What is marriage? (From a policy perspective)
What is marriage? (From a policy perspective)
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6).
These are strong and difficult words for contemporary ears to hear.
The thought of purposefully refusing to reach out to someone is hard for Christians to understand. But Christians are in great danger when they refuse to be discerning; when they are unwilling to make proper judgments.
“It is easy to see how new danger arises. The disciple of Jesus has been told to love his neighbor as himself, and to love his enemies. He is to mirror God’s graciousness, the God who even-handedly sends his rain upon both the just and the unjust. He has been told never to adopt a judgmental mentality. As a result, he is in chronic danger of becoming wishy-washy, of refusing legitimate distinctions between truth and error, good and evil. He may even try to treat all men in exactly the same way, succumbing to a remarkable lack of discrimination” (D. A. Carson, Sermon on the Mount, p. 105).
Some should not receive ministry
In Matthew 7:6, Jesus taught that there are people who should not receive our investment of ministry. The proverbs offer something similar by warning us not to “reprove a scoffer,” but to “reprove a wise man” (Proverbs 9:7-9).
Consider the instruction to, “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him (reject or dismiss, remove from the fellowship of the Christian community). You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11).
Jesus chose two animals (both despised and ceremonially unclean) and he demanded what seems incredulously obvious. Don’t give what is sacred/holy (perhaps sacred meat) to the dogs and don’t cast your pearls (costly jewels) to pigs.
Who would do that?
Jesus obviously did not intend for this to be taken literally with regard to dogs and pigs. It would be ridiculous to do such things. So who did Jesus mean to identify as dogs and pigs? And what should be withheld from them?
In principle, we’re told to withhold something of value from an unworthy object — from dogs and pigs. But how this should apply is not immediately evident.
Jesus had been dealing with the matter of relating to other people. In Matthew 7:1-5, He taught His disciples not to judge others hypocritically but to offer constructive help proceeded by self-judgment.
“If our Lord had finished His teaching with those first five verses, it would undoubtedly have led to a false position. Men and women would be so careful to avoid the terrible danger of judging in that wrong sense that they would exercise no discrimination, no judgment whatsoever. There would be no such thing as discipline in the church, and the whole of the Christian life would be chaotic. There would be no such thing as exposing heresy and pronouncing judgment with regard to it. Because everybody would be so afraid of judging the heretic, they would turn a blind eye to the heresy and error would come into the church more than it has done. So many people show a lack of discrimination and are ready to praise and recommend anything that is put before them which vaguely claims the name Christian” (Sermon on the Mount, pp. 183-184).
D. A. Carson
“Jesus is commanding His disciples not to share the richest parts of spiritual truth with persons who are persistently vicious, irresponsible, and unappreciative. Their cynical mockery, their intellectual arrogance, their love of moral decay, and their vaunted self-sufficiency make them utterly impervious to the person and words of Christ. Over the years I have gradually come to the place where I refuse to attempt to explain Christianity and introduce Christ to the person who just wants to mock and argue and ridicule. It accomplishes nothing good, and there are so many other opportunities where time and energy can be invested more profitably” (Sermon on the Mount, p. 105).
Misguided understanding of Christian compassion can lead us to wrongly invest our ministry. It’s important that we practice Jesus’ teaching in our evangelism and discipleship.
Jesus’ own ministry
Did he deal with everyone exactly the same way? No. Jesus was wisely discriminate in His ministry to people. He compassionately ministered to many, but He also said to leave the Pharisees alone (Matthew 150. Although we cannot read the hearts of people, generally, it is wise to conclude that self-righteous, proud, arrogant, and cynical people fit into our Lord’s category of dogs and pigs. This should not surprise us because God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5-6).
Through Isaiah the prophet, God said,“But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at my Word.”
John R. W. Stott
“If people have had plenty of opportunity to hear the truth but do not respond to it, if they stubbornly turn their backs on Christ, if (in other words) they cast themselves in the role of ‘dogs’ and ‘pigs,’ we are not to go on and on with them, for then we cheapen God’s gospel by letting them trample it under foot” (Sermon on the mount).
We must pray for wisdom in this matter. We need to “ask,” “seek’” and “knock.” Many have come to Christ — who at one time mocked His name. We must be prayerfully discerning in our application of Matthew 7:6!
