Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bounded by Grace

Yesterday, I talked about the opportunity the so-called Religious Freedom legislation presents for Christians to be truly loving to the world around us. And while there is talk that such legislation will lead to discrimination (and it will), there is one very important question whose answer becomes clearer because of this bill:

What is the church to do about gay marriage?

I'm just going off logic here, as I haven't heard anything explicitly about it, but if the Religious Freedom bill would allow a baker to refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding ceremony and a photographer to refuse to take photos of the event, it naturally follows that the church could refuse to perform the ceremony at all. This is good news.

Now, I know there are some churches who are out there saying, "We love our gay brothers and sisters and have no qualms about performing their marriage ceremony." To those churches, I ask: are you in the God business or are you in the civics business?

Outside of our walls, love must prevail. It must. Because the world, at large, isn't looking for Jesus; it's not our job to force Him on them. What we are called to do is to live love in the world and draw people into Him. When people come into our churches, however, they are consenting to be guided toward Him. They are asking for His presence in their lives, and we have a responsibility to hold onto His Word most firmly within our own walls, not perverting His covenant, not even in the name of love. 

That's going to be hard for some people to swallow. But it's the truth. When people come to us looking for Jesus, we have a responsibility to bring them to Him. Not to paint a favorable portrait of who He is. Not to make Him out to be the very thing they are looking for. But to know that He is the very thing they need and to present Him in unadulterated form - as compassionate Brother, as revolutionary Teacher, as crucified Savior, as Risen Lord. And that means, yes, sometimes, we have to do hard things. Sometimes, we have to do the unpopular things. Because while we are called to be Jesus in this world, we also are called to teach Jesus in our churches.

But it's not so harsh. It's not so black and white. 

See, inside our walls, people are looking for Jesus. They're there because they want Him. And we guide them to Him, but we set up bumpers of grace like a bowling lane all around us so that there is always room for love. Always forgiveness. Always mercy. Always a way forward without going off the rails. Always one step closer, one step closer. We don't have to wait for people to get it completely right, but we have to keep pushing them in the right direction. We have to keep pushing people God-ward, bounded by grace, held in love. Even when it's hard. 

So I like the idea that the Religious Freedom bill seems to answer one of the heaviest questions for us: will the church be required by the state to perform a gay wedding ceremony? If the legislation passes, it seems not. And that's as it should be. Because the minute we get more involved in civil ceremonies than in covenant living, we have lost something vital about the church. We have lost the very essence of who we are - a community called to bring people to Jesus. Bounded by grace. Held in love. 

Even when it's hard.

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