Jeff Bartell

A "bottom line" kind of guy

The Recent Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

scotus_rainbowOK so, in the spirit of full disclosure, let me state from the outset that I am a Christian.  Worse than that, I am one of those “born-again” Christians.  Worse yet I am a Baptist.  Even more polarizing, I am a Baptist pastor.  Ok, so the last straw … I am one of those born-again, Baptist Christian pastors that actually believes that the Bible is the absolute word of God without any mixture of error – regardless of centuries of translation!  So with that pigeonhole, it goes without saying that my personal belief and conviction concerning any sexual union of two people of the same sex is that it is sin.  Got it?  No surprises there.  I’m sorry if that personal conviction upsets any of you, but I am simply letting you know who I am as the author of this post.

That is not what I want to discuss today.  What I want to discuss is the “conversation” (or lack thereof) that is taking place on many social media sites in the last 4 days.  I use quotes around the word “conversation” because on social media you really never have a legitimate conversation.  You have a monologue not a dialogue – at least not the face-to-face type.  And while I understand that writing a blog post is certainly more monologue, I offer this as a seed for more thought.  I think that if intelligent, reasonable people representing opposite sides of an argument sit down together and calmly discuss a subject, much more can be accomplished.  At the end of the day, we may simply “agree to disagree” and each go our own way, but at least we will have attempted to respectfully consider the other side.  That is what mature adults do.  Everybody deserves a little dignity and respect.

The general misunderstanding in the majority of the posts has to do with the confusion over what is actually being said and what the opposition perceives.  I know that many anti-same-sex-marriage Christian types are frustrated, hurt, disgusted, angered, disappointed … at the recent Supreme Court ruling.  Many (certainly not all) are voicing their thoughts on the ruling and many (not all) from the opposing side are reading such posts as a personalized attack on individuals.  Many (not all) of the responses then to the Christians is to malign their lack of “love” and they are quick to remind us that God is love and Christ always showed love and we are not to judge one another, etc, etc, etc.  Ok, again I got it.

We Christians understand that each individual will stand before God in judgment one day.  We are willing to acquiesce to individual free will.  We even understand that while homosexual behavior (according to the Bible) is a sin, there are a LOT of other sins that we all struggle with and ALL sin will be dealt with eventually.  Of course.  All true.

I want to try to help bridge the gap by clarifying that many people who disagree with the ruling are angry with the Court, not individuals per se, and fear God’s judgment on our nation more than on any particular LGBT individual.  At least I can speak for myself when I say that my frustration is with a nation that was originally founded on the Judeo-Christian ethic and with the Bible as the foundational influence on our development of civil government.  When such a nation will legislate in favor of clearly anti-Biblical behavior, then we, as a nation, are in trouble.

I for one, along with many of my Christian friends, truly have no problem whatsoever caring for all the various types of people in the world.  We (again, not all of us) truly go out of our way to help people so completely different and entrenched in various kinds of sins and addictive behaviors that we willingly forsake personal pleasure, preference and freedom (of schedule and finance) to intentionally reach out to help the hurting.  I personally spent 14 years of my adult life in Albania, immediately after the fall from Communism, simply to offer them a better life – both now and forever.  In our local church here in the US, we have a growing outreach to the local jail and those recently released from the jail and struggling with various addictions.  It has been a long, slow and arduous road, but we continue because of the value that we understand God places on each and every human life.  That same courtesy extends to homosexuals, tax evaders, liars, fornicators of all kinds, slanderers, gossips and thieves.

The same God that will judge all the various sins of individuals also has a written history (ref: the Holy Bible) of judging nations based upon the official decisions of their political leaders.  Generally, God’s judgment on a nation comes in two forms:  War and Weather.  Every “little” bad decision that our government makes on a national level adds another “drop” in the proverbial “bucket” and when a “biggie” is decided (against the expressed will of God as found in the scriptures) – like the same-sex marriage decision – then, well, we should expect the faucet to be turned counter-clockwise a couple full turns.  I’ll be honest with you, that scares me a little.  It scares a lot of people and that is what many are commenting about – not personally attacking individuals.

I get it – everybody wants to be free to love whomever they want.  They want equal civil liberties to do so.  If human logic were our compass, then that might be more acceptable to the general public.  But like it or not, the United States of America has a ~240 year Christian heritage and a history of the Bible being freely and openly taught and preached.  Many of us “good ol’ boys” actually believe that there is a Higher Authority than human logic.  This affects popular opinion.

