Kim Davis, Marriage Licenses and Taking a Stand

September 22, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

In case you are unfamiliar with who Kim Davis is and what the controversy is, here is a brief primer. She is a County Clerk in Kentucky.  One of her primary roles is issuing marriage licenses.  When the Supreme Court declared that gay marriage was legal, she refused to issue the licenses.  Ultimately she was sent to jail for not following the law and doing the job she was elected to do.  For more information, go anywhere on the internet and you will find an article about it.

A few interesting (to me) notes on this controversy before we get to the actual content of the post.

1) Kim Davis is a Democrat.  I don’t mention this to take a shot at Democrats. I mention it because it’s ironic. (Wait. Is that the right use for the word ironic? I’m not sure I know any more.)

2) Has there ever been a more bizarre use of the song Eye of the Tiger than for her post-jail rally?  I can’t imagine there is. The beach running scene from Rocky III is more awkward but they played the Rocky theme during that.

3) The fact that she has been married multiple times is essentially irrelevant from a Christian perspective.  She was not a Christian when she got divorced.  She became a Christian and her values changed.  That doesn’t make her a hypocrite.  It makes her someone who recognized her own sin, repented and wants to live differently. I suppose you can bring it up to be ironic. (???)  But it is irrelevant to her character now.  We have all changed and grown.  She has repented for what she was and wants to be something different.  The question becomes, is that different thing a good thing?

This leads to my larger point.   It would seem, that we, and by we I mean everyone, do not have the ability to process this well.  As with most issues, we are incredibly shallow in our reasoning.  This leads the two camps to dig their heels in even further and continue to not listen and understand one another.  You have Christians on the one hand who don’t know how to live well in a world that does not share their values and you have non-Christians who refuse to try and see the world through the lenses of an evangelical Christian.  Evangelicals are simply foes to be vanquished.  My role as a pastor, and the percentage of people that read this blog dictates that I address primarily the first group, but there is something for everyone.

The primary shallow way that we evaluate this is based on whether we agree with her on the issue of gay marriage.  If we agree, then anything she does to take a stand is good.  If I disagree with her, anything she does to take a stand is wrong.  We need to open ourselves up to the idea that you can do the right thing for the wrong cause, and you can do the wrong thing for the right cause.  Deciding that you agree/disagree with her on the issue of gay marriage only tells you what you believe about her motivation not whether or not what she did was right.

So then, how do you decide if what she did/is doing is the right thing?  She essentially had 3 basic options.

1) Continue to do her job. She puts her name on marriage licenses even though she does not believe that all of the marriages are honoring to God.

2) Resign from her job. She no longer believes that she can do her job without violating her deeply held convictions, so she resigns and lets someone else do it.

3) Take a stand (the option that she took). She refuses to issue the licenses because she believes that it is wrong, and tries to prevent anyone from being able to issue those licenses.

Are any of those necessarily wrong? Are any of them universally always right?  I believe the answer to both of those are no.  The situations that you will find yourself in are complex and there often are competing values in place.  It takes wisdom, discernment and prayer to determine what the right way to go is.

Sometimes it is #1.  You need to choose to unconditionally love the people who are doing something you disapprove of.  Cross-cultural missionaries do this all the time.  They are invited to a religious festival or service of a different religion.  They choose to go because they want to build a relationship and are willing to be a part because love for the person trumps the desire to not participate in something that is distasteful in some way.  I have participated in services for other religions and spent a lot of time praying for the people I was with.  I have a friend who photographed a wedding that he/she didn’t believe was honoring to God.  Again, because they valued the relationship with the people.  This is not compromising truth.  This is choosing to love someone rather than trying to tell non-Christians that they should behave like Christians.

Sometimes it is # 2.  You are being asked to do something at your work that you do not believe honors God.  So you quit.  You don’t really have any ability or desire to fight the system and so you quietly step aside.  This is not necessarily cowardly.  You work for a company that practices shady ethics and you tell your boss that you won’t do it and you quit before he fires you.  You are taking a stand but in a different way.

Sometimes it is #3.  Sometimes the right thing to do is to stand in the face of injustice, immorality or evil and say that this will not stand.  You would rather face significant consequences than let something go.  Most injustices in the world are resolved initially because someone took a stand and refused to let injustice stand.  The civil rights movement is full of such people like MLK Jr and Rosa Parks.  Choosing this doesn’t mean that you crave attention or fame or that you are simply a troublemaker.  You believe your cause is just so you will do anything to fight for it.