Did the governor of New York actually say that pro-life people have no place in the state of New York? Does he think he can speak for all New Yorkers?
During a radio interview, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo spoke about a schism among Republicans, saying, “Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right to life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.’’
Was Cuomo referring mainly to politicians he labels as “extreme conservatives’’? Probably. But by claiming “that’s not who New Yorkers are,’’ Cuomo went too far. He arrogantly alienated a lot of New Yorkers who don’t see things his way.
Yet, as much as I disapprove of the governor’s arrogance, I am not surprised by it. This is the spirit that is starting to dominate the Democratic Party. It’s an insistence on only one way to think about a growing number of issues if you want to be accepted in the party.
There must be unquestioned support for abortion (disguised as women’s rights or health), full endorsement of gay marriage (disguised as civil rights with manipulative accusations of bigotry and discrimination toward those who disagree) and devotion to big government (disguised as income equality and compassion for the poor). These are litmus tests for the party faithful.
Even more disruptive to civility and tolerance is the condescending ridicule aimed at people who see things differently. Watch a discussion on something like CNN’s “Crossfire’’ and you’ll see the snarky smirks and hear the belittling tones. Who wants to be identified with this attitude of intolerance? I don’t like it among conservatives or liberals.
According to Cuomo, there’s no safe zone for Democrats if they oppose abortion, defend the 14th Amendment or disagree with homosexual marriage. Evidently, he also believes that there’s no place for them in New York if they want to be true New Yorkers. I couldn’t make this stuff up!
Cuomo was just parroting a media effort of more radical liberals to convince people that they belong to a crazy fringe if they see things differently. “It’s the way the whole nation is going,’’ we’re told. But this is an empty hope that saying something often enough will make it real.
Although abortion on demand is a provision of federal law, for example, it’s not because the people had any say about it. The courts acted without the consent of the governed. It wasn’t democracy at work. The same is true of gay marriage. Do you think gay marriage is legal in a growing number of states because the democratic process led to it? Think again. In state after state, the courts thumbed their judicial noses at the public and forced their view of sexuality on entire states. Are we an oligarchy or a democracy? Is this what representation was meant to be?
And all of this has been done under a contrived sense of evolutionary progress. By changing terms from “baby’’ to “fetus’’ and from “sexual preference’’ to “sexual orientation,’’ people give themselves a delusional sense that they are progressive. There is no scientific evidence for denying that a fetus is a human life with the potential of becoming a mature human being. We might try to assure ourselves that we’re only terminating a pregnancy, but abortion terminates a human life in its early stages.
As for homosexuality, if you want a same-sex relationship as consenting adults, you’re free to have one in every state of the nation. But to ask the whole country to equate the kind of sex you desire with unalterable realities like race and gender not only removes sexuality from moral categories, it offends people who are turning away from the lifestyle and it lacks scientific evidence.
If the state offered gay couples benefits and privileges that come with legal marriage, it should not be done as a civil right for a special class of citizens. This is the wrong category, and using it would inevitably violate the religious and individual freedoms of those who disagree with homosexual behavior. If the state equates homosexuality with race, people will be obligated to honor it under threat of civil law.
Manipulating the category of civil rights like this will only cause deeper alienation between gays and society. Is this what we want? There must be a way we can rise above the divisive arrogance expressed by Andrew Cuomo, because our current approach is deeply dividing the nation.
Steven W. Cornell, senior pastor at Millersville Bible Church and a correspondent for Lancaster Newspapers Inc.
When I lived in Philadelphia during my teen years, I had many positive experiences of diversity in people and cultures. I also had parents who never treated people differently based on race, lifestyle or other social distinctions. I grew up learning to be as comfortable in the presence of a Senator or a Judge as well as any other person. I simply didn’t rank people based on these outward distinctions. This remains my perspective as a follower of Jesus Christ, but gratefully, it was part of my upbringing.
As the oldest son of eleven children, I also saw a good bit of hardship. Although my father has always been a hard worker and insisted on the same from his children, there were times of significant financial difficulty. During those times, we benefitted from some of the provisions of welfare and I remember dealing with personal resentment because of it. At an early age, I experienced what I perceived to be injustices and inequalities. I felt tempted toward some of the same attitudes at the root of many challenges faced in the African-American community today.
