I have purposely avoided writing about the SCOTUS decision concerning same-sex marriage. One reason is that it seems everybody and their brother has already written about it. There are already many good, as well as just plain crazy blog posts and articles about it. But the biggest reason I have steered clear of joining in the chorus of voices is that I have not wanted to have a label put on me of either pro or against, being pressed and mobilized for war against “the other.”
We live in such a polarized political and religious climate that it seems all people want to know is what side you are on, as if reducing a group of people to a position is even healthy or reasonable, not to mention biblical. There is a lot of information and even more misinformation floating around concerning the implications for church ministry about political and judicial decisions that I am not even going to begin tackling it. Instead, I am going to mention a different angle: this incessant and constant need for war. No, I am not talking about physical wars between nations. I am talking about this continual impulse among churches and Christians to always be fighting about something.
We have a culture war, worship wars, battles for the Bible, us versus them, taking sides. It is as if the aisle down the middle of the church building was meant to perpetually divide Christians over issues. Here in the United States, the fundamentalist/modernist controversy of one-hundred years ago solidified a strain of Christians who think it their duty and responsibility to always be fighting. It is as if the Scopes Monkey Trial were still in session, with Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan still alive and contending for the hearts and minds of American Christians. It is no wonder that hymns like Onward Christian Soldiers were written and composed in an era that was defined by churches demonizing one another as either liberal or conservative.
Not much has changed. We might live at the speed of light when it comes to innovations in technology and changes in philosophy, but we are still fighting the same old battles, believing that we must take sides. But if we are going to stand up for something, let us contend for the faith and uphold the inherent image of God in all people in the way of mercy, purity, and peace-making (Matthew 5:7-9). The manner and disposition of how churches and Christians address issues is not to be a war with winners and losers, with people who get their way and those who do not.
When Timothy had to engage the culture and the church, the Apostle Paul gave him this advice: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly” (2 Timothy 2:15-16). Timothy did not have a right to be obnoxious, spew angry vitriol, or develop a persecution complex; he had a responsibility to carefully, patiently, and graciously teach the Word of God and live the way of life he learned from his mentor Paul.
War only detracts from what God wants to do in the way he wants it done. There is an entire culture, society, and world in desperate need of the good news of forgiveness in Jesus Christ, and not the bad news that they are the wrong side of the culture war and need to adopt a set of either conservative principles or liberal agendas. Instead, let us as churches and Christians proclaim the gospel of Jesus with tender-hearted compassion and with wise words and loving actions that are consistent with being people redeemed from the need to war over everything we don’t like. God is Sovereign, and he is perfectly capable of asserting his own lordship over creation, the nations, and the church. It is not our job to do it for him.