Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Framing the Conversation: Worms & Jail

Sorry this has taken me so long to write... hope you find it thought-provoking & illuminating.
So from a larger perspective, what is your feeling on laws that may not fall in line with the teachings of the church. What is the church's responsibility?
This conversation is raising some great questions... the one quoted above is from the comments on another post in the series.

The response is pretty simple for me, actually - individuals & organizations who claim loyalty to Jesus Christ (and by extension, to the Bible) should give their first loyalty to Jesus.

Whether it's Martin Luther's statement to the Diet of Worms (church history safety tip: the "Diet of Worms" is NOT what they forced monks to eat when they were bad; it was a church council)...
Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.
...or Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"...
There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators." But they went on with the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest.
...great thinkers & followers of Jesus have issued the call over & over for those who believe to stand up for what is true, regardless of the consequences.

There are a variety of ways to do this:
  • speak out clearly on issues of moral & ethical signifigance, both from the pulpit & in what we teach
  • campaign in God-honoring ways for the passage or defeat of laws that affect these issues
  • disobey those laws when they conflict with Scriptural truth
Regarding this particular issue (sanctifying marriages), clergy as individuals & churches as entities should exercise great care who they choose to marry... even if the laws of the state compel them to do otherwise.

When or if we are forced to disobey, we need to do so with great care & godliness. Our disobedience should focus solely on the law in question & not be rebellion against the government or an attempt to use the power of numbers to "bring the government to its knees." Civil disobedience is powerful because we stand for what is right, not because we get our way or force others to agree with us.


Clay B. said...

Those are good thoughts. At no time should the laws of man override the laws of God in determining a Christian's behavior. I am a little conflicted about whether we should pass laws (democratically) enforcing various aspects Christian morality on the public at large. (That is, moral teachings specific to Christianity as opposed to universally held principles like not stealing, not murdering.) I agree that we should use our political influence but in some cases there might be a better way to reduce the number of instances of behavior X. Perhaps we could even win some people's hearts over to the right action by not using legal force.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

I share your hesitation about passing laws that force Christian-specific morality on others... of course, Proposition 8 is not one of those, as the definition of marriage has been pretty clear across a variety of societies & cultures.