Beto O’Rourke, the Gospel, and the Law

Christians submit to the authority and reign of the crucified and risen King, Jesus of Nazareth. People usually find our ways and customs to be contrary to the moral culture of a secular, post-Christian America.  Biblically speaking, same-sex marriage is not a marriage in the eyes of God just as gods made with hands are not gods.  The Supreme Court of the United States currently recognizes same-sex marriage in the eyes of the law just as the city of Ephesus recognized Artemis as a goddess to be venerated and worshiped in the eyes of Roman law.  

Since we are made in the image of God, God has a right to determine our worship.  He commands that we have no other gods before Him but to worship the LORD alone in Christ by the Spirit.  He also decrees that we exercise our sexuality in a way that honors Him.  We either pursue marriage to a partner of the opposite sex or abstinence.  Failure to honor God in this way merits His wrath. 

Thankfully, God provided His Son Jesus to die and rise in our place so that those who repent of their sins and come to Jesus as their crucified and risen Lord and Savior will be saved.  Not only that but the Spirit comes to regenerate and purify our hearts so we would not delight in our former sins but delight in God, in whose presence, is fullness of joy.

Christians ought to agree with Paul in saying “The sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”  But we also hope with Paul that God will wash, sanctify, justify some of them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit.

The gospel message speaks against people in the LGBTQIA+ community just as it did against the idolaters and magicians in the apostle Paul’s day. Yet Paul did not advocate for Roman law to change such that idolaters and magicians would be prosecuted and put to death, but rather those among them who did listen and respond to his message of faith and repentance gave up their practices willingly while those who disagreed with him were free to continue as before.  Neither did Paul advocate for people to bully, harass, and call idolaters and magicians with derogatory names. 

The church, just as Paul did, works through the power of persuasion.  Laws, just as Roman law did, carry in them the power of the sword, or the power of coercion.  We teach others the moral standards of God, but we do not force them to submit to God by the law when it comes to sins that do not carry a threat to life and property as murder, abortion and theft do. 

Idolatry was the law of the land in Paul’s day just as same-sex marriage is the law of the land in America today.  We do not need to change the law per se, but we faithfully preach the gospel, in the hopes that God will change the hearts of those who are His, so even though sin may be enshrined in the law, they will give up their old sins willingly and return to God in Christ Jesus. 

That all being said, Beto O Rourke’s statement to make religious institutions like colleges, churches, and charities lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage is concerning.   He would be acting as the city of Ephesus did, in bringing the law down on Christians to force them to be in alignment with a moral order that stands in opposition to YHWH. 

Mr. O’ Rourke states, “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone – or any institution, any organization in America – that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. So as president we’re going to make that a priority and we are going to stop those who are infringing on the rights of our fellow Americans.”

The gospel message would be seen as speaking against the full human rights and the full civil rights of those who identify in the LGBTQIA+ community, which would be true in the way Paul spoke against the idol worship of his day. But to say that we are infringing on the rights of our fellow Americans would be false, because we do not seek to bring the law down on people to force them into submission with our moral standards. Paul did not infringe on the right of idolaters to worship their pagan gods, as they were still free to worship them as they pleased, but he did speak against these idols as he strived to lead people to God in Christ Jesus.

The Gospel and Hate Speech

Lord Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The apostle Paul says something similar, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” (1 Corinthians 10:24)

The prophet Jeremiah, on telling his neighbors to repent, says to God, “Remember how I stood before You to speak good for them, to turn away Your wrath from them.” (Jeremiah 18:20)

One of the ways Christians seek the good of their neighbors is to look to their eternal well-being and thus help them be saved from the wrath of God against unrighteousness.  

We are unrighteous when we exercise our sexuality and express our gender identity in ways that go against God’s design for them, because we would be insulting His authority and creativity.  God has a right to punish us for sexual sins, just as He does with other sins, because they all oppose His glory.  All sins are considered rebellion against Him.  However, He gave us an opportunity to amend our ways and return to Him so we could instead enjoy the blessings of His presence. 

