On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Constitution mandates that all 50 states allow same-sex couples to be legally married in every state and that every state recognize same-sex marriages from other states. In doing so, what was already the law for 38 states became the law for our entire country. The reactions were immediate—from the White House to the barber shop—everybody’s got an opinion on this issue but what will define Christian apologetics for our generation is how we frame this issue and how we respond.
Some people say the real issue is one of equality—”Are those in the LGBT community are of equal value to heterosexuals?”
“Some frame the issue around whether or not the Supreme Court overstepped their legal bounds—”Did the Court squash the autonomy of the States?”
Others will frame the issue around whether or not heterosexual marriage was, is or should be the backbone on which families, communities and societies should be built. “As goes the family,” they’ll say, “there goes the nation.”
However you dice it though, this is a tipping point for America and for the Church. Where we go from here is critically important. We can hole up in our cathedrals and thumb our noses at our world, all the while hissing, “This world is going to Hell in a hand basket,” as though this were a reality we’re called to lay down and embrace. We could take to Facebook and Twitter and light up the blogosphere with heated blog posts filled with rhetoric that is devoid of grace and wreaks of moral superiority and arrogance. But, I’m hoping we’ll re-discover a third path modeled for us in Scripture most clearly by the Apostle Paul.
In Acts 17, Luke records the journey of Paul through Thessalonica, Berea and Athens. While journeying through Athens, he encounters a culture of people not very different from our own. They were educated, articulate, diverse and unfortunately full of ideas, people and things they obeyed instead of God—that’s another way of saying that they had idols. Now Paul could have blasted them with the Gospel Jonah style—repent or burn! But, he didn’t. Instead he took time to 1.) observe their culture and way of life and then he 2.) engaged them in a conversation where did more listening than talking to properly understand their rationale. Then, he 3.) advocated through the power of the Word with cultural sensitivity.
Herein are the keys to how we can leverage our moment in history to redeem the conversation about love, sex and marriage. Let’s take a minute to see how:
1. Observe – The old adage says, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.” He also gave us two eyes and a bright mind. We can use all these things to gather information about the world we live in. This is key because we are not doing reconnaissance on the world as though the people themselves were our enemy. Far from it—the people are prisoners of war imprisoned by a cruel master—Satan. Satan blinds their minds so that they cannot see the truth and beauty that Jesus Christ offers. By observing, we can learn so much about the way the people in our spheres of influence think, talk and believe. This is key to being able to effectively engage.
2. Engage – Another adage says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Engagement of your community is where you get to show how much you care. You are expressing the love of Christ through the ministry of presence—just being there listening! You don’t have to come preaching through your words alone; words are critical but they should be the slam dunk to a beautiful alley oop of sincere care. This looks different in every context. Sometimes you don’t have 4 months to get to know somebody before you need to tell them the truth—sometimes you only have 4 minutes but if you are listening to the Holy Spirit you will be able to engage the people he has put in your path with His love, freedom and truth.
3. Advocate – Proverbs tells us that sometimes we ought not speak up and argue a foolish point (See Proverbs 24:4) but then there are times that we should: Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation (Prov. 24:5). In Acts 17, Paul took time to use all that he had observed and his prior engagement with the people of Athens to bring them the truth in an unorthodox but biblically true and culturally sensitive way. Be sure to read that section for yourself (Acts 17:16-34)! Are you ready to be biblically faithful first but also culturally sensitive? Do you care more about winning a person than winning an argument? Would you rather that your Facebook timeline be a place of ministry instead of a bullhorn of unfiltered opinions?In the wake of this Supreme Court decisions, millions of conversations will be held each day. Let’s remember to 1. Observe, 2. Engage and then 3. Advocate with biblical faithfulness and cultural sensitivity.