by Dr. John Yates
Television programmes, activist organisations, celebrities, popular magazines and state parliamentary chambers have joined the crusade for the rights of homosexuals to “equal marriage”. Comparisons are drawn to the civil rights movement in America, apartheid in South Africa and past Australian laws prohibiting interracial marriage. In response, many earnest believers are lobbying politicians, praying fervently and lamenting what has become of our nation. Our discernment of what the Spirit is saying to the churches is however, in my opinion, lacking in one fundamental regard (Rev 2:7 etc.).
This brief teaching does not attempt to speak politically or even to investigate the theology of marriage, but explores some less obvious factors driving the thrust for “equal rights”. The dimensions of a debate of this nature are indiscernible to non-believers and demand of all of us a constant walking in the Spirit (Eph 6:12; 1 Cor 2:14-15; Gal 5:16).
Shame on You
From Eden on the quest for “the knowledge of good and evil” has at its heart a longing for self-righteousness (Gen 2:17). The temptation to be “in the right” is extremely seductive, especially when this has to do with something as potent as marriage, whose nature marriage is foundational to the identity of every society. To be able to claim “the high moral ground” over the nature of marriage is to occupy a position of superiority that fills the human spirit with a tremendous sense of self-exaltation (cf. Prov 14:34).
The master player behind the veil of equal rights is certainly Satan, but “the puffed up” sense of moral dignity that self-righteousness imparts to the conscience clouds all accurate spiritual discernment1)This is also true where Christians claim “the high moral ground”; whether by legalism or hyper-grace. (1 Cor 2:4; Hab 2:4; James 4:7-10). The arrogance and pride of self-righteousness is impervious to arguments based on reason or tradition; only divine revelation can transform our thinking at such a core level (2 Cor 10:4-5).
In Romans 1:18-32 Paul sees all deviant sexuality as the fruit of idolatry, and all idolatry as an attempt to exchange the glory of God for other sources of dignity (Rom 1:22-24). Every moral and religious system of paganism (like Australia today) is an attempt to “suppress the truth (of God’s revelation) in unrighteousness”. The drive to elevate gay marriage to the same level as divinely ordained heterosexual union is an attempt to supplant God’s righteous order with our self-constructed righteousness.
This act of rebellious humanity seeks to create an exalted experience of false moral glory to cover up the shame of the loss of the glory of God (Rom 3:23; Gen 3:7). The ultimate perversion here is not the attempt to legitimate gay marriage (nor is it same sex marriage itself) but the attempt to glory in shame (Phil 3:19). When a society reaches such a depraved state its conscience is socially irredeemable (1 Tim 4:1-2). There is however a form of righteousness powerful enough to change any culture.
God’s Righteous Power
“v16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…v17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”” (Rom 1:16-17)
The righteousness of God is a power which destroys our shame and clothes us with the one truly just human life, Christ. In Jesus we become the righteousness of God not as a human right but through sheer grace (1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:21). The moral high ground never belongs to me but only to Jesus. To deny equal rights to those seeking gay marriage brings deep offense, but the gospel message that our eternal moral status depends on someone else’s ethical behaviour is scandal for every human conscience (1 Cor 1:23; Gal 5:11). The real battle over gay marriage is not about “Doing the Right Thing” but whether we are finding our dignity in Christ alone. It is time to revisit our history.
A multitude of sexual perversions were considered normal in the days of Rome, but all this was changed by the power of the gospel. Europe became a Christian continent whose public conscience was made new by the restoring presence of the Word of Christ. Over the course of time however Western Christianity increasingly became a merely inherited historical faith, a form of religion without the life transforming presence of Christ (2 Tim 3:5). Gay marriage will eventually become institutionalised in Australian law unless we recover the power the power of the gospel.
God’s “moral high ground” is found at the foot of the cross. The righteousness of Christ is his abandonment of his rights as God (Phil 2:5-8; 2 Cor 8:9) and his sacrificial suffering for his persecutors and enemies (Luke 23:34; Rom 5:10). Only the loving righteousness of Jesus is powerful enough to destroy our shame and to dignify us in the glory of God forever. We must accept that the progressive marginalisation of Australian Christianity is a necessary prerequisite for national spiritual renewal.
This scenario does not make us victims, but presents us with an opportunity to image Christ the Suffering Servant of those who hate him. Let us pray that the Lord will grant us occasions to bring love, compassion and practical care to those who most militantly are agitating for their rights. Such is to live the power of the gospel.
Made in the image of God and possessed of the knowledge of good and evil all human beings are intensely moral; it is only ever a question of what is the right thing to do. In the post-Christian West where evil is called good and darkness is called light a radical redefinition of marriage was inevitable (Isa 5:20). This climactic phase of the struggle of Satan against God in our history can however be reversed.
When the gospel was birthed through the blood of the cross and the grace of the resurrection a new motivation entered into the world. Seeking the glory and dignity of others regardless of personal cost was the revelation of a righteousness that the pagan world had never seen before. “God” was totally redefined through the message of Christ. 2,000 years on it is not only pagan culture but the Church which needs to hear the gospel once again (1 Pet 4:17).
The Word of the Lord to his people through the furore over same-sex marriage is highly pointed. We have forgotten the gospel as the POWER of God’s righteousness to utterly heal and renew the shame-wracked conscience of fallen humanity. Besotted by temporary indulgences we have forgotten that Christ is a “Bridegroom of blood” who grants to us his Bride the right to suffer for others in the same way that he did (Eph 3:13; Eph 5:25; Rev 1:5). By God’s wisdom the issue of gay marriage contains a prophetic call to re-image the righteousness of Jesus to our nation through sacrificial love; this is a cause for both repentance and thanks.
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|1.||↑||This is also true where Christians claim “the high moral ground”; whether by legalism or hyper-grace.|