**Be gentle with me, my friends. I’m experimenting with a different style…just for the fun of it!**
Once upon a time, there existed the town of Villacor. It was a beautiful town, full of beautiful people. The townspeople of Villacor loved each other and loved their town. They were lovely because they loved.
This town was ruled by a king. He had lived in the town at one time, but now was absent, having returned to his own country for a time. The townspeople didn’t remember him very well, but they loved each other and loved their town, so they tried to care for each other the best they could. All was lovely because they loved.
Over time, the townspeople began to feel a strange kind of burning inside of them. They weren’t sure that they were very important to the king anymore. He hadn’t been to visit them in such a long time, perhaps he didn’t care anymore, maybe he wasn’t ever coming back. Besides, they reasoned that if he did ever return, surely he would take them away to his own country, which must be perfection itself, rather than forcing them to stay in their own place.
As they wondered these things, the townspeople of Villacor began to love not quite so well. It showed up in small things at first: an unkind look, a piece of trash, a little less food left for the animals. Yet as time went on and the king did not return to look after his town, this not-loving grew bigger and bigger. And things began to look less lovely because they were less loved.
The town grew dirtier and more cluttered. Even the people began to look ugly. The people began hating each other and hurting each other, which left scars. The animals were neglected and began to turn on themselves and to destroy the plants for food. All was ugly because they were not loved.
Then one day a small group of Villacorians looked around at each other and at their town and decided to trust what the king had told them. If the king had promised to return, then he would one day return. If the king had said that he loved them and loved their town, then it must be so. And if the king loved their town, then he must mean for them to remain in it. This little group of people looked around at the town that was loved by the king and they began to love it too, for his sake, even though it was still ugly for having been so unloved.
This little group began caring for the town and for each other. They treated their fellow townspeople with kindness and gave grace in return for hate. They picked up trash where they found it and tended the plants and animals. The town and its people began to look a little more lovely because they were once again being loved.
Time continued to pass, and even though the king still had not returned, the little group of townspeople worked hard at loving their town as their group grew and grew until finally, once again, the town was beautiful, full of beautiful people who loved each other and loved their town. They didn’t know when the king would return, but they trusted that he would someday return because he had promised that he would always love them. They were lovely because they loved.
Finally the day came. Trumpets sounded over the trees and lakes as the sun burst over the hilltop. The townspeople of Villacor rushed out of the town into the countryside to greet their king. They surrounded him and brought him back into their town to show him how they had cared for their town. They showed the king the beauty and cleanliness of the town, the well-tended plants and animals, and demonstrated the acts of kindness that they showed to each other.
One small girl asked the king why it had taken so long for him to return. Another little boy asked if the king was going to carry them all back to his own country. The king smiled at them all and said, “My children, I was waiting for you. It was only when you began to care for the town and each other that everything grew into the way that I had intended all along. When you began loving each other and loving your town, you changed into a new people and a new town, as beautiful as you were in the beginning. Now I have come, and rather than take you away from this town you have learned to love, I will now make my home with you.”
And the king’s love became a physical shining that encompassed them all and made everything it touched even more beautiful than it had been before. They were lovely because they were loved.
I’ve had a lot on my heart lately. A lot of thoughts, issues, questions that are simmering deep inside me as I search for discernment and clarity.
Some of these you will probably read about in future essays. Some may stay in my heart for a while yet.
This essay today, though, is one I did not want to write. It makes me nervous and uncomfortable. I was tempted to leave it alone.
I worry that people will think I am foolish. I hate being foolish.
I worry that people will get angry with me. I hate having people mad at me.
I am trying, however, to value God’s opinion of me more than man’s, to desire God’s approval of my writing more than man’s.
I could come up with all sorts of worries and reasons why I shouldn’t write this, but one of the main reasons is that it is a topic about which most people don’t allow dissent. One can either agree with the speaker’s point of view or get lambasted over a fire of burning coals. I think I just boiled together several metaphors.
The topic? Same-sex marriage.
See? You had an immediate visceral reaction one way or the other, didn’t you? 🙂
Could we agree to something within this space?
