In 1 John 4, we read, ‘God is love’, and as a result we are told, ‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God’.
We have a Heavenly Father who is love, and the love we have in us comes from him. Indeed, it is our desire to love which makes the current same-sex marriage debate so problematic.
Here’s where things stand for many of us:
We regret that the postal vote question wasn’t framed the other way around (e.g. ‘Are you in favour of keeping the current definition of marriage as between a man and a woman?’), because no one likes to be ‘No’ people, and the question paints conservatives as people who only say ‘No’.
Yet we know that the Bible is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman. Most Christians are happy to accept this for ourselves. But what about for others?
For many Christians, a ‘No’ vote for others seems intuitively right. We also want to vote ‘No’ to protect ourselves, because a ‘Yes’ outcome will impact significantly on freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and the education of children about marriage and gender.
But some Christians are asking: is it loving towards people who identify as LGBTI for us to vote ‘No’? This becomes pointed if we personally know people like this. We don’t want to hurt them. Same-sex relationships won’t go away. If their love is genuine, then a ‘No’ vote feels unloving, and we wonder if a loving response would be to vote ‘Yes’.
So, we need to talk about love. Here are a few thoughts:
1. Every human being is made in the image of God. That means that each one of us is capable of love, and will love. But every human is also fallen, and therefore deficient in our understanding of how to love. We need God’s guidance, because history (including fathering!) is littered with examples of attempts to love which seemed right, but were ultimately misguided.
2. All of us, including Christians, have a responsibility in our society to say what we think is best for others. In fact, this is the whole assumption behind the postal vote. Others benefit by Christians saying what we think is right for society. Indeed, Jesus said, ‘You are the salt of the earth’ (salt preserves something from rotting).
3. Jesus said that marriage is between a man and a woman. He took us back to creation, and said that the creational pattern still applied in a world distorted by sin (Matthew 19:1-10). The implication in arguing from creation is that the Creator’s pattern applies not just for believers, but for everyone. It’s okay to vote ‘No’ because what we are being asked to say ‘Yes’ to isn’t what marriage is, nor what it was ever intended to be.
4. The issue being voted on is bigger than any personal friendship with our LGBTI friends. The main concern of Christians is for all people to be able to turn to God. But if Australia adopts same-sex marriage, then it will make repentance harder for married LGBTI people, especially when children become involved. Non-Christians won’t ‘get’ this. This is the main reason why I think a ‘Yes’ vote is ultimately unloving to LGBTI people.
5. Our vote should be guided by our love for God as much as our love for people. These things are not separate. A ‘No’ vote can be loving, and Jesus’ friendship with sinners means that we can vote ‘No’, but still say ‘Yes’ to our ongoing love and friendship with our LGBTI friends.