Recently the Australian Government called for a voluntary postal vote on whether gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry within Australia. We were given 14 days, and today Thursday August 24th 2017 is the day to register for ballots and to have our say. Some have condemned the government for this move viewing it as cowardice on their part, while others welcome the approach, as they believe it creates opportunity for their voice to be heard. Whichever way you view it, controversy describes the current political and cultural climate within our society. There are those that say ‘yay’ to same-sex marriage, those that say ‘nay’ and those who simply say ‘meh’. Here are some of my thoughts on how a Christian worldview can guide you.
Are We Asking The Right Question?
Over the past two weeks I have been inundated with Christians asking me for my opinion on how they should handle the plebiscite. What I have come to realise is that Christians are typically asking the wrong question. When I converse with people there is a genuine sense that they are seeking guidance in how to vote. They want my opinion on the issue and to know how I will vote. While it’s a legitimate question that must be asked I believe there is a more fundamental question that we must ask and how one answers that question will determine their approach.
So what is the right question?
In Matthew 22 a bunch of religious Pharisees, one being a lawyer, came to Jesus and essentially asked, ‘Hey Jesus what is the most important rule of all the rules. Like if there was only one rule that was to govern all we do and say what would it be?’ Regardless of the motivations behind the question, Jesus’ answer is very insightful. He answered in short by saying, ‘love God and love your neighbour’ (Matt 22:37).
If you are a Christian the question is not ‘should I vote?’ or ‘how should I vote?’ The question we must ask is ‘how do I love God and neighbour?’ This is the foundational question that is to shape how we think, how we act, how we speak, how we live and even how we vote. The response of Jesus is also really helpful.
Here are two ways this instruction is helpful.
1. It Makes It Personal.
I often like to say that the Bible is a mirror not a set of binoculars. What is the purpose of a mirror? A mirror is something that you look into to investigate your current state. When you wake up in the morning you at some point go to the mirror and see where you need to make adjustments in order to benefit the rest of the onlooking world. In this sense the mirror benefits you in helping you make the necessary adjustments but it also benefits your neighbour because they reap the benefits also of those adjustments. Well hypothetically anyway!
The purpose of binoculars is the very opposite. Binoculars help you to see everything other than yourself. Its focus is on others out there. The Bible is not meant to be used in this way and in fact when it is, it can be actually be destructive. The binocular approach leads us to moralism rather than the gospel.
Moralism is essentially looking at life through the lens of right and wrong. Do the right things and life is good, God is happy, but do the wrong thing and life goes bad and God is unhappy. This is simply not the gospel. In fact moralism is the greatest false gospel in our culture today. The gospel does not teach that if I behave a certain way that God will accept me. The gospel teaches that despite my behaviour God loves me and has chosen to accept me based on Christ and his finished work. The heart of the gospel is love, not conformity or morality. When I am aware of God’s love for me despite my brokenness and sin, it helps me to likewise love others as I have been loved.
Moralsim is destructive because it leads people to idolise one form of morality while demonising another. This can lead Christians and the church in general to look at culture through the lens of morality and to be the moral police. This is right, this is wrong. Do this, don’t do that. In a Christian worldview there is defintely objective right and wrong. Jesus’ response to ‘love God and neighbour’ is effective however because it helps me to ask the question of myself not others. ‘How am I’ loving God in word and action. ‘How am I’ loving my neighbour by what I say and what I do?
2. It Makes It Purposeful
It’s very easy in life to get distracted. There are so many things pulling for our time, our money and our energy. All of a sudden we look up and our life has drifted. We’re off topic. We’re off target. We’re just off. What I love about Jesus’ response is that it has less focus on the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ and more on the ‘why’. It drills down to why you do what you do. It gets to the purpose.
A common part of my role as a leader in a church is to meet with people that are seeking wisdom on important decisions in their life. People have options on the table and are genuinely seeking wisdom on which is the right option. I’m often surprised that people seek my wisdom but the title of Pastor must have some persuasiveness to it.
What I have found time and time again is that people often ask the wrong question at this juncture. They ask – what is the right decision to make? The better question to ask is – what is the wise decision to make? (Andy Stanley has some exceptional teaching on this. Go check it out). This is a far more helpful question because most of our decisions are essentially morally neutral. For example, it’s no more moral to choose one job over another. What determines the moral and ethical value of a decision has more to do with why you made the decision rather than what decision you make.
Let’s return to Jesus’ response to love God and neighbour. With regard to the same-sex marriage debate the question has less to do with whether you vote or how you vote and more to do with why you choose to do what you choose to do.
In this instance the Bible doesn’t tell you how to vote. Some people will try and tell you that it does, but it doesn’t. You have to think for yourself and consider how you love God and neighbour in and through this matter.
In terms of the voting there are only three real options. You vote ‘Yay’, you vote ‘Nay’ or you choose to not vote, so you vote ‘Meh’. If you are a Christian then consider these two questions as you approach a decision. If you’re not a Christian you may not answer the first question but you likewise can ask the second question.
Question – Is it possible to hold/vote ‘Yay/Meh/Nay’ in a way that loves God and my neighbour?
Question – How do I respond to someone that holds a differing view/vote in a way that loves God and them?
If you are a Christian please take the time to ask this question throughout your whole life. ‘Am I loving God and neighbour?’