Homosexuality: If Gay Marriage is Contrary to God’s Will, Shouldn’t It Be Illegal? Part 1

gaysurveyRemember: my goal is not to provide a final, definitive answer. My goal is to lay out some principles that must be considered to reach a final, definitive answer.

As always, the readers are invited to discuss, and maybe even provide a final, definitive answer.

Here’s the problem: government and the church are two different things, given to us by God to accomplish different purposes. What is true for one might or might not be true of the other.

For example, there are plenty of things that are plainly sins that few of us would want the government to criminalize. For example —

* Failure to attend church
* Lust
* Envy
* Gluttony
* Sex outside of marriage by heterosexual consenting adults

Now, as a Christian and an observer of humanity, I am adamantly opposed to sex outside of marriage by heterosexual consenting adults. And did you notice that there’s not a good word for that anymore? I mean, I once would have said “premarital sex,” but rarely is sex outside of marriage premarital — that is, in most cases, no one has the least intention of being married in the future just because they’re having sex now.

And I once would have said “fornication,” but the scriptural meaning of the word is much broader, and it sounds so King James Version. Even modern Bible translations no longer say “fornication.” They say “sexual immorality,” which is more accurate and is much broader than what we used to call premarital sex.

I can’t say “extramarital sex” because that really means adultery, as in “extramarital affair.”

And our language reveals our culture. But I digress.

So if it’s wrong, why not make it illegal? In fact, few people realize that states criminalized sex outside of marriage by heterosexual couples until just recently. I think Alabama repealed its statute about 1977 or 78, when it recodified the Code of Alabama and “forgot” to include the old criminal statute in the new Code.

Why not openly repeal the statute? Because the conservative Christians would have been upset. Why not leave it on the books? Because it was 1977 and a huge percentage of the children of the Alabama legislature were engaged in sex outside of marriage — making the statute excellent for blackmail but useless for enforcing. There’d not been a prosecution under that law in human memory.

So why did the prosecutors refuse to prosecute such cases? Why did the police refuse to make arrests under the statute? Because they had children, too.

Now, most of the legislators, prosecutors, and police probably considered sex outside of marriage by heterosexual couples wrong, but none saw any benefit at all to making it criminal. Rather, they considered this a part of our lives where the government had no business.

God has plenty of business in being involved with our sexuality. Make no mistake. But the Alabama legislature is not God. Not even close. Who really wants their sex lives governed by the criminal justice system?

Around the time of the American Revolution, there were some cities and states that made it illegal to skip church on Sunday morning. There were police hired to go from house to house to make sure people attended church. After all, if God wants us in church, shouldn’t the government help God out?

Ah … but there’s the problem. It in fact does not help God even a little bit to make people attend church under penalty of jail. God wants our love. He wants our hearts. And if we attend out of fear of jail, God is no more pleased than if we slept in. It just doesn’t work and cannot work.

So we see that there are some sins where God would not be helped if the government criminalized the sin. In such a case, clearly the church should not be asking the legislature to pass laws to enforce church attendance. Or daily Bible reading. Or even banning lust or envy. Again, if we don’t refrain from lust and envy out of love for God, then we are still sinners. Indeed, if our motivation is jail (or hell), then we are acting out of self-interest, not love, and so we’re no better as Christians.

But, obviously enough, there are some sins that the government quite properly criminalizes — such as murder and theft. And like envy, these are found in the Ten Commandments, too.

So there’s a line. That is, there are some sins that are properly criminalized by the government. Indeed, these sins really should be criminalized for government to be good government. And there are sins that only God can deal with — that are outside of the legitimate purposes of government.

So how is the line drawn?

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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51 Responses to Homosexuality: If Gay Marriage is Contrary to God’s Will, Shouldn’t It Be Illegal? Part 1

  1. Bob Brandon says:

    In what passes for my legal career, I have found that Christians have the tendency to want to criminalize that which they cannot persuade against. Hence prohibition, hence the failed “war on drugs”, hence the present “war on women/women’s rights”.