Those who look for racial discrimination behind every bush perpetuate destructive attitudes that hold people in cycles of bondage. They foster a mentality of victimization that leads to a spirit of defeat – all based in feelings of anger and entitlement. These attitudes easily lead to self-justified criminal activity and more bondage. “After all,” the victim argues, “I deserve a break. I’ve been cheated, overlooked, and discriminated against. Others always get the advantages. I’ve been wronged and it’s my turn to even the score!”
The results of this outlook are most visible among African-American men. Justice Department figures inform us that 1 in 15 black male adults is behind bars (1 in 9 between the ages of 20 and 34). This is staggering and contributes in complex ways to the alarming problems with absentee fathers in the community.
I wish leaders like Dr. Ben Carson were given greater voices of authority among African-Americans. Men like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are hustlers of racism from the grievance industry. They shamelessly ride the waves of the blame game that hold men in despair. They project racism where it doesn’t exist only to promote themselves as great defenders of freedom. These men encourage the very attitudes that hold people in bondage.
While there are still some legitimate concerns about racism, I am grateful to live in a nation that has largely moved beyond this evil of her past. If we want to lead people into greater freedom, let’s give more focus on our victories over racism. An aggressive tendency to find racism is reckless and irresponsible. It only encourages the very behaviors that some people wrongly trace to racism.
In a visit to the Lancaster County prison, during a question and answer session with over 100 prisoners, one told me how he had finally found freedom in prison. It was there, he said, that he “came to terms with a greater prison he had been living in when he was ‘free.’”
He told me that he had lived a life of enslavement to using. He confessed to desperately trying to fill some void in his life by becoming a user of everyone and everything. Acknowledging this bondage was his first step to true freedom.
Due to earlier losses and disappointments, he lived with a dangerous sense of entitlement. He credited himself with a right to demand lifelong reimbursement from everyone. He didn’t realize that a life of bondage to actual or perceived injuries would imprison him in a life of hopelessness.
He finally learned that freedom can only be experienced when God breaks us of our desire to take His place. Then we’ll stop trying to make judgments that belong to God and we’ll find the path that leads to true freedom.This man learned that, “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), but he had to go to jail to begin a life of freedom.
Inequities and injustices are part of life. We can’t run well with the notion that life is always supposed to be fair. While working to correct inequities and injustices where possible, we must reject the temptation to be users who demand lifelong reimbursement from everyone. This mentality enslaves people to more bondage and despair.
Millersville Bible Church
58 West Frederick street
Millersville, Pa. 17551
“Judge not, lest you be judged.”
A good question
John R. W. Stott asked if obedience to these words required us to “…suspend our critical faculties in relation to other people, to turn a blind eye to their faults (pretending not to notice them), to avoid all criticism and to refuse to discern between truth and error, goodness and evil?”
Let the context speak
As with most confusion over the meaning of the Bible, a careful reading of the context is the key to understanding.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:1-6).
While Jesus clearly condemned a certain kind of judging, he equally advocated a need for judgments. Jesus was not excusing us from all moral judgments. He was not promoting an individualistic attitude. Far from it!
Later he spoke of the need to go to one who sins against you and “tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (Matthew 18:15). Love requires moral concern for others. But that concern must follow the order Jesus taught in Matthew 7:1-6.
What kind of judging did Jesus condemn?
Jesus said, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). Jesus condemned hypocritical judging. He insisted that we must “first” remove the log from our own eye before we’re prepared to notice and remove the speck from our brother’s eye.
Jesus encouraged involvement in other people’s lives, but only after careful self-examination and self-correction. On another occasion Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were notorious (as are most religious people) for judging based on appearance. They were also notorious for their hypocrisy (see: Matthew 23).
When we hold other people to tight moral standards while making plenty of allowances for ourselves, we engage in unlawful judging. When we “play God” by trying to enforce standards not specifically established by God, we are in danger of being judged by God (Matthew 7:2; Romans 2:1-4).
