Since I’m on vacation and away from internet access, I continue my series on how we should be reading the New Testament and its implications for how we handle issues such as gay marriage. For those of us who believe in Jesus as the revelation of God’s saving power, Jesus as the resurrected Lord over all, taking up the NT is taking up our book, the stories and letters written for our communities, addressing us as the insiders, telling us what it means to faithfully follow God.
Too infrequently do we realize that this means that the characters in the stories with whom we bear the greatest similarity are the Jewish people whose understanding of God’s work is getting reconfigured. Thus, the story of Jesus’ sermon in Luke 4 tells us as much as them that God’s blessing cannot be confined to us as the insiders; Jesus’ healing the centurion tells us as much as them that God’s blessings and Jesus’ authority reach beyond the people of God even to those who could rightly be labelled “enemy”; and the parable of the Good Samaritan warns us that faithful keeping of the Law of God can keep us from seeing the neighbor whom we are called to love.
In all of this, there is something to be learned for Christians who hold to a traditionalist view of marriage as something God has ordained to be between a man and a woman. Once we have said this much, we still have not yet said what it means for our posture toward those who disagree, whom we would see as not practicing what falls within the sphere of God’s instruction for humanity.
Perhaps I can now put it more strongly: these stories together demonstrate that what God wants of us is not to restrict God’s blessings to the people of God, but to participate in showering these blessings indiscriminately among the people of the earth.
And, this blessing does not mean simply calling them to join the people of God, a “spiritual” concern above and before anything else, but means a true extending to them of all the blessings that come from the authority of Jesus, the mercy we have in our power to extend, the food with which we can feed the hungry, the medicine with which we can feed the sick–all the blessings that God bestows upon the world.
Today I want to add one more NT passage to the mix, to show that all this is not merely hermeneutical trickery on my part. Jesus tells us directly: it is not our business to restrict the blessings of God to those whom we love. This is not the character of God whose children we are.
“I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you because of your faith so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous… Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete” (Matthew 5:44-48, CEB).
The blessings of God indiscriminately shower down upon the earth. And if we are truly God’s children, we are to be agents of such showering in our own world as well. The gay marriage issue is difficult because it is easy to point to the Bible and say that homosexual lifestyles are wrong. But it is even more difficult because God demands that we not restrict the fullness of life and blessing of God to those who do what is right, to those whom we love, to those whom we can address as brother and sister.
Love is not about demanding that people act like we do or believe like we do before receiving the blessings of God that we can help bring about in the real world. Love is about bestowing the blessings of God so that the people around us will see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven–this is exactly what it means to be, as the church, the light of the world. It’s not about keeping God’s Law so people will see how pious we are, it means loving our neighbor, truly, as ourselves, so that they will know themselves loved by our God and Father.
Being part of the in crowd is not, can never be, prerequisite for someone being the recipient of our love, of the blessings of God.