    Let’s propose that any line drawn is in the vicinity of “public order” – that is, conduct that tends objectively to disrupt good order. Homosexual conduct would fail to meet that threshold, hence it shouldn’t be criminalized. Private use of alcohol, private use of drugs, and even exercise of a woman’s right to seek reproductive health care of her choosing likewise would not meet that threshold.

    What is feeding the decline in cultural Christianity in the U.S. is this tendency to seek by coercion what believers cannot obtain by argument. Barton Stone recognized this early in our movement and abandoned politics and embraced abolition as a result.

  2. Mark says:

    It is illegal in some countries and is harshly prosecuted.

    A lot has to do with who is doing the act in question. As for smoking, when most of the cofC men went outside to smoke between Sunday school and church or were gluttons (as evidenced by their waistlines), nothing was said against smoking or gluttony though both are worse (and nicotine is far more addictive) than a drink.

    As for gossip, when most good church-going people loved to hear and pass on a bit of gossip, it was acceptable. No preacher who wanted to remain employed would dare rail against it.

  3. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Like many things, a strict definition of “public-order” is open to interpretation. P-O is derived from social values and shared norms, which evolve over time. It’s subjective. One could argue (right or wrong) that private possession of firearms is contrary to public-order, and yet we still have the 2nd Amendment.

    I’ve actually heard various preachers denounce smoking, gluttony, and gossip from the pulpit.

  4. Richard constant says:

    NUMBER one
    Just exactly why shouldn’t the legal system be involved.
    In gay Or cross gender arrangements (relationships). now its all legal.
    Now they get to go through divorce court just like everyone else, there’s no loser here, just think of all the lawyers that will be involved in the dissolution of a marriage involving two people, who were never ever subject to the rules of marriage.
    I find that part of it absolutely wonderful.
    To say nothing of all of the other added benefits that this group of people get, to attend to.
    think of all the doctors in the hospitals that are going to have to specialize, and sex change operations.
    Think of all the manufacturers of breast implants that will benefit.
    I mean I could really go on and on.
    But I for one really think that was a stupid move on their part.
    I really think it was more about retirement benefits.
    And taking care of the love that they have today.
    even though all throughout the lives of these people, I would say mostly it has always been about indiscriminate homosexual relationships.
    The same thing involves most of our society.
    Why do most relationships fail, because there’s a difference between an arrangement and a relationship.
    But of course this goes back to religion.
    And most people have an arrangement with God, rather than a relationship with God.
    The arrangement is built around Sin, don’t do it, and a comfort zone I won’t expose you if you won’t expose me not believing that God sees everything that we do.
    a relationship is built around Love and faithfulness which is a trusting believe that you will do things pleasing to each other in the relationship.
    what it really comes down tO is agenda. what is your agenda motivated by. now then now we know God’s agenda is love. and we know that that agenda will create eventually a relationship.
    If we all start playing by the same rules our relationship.
    but there’s the rub. The rule,
    who makes the rules.
    oh that’s right I do because I’m an individual in a free society. sometimes I don’t even know what my agenda is.
    it depends on my situation and how I feel.
    to make a long story short.
    Like everything else in America it becomes situation ethics.
    which nonetheless and all the more dictates a fluid morality.
    so in my opinion we might as well do what Paul did or do what paul said because we do it anyway, to one degree or another by accepting belief systems that are built around situation ethics.
    Everyone sees it but those involved in it.
    So as Paul said eat and drink and be merry.
    our religious systems are such a Hellenistic Christian tapestry.
    And has been for so long and nobody sees that either to say nothing of our government to say nothing of capitalism but that’s another song for another day.
    Blessings all
    Rich constant

  5. Price says:

    The church would have to go “underground” if Gluttony was criminalized… just sayin’

  6. Richard constant says:

    better watch it somebody’s going to expose you price.
    I bet you’re a blatant speeder on that freeway.
    of course that’s depending on whether or not you’re late you know your situation.

  7. Nathan says:

    While I agree with the main point, I don’t accept what appears to be a bit of Kantian logic. “Indeed, if our motivation is jail (or hell), then we are acting out of self-interest, not love, and so we’re no better as Christians.”