“Wait. Did you just compare Kim Davis to Rosa Parks?”  (Rereads last paragraph) Nope, I didn’t.  I just used it as an example of when taking a stand against the law is admirable.  Whether or not what she did is admirable or right is still the question. “It’s the law of the land! How can she do this?”  The law she is fighting became law, because people refused to accept the status quo.  What she is doing is the same, at least in her mind.  However, in choosing #3, you have to be ready to face the consequences.  If you’re going to, for what you believe to be a noble cause, break the law, then be prepared to go to jail, pay a fine or whatever.

Her going to jail doesn’t mean that Christianity is now illegal, a bit of hyperbole from some aspiring presidential candidates.  It means that to work in government, you will sometimes be put in situations where you will be asked to do something inconsistent with your values.  That’s not just true in government jobs but other jobs as well and with friends.  It can happen a lot.  We live in a world and a country that does not share Christian values. (I don’t believe that it ever did, but that is a controversial post for another day.)  We have to decide what kind of people we are going to be in that reality.  How will we show the world that we love them and also point them to the truth of who God is and his gospel?

It’s not always going to be clear cut and obvious.  It is far easier to judge someone else’s decision than to wrestle with the decisions that you face and will have to face. To answer the question you are wanting me to answer, I wouldn’t have done what she did.  First, I’d never be county clerk.  Second, if I were, I would have been putting my name on lots of marriage licenses for marriages that were not honoring to God before gay marriage became legal, what’s a few more?  I would either have done number #1 and just prayed for every person and couple that came into my office, or #2 and I would have quietly and, hopefully without fanfare, step aside.

Regardless, it’s not an easy answer to a simple question and when we make it that we oversimplify life and what it means to follow God.  When do we show grace and when do we take a stand?  This is an important, deep question that we need to wrestle with, one that makes a huge difference not only in our lives but in the lives of the people that God has called us to reach.

So, what would you have done?

My Favorite Metaphor: 2 Yr Old Lauren in the Parking Lot (Colossians Review)

May 23, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

One of the prevailing jokes in our home is that Lauren never learned to walk.  She went straight from crawling to running.  She would put her arms in the air, as if to indicate that someone had scored a touchdown.  Then she would run full force until a footstool, chair, and often a wall would get in her way.  She would fall, shake it off and do it again.  This process would repeat indefinitely.

The scariness of her in open spaces should be evident.  The worst case scenario inside our home would be hitting a wall.  What if there were no walls to contain her? What if it were just the open road?  Parking lots seemed (Did I say seemed? I mean continue to be.  10 yr old Lauren is still living the dream) to bring this out the most.  Just like Wal-Mart makes toddlers throw fits, malls make men cry and sports on TV make wives “want to talk,” 2 yr old Lauren viewed parking lots like an amusement park.

When getting her out of her car seat, you had to be completely ready to go. You got everything else out first and you kept a hand on her at all times.  Also, inside the store, you’d better get your hand on her before you hit the door. (Wow! I’ve burned over 200 words and have yet to get to anything close to resembling a point.  I really do like talking about this.)

Turning 2 yr old Lauren loose in a parking lot to find the car is both dangerous and futile.  She certainly would run with enthusiasm.  She would be going somewhere, going somewhere with zeal.  She would make progress by some limited definitions of progress. However, danger and futility are most likely to be the results rather than success.

We all desire to live lives worthy of the God that loves us so much.  Often we just jump out into life thinking, “I’m going to do something.”  With reckless (The use of that word diverted me to an online dictionary.  Yes, reck is a word and it does mean caution.  Who knew?  You did?  No you didn’t) abandon we take off into the parking lot wanting to make a difference, to be spiritual, etc.

This can unfortunately lead us to exhaustion and disillusionment when it doesn’t go the way we wish (getting lost in the parking lot) or doing wrong things with right motives and hurting ourselves (running into a car).

The Colossians were being influenced by some false teachers that were telling them to not emphasize Jesus quite so much and instead focus on following certain religious regulations.  Paul is less concerned about telling them to stop that and start doing other things (at least at first, we are not even 1/4 way through the book).  He is more concerned about telling them where to focus.  Our focus (where the car is) is the gospel.  When we set our minds on the gospel, we are overwhelmed with gratitude and will be headed in the right direction.  Furthermore, we need to put on our total trust in Jesus, who Paul describes as the creator and head of all things.  When we depend on him (hold his hand in the parking lot), he can safely navigate us through the trials and difficulties of life.

Lauren’s problem never was, is, will be zeal.  It is focus.  We are not altogether much different.