It is not the purpose of this post to discuss whether or not the real agenda of the LGBT community is to undermine that rich history and reestablish a new direction.  It is the purpose of this post to attempt to bring some rational balance to the otherwise obvious emotional exchanges that have been offered.  At the end of the day, I am ultimately responsible before God for only one person.  He is the person writing this post.  At the same time I find solace in knowing that each of you are also equally responsible before God for your personal choices and that even our wonderful nation is responsible before God for their official choices.  May God help us all.

Feel free to reply with your comments.  Thanks for listening!

 

 

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Comments: 27

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Hey, Jeff! I appreciate your insight on the subject and think this is some valuable information we all need to keep in mind. I am curious on one part. I am most familiar with God punishing nations in the Old Testament, when one’s nationality dictated but one’s religion. A lot of teachings I have heard in the OT Law and why we do not have to follow it discussions how it was similar to a contract between God and the nation of Israel, so it does not apply to us (there is more to it of course).

But, I am not too familiar with God punishing nations in the New Testament. I had assumed that was no longer a thing due to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, and the different dispensation. Could you explain that? Thanks!

 
 

Well written, clear and right on point! I completely agree….could not have said it better myself.

 
 

Ashley, while it is true that generally the OT deals more with nations and the NT more with individuals, there is nothing in the NT that negates how God deals with nations. For example in Matt 27:25 “Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.” also the judgment of sheep and goats in Matt 25 is generally understood as a judgment of nations.

 
 

Thanks for the article Jeff! I not only love to hear your messages, but I also love to read your blogs as well. Great job!

I absolutely agree with everything that was written. I’ve read a lot of the posts and articles that have been written on this subject and this is by far the best and easiest to understand than any that I have seen out there.

Thanks again,

Roger

 
 

Jeff, thank you so much for this post! Amongst the swirl of words that have been flying around these past few days, this is refreshing to hear, and I am also so thankful for how consistently you point us all back into the direction of God, and to His Word, which is infalliable (sp?)…..thankful to God for your heart and direction on this!

 
 

i have to take issue with the basic premise of your post–that the country was founded on Christianity and has a Christian heritage. Many of the founders were Christian, some were deists (Jefferson literally cut out portions of the Bible to make his own), some were Quakers, and others. Very soon after the founding of the country, the Govt. clearly stated that “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion….” —U.S. Treaty with Tripoli, 1797.
Aside from that, I have another question, in Leviticus, there are many prohibitions that are considered just as sinful as homosexual relations, for example “You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.” Leviticus 19:19. Yet the government permits all of this conduct and no Christians had ever complained of the country being in danger before. The Sabbath is also to be holy. Yet the Gov. does not require all business to shut down on Sunday (or Saturday for the Jewish). Why single out the one issue (homosexuality) to the exclusion of all other prohibitions?

 
 

Thanks for the comment Rob. Technically I agree that the founding fathers were not all Bible believing Christians but still the founding documents were based on the Biblical model of justice.

As for the other prohibitions of Leviticus and the rest of the Old Testament, again I agree that we do not require those anymore. Why the contra-distinction? Because homosexuality is also explicitly forbidden in the New Testament in Romans 1. The majority of the OT laws were ceremonial in nature to differentiate Israel from the other nations. The moral laws continue to be enforced. As for the 7th day Sabbath, Jesus clearly omitted that one of the 10 whenever He referred to them and the rest of the NT epistles clearly set a new standard that all days can be respected (or not) equally.

Thanks for the good questions!

 
 

Thanks, Jeff. But your answer seems to be inconsistent with how you responded to Ashley’s question where you stated that the NT does not distinguish the OT on how Gd deals with nations. Also, you clearly stated that the country was based on Judeo-Christian ethics, but now you seem to want to get rid of the “judeo” part of that ethic and pick and choose which laws are important enough to be considered today. My understanding was that Jesus did not come to change the law.
Aside from all that, this discussion really highlights the problem with applying biblical law and morality to the country at large. Forget about Jews vs. Christians, there’s not even agreement among Christians as to the interpretation of the OT and the NT and the interplay between the two. Biblical scholars disagree on these points. Once you deviate from the literal word of the Bible (both OT and NT) then the debate is about interpretation. Not only, in my view, is it improper to legislate based on the word of the Bible–because this country “is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”), but also it is impossible to legislate based on the word of the Bible because the people (as in “we the people”) don’t agree on what the bible says or means. It’s just random to select one sin and not all the others.