Some professing Christians, (like the Pharisees), view their traditions as equal with God’s commands and wrongly judge the godliness of others based on them. This happens when people make personal applications from general commands of God (like his demand for non-conformity to the world and holiness of life), and then elevate their applications to command status.
Three categories for Christian standards
To avoid unlawful judging, we need to recognize three categories for setting Christian standards.
When we demote something from categories one and two into category three, we treat God’s clear standards as negotiable. When we elevate matters from category three by treating them as if they belong to categories one or two, we self-righteously judge others with our own opinions. The first action threatens purity; the second unnecessarily disrupts the unity of God’s people.
Matters of freedom vs. Matters of command
When a behavior, custom or doctrine is not addressed in Scripture with specific requirements or moral absolutes, it’s a matter of Christian freedom. When Christians condemn others in areas not specifically addressed by Scripture, they become guilty of the judging forbidden by Jesus.
But to agree with God’s clearly revealed standards does not constitute unlawful judging – unless, of course, it involves the kind of self-righteous hypocrisy Jesus repeatedly condemned. It’s possible to make accurate judgments but to be hypocritical in making them. Self-examination and self-correction are necessary for avoiding hypocritical judgment.
Scripture clearly reveals many moral standards God expects us to follow. Aligning with God on a specifically revealed moral judgment is not to make oneself judge, but to honor the standard of the Judge.
Follow the example of Jesus
Jesus taught with conviction and authority on many subjects.
“It is all too easy to believe in a Jesus who is largely a construction of our own imagination- an inoffensive person whom no one would really trouble to crucify. But the Jesus we meet in the Gospels, far from being an inoffensive person, gave offense right and left. Even his loyal followers found him, at times, thoroughly disconcerting. Jesus did not go about mouthing pious platitudes; had he done so, he would not have made as many enemies as he did” (F. F. Bruce).
I agree with the one who suggested that, “the capacity of judging, of forming an estimate and opinion, is one of our most valuable faculties and the right use of it one of our most important duties.” Judicial systems in every nation depend on the proper exercise of this capacity. But let’s be sure to use this valuable faculty first and most directly on ourselves. This will ensure a more humble and merciful application to others.
For further reflection
Watching vs. Watching out for
When we honor the distinction between watching others and watching out for them, we’ll be far better postured to avoid wrongful judging. The first is prideful and pharisaic behavior; the second is humble and loving care for the wellbeing of others. Let’s live and teach this distinction to ensure we obey Jesus’ command, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”
When it comes to the gay marriage debate, too many people base their attitude on gut reactions rather than carefully thought opinion.
These are obviously naïve and self-serving ways of distinguishing right from wrong. More troubling is how potentially harmful gut reactions are for people living in a representative form of democracy. When debating laws and policies that affect our common life, we need to be willing to think more deeply about implications behind laws and long-term outcomes.
On the matter of gay marriage, make no mistake, there is an agenda at work that seeks far more than giving two men the right of marriage. And the agenda is finding success by feeding on the fears and ignorance of uninformed people.
Fortified on notions that this is really about equality, justice, and love, and dreadfully fearful of being falsely accused of bigotry, hatred, discrimination and irrational phobias, people are being manipulated to bow before gay marriage (even if they privately find the idea morally wrong or personally repulsive). But they are carelessly unaware of the fact that marriage is only a foot in the door to a much larger agenda.
Now I don’t doubt that a few people are hesitant to say much because they have gay friends and don’t want to hurt their feelings. This is more of an altruistic response. But true friendship (based in respect and tolerance) should allow for differences of perspective without being irrationally accused of hate and bigotry. If a friend labels you with these vicious misrepresentations for simply disagreeing, he is not a true friend. He only accepts a friendship if you see things his way.
You can be absolutely certain that marriage is not the only thing gay activist want. Marriage is just the trigger issue being used to obtain status as a protected minority under civil rights legislation. Why do you think repeated efforts are made to suggest that being gay is equal with one’s racial identity? This false comparison has been a main part of the overall strategy to cause the public to bow before the homosexual lifestyle and fully endorsement it in every part of public life. Sadly, it has been effective with uninformed and fearful people.