    In other words, an act is praiseworthy if, and only if, it is done out of love for God. If it is done for the reward of heaven or due to fear of hell (or temporal punishment), then it is not done purely out of love for God.

    But does this fit with the biblical record? Motives are complicated things. I know that Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). But does this mean that my motives will be unadulterated? I don’t think so. Nor do I think there is anything wrong with that. Why else would we so frequently be reminded of the blessings of obedience and the punishments for wickedness? Before that is dismissed as merely an incentive for the immature, we should remember that Moses “was looking to the reward” (Heb. 11:26) and Jesus endured the cross “for the joy that was set before Him” (Heb. 12:2). Paul fought the fight and finished the race, yes, because he loved God. But he also knew it would be worth the effort because a crown of righteousness was waiting (see II. Tim. 4:7-8).

  8. Price says:

    @ Rich.. Yeah, it always strikes a nerve when the guilty party is…us !

  9. Richard constant says:

    But then again early in the morning here in California there are a few freeways that if you’re at least not doing 80 miles an hour you’re going to get run over.
    So naturally not wanting to break the law or Sin I stay off the freeway.
    dang it now I’m just lied sEe what you’ve done to me, J
    🙂

  10. Richard constant says:

    @N@Nathan
    You should look up deviated in the New Testament, what it means and how it’s used if you can’t find it I will answer deviated is used twice

  11. Nathan says:

    @Richard

    I take it that you are accusing me of “irrelevant babble” or “meaningless talk.” Obviously, I strongly disagree.

  12. Richard constant says:

    Of course we all know what that word means.
    Now it becomes a compared to what.
    now then, we all know what the word deviant means, as far as God is concerned just how much of an Deviant Am I.
    do I pick up a Playboy.
    do i watch soft porn on TV.
    do I notice the pretty blonde next to me at the stoplight.
    do i watch Fox News.
    I could go on and on but what shapes our reality.
    and then how do we blend that into our everyday life and all the other little things that we are exposed to.
    Are we into God enough to off set the waterfall of information that is painted with a brush and the hand of the brush moves to the tune of the advertisement while blatantly inferring and implying Association with the Christian value system.
    Fair and balanced, the conservative view.
    if I believe that well.
    I believe it’s just used to relieve frustration.
    that way no one will really get bad bad upset.
    Thinking that somebody is handling the problem.
    it fills a social need.
    let’s face it evil Knows that this system is benefiting it probably any more than any other system we have dang near everything.
    albeit it can be used for good.
    And taken advantage of as it should be.
    Unfortunately I see it breeding complacency.
    inherent in the word deViant…well stand up in that mirror and call Yourself a deviant.
    deviating from God’s good.
    we might need a few more rules J.
    and of course I’m in church rules.
    I mean I’m from the conservative branch of the Church of Christ.
    but then I already have let that theological anthropoLogical ontology.
    Hog tie me for too many years.
    boy oh boy what a journey thank you God

  13. Richard constant says:

    No no no no no did you look up the word Nathan

  14. Nathan says:

    @Richard

    I totally misunderstood your original intention. You told me to look up the word “deviated” in the NT. When I did, I saw verses like these:

    I Timothy 1:6-7, “Certain persons, by swerving from these or “by having deviated from these”), have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”

    I Timothy 6:20-21, “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved (or “deviated”) from the faith.”

    This, I assumed you were saying I was engaging in vain discussion.

  15. Richard constant says:

    Tuna literal translation Colossians and Romans 5

  16. Dwight says:

    Motives played an important part even in the OT, as that murder and killing was divided by motive. One could kill another in self-defense or in war or by accident, but not out of anger or grief or gain. But in respect to sexual immorality, sexual immorality was based on motive as that no one forced another to comitt adulturey. So it was understood that this was out of self desire. As well as homosexuality, as well as incest, as well as rape, etc.
    Jay, I’m not sure missing church/assembly would be considered sinful. Heb.10:24-25 says ” And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some..” Paul already argued that one could personally come before God and then he argues that one shouldn’t “forsake” or turn their back or reject assembling with others. We are to consider one another and one way of doing this is assembly, but not the only way. If I forsake NASCAR, I will purposely not ever attend a rally. The opposite of not forsaking is not forcing one to go, but rather telling one that they shouldn’t avoid doing it.

