choice to kill Jesus. But the right to choose does not mean people choose what is right.

Now, let me share with you where I believe the fight ought to be. The Bible tells us clearly that we are not fighting people. We are to love them and to win them over to the Kingdom of God. Our first duty is to “make disciples” not pass good laws (not mutually exclusive but a matter of priority). “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

First, we have the struggle to love. The idea that love wins is powerful because it came from Jesus. When we engage in a fight that is full of vitriol, what good can come out of it? Liberals say “#lovewins” when in reality, they are practicing hatred against those who disagree with them. If we play their game of hatred, we lose, regardless of whether we win or lose. The bigger hater with the bigger, badder lawyers, the more conniving lobbyists, and more favorable justices, win the day. Who loses? What loses? The Kingdom of God.

Christians fight for the Kingdom of Man, for a Christian America. But our real fight is the Kingdom of God through making disciples of Jesus Christ. It is easier to fight with hatred than it is with love. In a hatred fight, we call upon our sinful nature to hate and direct it against those who disagree with us. In the love of Christ that wins, we have to first purge our hearts of prejudice, learn to love our enemies, humble ourselves and not strut around as though we are better, and then engage in the battle to save people from themselves – as we have been saved from ourselves.

Second, we have the struggle of the wrong referent. Sexual morality today is expressed by the phrase “consenting adults” against the biblical reference of “marriage.” Let’s see if I represent current sexual mores correctly: Sex before marriage is fine as long as both are consenting adults. Sex outside of marriage is fine as long as it involves consenting adults – better yet, consenting spouses. And by extension, homosexual activities are fine when the people are consenting adults. In contrast, rape, molestation, white slavery, pederasty, child marriages are all wrong. This is because one party is not consenting, or one party is not an adult.

Even when the secular world removes God from their morality, they still have one – even if it is a human fabrication. God has given all mankind an innate sense of morality not seen in animals. So that is the half-filled cup view of the “consenting-adults” morality of the world. The reality is that the struggle biblical Christians have is much bigger than same-sex marriage. It is when we replace “marriage” with “consenting adults” as our moral compass. Too many American Christians have given up on marriage as the moral reference point for our sexuality. And if we implicitly or explicitly adopt “consenting adults” as the reference point, we have lost the grounds for morality. It is no wonder that we cannot win the struggle against those who advocate the normalcy of homosexuality. If I may be blunt, Christians today do not say it, but live out their morality as “consenting heterosexual adults” and not “marriage.” Therein lies our failure and our mistake in the struggle.

Third, we confuse Christian morality and public morality. We seem to think that when we say sexual intimacy is only within marriage, we are saying that there must be legislation to support it. That is not the case. The early Christians were exemplary without legislation. Christians need not legislate all aspects of morality. Even if all legislators were Christians, there can be two standards: a legislated public morality for everyone and a voluntary morality for Christians. Christians are called upon to keep the biblical standards because we love God and we see the value of biblical morality. Eventually, when God’s Kingdom is come to earth, we will see the full expression of all that is right. And that Kingdom does not come through our efforts but at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I am not suggesting we let the world go to pot, or there is no place to impose a Christian morality on the general population. For example, the abolition of slavery is ultimately an imposition of Christian morality on a secular world. Another example is monogamy. This is a biblical value successfully imposed on society as a whole. What I am saying is that the practice in Christian sexual morality is so far short of the biblical ideal that we need to (1) recognize the difference between Christian and public morality; and (2) clean our own house before cleaning the streets.

Fourth, our failed narrative. Christians respond too slowly and when we respond, we struggle to find a good narrative – which is essential if we wish to advocate a position strongly. E.g. The pro-abortion group style themselves “Pro-Choice” and with the help of the media, those opposed to abortion are labeled “Anti-abortion.” Eventually, we figured out the term “Pro-Life.” If we had been able to label pro-abortion as “baby-killers” the conversation may be different.

The hash tag #lovewins present the narrative that “love” wins over prejudice. We allow the media and other socially destructive parties to define their own narrative and ours. The disciples of Jesus need to consistently and consciously frame our own narrative. We must vigorously deny others the opportunity to frame our narrative. Conversely, we should frame theirs.

Our narrative ought to be like that of Jesus. He dined with sinners who were the equivalents of the LGBT today. He did not ostracize them. Instead, he loved them and offered forgiveness, and the power to lead a new life that is free from that sinful lifestyle. Love wins – Jesus style.

Jesus Touching LeperIn conclusion, I’ll say this. I have never had the privilege to lead an LGBT to faith. I don’t think it is within my known skillset. But the LGBT and same-sex marriage issues force me to examine my own attitudes in light of Jesus my Lord. And I can see areas I need to address so I can become more like Jesus.

You grow up in a generation that is more accepting of the LGBT than mine. Perhaps accepting them and showing them love is not the biggest challenge. Perhaps the biggest challenge of your generation may be a strong narrative for the great value of a biblical morality, a sexuality that is within marriage. My generation has failed to do that thus far. I think Christians tend to hate those who reject our morality, or if we love them, we then justify their wrong morality. Both are wrong. Our example is seen in Jesus. Jesus is clear that God’s moral ideals are unwavering. He is equally clear that he loves us while we are still sinners. He is the powerful conscience to all who do wrong, and the powerful love that draws all wrong doers to himself.

I seek to be more like Jesus. Will you also do that?

With all my love,
papa

Pastor Peter Eng, 25 July, 2015

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