It’s a little more than a quick rant, so I apologize in advance. And it probably means I’ll lose all six of the people who still bother to read what I write. It’s OK. I still love you all, including the ones who quit before you.
I’m reading a lot of words, cast like stones, against Kim Davis, the Kentucky court clerk who wants to not marry gay couples, and I don’t know if that’s right. Perhaps she is wrong from one person’s perspective, or from the current attitudes and laws of the land. I do know that people are going to do what they are going to do, and it doesn’t matter what I say about it; they’re not going to change. But I don’t think it’s right to try to manipulate a sacred text to attempt to discredit it and it’s adherants, while at the same time trying to use the same text to justify your opinion. It’s illogical. You’re going to do what you want, and I’m going to do what I want, right or wrong, and none of it matters if (or because) my standards are not the same as yours, and my choices are not the same as yours. Steven Covey taught, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” I’m just saying, I don’t hear a lot of attempts to understand here.
Instead, I hear the same hateful name calling, “bigot,” “homophobe,” blah, blah, blah. I hear the same taunting about her own life choices, that some are labeling as sinful and a root of her hypocrisy. I hear the same ranting, claiming to have a better understanding than others about what the Bible says and what it doesn’t, what Jesus taught and what he didn’t. I hear the same tired, illogical arguments, arguing “if you believe this, then you should also believe that,” implicating the entire Old Testament legal system directed at Jewish people (not Gentiles) must logically be followed by Christ followers. What I don’t hear is any attempt to understand her position.
I don’t think we have the right to say what a person believes or doesn’t believe, or should believe, or practices or doesn’t practice, or should practice, in the free exercise of their personal religion. We can name call all we want, we can point out what we think are errors in judgement, or interpretation of texts, and I could tell the clerk how dumb it is to go against the current national law (, and it is in my opinion, dumb), or how interestingly that national law might play out in the future, but I could just as easily defend her by saying Jesus never abolished the Old Testament Laws in the New Testament, in fact he defended them and supported them as righteous.
We could talk a long time about the lady and her apparent lack of solidity on how to do a marriage right, which might be amusing I suppose. I find her stance on the topic in light of her personal history to be highly judgemental and unloving. But that’s me, just not being very merciful, nor considering her currently held position as admirable as I maybe should. Jesus taught that what belonged to the government should be given to the government, and what belonged to God should be given to God (Matthew 22:15-22). Does the definition of what is and isn’t sin belong to humans, or to God?
When asked what the most important commandments were, Jesus taught to love God and love our neighbor. But what happens when our neighbor’s choices and behaviors indicate a lack of love for God? I believe we still should love God, and our neighbor, even when we respectfully disagree with their choices and behaviors. I don’t think Jesus implied anywhere that we should just quietly go along. He was the man who tossed over the tables in the temple and drove the animals out (Matthew 21:12-13), and stood courageously by the woman who the religious leaders caught in sin, telling them not to stone her, but to have mercy. What should we then do when people mock our God and deliberately flaunt their faithlessness and behaviors we consider mockery of God? Some want to do so right at the doors of where we would worship and serve, or even inside those sacred walls. Look from a conservative perspective. If we love God, should these things be allowed or encouraged in the name of loving our neighbor? Or is that a convenient excuse?
Paul, author of at least 31% of the New Testament respected by Christ followers, had a firm and very clear position about the specific issue Kim is trying to defend, from her unfortunately sandy foundations. Paul lumped adultery and idolatry together, saying both were against the intentions of God and the design of humans implied since the beginning (Romans 1:1-27), and said it was wrong to give affirmation to those who willfully practiced things known to be against God (1:28-32). As for Old Testament regulations binding Christ followers, Paul only briefly mentioned a few carryovers, including sexual immorality, i.e. sex outside of God’s intended design (Matthew 19:4-6, that’s Jesus speaking, not me) for marriage (Acts 21:25) as things he thought were important items that should be avoided by Gentiles.
Jesus understood we humans weren’t perfect and we were going to break the Old Testament law. All he said about that was, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.(Matthew 9:13, Matthew 12:7, which by the way came straight from the Old Testament, Hosea 6)” And about adultery, which is to many, part of the very definition at the root of this issue, he said “Go and sin no more.” If nothing is sin any more, why would he say that, and why would his earliest preaching include the instruction “repent (turn from sin) for the kingdom of heaven is at hand?” What he said about the law is very clear in Matthew 5:17-20. And what Jesus did was to simplify the code for Christ followers to two things, instead of 613 things.
We are fond of pointing out the hypocrisy of judgementalism we see in others, citing Matthew 7:1-5, but not so much when our own hypocrisy in our judgementalism is pointed out. “First remove the plank from your own eye, then you can help with the speck in the other person’s eye.” (7:5) We all need to look for the plank first in our own, before we try to judge the other person for their speck.
Maybe Kim’s interpretation of scripture is more morally righteous right now (relatively, a speck) than yours (relatively, a plank) or mine (relatively, a forest). And what if it is? Maybe we should try harder to follow the more morally righteous position. Maybe. Or at least respect it. Sure, we’re going to break the Old Testament laws in some areas, if from nothing more than ignorance, willful disobedience, advanced scientific understanding, or an understanding of progressive revelation (Acts 10:11-15). But we’re not Jewish, are we?
Jesus wants us to be respectful to God, even loving, to God and to others (Matthew 22:36-40), and merciful to one another (Matthew 9:13), including those we disagree with. So if you’re going to hold your understanding, or misunderstanding, of biblical texts over this woman’s head without mercy, be prepared for others to hold their understanding, or misunderstanding, over your head, without mercy.
I’ve never claimed to be righteous. I’m a sinner. So is Kim Davis. And so are you. And as I fail and fall into my own sins, and you fail and fall into yours, I trust you’ll be merciful to me as you and I both work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Psalm 2:11, Philippians 2:12). And if you are righteous, just ignore everything I just said and go on about your business, because you’re already perfect, so you don’t need any help (Matthew 9:12). But maybe instead of tossing the first stone, you can help the rest of us out.