Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
One of the things that we as Christians evidence and experience in this postChristian day is that our stand for truth and our love for people, their salvation and their well-being, is received and felt by them as being despised, maligned and hated. I am certain that there are things that we do that would give some credence to those sentiments. But I am not convinced that everything every Christian says and does fits that paradigm.
Dominic Verner expressed this as When Your Love Looks Like Hate He framed it this way:
There is an alarming confusion cropping up in public discourse which has given me pause for reflection. It strikes me as the worst kind of confusion, and the most difficult to remedy, because it concerns the intention of hearts, confusing the noblest with the worst. You seek your neighbor’s spiritual well-being and you are accused of denying his very dignity.
Christians have for the good of the other and the glory of God spoken to the truth of sex and sexuality as it pertains to morality, broadly, and same-sex “marriage” more specifically. These convictional commitments are read by some as the great sin. Nathaniel Frank stated: “the sin of current opponents of gay marriage is an unwillingness to open their minds to change. There comes a time when there’s only one morally correct answer, and the space for having the wrong answer has dried up. I’d argue that time has come.”
For Christians, this love and concern is for the other’s temporal and eternal good and yet it is being read and interpreted as sin and even hatred. Verner asks, “why is this love for our neighbor’s spiritual good taken for hate? And how can it be seen as love again?” He provides three answers, which I briefly highlight.
First, our love looks like hate because our concern for souls chafes against the claim that human dignity is founded upon man’s power of self-determination. Our love calls into question the quasi-religious reverence paid to this supposed power. If our love is to be seen as love, the impotence of the power of self-determination must be exposed and the true foundation of human dignity must be laid bare.
Second, our love looks like hate because the life we propose often looks like death. By withholding endorsement for gay marriage, we implicitly suggest the alternative of lifelong chastity. For the man or woman with same-sex attraction, this certainly entails self-denial and the cross.
Third, our love looks like hate because we seem to advocate restraint in the enjoyment of all that the world has to offer.
Will framing our opposition to same sex marriage in such a theological and eschatological way really allow us to be better heard in the public square? Probably not. But it strikes me that a philosophically-sound natural-law approach has not fared much better. Besides, it’s a bit too cheap: Why offer natural law without the promise of the grace which makes it observable? We need to tell the whole story, complete with its fantastic eschatological ending because Nathaniel Frank is right: “There comes a time when there’s only one morally correct answer, and the space for having the wrong answer has dried up.”
A few questions of application.