 
 

You know what else the Bible considers a sin…divorce! I don’t see any Christians “up in arms”, protesting, or posting their disgust on social media about that. You know what the 10 commandments were for? How Christians should live their lives. Not a mention of homosexuality there. There are…what…7 verses the mention homosexuality and 2000 that deal with finances. God is more worried people are handling their money properly. Internationally recognized authorities on ancient cultures believe that the verses in the Bible that do mention homosexuality are referring to the forcible relations that we’re going on between master and slave, especially with the Romans. While I’m on the subject the Bible also has no problem with slavery, but Christian don’t see the fact that this is illegal as a problem either. The fact remains that there is not 1 example in the Bible of anyone being punished for being a homosexual. Other times I have mentioned this to people they always give me the example of Sodom and Gammorah. The Bible itself contradicts this. If you read Ezekiel 16:49-50 he mentions why Sodom was destroyed…not because of homosexuality. People always like to overlook this because of what most pastors force feed their congregations.

 
Douglas A. Burkhardt
 

Thank you, Pastor Jeff, for your clear cut and Bible-supported position. The Bible is a truly absolute authority for our lives and I love to read it, and I love even more trying to live up to it, although I don’t always succeed. Thanks again for your words. They are encouraging in a Laodicean day and age. We love all people but not sin.

 
 

Thanks for your blog I have been thinking about how to express my feelings and thoughts on this matter. But you have doneso good I really appreciate it. God bless you.

 
 

I am puzzled by your comment re judgment of nations. The people saying let his blood be on our heads is totally different than the prophets of the old testament warning the Israelites that calamity is coming as a result of their sin. The prophets spoke for God while the people who killed Jesus spoke for themselves.
Besides if God was to judge America for its sin there biblically speaking there are much worse things to condemn America on than allowing gay people to marry. But you know as you acknowledged in your reference to Matthew 25. Interesting to note that according to Ezekiel it was Mathew 25 kind of sins that condemned Sodom and Gomorah not homsexuality.

 
 

I also am puzzled by your statement that it is generally accepted that Mathew 25 is a judgment of nations. Read the text and it does not refer to nations but to individuals. Go beyond the text and the context doesn’t argue for it either.
Most evangelical commentators of this passage would also disagree with your statement that this is about the judgment of nations. When you say generally accepted are you referring to “generally accepted in the circles of books you read” or do you really it mean for the greater community of Christians and teachers of the Bible?
But as I mentioned in the above post, Matthew 25 kind of selfishness did bring God’s judgment on nations in the Old Testament –but again that was the understanding of the Old Testament.
I guess I am curious how you view the Old Testament. It seems you are open to Jesus changing parts (Sabbath) but then you ignore Jesus on parts like gay marriage. Jesus never reinforced any anti-gay passages of the OT and Paul never spoke to the issue of committed gays getting married. Please don’t write me off, but I like you am a born again Baptist, serving in ministry, a follower of Christ who finds in Scripture the Word of God. Yet I am also who someone who does not find the Scriptural support for condemning gay.

 
 

Last question: Jeremiah and Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Ezekiel, all spoke quite clearly on the sins of pride greed and selfishness –sins that prevented the poor and the disenfranchised from living in God’s world of justice, mercy, and humility. These were the biggies when it came to God judging a nation.
If we are going to carry nation judging into today’s time, then wouldn’t it be issues like racism, slavery, slaughter of the indigenous peoples of America, the treatment of women over the past 400 years etc. that would call for judgment?
It seems to me that the ruling of a secular court that seeks to give gay people in a secular society the same opportunity for committed love that straight people have is probably not a big issue –perhaps even a good thing. I know this might be hard to hear but this why our love for Scripture and God needs to come first –even before our closely held and most cherished conceptions of what God and Scripture should say. If it doesn’t we risk reading our culture into Scripture instead of the reverse. Don’t you agree?
Have your read how Bonheoffer and the confessing church stayed true to Christ during the time of Hitler? As you know its a good insight into the interplay between culture and Jesus-centered Christianity.

 
 

I appreciate your continued thoughts Rob, but I respectfully disagree. I don’t think it is inconsistent with what I replied to Ashley at all. The NT does primarily address the individual yet the idea of national accountability is not without precedent. As for the “Judeo-Christian” heritage – it is quite clear that NT Christianity flows directly out of OT Judaism. Jesus did not come to change the law – correct – he came to fulfill it. So while much of the ceremonial law is no longer necessary as it is now fulfilled in Christ, the ongoing moral standard is necessary.

Certainly all Christians do not agree on proper Biblical interpretation, but since when is that required in order for the Bible to be true? Please understand that my intention here is not to debate or necessarily convince you or anyone else to agree with me. My stated goal was simply to clarify the position of many Christians as it relates to our perspective on this issue. So with that, I welcome your thoughts and thank you for expressing them.