What Motivates Us to Follow God? (Colossians Review)

There are a lot of ways that we try to motivate people.  This isn’t really a well-thought out statement (Duh, we know what site we are reading), but I would imagine that the top 3 are guilt, manipulation and yelling.  The great thing about those methods is that they are quite effective.  When you yell at someone, there is a high probability that they will stop doing whatever is bothering you.  Try it some time (No, don’t do that).

Guilt works the same way.  Isn’t that why you call certain people?  You know the people that you call and you’re holding your breath hoping that it’s going to go to voicemail because you don’t really want to talk to them but you feel like you have to and you contemplate hanging up after the third ring before it goes to voicemail just in case they might answer and you know that at least it will show up on their phone that you called? (That sentence really called for some commas or something, but I like the way that it looks)

Manipulation is great as well.  On an unrelated note, it doesn’t matter to me at all if you bookmark this site or subscribe to the feed. It’s no big deal.  It’s not like I look on Google Analytics multiple times a day to see if anyone ever reads these posts.  It’s not like a put a lot effort into them or anything.  You do what you want to do.

The problem with all three of these is that while they are all relatively effective, they are only effective in the short-term.  In the long-term they build resentment and harden hearts; they do not soften hearts.  They do not change people’s attitudes. All they can do is change a behavior briefly.

The Apostle Paul understood that.  His desire for the Colossians was that they would walk with God for a lifetime.  He wanted God to change their hearts and that they would be faithful followers of Jesus.  He was significantly less interested in changing their immediate behavior.  He first wanted to provide the proper foundation and motivation for living their lives and having hearts devoted to God.

Colossians 1:9-14

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Notice the different phrases that Paul uses here.  He wants them to “live a life worthy” and to “please Him in every way.”  Paul wants them to be “giving joyful thanks.”  He reminds them of the overwhelming power of the gospel.  He believes that if they are mindful of what God has done and is doing in their lives, that they will want to live their lives for him.

There are a lot of different methods that we can use to motivate others to walk with God or use to motivate ourselves.  Let’s use this one the most.  Reflect on the goodness and love of God that was shown through Jesus.  Let that be what drives us to be men and women worthy and pleasing to God.
(If you don’t, I’ll be really mad at you.  I MEAN REALLY MAD!!!)

Beautiful Exchange (Getting Ready for Easter)

April 11, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

We started a sermon series leading up to Easter called Beautiful Exchange.  Why is it called that, you may ask?  Because there is an incredible song out right now by Hillsong with that name that captures the message that we want to get across this Easter.  Here are lyrics to said song:

Beautiful Exchange

You were near, Though I was distant
Disillusioned I was lost and insecure

Still mercy fought, For my attention
You were waiting at the door, Then I let You in

Trading Your life, For my offenses
For my redemption, You carried all the blame

Breaking the curse, Of our condition
Perfection took our place

When only love
Could make a way
You gave Your life
In a beautiful exchange

My burden erase, my life forgiven
There is nothing, that could take this love away

My only desire, and sole ambition
Is to love You just the same

Holy are You God
Holy is Your name
With everything I’ve got
My heart will sing how I love You

Part of me feels like that anything that I would add to those lyrics would be pointless ramblings. (But that’s what you do best!  Hmm, if you think that then you have never seen me balance books on my head.)  These are powerful lyrics that describe quite well why we celebrate Easter.  Our sin has left has helpless and hopeless and dead, and then in a “beautiful exchange” we trade our death for Jesus’ death and his life for our life.

I really enjoyed our 1st week in the series yesterday (listen here) where we looked at a pivotal moment in the Gospel of Luke (read here) where Jesus shares with his disciples that he is going to be arrested and killed and then the Gospel says that “he resolutely set out for Jerusalem (Luke 9:51)”  He voluntarily and purposefully set out to die for us so that we may have life, demonstrating a deep and powerful love for us.

My favorite part of the day was that there was at least one person at the Grove Church yesterday that accepted that beautiful exchange yesterday and chose to give her life to Christ. Incredibly excited about her. My guess is that there were more than that.  Here also is what I believe, there are more to come.  There are people out there who are from God who desperately need Him.  They need to hear and believe.  You know what else? You know these people and they will come with you one of the next couple of weeks.  You just need to invite them.  We are going to provide an opportunity each week for everyone to hear the gospel and respond.

People want to come to church on Easter.  They want you to ask them, and come with them.  You want them to know Jesus, to make that exchange.  We have an incredible opportunity.  I’m glad that you are a part.