  17. Richard constant says:

    what kind of an assembly was Paul talking about the kind that we have he’d walk out shaking his head what happened I thought I was pretty clear.
    boy oh boy you better figure that one out.

  18. Richard constant says:

    although Lamont by not going to a NASCAR race you could miss out on what the Spirit might have you to do. I mean I don’t care for NASCAR either.
    But then there’s a bunch of good old boys there I think the only good Turn is a left turn.
    now
    I mean they might think fast turns but you gotta be pretty slow Headed to watch cars go around in a circle for hours only making a left hand turn. now those people just might be ready to accept something new even a right hand turn. Sorta kinda So to speak
    🙂

  19. Dwight says:

    Richard, I couldn’t understand your stream of words, “what kind of an assembly was Paul talking about the kind that we have he’d walk out shaking his head what happened I thought I was pretty clear. boy oh boy you better figure that one out.”

    But if i get your understanding right, we don’t know what kind of assembly Paul is talking about. It could be three or it could be 33 or 333. His point was gather with others because it is good for you and good for others, but his verbage doesn’t indicate when and what and how. His words, although we skew this up, is don’t refuse to assemble, not that you have to assemble everytime or everywhere others are assembling. Paul was stuck under house arrest and although he could have probably left (escaped) and went to assembly somewhere, he didn’t. Assembly didn’t define his Godliness and he still continued to work and worship God. We often become church/assembly-centric, instead of God centric. A lot people if not allowed to assemble, would be lost not knowing what to do towards God in worship or service.

  20. Monty says:

    Are fat folks gluttons? Perhaps to someone who is skinny and has a fast metabolism. I remember the days of trying like crazy to add weight to my lanky frame. Somewhere around 35-40 it was no longer a problem. . I could eat half the food I used to eat when I was 20 and gain weight without a struggle. According to some perhaps I became a glutton. Why? Because I added 15-20 pounds of unwanted weight. Did I love food anymore than when I was 20? Nope. My metabolism slowed down. What is the marker for pronouncing someone a glutton? A big plate of spaghetti? A second serving? Please. God gave us food to enjoy. Perhaps some do enjoy it to excess. Are gluttons the morbidly obese? Can you be skinny as a rail and be a glutton? I suppose. If eating is destroying your health(significantly) and you can’t or won’t do anything about it you need help. I don’t think we have a good understanding of gluttony. I suppose if you eat to saturation and then you upchuck it to be able to eat some more that’s gluttony. The Sunday buffet with a second helping of banana pudding is a blessing no one should take for granted. As Rick Atchely has said, “There’s going to be a lot of eating in heaven.” If we all just ate in order to survive that only takes about 1500 – 2000 calories a day for most folks. It’s doable I suppose but if you aren’t on a weight reduction/ high level fitness routine then why? Don’t get me wrong there is a line that can be crossed, I Just don’t know of any of my good brothers or sisters who I would classify as food being their idol. But I have known of many who really enjoyed good eating.

  21. Monty says:

    I would think the “War” is on the unborn and not the women who decided to have sex and not use contraception. Funny how culture starts a campaign and spins the wording a certain way to make the violent perpetrators the victims. And what of the true victims? Who speaks for them? Those who would make war I suppose. This world is a screwed up place. 50,000,000 and counting

  22. Richard constant says:

    .
    yes of course you’re right.
    And of course we’ve set the bar so low in that case that a crippleD rat could get over it for the sake of cheese
    although I really don’t know how many people you’ve spoken to I’ve spoken to quite a few and quite a few say why go to church it’s an exercise in tradition.

