J. R. Daniel Kirk (no relation) put the cat among the pigeons last week when he blogged about Gay Marriage in New York and wrote:
As long as the state is in the marriage business, Christians should support gay marriage as an embodiment of our calling to love our neighbor as ourselves.
He then offered an explanation of his position, which he has summarised in a new post Gentiles and Homosexuals (Pt. 1) as follows:
I made the suggestion that Christians need to develop the habit of asking two separate questions, without predetermining what the relationship between them might be. The first is, “What does God require of us as God’s people?” and the second is, “What does this mean for our life in civil society populated by people who do not, and will not, agree with us?”
This is an important distinction, but one which is often lost. As Christians we should have high standards for our own personal morality, and for how we behave towards one another. But that does not give us the right to impose our own standards on others, whether believers or unbelievers. This is what Calvin completely lost sight of when he became a tyrant in Geneva.
Yes, there are certain rules, such as forbidding murder and theft, which a government needs to impose for a society to be properly ordered. And there is room for debate on how far such rules should go. But when they are extended too far, because of pressure from Christians, they become tyranny over other people’s consciences. They also become a stumbling block for the gospel because, whatever may be taught in the pulpit, the message that many hear is that they become acceptable to God, as well as to the church, not by grace but by keeping laws.
The real message which the church and individual Christians need to be putting across is that God accepts each one of us
Just as I am – without one plea,
But that [Jesus’] blood was shed for me.
Each one who comes to Jesus is a sinner in God’s eyes, whether an outwardly respectable church member or a gay rights activist. They will not be saved by following the moral rules we try to make them follow, and they will not be attracted towards the gospel by our attempts to impose them. Better that we allow elected governments to decide on matters like gay marriage, as a civil ceremony, and preach to homosexuals as to everyone else the message of God’s love and grace towards them.
Then, when they come to Jesus, we can expect the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sins and show them how they need to change their lives. But that is his work (John 16:7-11), not ours.
Furthermore, as I wrote in 2007 concerning Bishop Gene Robinson who “wanted to be a June bride”,
if he will not give up his gay union, it is best that he formally acknowledges it and pledges himself to being faithful to his partner
– and similarly for any gay or lesbian couple. But I do prefer that the word “marriage”, with its religious connotations, is avoided for such couples and the wording used is something like “civil partnership”, as here in the UK.
I don’t think I would go as far as Daniel in saying that “Christians should support gay marriage”, as that might be taken as implying campaigning actively in favour of it. But I would conclude that we Christians should accept gay and lesbian marriage, or civil partnership, and not campaign against it. I don’t mean that we should take it as an option for ourselves. But we should not be troubled if our governments allow it as an option for others. And we should not let ourselves be seen as more negative than we need to be, but present the positive message of God’s love and grace for all.