And so I've been waiting and waiting and waiting to write or say anything. Even now, I'm not going to say much. So many others have already said so much. A few have spoken more eloquently than I could, and many more have said things that make me wish we didn't share the same religious title. Regardless, most people are happy to agree with those who say things they like, and happy to loudly denounce those with whom they disagree. No one has asked my opinion anyway.
Besides, this blog isn't about theology. It's about offering hope. It's about encouraging people to turn their hearts toward God and let Him do whatever He chooses in their lives and hearts and minds.
So I'm going to share a few little observations, very few of which are new, as I've known for a very long time that the court would rule as they did; the only question was when. Thus, these thoughts are more of the "where do we go from here?" type.
Human nature is to want the freedom to do whatever we want without anyone else telling us what to do. As Christians, we (are supposed to) choose to surrender that right because we (are supposed to) trust that the Bible's ideas of what we should do are better than what we would come up with on our own. Frankly, most of us have a really hard time trusting and obeying when what He asks of us is different than our natural inclination.
To me, it is entirely understandable that those who do not share our belief in the Bible would not want to be bound by what it says. And that's okay. I'd feel the same way if somebody wanted to bind me to the laws of any other religion. I can still show interest in their lives and share their joys and work to ease their pain and help them in their struggles just the same. God will choose how to shine His love through me to accomplish what He desires in me and around me.
The Christian church as a whole hasn't really been demonstrating marriages that make non-Christians say, "Tell me your secret? How do you all have such happy marriages and families? I need hope for my own." It seems that we've pretty much demonstrated that we don't know much more than anyone else about what makes a marriage successful. Generally, someone has to demonstrate success and excellence at something before others want to receive instruction from them. That's biblical, too, so we can't fault anyone for it.
Let's ask God to transform our own marriages into miracles that do cause those around us to come to us when they need hope for their own.
1 Corinthians 13
1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
So I need to make sure that my sacrifices are louder than the exercise of my spiritual gifts... especially sacrifices of love made for those who might think themselves my enemy.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
Thus, all the truths that I know and understand are worth absolutely nothing if I cannot act and talk with kindness and grace toward people who disagree with those truths. Even if I could work miracles, they would be meaningless compared to the love and caring that I can already give... if I would only be willing to humble myself to do so.
3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
So even my sacrifices mean nothing in the eternal scheme of things if they are done from any motive other than love.
4 Love is patient,
Even when I'm caught in traffic. Even when the woman in front of me in line at the grocery store cannot find the change in the bottom of her purse and is taking a long time figuring out what to take off the bill so that her money card can cover it all. (Love will probably even pay for whatever she was forced to take off the bill.)
Love is kind...
Love is kind to the gay waiter who is serving my table, to the illegal immigrants working in the restaurant kitchens, to the man begging on the corner who might or might not really be homeless, and even to the able-bodied man receiving welfare. Love is especially kind to those who are not at all kind themselves, for while Jesus hung on the cross, He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Love is not jealous;
It's not even jealous of the rights that other groups of people win, even if it seems like the rights of Christians appear being taken in trade... for Jesus surrendered every right He had, from the rights that came with being the Creator of the Universe down to the right to a fair trial. And He did it both for me and for those passing laws that diminish what I believe my American rights should include.
Love does not brag and is not arrogant...
Even when I am speaking what I believe to be truth. Love recognizes that my truth is often someone else's fairy tale, and it is arrogant to be angry at them because God has not given them the revelation He's given me. When I love people, I am more concerned with repenting of my own sin than I am of telling other people that I believe their A, B, and C are sins. I will be more concerned with smiling at people I disagree with and showing them kindness. I am less concerned with someone else's sexual sins and more concerned with making sure that I am not another Christian pathological liar, constantly telling people I'll do this and that and that I'll be there at such and such a time... and then blaming life and offering "something came up" excuses when I fail to let my Yes be Yes. I will think and speak as though the transvestite on the train, the drug-adict on the corner, and the teenager who made my hamburger were created by a God who places priceless gifts inside each person. I will make it my goal to think of them as the priceless people they are, even when they do not see themselves that way.
5 Love does not act unbecomingly;
Even on Facebook and the comments of blog posts and news articles. And even when the waiter mixes up the food order or forgets it completely. And even when our kids or our coworker have totally tried our patience.
Love does not seek its own.
For Jesus said that He has called me to deny myself to follow Him. Love is willing to drink water and give up dessert at the restaurant so that the unpleasant waitress who didn't keep those water glasses filled can still have a decent tip after she hands over the portion that belongs to the cook and the back of the house... just in case she's struggling to support three kids... just in case she is slow and unpleasant because she's working on only four hours of sleep. Love is willing to give up a bit of vacation fun so that the housekeeping lady at the hotel can get a tip large enough to cover both the cleaning she will do in my room and the huge mess that the previous guests rudely left behind.
Love is not provoked,
Not even when my nice dinner meal is interrupted by the person talking loudly on their cell phone or the child screaming across the restaurant. It is not provoked even when the driver three cars ahead of me hesitates so long at the light that I don't make it through before it turns red. It is not provoked by the rudeness of a younger generation but instead recognizes that the younger generations are perhaps more starved for genuine selfless and invested love than any generation this country has known. Love knows that a gentle answer turns away wrath.
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
Love's record doesn't even last long enough for me to plaster a mental label on the person who just __(fill in the blank)__. Love forgives, and forgives, and forgives, even if my spouse or boss do the same unfair thing to me every day of the week for seventy weeks in a row.
6 Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
But neither does it rejoice in self-righteousness my comparing myself to others. Love instead rejoices in the truth that God loves that person I'm labeling, and God still gave them gifts and talents and abilities worth rejoicing over! Love does not pick and choose which truths to celebrate.
7 Love bears all things,
For Jesus silently bore the accusations that were slung at him and responded only when He was asked to testify about who He was. He wore Himself to exhaustion because He had compassion on the crowds. And when He knew He needed strength, He went away to pray rather than deny those who came to Him. He knew where strength comes from.
Love believes all things,
Love thinks the best of people and is slow to judge. When the child is throwing a temper tantrum in the store and the parent does nothing, Love is happy to believe that there might be extenuating circumstances and reasons such as the heart-convicting stories shared in this blogger's story.
Love hopes all things,
Love never gives up, even when past experience makes it seem like there is no point in hoping. For the God who is Love says that nothing is impossible with Him.
Love endures all things.
Love endures slander and false accusations. Love keeps me from growing bitter if I am forced to bear the worst that the company or nation or committee or job market or family or community or weather or economy has to offer. Even when I am falsely accused and abused and have everything I have and are taken away from me, love still prays, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Because God is Love.
And because God is love and we are not, this list is not a list of rules to follow and things I will be punished for if I do not fulfill in the correct way.
Love is a fruit of the Spirit... a natural result of the Spirit of God moving in my life. It is something that will flow from me and overwhelm my natural tendencies as I keep myself out of the way and allow God to work in my life as He sees fit. Conviction when I fail to love is simply an indicator that I need to turn over more of my life to the God who loves me and transforms me.
Even hope comes through His love...