The media is buzzing over Rowan County Kentucky clerk Kim Davis and her refusal to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples. As always, everyone has an opinion, she is being hailed as both a martyr and a bigot. U.S. District Judge David Bunning ultimately sentenced her to jail in contempt of court yesterday, declaring that Davis had taken an oath upon entering public office to uphold the law, and “oaths mean something”.
This indeed is a situation that will cause much turmoil and debate over the next few months as the country continues to adjust and accommodate every individual’s freedom of religion, freedom of speech and uphold anti-discrimination laws. How do we protect and allow one to believe that homosexual marriage is a sin, and at the same time protect and allow another to engage in a homosexual marriage? How do we regulate one’s freedom to profess their belief of said sin, and refusal of participation in its enactment and sanction, and yet maintain protection from discrimination and equality for those who choose to live a lifestyle that another cannot endorse?
Both sides should be protected by our legal system, if we are built on the foundation of the freedom of religious belief. We, as a nation, have chosen to say that no one person can force another person to believe what they believe. We only establish consequences for generally affirmed acts that hurt, damage or place another in harm’s way.
And while we espouse tolerance and freedom, Kim Davis was left in a terribly difficult situation. The law of the land is now attempting to force her to go against her conscience. She chose to remain in office for the sake of all people of faith who hold public office – stating that it is not right that people of faith would be forced to resign over such a law that would inhibit their conscience, and prevent people of faith from being elected or considered for office in the future. She could have taken the “easy way out”, and resigned, but then this conversation of mutual protection at the level of public office would be left dead in the water. Yes, we will continue to see it arise as churches, bakeries and event halls are sued for not endorsing or preforming homosexual marriages. But one’s faith and conscience in the public office would not be drawing national attention.
Ironically (hypocritically?), as Davis was being confined to jail, the chant of the crowd in front of the courthouse was,
“Love won, love won”.
How does love win by imprisoning someone who disagrees with, and refuses to support another’s worldview?
It is in this that I reach my thesis and thought for the day: What is love? Is love blanket tolerance? Does love necessitate acceptance and approval? As a society we have evolved through a variety of phases, from our foundation and exploration to the industrial revolution and progress, to the World Wars and depression, to Vietnam and the peace/love revolution of the 60’s and 70’s to individual empowerment and now, here we are, in a society that fosters hyper-sensitive individuals who believe that their rights include the right to not be offended. Our own thoughts are our own realities and ultimate truths, we have the freedom and ability to believe and think whatever we want, and we expect everyone else to affirm what we think and believe. If not, we have been discriminated, the other person is a bigot and hateful, and we can sue them and steal their livelihood because they hurt my feelings. I’m going to take my ball and go home.
This is becoming a detriment at the university level. Students are suing professors, and professors live in fear of a bad review or a complaint. We can no longer challenge one another to push each other on to greater self-examination or a more broad consideration of political, sociological, economic or religious possibilities because we might step on someone’s toes, or we might give fuel to another’s fire who is simply looking for a “get-rich tactic”. Remember the hot coffee McDonald’s lady? Trip in the right building and you will never have to work again.
Consider a mother. She has a toddler who has declared his chocolate to be a good treat for the family dog. This toddler’s logic is that he loves chocolate so he wants to share it with his best friend, Fido. Would a good, loving mother affirm her toddler that he can believe whatever he wants and encourage him to feed chocolate to the dog? Or would a good, loving mother inform her child that chocolate will actually make a dog sick, and if he eats enough of it will kill him? We as a culture understand, to some degree, the reality that true love intervenes, speaks truth, and confronts. We are infatuated with reality TV shoes like “Intervention” and “Hoarders”, where people seek help for their loved ones are hurting themselves, even though the individual may not know it or may not care.
We know, deep down in our hearts, that love does not mean “live and let live” in its truest sense. The natural end of that logic is ruin. There are social constraints, there are ethical constraints, there are legal constraints, and there are basic realities that we have to learn and respect as human beings. Love does not tell a child to “go for it” when he wants to do something that will hurt him. Love warns him, love teaches him, love helps him to grow in thought, strength and maturity.
In this same vein, the loving response of a Christian to someone who is not of the faith is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Always. If a Christian believes that every human being has an eternal soul, and if a Christian believes that our sin condemns us to Hell apart from faith and forgiveness in Jesus Christ, then the greatest and most loving gesture a Christian can make to a non-Christian or any person who has made peace with sin is to tell him about Jesus and forgiveness. The Bible teaches us that every human being has sinned (Rom 3.23), and that the punishment for any and all sin is eternal death and damnation in Hell (Rom 6.23). God, as the author of the universe and morality, has the unique right to define sin, and we – as His creation – must submit to that. Homosexuality does not uniquely damn one to Hell. Lying, pride, gluttony, envy and unbelief damn us as well. There is no hope apart from being forgiven of and washed clean from our sins.
But Jesus took the punishment that you and I deserve and paid it all on the cross, so that any and all who repent and call on the name of Jesus will be saved (Rom 10.13).
Love (for the Christian) is knowing hope, offering hope, and once one has received that hope, pointing out those things that God calls sin.
Scripture teaches us very clearly that believers are expected to respect and honor the laws and governing forces over us (Rom 13). Scripture also teaches us that Christians are responsible to God first and if the law of the land commands us to break the law of God, His law has ultimate authority (Acts 5.29). Lastly, Scripture warns us sternly that if we know the right thing to do and do not do it, then we are sinning – and the converse is true, if we should not do something and we do it, we are sinning.
“Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
– James 4.17
“The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.”
– Rom 14.22-23
Love is pointing to Jesus for salvation. Love is pleading with people to repent of their sins so that they can be forgiven, transformed, and spend an eternity with Jesus in peace. Charles Spurgeon eloquently stated thus:
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”
So what is the direct application to Kim Davis and our response to her situation? If Kim Davis believes the Bible to be true, and if she considers homosexual marriage to be a sin, we must expect her to respect the law of God first. We as a nation, have promised to give her the freedom of religion to believe and say whatever she wants. Should she have resigned her office? I am neither able nor willing to cast judgment on her decision. I respect that she desires to bring the point of religious freedom in public office to the forefront of conversation. But I also respect the Federal Court finding her in contempt for being unwilling to uphold the law. The end result, if we truly stand on the cornerstone of religious freedom, must be a way for Davis to function in the public office without violating her conscience and homosexuals to attain marriage licenses apart from her signature.
But if Davis truly loves the lost, then she will continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and will implore all around her – including homosexuals – to repent and be saved.