13 responses to “True Equality and the Cross

  1. Gail

    Awsome. Very well stated. Thanks for posting.

  2. John, this post is great, love your reflection and I think it brings clarity to what we believe as Christians. Law helps us, but in the end it’s Christ who we need to look to and rely on.

  3. Reblogged this on The Word of Truth Blog and commented:
    John blogs about true equality and the cross. Excellent insight and a great read!

  4. Stephen Jeffers

    So, what you’re saying is that when 2 Corinthians says ‘Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality,’, Paul was off message. What do you think he actually meant to say, out of interest?

    • Hi Stephen-

      I’m so thankful that you stopped by and left a comment. My hope is to engage people in conversation and I’m glad to have done that.

      Just to be sure, the purpose of my post was to indicate that equality cannot be achieved legislatively. We should have laws and protections in place, but those things exist because man is fundamentally evil, so we need them as boundaries. That said, those same laws are created by flawed individuals, and despite this fact, Paul’s instruction in Romans 13 affirms Jesus’ statement to Pilate in John 19:11, that those authorities have been allowed by God. If “equality” is what people want, it won’t truly be experienced outside a relationship with Christ.

      The text that you quoted is from 2 Corinthians 8:13-14. The context is that Paul has just told the recipient of this letter that the church in Macedonia is financially poor; what’s more, they also face affliction. Despite this, because of “their abundance of joy” they gave generously. Conversely, the church at Corinth appears to be well0off financially. Despite this, and comparatively speaking, their giving was not “according to…or above their means” like the Macedonians. So, Paul appears to their hearts.

      Verse 8 reads, “I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love is genuine.”
      Paul does NOT make it a “law” that they must give.

      In the balance of this section, he simply appeals to their conscience as followers of Christ, not as a matter of making it easier on people, but as a matter of principle because Jesus, in coming to earth, gave up all that He had to become poor (us) and because of His sacrifice, we become “rich”; we find eternal life.

      Paul was not “off message.” He appealed to the conscience of those who claimed the cross to meet the needs of others. He did nothing to force them to be equal, and he did not make a new law to ensure that fairness existed.

      Thoughts?

  5. Stephen Jeffers

    “the purpose of my post was to indicate that equality cannot be achieved legislatively”

    Gay marriage advocates aren’t seeking to achieve philosophical equality, they seek to end legal inequality. It’s an important distinction.

    The inequality discussed yesterday at the Supreme Court falls entirely within the realm of governments and the law. It was about state and federal benefits, legal rights and so on. And, whatever its origin, whatever else it is, marriage is, at least in part, a legal contract. Christian wedding vows almost always contain the phrase ‘Lawful husband’, ‘lawful wife’. You are required to state somewhere that there’s no lawful impediment to you being married. Even before there was monotheism, there was the understanding that marriage is, in part, about law. There are many laws saying who can and can’t get married. Someone born outside a marriage was called ‘illegitimate’. The fact it’s at the Supreme Court is proof it’s a legislative issue.

    You are not required to believe in your heart gay marriage *should* be the law, you can’t argue that it *is* the law. You can argue that it’s wrong that two men can get married in Vermont. You can argue that your interpretation of your scripture says God doesn’t like the idea of two men getting married. It’s factually incorrect to say that it’s illegal for two men to get married in Vermont. The Supreme Court was not about general philosophical or moral issues, or religious belief. It was about the fact that there are now couples lawfully married who are not treated the same way as other lawfully married couples by government.

  6. Stephen Jeffers

    On another point, do you really think that the reason you don’t go around murdering people is that you’ve been ‘domesticated’?

    I think this is a really good example of how to show that morality doesn’t come from God, at least at a functional level. Imagine Pastor Neil had said what he said, and then added ‘look, I heard the kid who lives next door mocking a bald man, so as soon as we’re done here, you should all gang up and kill her’.

    At this point, I really doubt there would be anyone there who happily thought ‘yeah, let’s do that’. I don’t believe we’re fundamentally evil, though. Perhaps you think differently, and that at least some people would just fall into line.

    I’m guessing that most people wouldn’t. I’ll take ‘human beings are basically decent’ over ‘we’re fundamentally evil’. If you or Pastor Neil want to try it out, then we can settle this by asking him to gang up on that kid.

    And, yeah, some people would appeal to the law ‘hey man, I’m not risking jail for that’. Here’s the thing: I doubt that’s the real reason. I think that they know that killing kids is wrong.

    I’m guessing that *all* the congregation would think Pastor Neil had gone insane. Unless you have psychopaths in your congregation. I’m guessing your instinct would be to warn the kid, call the police, tie Pastor Neil to a chair.

    You accuse Pastor Neil of going mad. He then refers you to 2 King 2:23-24. Does anyone go ‘wow, guess that is God’s position on mocking the bald’? Or do they look for loopholes? They look for loopholes. You can find loopholes even if you think the Bible’s inerrant and using plain language.

    I’m guessing the get out clause there is ‘hey, I’ll mention it in a prayer, and leave it to God to send that kid some bears if that’s what He really wants’. But not one of those people will seriously think that kid’s going to get a bear-o-gram.

    What people are doing at that point, instinctively, is rejecting pastors and Bibles and appealing to a higher morality. And it’s not God, there. It’s the rule ‘killing kids is wrong’. Which they hope and expect God to follow, too. It’s not *what the God of the Bible did*, it’s *what they’d want the God in their head to do*. It’s personal morality, not divine authority, that guides them.

