With today’s US Supreme Court ruling on marriage in America and the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges, we are already hearing an outpouring of support from celebrities and others in the media. How should Christian America respond? I think the best response, ironically, is one that it should already have been using: Love.
I lost my wife, Jeseca, to cancer eight years ago. What ensued was an emotional battle that challenged me in every way, from how I would survive the heartbreaking loss of the woman I’d grown to love and cherish for 12 years to the new adventure of single parenting and leading two young boys through their own grief and hardship. A year or so after Jeseca died, a friend of mine lost his partner and asked if we could go to lunch to talk through what he was feeling.
As we sat in the popular Hillcrest cafe, “Jeff” brought back all of the vivid emotions I felt when Jeseca died, without even mentioning her name. He was recounting the memories he had of his partner—the ups and downs, the fun times and the arguments, the sadness and the regrets. But the loss…the loss came through so strongly! And as much as I wanted to resist it, one incredibly profound but simple thought entered my mind: Jeff loved his partner as much as I loved my wife.
It was profound because I had recently supported Prop 8 and the effort to keep marriage between a man and a woman in California. The issue was a political lightning rod that was being pushed to the extremes on both sides, with the extreme right arguing for political boundaries based on religious principle and the far left politicizing everything and accusing anyone who didn’t agree with them of being afraid or bigoted. Neither side was entirely right, of course, but neither did they talk from the middle, where people live and breathe and feel. It was Jeff’s feelings about his loss, more than anything else, that showed me that love is real for everyone. And it challenged me to go beyond the rhetoric and examine who I am as a man of faith striving constantly to model integrity for my boys.
“Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations.” – US Supreme Court
If I read my bible right, I don’t see a Jesus who sided with the religious right or those who continually rejected the “sinful.” Rather, I see someone filled with mercy and grace who went out of his way to associate with those the pious condemned. And if I’m reading it right, he didn’t do it for political gain. He did it to show them a love that transcends differences, boundaries and social norms. He went for their hearts. He changed understandings.
Politically, gay marriage will continue to be divisive. In dissent of today’s 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John G. Roberts wrote, “If you are among the many Americans who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”
With that said, Christians may not have the luxury of taking a political position anymore. Instead, we should consider Jesus’ model of love over the next several days as we contemplate where and how we align with the new dawn on marriage in America. It may be the very thing that changes society’s understanding of Christianity.