  23. Dwight says:

    We should assemble for the same reason that people go to weight watcher meetings, not to get to God or not to lose weight, as if you could do that in that short amount of time, but to get support in our personal goals of reaching God or losing wieght. God must be a daily endeavor. Many roll God up into the assembly and then leave Him there. He is supposed to be our personal saviour, not our groups savior and not a saviour we reach by being part of a group.

    Gluttonly, falls within the same context of drunkenness, excess for pleasure, but not just one time of excess. God commanded feast where people could eat and drink to their hearts content, but these came along only once in awhile. The Jews were not suppsoed to continue with the same amount of eating and drinking that would do in a feast on a daily basis. We don’t preach on it enough in our culture and many of us probably reach gluttony and don’t think about it. Weight can be genetics and somewhat is, but eating is not and involves will power or self-control and if we give control to food, then we will gain the weight. We can decide what to eat, whre to eat, when to eat, etc.

  24. Richard constant says:

    so Montiei , what’s new ,what are you going to do about it.
    think I’ll just sit around and answer this question again for mySelf.
    well I can’t believe it’s been another year and I’m still not a better person. more like the image of the creator I’m supposed to emulate. going to maintain that status quo

    even if that bar is pretty low.

  25. Richard constant says:

    Ihink the word is Desensitized.
    thank God for TV boy oh boy it does that.
    and then we talk about things you don’t even concern us.
    like that 50 million.
    Are all of those people in Africa so eat your dinner.

    yep we’ve grown up with the handshake and how you doing.
    and we call that fellowship and relationship we wonder why the church or churches are disintegrating in theIr membership.

  26. Richard constant says:

    don’t blame me I’m just doing what everybody else does I mean good Lord.
    I mean those are words that we go I mean some don’t you know somebody bring up with a good relationship is somebody bring up with a good church is somebody say something it’s not off the top of the newspaper

  27. Richard constant says:

    you know Monte on the BMI or BMX scale whatever it is I’m obese and you talking about all that food especially dessert is going to cause me to sin cuz I’m thinking right now there’s 31 flavors down the road and a big ol banana split sounds pretty good so knock it off on that crp
    and I’m in Southern California it is least 80 degrees sitting in the shade drinking my coffee having a good time with you all folks corse Its all J’s fault he brought brought up gluttony. and of course he should have known Better.
    but then again what is obesity.
    it’s all I compared to what I mean if I was in a line up with really really fat people I mean real fat people I might be considered skinny.
    so there you go the definition of rationality

  28. Richard constant says:

    okay I’m done stick a fork in me
    for a few hours I’ll just read a while
    just having a lot of fun.
    Of course maybe just too much fun
    but then of course it’s all Jay’s fault:
    🙂
    Blessings all
    Rich constant

  29. Dwight says:

    Going back to the original thought. I think we as people should support the social and government system towards God. If we could turn back the clock and society and make homosexualism illegal, then that is not a bad thing, but then again we can’t force people to obey the laws, even when they are there. We can make sure that this is limited, but absolutely regulating morality is impossible. People must regulate themselves in relation to God. How many people speed even though the law says not to…a lot. Murders occure daily. The change must come by realizing what sin does to God and by placing God desires over our desires.

  30. John says:

    Dwight,

    Making homosexuality illegal WOULD be a bad thing. For one thing, where would you stop, where would you stop in the prosecuting of “sexual law breakers”? That could be carried so far as to people who believe masturbation a sin, though they rationalize that its allowable for themselves, turning in acquaintances that are suspected of masturbation. That would certainly empty the pews.

  31. Richard constant says:

    and OH Jay I guess I should apologize, specially to all your friends who watch NASCAR.
    I’m sure you don’t want those redneck, wannabe moonshiners, lining up posting on this blog about the rude comments that I made about those ” other kind of people, that are a little bit slow headed who watch People who can only Make. left turRns …

  32. Rose Marie says:

    Jay said this: “So why did the prosecutors refuse to prosecute such cases? Why did the police refuse to make arrests under the statute? Because they had children, too.” He was pointing out that society and that includes Christians have trouble criminalizing things that there own children are doing or might do. It would be hypocritical to want to castigate someone else for unmarried sex if your own family has this problem. I think that this is one reason that Christians across America (maybe in the Church of Christ as a late-comer to the problem) are yielding on this is because they have children or siblings or cousins or even parents who are involved in this kind of activity. And then to avoid hypocrisy, we are open to persuasion from our culture. I agree that it is not a lifestyle approved by God but the law may not be the way for this to be curbed in the church.