Hate speech is broadly defined as “speech that attacks a person or a group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

Homophobia is defined as a range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Preaching the gospel could be seen as speech that attacks a person or a group on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  The gospel could also be seen as generating negative attitudes and feelings towards the LBGTQIA community.  But this broad definition is unhelpful because it is not placed in a proper and specific biblical context.  It gives the impression that the gospel is just meant to make people feel bad instead of helping them enjoy a reconciled relationship with their Creator.  

In other words, even though hate speech and the gospel both attack a person and group on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, they have very different purposes and goals in mind. 
-hate speech seeks evil and destruction against its audience
-the gospel seeks the eternal good of its audience

The Bible sees adopting certain sexual orientations and gender identities as rebellion against God, who then sets His wrath against these things among many other things that are done against Him.   However, He sent Lord Jesus to be our substitionary atonement.  Jesus took the death penalty and absorbed God’s wrath on behalf of everyone who would trust in Him to be their personal Lord and Savior.  When we covenant ourselves to Him, God sends the Holy Spirit who then regenerates our souls and works upon our disordered desires so we begin to enjoy Jesus as our treasure.  Instead of looking to our broken sexuality for satisfaction, we look to King Jesus. 

All of us are born sick, born with disordered desires and emotions.  We have a choice to either allow our desires free reign or to regulate them for the good of ourselves and others.  We have a choice to either follow the desires of our heart into sin or to submit them under God’s authority for our good and for His glory.    

Loving someone as yourself does not mean never making them feel bad, it means helping them understand the danger that they are in, so they could find joy in salvation. 

Hate speech just leaves people feeling bad and unwanted, but the gospel ultimately helps people find true joy and acceptance in God. Hate speech is a sharpened knife that kills you, but the gospel is a sharpened knife that saves you. 

Calling same-sex attraction and transgenderism a sin is not hate speech.  To say otherwise would be misleading our neighbors into trusting a lie, and preaching rebellion against God.  Calling a sin a sin is part of a process by which we seek to speak good for our neighbors, where we can turn away God’s wrath from them. As unpleasant as the topic of God’s wrath is, it is a reality that can be seen in the way God punished His covenant people with Babylon for their sins in 586 B.C.

Not only do we seek to turn away God’s wrath from our neighbors, we want them to know and enjoy His love and joy.  If His well-deserved wrath is so terrible, think of how grand and amazing His love and joy can be for those who seek forgiveness from Him.  When we preach the gospel, we do it so we can share with our neighbors in its blessings that come from a reconciled relationship with God.

Now even though the Bible calls certain sexual orientations and gender identities sin, God does not expect people to punish them on His behalf.  Sins are things done against God, and so God has the right and authority to forgive and punish them as He sees fit.  Thankfully, God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins so those who trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior would not have to face punishment.  But punishment is still reserved for those who fail to amend their ways and return to Him.  Yet, before that Day of Judgment comes, God does not expect anyone to punish transgressors on His behalf as He once did under the Mosaic covenant.

Anyone who do so would be acting as a vigilante, and would be punished for exercising an authority that is not theirs to exercise. 

 Therefore States/governments should decriminalize homosexuality, and should no longer punish, imprison, or execute individuals who are charged with this.  Lynching, a premeditated extrajudicial killing by a group, would also be wrong.  Both judicial and extrajudicial punishment would be usurping God’s authority on a sin that He will punish Himself.  In the meantime, Jesus appointed evangelists who would save men from God’s wrath, without any coercive power, by the management of His powerful word upon their consciences. 

To look at the matter another way:
-God states the conviction of homosexuality and transgenderism as sin.
-He sentenced the death penalty for these sins. 
-The enforcement of the death penalty lies in His hands, not in governments. 
-He offered Jesus as the substitute for rebels who ask for forgiveness from Him.
-He gives people a chance to know of this means of forgiveness because He wants us to live
-He will punish everyone who still fails to surrender to Him.

As a Judge, God has to punish sin because that is what justice mandates, but His love as a Father motivates Him to seek our reconciliation more than our punishment. 

Calling homosexuality and transgenderism a sin, while true, is one thing.  Throwing LGBT kids out on the streets and abandoning them is quite another and contrary to what God desires.  Instead, we should be kind, forbearing, and patient, hoping that our kindness will lead them to repentance, so they can fully enjoy the blessings that God provides.