The United States does not have to legislate according to the Bible, but it is my opinion (based on my understanding of the Bible and how God has historically dealt with nations) that it is certainly BETTER for a nation if they respect and honor what God says. We have done that (to varying degrees) historically here in America, but one by one, the list is shortening. This last decision is just the last one. I think it is an important one (although not necessarily the MOST important and certainly not the ONLY important one).

 
 

Thanks for commenting Mark. I agree. Divorce is sin too. God hates it. So do I. God also gave Israel permission to divorce although it was never His perfect plan. There is no permission given for homosexuality. But generally I do agree that we are all in a heap of trouble due to the (general) hardness of our hearts toward God as a nation of people. I think God’s judgment is coming on us as the cumulative effect of all these things. I mention the same sex marriage because it is the LAST decision. I also think it is very important. (reference my recent reply to Rob)

Its hard to answer you point for point. I’m not sure exactly what you are trying to say – does America legislate too much? Or not enough? Do you think that we got it just right? Do you really think that Christians want slavery? Each of these points can be answered calmly with an open Bible. For example, the form of slavery condoned in the Bible was more of an indentured servant – paying off a debt. The type of American slavery is prohibited in the Bible. No man can forcibly take another hostage as his slave. No argument there, unless you just want to be argumentative.

As for the real judgment on Sodom, Ezekiel 16:49 references pride, fulness of bread and abundance of idleness. This is indeed the root sin of Sodom or any society. It also sounds a lot like America these days. Ezekiel 16:50 references being haughty and committing abomination. What do you suppose that is? I suppose it is exactly what Genesis 19 says it is – homosexuality. Ezekiel 16:50 goes on to say, “therefore I took them away as I saw good.”

It’s OK if you don’t agree with me. Like I said, I will answer for me and you will for you. You don’t need to hate on pastors as “force-feeders” if they are doing their best to help the people that look to them for help. Hopefully you have found a church where your pastor feeds you more politely.

 
 

Thanks for your comment Roland. In fact it was the Jewish national leaders that forced Pilate to crucify Jesus and officially accepted the consequences on their children. History records 1900 years of those consequences as the Jews have suffered miserably and just in the last 70 years are become a nation again.

Concerning the judgment on Sodom and Ezekiel 16 – please note that it also references “committed abomination” (v.50) – as a result of the other sins listed (pride, haughty, idleness, etc.). All these sins combined to result in God’s judgment on Sodom – and this is the current pattern we see in America. At least that is the way I see it.

 
 

Matt 25:31-32 “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him all be gathered all NATIONS: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd deviated hi sheep from the goats:” (emphasis mine)

Paul never spoke of “committed gays getting married”… Right. I can’t speak to that issue as it does not appear. Why not? No need to guess – it would all just be conjecture. Different people will certainly guess in accordance with their personal biases. I know that Paul most certainly DID condemn the act of homosexual behavior (Romans 1) without any distinction of “commitment to monogamy”. That in of itself ought to communicate something of value.

 
 

Again Roland, I appreciate your thoughtfulness and comments. I also happen to agree with you. I think that God judges individuals and nations. I think there are many criteria for judgment. I think that sin is a degressive process and that the one discussed today is not the one and only – but the end of a very long line of rebellious behavior from our country and leaders over many years. That being said, it most certainly cannot discount the validity of the argument that this decision (allowing homosexual marriage) is also problematic to say the least. God wrote scripture within the context of certain cultures, but yet the word of God stands above all cultures. It has a definite context and we cannot spiritualize a direct context in order to suit our current contextual needs. Shouldn’t we aspire to diligently follow the written word of God as clearly and closely as possible? I have a sneaking suspicion that God expects us to.

Thanks again for the conversation!

 
 

One more comment and then will not bother you further. Whether the Bible is true or not, is not really my point. Let’s assume that the Bible is true for the sake of argument. My main point is that Biblical truth is different for different people. Also, none of my examples above were ceremonial laws, like various sacrifices. Unless Moses comes down from Heaven, everybody is interpreting these books in different ways. Sometimes small differences, sometime very large. And what was “good” in biblical times, is not necessarily “good” today. Slavery is a good example. The OT clearly allows for and encourages slavery (not indentured servitude) but actual slavery in perpetuity. [e.g., Leviticus 25:44-46] Nobody would argue today that slavery is good. At some point, we have to use common sense. I’d be willing to say, throw away all the other “rules” and go with the basic tenet–as Jesus did–of do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That’s really the heart of it, isn’t it?

