June 29, 2015

Humpf! So You REALLY Think You'll Gain Converts This Way?

According to the age-old axiom, there are basically two reasons why people don’t become Christians:

      1- They don’t know any Christians, who might share the gospel with them; and

      2-   They do.

For the uninitiated: Almost every American has a Christian friend or neighbor or co-worker. But the only example they see, is an endless flow of angry rants and hypocrisy. They don’t see faith, or love, or a genuine concern for the welfare of their neighbor. Instead, they see a pious and self-righteous nutcase. And who would ever want to join up with THAT?

Last year, in response to the advance of gay marriage, a group of ministers began to take the “marriage pledge.” Simply stated, they refuse to sign marriage licenses issued by government agencies. Seeing as gay marriage was becoming legal in more and more jurisdictions, they decided to disassociate themselves from the unwashed masses. Marriage is a spiritual union, and no civil authority should interfere in the process.

Honestly, I get it. But I can scarcely imagine a more un-Christian response to an existential crisis.

Ruth and I were married by a Christian minister, under the authority of a Christian church where we remain active members. And we are immensely grateful for the teaching and counseling that we continue to receive on an ongoing basis. We serve, we give, and we’re accountable. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to get married at one of those quickie drive-thru chapels.

But here’s the thing: Church membership is voluntary. Our spiritual covering remains, only for as long as we remain in the fellowship. We can leave at any time, and no one can stop us. Free country, and all that. What do you do then?

My wife is a big fan of the Judge Judy show. Her Honor adjudicates hundreds of cases every year, but maybe a fifth of them are in the realm of what I call “jilted lovers.”  Jack and Diane met, fell in love, and quickly moved in together. After a while they broke up, and now Diane wants to be reimbursed for her car, blender, and half of the household expenses.

Judy’s response, in EVERY case? “You decided to play house without the benefit of marriage, and now you want me to sort out the pots and pans of your lives.”

Moral judgments notwithstanding, she’s right. Yes, absolutely, marriage is a spiritual union. But it’s also a pairing of two sinners who will eventually learn the full extent of each other’s sins. A state-issued marriage license creates a legal contract that protects both parties. Unmarried couples don’t get those same protections, even on a Hollywood soundstage.

What would Jesus do? Well, I don’t think he approves of divorce in the first place. But if you’ve already crossed that bridge, I don’t believe he would let you just run away without consequence. He would demand that you pay your bills. Provide for an indigent spouse. Protect the interests of innocent children.

Accountability! What a concept. No church has the authority to enforce these things. A state-issued marriage license can.

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