Could we agree to love each other, regardless of our opinions? Could we agree to listen to each other with open hearts and to trust that we are all trying to follow Christ the best that we can? Can we agree to value diversity of thought and to have a conversation in which we may find ourselves in disagreement?
I’m not sure why this topic causes so much emotion.
Even those who do not claim the name of Christ can see it:
Brendan O’Neill, a self-proclaimed atheistic libertarian who is a columnist for spiked says:
But I have never encountered an issue like gay marriage, an issue in which the space for dissent has shrunk so rapidly, and in which the consensus is not only stifling but choking. This is the only issue on which, for criticising it from a liberal, secular perspective, I’ve been booed during an after-dinner speech and received death threats.
I’m not sure why this is so, but that’s not really within the scope of this essay. Suffice it to say, I feel nervous talking about this topic.
Yet it is at the forefront of our American culture right now as we wait for our Supreme Court to rule on the Defense of Marriage Act and on California’s Proposition 8 (probably sometime this month), and so I feel that I need to speak.
Several popular Christian bloggers lately have spoken about this issue, both for and against, and I feel that I, too, should speak. I am quite sure that I don’t have all the answers and I know for certain that I am probably wrong on several fronts. Still, I have this space, this platform, for speaking and for conversation, and if enough of us can host a civil conversation, perhaps we all might get somewhere helpful.
Those bloggers who championed the gay/lesbian cause challenged the Church to stop treating homosexuals harshly, to quit excluding gays and lesbians from their congregations, to instead love them unconditionally.
With that, I agree wholeheartedly. Sin is sin, and to heap shame and disgrace and hatred on the heads of some while extending grace, or worse a blind eye, to those who commit adultery or have sex outside of marriage or gossip about all those who do is simply wrong. We are called to love each other and to look in the mirror at our own plank before picking at the dust in another’s eye.
And so I, for one, say to any who have been made to feel shame or to feel unloved or worthless by anyone in the Church: I’m sorry. We all struggle with sin and with judgement. Please look at Christ rather than at us for perfection and holiness.
Yet inside the Church is different than outside the Church; the atmosphere of the Church is different than the laws of the land, and I’m not convinced that legalizing same-sex marriage is wise. When it comes to the laws of our country, I try not to consider things solely from a Biblical viewpoint, because I also am not convinced that we should impose Biblical principles on a country that espouses freedom to practice any or no religion.
Standards of morality for believers are much different than for those who do not claim the name of Jesus.
Yet even when I look at things from a philosophical or a natural law point of view, legalizing same-sex marriage doesn’t seem to make sense.
Laws should be about advancing the public interests of society. In every culture, children are the future, so it would make sense to incentivize a marriage contract that can bear children, that contributes to the success of society’s future. It may or may not be true that legalizing same-sex marriage would advance the private interests of our society, but private interests do not justify the force of a law. No liberty is being denied to anyone who wants to live together and call it marriage. The issue seems to be whether the state should grant incentives to anyone who wants to live together and call it marriage. This sort of proposed law does not advance the public interests.
As long as one side is angry with me, may I now pique the other side?
Same-sex marriage is not the greatest threat to the traditional definition of marriage.
Inside and outside the Church, when our highest goal is our own self-satisfaction, when we choose self over a spouse and children, God’s version of marriage is threatened more than when a free country decides to legalize same-sex marriage. I believe that the loss of keeping a covenant before God is the greater threat to the tradition of marriage.
Yet in the end, for those of us who claim to follow Jesus, it doesn’t much matter whether we would have voted for or against Proposition 8. It doesn’t much matter whether we enjoy debating the matter thoroughly or we’d rather hide under a bed then speak about such things.
What matters is how we love people. What matters is that we treat all people as men and women who are loved by God and are therefore full of worth.
We must love as Jesus loved Zaccheus and the Samaritan woman. We must love as Jesus loved the woman caught in adultery and the men who crucified Him.
We must love as Jesus loves us.
art credit: Christ and the Samaritan Woman by Henryk Siemiradzki