If sexual orientation is granted civil rights status equal to racial identity, the full weight of federal law will sooner or later silence and punish anyone who teaches that God’s will for marriage is limited to one man and one woman and that homosexual behavior is a violation of the Creator’s law. If you hold these views you will be required to keep them to yourself and you will not be permitted to act on them in any way that is considered discriminatory. Christian Churches and Christian business people will be forced to embrace homosexuality or risk lawsuits and punishments.
If this sounds crazy or irrationally apocalyptic to you, please do a little more homework by studying cases in New Jersey, Massachusetts and by looking north to Canada for a view of the future. Don’t stand among the gullible and naïve. Be informed. Be rational. Think.
Now, it certainly might be more politically and legally amendable and create less social unrest if the gay community said, “All we want is marriage and the benefits that come with it, but we are not asking for civil rights status as a minority group along the lines of racial identity. We are not asking for businesses and Churches to be forced to affirm gay marriage. We are not asking for curriculum changes at the public schools to include gay marriage and families.”
Be assured that these things will not be said because the goal of gay activists is to have the public bow before the sexual preferences of (at the very most) 3-4 percent of the population. If successful, people will not be permitted to teach the historical view of our nation and the view Jesus taught that marriage is solely meant to be a gift from God between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:4-6). If you choose to hold this view, you’ll be forced into public silence and unable to act on it in any way that could be accused as discrimination.
So next time you ask, “What’s the big deal?” or say, “It won’t affect others if two men get married,” please realize that you are falling for a much larger agenda that will not be good for the nation.
If President Obama and the White House desire to be known for tolerance, they’re discrediting themselves by acquiescing to the radical agenda of militant homosexuals. Be assured that there are homosexuals who agree with this and who do everything possible to disassociate from the radical fringe group.
Joe Carter over at TheGospelCoalition exposed the ugly act of intolerance toward Pastor Giglio.
The Story: Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta and founder of the Passion Conferences, an organization that brings college students together in prayer and worship, was selected by President Obama to deliver the benediction at his inaugural this month. He was disinvited, though, after it was discovered he had delivered a sermon about homosexuality in the mid-1990s.
Al Mohler also exposed the extremism when he wrote:
“….anyone who has ever believed that homosexuality is morally problematic in any way must now offer public repentance and evidence of having “evolved” on the question. This is the language that President Obama used of his own “evolving” position on same-sex marriage. This is what is now openly demanded of Christians today. If you want to avoid being thrown off the program, you had better learn to evolve fast, and repent in public (see: The Giglio Imbroglio — The Public Inauguration of a New Moral McCarthyism).
I just wrote about the same concern in my column for our local Sunday News (without knowing about this act of intolerance). I wrote the following:
“The notion that Christians are only or mainly interested in opposing abortion or gay marriage is a propaganda myth I’ll expose in another column. The reason I’ve been vocal in opposing the agenda to force gay marriage on the country is not because I desire to tell other consenting adults how to order their private lives. They have the freedom to live in open homosexual relations and I’ve never suggested that this freedom should be changed. My emphasis has consistently been on the intolerant methods being used to force others to affirm a lifestyle that opposes their moral convictions. And I am suggesting that the desire of liberals to be known for tolerance has been hurt by their alignment with a radical homosexual agenda.
The hateful name-calling and condescending slurs aimed at anyone who opposes gay marriage is a violation of the kind of civil and rational debate we need. This kind of divisive social manipulation should be rejected no matter the issue.
Have you noticed that even if you respectfully oppose gay marriage, you’re accused of having irrational phobias? You’re labeled a hate-monger and a bigot. You’re actually accused of discrimination as if you were opposing race or gender. I am genuinely confused as to why liberals support this kind of schoolyard bullying? Why have liberals acquiesced to a militant agenda that has given them a bad name?
It’s ironic that the intolerance and bigotry once wrongly aimed at people who chose a gay lifestyle is now shown to anyone who dares to oppose homosexual behavior.
I don’t view homosexuality as the only or primary social issue of our times. But I firmly oppose the judicial coercion and social manipulation used to promote gay marriage. I think we should all be able to agree that these methods will hurt us. I have absolutely no hate for or fear of homosexuals. Projecting hate or fear on someone for opposing the morality of homosexual behavior is the problem. Let’s at least agree on this.”
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