“DO NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD, BUT BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND….” wrote the apostle, Paul in Romans 12:2. One might ask how this is possible when living under government leaders who want to enforce their worldview on us through legislation.
Steve Vanzant is a pastor in Haltom City, Texas, the Chaplain for the Haltom City Fire Department, and a long-time friend of mine. Steve sent me the following article related to the Church’s response to the laws of the land. It is somewhat lengthy, but certainly worthy of reading. Pastors, especially may find this valuable:
Clarity in the Midst of Confusion:
The Separation of Church and State Concerning Marriage
Written on August 23, 2016 @ 11:57 pm by Steve Vanzant
In seminary, the course was named Situational Ethics as we tried to determine what was “legal to do” according to our Christian faith. It was mostly developed in the 1960s by Episcopal priest Joseph Fletcher. In essence it states that sometimes other moral principles can be cast aside in certain situations if love is best served. The moral principles Fletcher is specifically referring to are the moral codes of Christianity and the type of love he is specifically referring to is agapē, that unconditional love expressed by God to mankind.
So our class would put our heads together to determine when we could “fudge” a bit and allow a sliver of acceptance in a situation that had been instilled in us from birth was wrong. After all, most of us had cut our teeth on the wooden pews of the local church, fearing the preacher would call us out for holding hands with our girlfriend or nodding off during the missionary slide show.
A foreign missionary on limited funds has received his monthly support from the USA in cash. He can exchange the cash through the bank and receive five local dollars for every one USA dollar. However, on the black market, he can receive ten local dollars for ever one USA dollar. Every penny counts as he tries to reach the locals with the gospel. Should he use the bank or black market? YES or NO?
A man is terminally ill with less than three months to live. His doctor reveals that if he’ll take this new medication, it will prolong his life for at least two years. The man has an insurance policy that comes up for renewal in six months. He knows the insurance company will not renew because of his grave condition. The insurance money will more than cover his medical bills and help his family out too. Should he take the medication and live longer, or “fraud” the insurance company and refuse the treatment so his family won’t suffer financially? YES or NO?
Situational ethics or selective grace? YES or NO? You decide.
In the years that have followed this college class experience, I’ve noticed our country has taken on this idea to a degree. Not situational ethics with agape love as the ends that justify the means, rather the attempt to legislate ethics and morality through the state, not the church. And in all honesty, the church can’t do any better legislating ethics and morality because ethics and morality cannot be legislated.
Case in point. King Solomon
1 Kings 3:16-27 — “The very next thing, two prostitutes showed up before the king. The one woman said, “My master, this woman and I live in the same house. While we were living together, I had a baby. Three days after I gave birth, this woman also had a baby. We were alone—there wasn’t anyone else in the house except for the two of us. The infant son of this woman died one night when she rolled over on him in her sleep. She got up in the middle of the night and took my son—I was sound asleep, mind you!—and put him at her breast and put her dead son at my breast. When I got up in the morning to nurse my son, here was this dead baby! But when I looked at him in the morning light, I saw immediately that he wasn’t my baby.” 22 “Not so!” said the other woman. “The living one’s mine; the dead one’s yours.” The first woman countered, “No! Your son’s the dead one; mine’s the living one.” They went back and forth this way in front of the king. 23 The king said, “What are we to do? This woman says, ‘The living son is mine and the dead one is yours,’ and this woman says, ‘No, the dead one’s yours and the living one’s mine.’” 24 After a moment the king said, “Bring me a sword.” They brought the sword to the king. 25 Then he said, “Cut the living baby in two—give half to one and half to the other.” 26 The real mother of the living baby was overcome with emotion for her son and said, “Oh no, master! Give her the whole baby alive; don’t kill him!” But the other one said, “If I can’t have him, you can’t have him—cut away!” 27 The king gave his decision: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Nobody is going to kill this baby. She is the real mother.”
Notice it was mercy, not legislation that spared ethics and morality in this case. Solomon was ready to legislate destruction and mercy stepped in and said no.
For years, the cry in this country has been for the separation of church and state, and the church has waited around for the state to do it through legislation. So a bill is passed in favor of “Christians” and we shout hallelujah! Then one is passed in the favor of “Un-Christians” and we curse and scream once again, “We Need Separation of Church and State!”
I would like to speak to the latest legislation concerning marriage by addressing three points.
First, we are not a Christian Nation
Yes, most of our forefathers believed in Jesus and were influential in founding this country on Christian principles. That was then, and now is now. This is the white elephant in the room. We are not a Christian nation any longer. Get over it and start reaching out in love and serve others.
Second, the Kentucky County Clerk Who Refused to Issue Marriage Licenses
She was wrong. She works for the state and legislation was passed. She provides marriage licenses as part of her job, not her beliefs. If her beliefs don’t allow her to do the job, quit and go find another job. God will provide. It’s no different than the guy who works at 7-11 and his belief system is that drinking alcohol is wrong. The next customer comes in to buy a six-pack of beer and he refuses to sell it to them. He would be fired and rightly so. Ethics and morality cannot be legislated and “proving the point” will only damage the point you are trying to prove.
Third, Separating Church and State
Having completed a thorough study of Scripture, it’s become quite clear to me that marriage was established long before this country’s existence and is between one male (‘iysh) and one female (‘ishshah) and that they will leave mom and dad and become one. Jesus emphasized this concerning marriage by stating what God has put together, let no man try to separate. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is quite clear that marriage is a solemn commitment between male and female, with the apostle Paul comparing the church as the virgin female bride (parthenos) of Jesus.
With the previous being stated, I have come to a final conclusion concerning marriage and my involvement in the process of it.
I will no longer do state weddings.
The procedure we have had in place is as follows:
In the state of Texas, the couple secures their marriage license. There is a 72 hour waiting period before the marriage can occur. They then bring the license to me on their wedding day, and once the wedding has concluded, I sign the license and mail it to the Tarrant County Clerk.
This procedure will now change to the following:
We will now do biblical weddings only. We will encourage all who have completed a biblical wedding to secure their marriage through the state as well, so that they might get the benefits marriage through the state provides. This means we will not sign the marriage license any longer. This is not being defiant, we are simply separating church from state.
This is not a slam to the homosexual, polygamist, or any other community that differs in their marriage belief system. Marriage began with the creation of Adam and Eve, and is a commitment between God and man, not government and man.
We will perform the marriage ceremony between bride, groom and God, understanding that their marriage commitment is between these three. We will pronounce them husband and wife in the eyes of God, and it will be the couples responsibility, if they desire, to secure their state license of marriage through the available resources stated below.
The following is from the State of Texas website:
“Any couple who has obtained their marriage license in the state of Texas can be married by the following: Licensed or ordained Christian ministers and priests, Jewish rabbis, persons who are officers of religious organizations and who are duly authorized by the organization to conduct marriage ceremonies; Justices of the Supreme Court, Justices of the Court of Criminal Appeals, Justices of the District, County and Probate Courts, Judges of the County Courts at Law, Courts of Domestic Relations and Juvenile Courts, retired Justices and Judges of such courts, Justices of the Peace, retired Justices of the Peace, the Judge of a Municipal Court, the Judges and Magistrate of the Federal Courts of this state.”
“Sometimes, situational ethics do not work. As with situational ethics, the end result of this should be agape love. That is our desire, and that is the heart of the gospel.”