“You’re on the wrong side of history.” “Not fully affirming LGBT rights is unloving.” “Jesus loved everyone, why do you hate gays and lesbians?”
These are the sorts of things that proponents of one-man, one-woman marriage keep hearing. To oppose gay marriage is to be relegated to history’s ideological dustbin along with those who resisted civil rights for African-Americans or the vote for women.
And since 2014, more and more self-identifying evangelical voices have joined the chorus. Pastor Rob Bell boldly recently proclaimed on Oprah’s network that churches that reject same-sex marriage will soon be irrelevant. He even chided “the church” for “quoting letters from 2,000 years ago” to defend traditional marriage. Wow.
And the media continues to highlight any and every church who declares it has “evolved” on the issue of marriage and has become “an affirming congregation.”
Among the most common reasons offered by these Christians for endorsing same-sex marriage—or at least for not resisting it—is that it’s too contentious and so unwelcoming. Taking a stand for marriage, they say, gets in the way of the grace of the Gospel. It excludes people from church. We have to reach out, and strong opinions about sexuality and marriage are only distractions, and therefore unloving.
Well, I think today of all the days in Holy Week is the time to confront this repeated refrain. Why? Because the Thursday before Easter is known as Maundy Thursday, the day set aside on the Church calendar to remember the Last Supper.
The word “maundy” comes from the Latin word for “mandate,” or “command.” At this first celebration of communion, Jesus gave His disciples what He called “a new command,” to love and serve one another. And He demonstrated what He meant by washing their very dirty feet.
Now to fully appreciate this command, we have to remember that at this supper Jesus and the disciples were obeying God’s original command to the Jews to remember the Passover. The Passover meal celebrated God rescuing His people from Egypt, as described in the book of Exodus. For Jesus to have the audacity to offer a “new” command when the old one was such an important part of Israel’s history, is astounding enough. But Jesus went even further. Rather than remembering the redemption of their forefathers from Egyptian tyranny and the way the angel of death “passed over” the homes with lamb’s blood on their doorposts, they were now to remember His broken body and His shed blood. In Christ’s death, death itself is not just avoided; it is defeated.
Since the mid-twentieth century, the American Church has been divided over whether it should be primarily about proclaiming truth or about serving others. But the Lord’s Supper reminds us that this is a false dichotomy. These two things can never be separated. On the same night that Jesus commanded us to remember His broken body and shed blood that rescues us from sin (that’s the truth), He commanded us to demonstrate our new life by loving and serving others (that’s the grace). So we don’t have to choose between speaking truth and showing grace. They always, always must go together.
Thus we can and we must offer both the truth about marriage and the grace of God to all of our neighbors, including those with same-sex attraction.
And we ought bring truth, love, and service to every issue that faces the church in our society. That’s precisely what Warren Smith and I are calling for in our new book, “Restoring All Things.” It’s filled with stories of courageous believers who are, in fact, preaching the Gospel with both their lips and with their lives.
We need not choose between truth and love. After all, the embodiment of Jesus of both in the event we commemorate on this day, was proven true once and forever by the event we commemorate on Sunday. He is truth. He is love. And, He has risen. Indeed.
(Editor’s note: This commentary is John Stonestreet’s update of his Maundy Thursday commentary from 2014.)
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: April 2, 2015