But the main point is that your interpretation, while heartfelt, does not agree with others. Not to be disrespectful, but believing that yours is the “correct” interpretation is hubris.

And lastly, people’s concern over Gd’s wrath on this country seems to ignore all of the “good” that is legislated in this country. For example, unemployment benefits, food stamps, tax exemptions for religious institutions, environmental laws. All of these principals are found in the Bible.

 
 

Jeff, you have certainly opened a can of worms here! You have some stones to open up the issue to comments. Love you brother.

 
 

Thanks for your responses Jeff. I appreciate that you are open to dialogue. Your last comment poses the question that needs to be addressed: “Shouldn’t we aspire to diligently follow the written word of God as clearly and closely as possible?”
I read the Gospels and Jesus compels me with such a high standard of selflessness, love for for all people especially the poor, the sick, and the marginalized, that I can barely call myself a Christ stumbler never mind a passionate Christ follower. Just Matthew 25 will keep me busy for a lifetime as I try (pathetically) to live simpler so others can simply live. But on the issue of gay marriage, the teachings of Christ don’t even come close to compelling me to stand against the the opportunity for gay people to commit themselves to each other in marriage. They do however address the problem of lust and adultery and to a much greater degree selfishness, pride, hypocrisy and putting Old Testament religious rules before people. You don’t have to read Jesus too long before you get a good idea of what its all about and you don’t have to read the rest of the New Testament too long before you get an idea of how these impossible teachings of Jesus (the disciple’s words not mine) are possible through the presence of the Holy Spirit who helps us to will and to do that which conforms us into the image of Christ. Denying the opportunity allow gay people to get married is not even on the radar –the best that a Christian who wants to make a case out of the lust passage of Romans 1 can say to gays who want to get married is your marriage will only be truly blessed if you put Christ first and remain true to your partner in thought life and action –the same thing that one would say to a straight marriage.

 
 

Well Rob I have addressed all these issues already in responses to several comments made, so I won’t elaborate further. Since you say that the main point deals with interpretation, and specifically that I have such “hubris” as to think mine is correct. With all due respect, of course I think mine is correct. So do you. So does everybody that actually believes something and does not just debate the Bible for the sake of debate. If any of us really thought we were not correct – wouldn’t we change? Do you really think that for any Bible doctrine to be true that everyone must agree? That position would in of itself be contrary to the testimony of Jesus Himself who warned of false teachers. That is why we are all given the admonition to “study to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman needing not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Your comments in fact confirm the very point that I was trying to make in the first place: while simply explaining a particular perspective on this issue, without requiring anyone to agree but rather facilitate civil discussion, there are always going to be some that take it personally and attack the issue as though everyone needs to agree with THEM. We may never agree completely, but regardless, I value the interaction. Thanks.

 
 

The fact that bad things have happened to Jewish people over the last two thousand years is not linked to God’s judgement anywhere in the New Testament. People saying his blood is on us is not God speaking. As for the evil things that took place against the Jewish people after Jesus –all nations and peoples have had had bad things happen. To argue that the terrible things that have taken place against the Jewish people is God centering them out for judgement ignores:
a) that we are all guilty of judgement –read Jesus on this when the disciples tried to pin someone’s bad fortune on God’s judgement,
b) that the evils that have taken place against jewish people were done by people caught up in hate, not God,
c) the teachings of Jesus who taught to repay evil with good and turn the other cheek as opposed to get them back.

 
 

Thanks Roland, I’ve enjoyed the conversation as well. Its apparent that we won’t always see things exactly the same but I appreciate your humble pursuit and honest assessment concerning all of our responsibilities before a holy God.

 
 

Thanks Jeff –I appreciate your openness to discussion.

 
Rick aka "Grumpa"
 

Our country still represents the Bible, just not as we hope. The US is founded on freedoms. Freedom for all of course. I believe that all nations do and will decline, have to or Jesus would never come. The problem I see is apathy. There are many ways to deny God, and I personally think ignoring our responsibility to speak of Him is a huge mistake and isn’t likely to go unanswered. I recall a passage about “it is better that a millstone be placed around their necks….” All that said, the positive of this ruling may be that now that the “law” has been removed the Love of Jesus will no longer have, for some, that stumbling block to deal with. We are all free to do as we wish, in all aspects. It’s just on us to not judge, “you will be known by your love for one another” and let our example of that be the first opening of a possible salvation, and as is noted, there are certainly more voices now than prior to the ruling. Take care.

 
 

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