Scripture: Mark 12:28-31
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’”
Thought for the Day: I have never intentionally set out to write a long devotional, but this one will be much longer than usual – sorry! As all of you most certainly know, the Supreme Court made a significant ruling yesterday. Like almost every major Supreme Court decision throughout American history, some people celebrated and others were left feeling highly disappointed. Quite often people have pointed to Christianity and the Bible as the foundation for opposing same-sex marriage. Technically, the Bible says nothing specific about same-sex marriage. The Biblical concept of marriage was an exchange of property (the bride) between two property owners (father and groom). For that reason, the notion of marriage between two property owners or two pieces of property would not have made sense 3000 or even 2000 years ago. Today, most of us would be opposed to a strict understanding of Biblical marriage for it dehumanizes women and disregards any sense of true mutuality. Of course, there are glimpses, especially in the life of Jesus, where a deeper understanding of love is revealed.
At the same time, a 2015 PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) study showed that the majority of Catholics (60 percent), white mainline Protestants (62 percent), and Jewish Americans (77 percent) either “favor” or “strongly favor” legal recognition of marriages for LGBT couples. Even 64% of more conservative Evangelicals under the age of 30 support same-sex marriage. How can this be? It all seems very complicated – confusing…
In the same way that Christianity has evolved over time, we find ourselves at another evolutionary moment. At every evolutionary moment, it has been complicated and confusing, but shouldn’t Christianity evolve? Just think: Christianity not only executed people for claiming the earth was not the center of the universe, but it supported slavery, opposed women having the right to vote and fought against inner racial marriage. It also used the Bible to argue all of these, and in some cases (slavery as one example), the Bible appears to be on the side of those things we would find immoral today.
So what do we do? Public opinion should not be our guide. Even the Supreme Court does not necessarily speak for Christianity. At the same time, Christianity needs to be asking the same questions being asked by the Supreme Court and the culture itself. Personally, I have very passionate opinions on the subject of same-sex marriage. I am also the pastor of a congregation that is all over the spectrum on this subject. There are people who I love and respect who disagree with me, but even the recent court decision is not going to change my love or respect for them.
At the end of the day, we as Christians need to reflect on the life of Jesus. Not only what he taught with his lips but how he educated his disciples through his interaction with others. When he was asked for a summary of the ancient religion, he pointed to two interwoven concepts – to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Love is the unchanging core of Jesus’ ministry, while many other scriptural points were culturally and historically bound. I think we need to trust Jesus, and in doing so, trust love.
I hope we can continue this conversation in many different settings, yet I want to encourage those who are celebrating the Supreme Court ruling to be cautious not to rub it in the face of others. And for those who are disappointed in the ruling, don’t condemn the joy that others feel. Instead, let us all listen to one another, learn from one another, and love one another.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, continue to teach us your way of love. When there is disagreement and division within your church, keep us focused on the belief that your love always wins in the end. Amen.