    As I say, if Pastor Neil’s willing, it’s easy enough to prove if I’m right.

  7. We sure amped up this conversation, didn’t we?

    The “philosophical equality” is the tacit acceptance that comes from the “legal equality.” Once homosexual marriage is legally recognized, the relationship becomes legitimized. My point is, from a Christian perspective, the law merely reveals what sin is, and will never “fix” it.

    To your second post:

    If people were “basically decent” as you assert, there would be no need for laws of any kind–even a law “legalizing gay marriage.” Because inherently all things would be good and correct.

    Clearly, this is not the case. People violate your “killing kids is wrong” rule daily. In fact, a 1 year old was shot in the face just last week because the mother did not have money to give to those robbing her.

    Were we done with the Corinthians text?

  8. Stephen Jeffers

    “If people were “basically decent” as you assert, there would be no need for laws of any kind”

    Well … I don’t think that’s true. I think, for example, two perfectly nice, kind, Christian neighbours could very easily disagree about exactly where the boundary of their property is. Both could be entirely convinced they were in the right, neither of them need be lying or otherwise deceitful. You would clearly need some kind of system in place to arbitrate that.

    You would hit rights issues all the time, even in a society completely without evil. ‘I want to celebrate God’s love by ringing bells all day’, ‘I want you to shut up, I’m trying to sleep because I spent all last night praying in church’.

    And that’s if everyone’s basically like-minded and wants the same things, and just covers disputes between individuals. Sometimes, there’s no one right answer that fits everything, all the time. Sometimes you have to pick the least worst of the available options. Sometimes you have to share rewards and compromise. Sometimes, two nice, kind people brought up in the same house in the same tradition can disagree on what’s ‘fair’.

    I invent a machine. An investor puts $100,000 start up capital to build a production line and buy parts. 10 workers build 1000 of my machines, which are really complicated and dangerous to make. A salesman sells all the stock in ten minutes, at $1000 a time. What’s the ‘fair’ way to distribute the million dollars we just made? Do we divide it up evenly between the thirteen of us?

    And now try answering that question using the Bible as guidance.

    ‘Legitimize’ means ‘make lawful’. I think what you mean is ‘just because there’s a law allowing it, that doesn’t make it right or desirable’. No, of course it doesn’t. There are all sorts of things that are legal that aren’t desirable to most people.

    The Supreme Court argument was a legal one. The government pays benefits and gives other advantages to married couples. It put a law in place saying ‘except these married couples’. We can argue about whether that’s right (It would be a brief argument. It’s not right. Just substitute ‘mixed’, ‘Jewish’ or ‘Christian’ for ‘gay’ in the sentence ‘the government should deny benefits to gay couples who are married’ to understand why). All *they* are arguing is whether it’s legal, and they’re doing it by asking if DOMA is constitutional, not whether it’s ‘good’ or ‘fair’ or ‘Christian’ or ‘what most people want’.

  9. If something is not “good”, then, that should not be the test? Of course the answer is “yes!” The item being discussed should be measured by it’s “right-ness.” Just becuase FDR “legally” had Japanese-Americans interred during WW2 did not make it right. To use Malcom’s argument from Jurassic Park, just because we “can” do something does not mean we “should.”

    Does government have the right to set down any boundaries for marriage? What would those boundaries be, and why?

  10. Stephen Jeffers

    “Does government have the right to set down any boundaries for marriage?”

    As opposed to?

    Marriage is a legal contract, governments – of whatever form – set the laws. Anyone who thinks that ‘the definition of marriage’ hasn’t changed over time simply does not understand what they’re talking about. I once got into a discussion with an elderly Catholic scholar who asserted that regardless of what other religions do, his Church has never changed its definition of marriage. I asked him if the attitude to Catholics marrying Protestants had changed in his lifetime. Because, of course, fifty years ago, a Catholic marrying a Protestant or a Jew was as taboo as one marrying a turtle.

    So, will we all be marrying turtles in a generation’s time? No. *Marriage is a legal contract*. Turtles can’t sign legal contracts.

    I don’t want to get into second guessing God, but which, logically, would seem to serve Him best – two members of the same church marrying who are both women, or a man from the church marrying a woman who wasn’t religious? Or take it one step further: opponents of gay marriage seem to be saying that God prefers a non-religious man and woman to get married, than a devout gay couple. A man who beat his wife until she left him can remarry another woman – or the same one, come to that – but if a loving couple who’ve spent twenty years together and adopted kids want to get married, they can’t if they’re both men. Is that really God’s position on this?

    None of the legal changes are compulsory. And none of them prevent anyone from getting married now who was able to before. A church doesn’t want to conduct gay marriages? Fine. They don’t have to conduct Muslim or Jewish marriages now, they don’t have to marry divorcees or couples of different races.

  11. Stephen Jeffers

    “If something is not “good”, then, that should not be the test?”

    As I say, we quickly get into rights conflicts.

    Is it good that a factory employs 5000 workers? Yes. Is it good that the factory pours pollution into the local river? No. Should the factory be shut down?

    The way we answer that is to look at why the factory is producing pollution, what the consequences of that pollution are, what the costs would be to clean up the consequences of the pollution. You can’t just go ‘factories are good’ or ‘pollution isn’t good’. And the solution is basically governmental and legal.

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