  33. Dwight says:

    John, it was illegal up to some years ago in many states and it didn’t end up intruding into other parts of peoples life. Now having said that, even like I said, you can’t regulate morality, even when you have laws. You can try to shape it, which is where God comes in. And you can penalize it, which is what God did, but Christ is the first step in changing peoples sense of morality.
    Rose Marie, I dont’ think this comes from a “hypocritical standpoint” as much as a “guilt standpoint”. In otherwords, If my child grows up and decides to be homosexual, then somethings is wrong in the way I taught him or he decided by himself, but if I am a parent without Christ I would rationalize it out to my childs favor and to mine. And don’t want to think I or my child did something wrong. Thus the sin would no longer be a sin by choice and I would not be responsible for a child comitting sin, if it isn’t sin. I think many parents have bypassed responsibilty by now assigning it to “well they were born that way” and then how can you not support your child. It relieves guilt from both parties, parents and child. Everything now is all right in the world..

  34. John says:

    Dwight, people don’t decide to be homosexual. You have a lot to experience and to learn; some of it will be painful. But, you will learn.

  35. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight and John,

    Your discussion reminded me of an old post by Patrick Mead, who holds a doctorate in brain science (I forget the exact discipline. Lots of long and very impressive words.) He is one of the few Christian writers who actually is qualified to express an opinion on the causes of homosexuality.

    Unfortunately, his article is no longer posted.

    Fortunately, I found it on the WayBack Machine — and what other blogger would go to that much trouble for his readers?

    https://web.archive.org/web/20071217032045/http://patrickmead.net/tentpegs/?p=281

    Enjoy.

    Unfortunately, his follow up article on the causes of lesbianism is not on the WayBack Machine. I hope Patrick will re-post his Tentpeg articles one day. They are needed.

  36. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Found it! Patrick holds doctorates in psychology and psychoneuroimmunology. I think there are only something like 12 psychoneuroimmunologists in the country.

  37. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight,

    I entirely agree that gluttony does not equate to overweight. I see no evidence of that in the scriptures, and as you note, the science of obesity is demonstrating that food consumption is often not at all the cause.

    I have the good fortune to have fathered a son who is about to receive his doctorate in chemical engineering. And he reads the original research on nutrition, weight training, obesity, etc. for fun. (Very bright kid. Takes after his mother.) And he has found that controlling weight is far more about avoiding foods with high glycemic indices than how many calories you consume. The studies strongly blame not just the Western diet but dietary changes occurring the last 50 years.

    For those with a serious interest, read Perfect Health Diet: Regain Health and Lose Weight by Eating the Way You Were Meant to Eat. Be sure to buy a version with the footnotes, which are about half the book.

    But this is not a nutrition blog. So I’m now returning to theology.

  38. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Nathan,

    Here’s where I’m coming from —

    Think in terms of a husband and wife — an analogy God seems to like using. It’s their anniversary. The husband is considering whether to buy his wife an anniversary present. There are multiple motivators.

    1. The husband lives in a country where buying his wife a present is required by law. The penalty for failing to buy the present is jail. But for this law, he would not buy the gift.

    I think we’d agree that he doesn’t much love his wife, his marriage may well be in trouble, and he is acting for selfish reasons only.

    2. The husband knows that his wife loves wine and a bottle of wine will produce a night of love-making.

    The husband isn’t quite the rogue we see in example 1, but he’s still not motivated by love — other than for himself. He seems to be playing a role, that is, a hypocrite. The present communicates a message that isn’t entirely true.

    3. The husband remembers his wife’s smile following last year’s present. He anticipates the joy it will give her, because he finds joy in his wife’s joy.

    Ahh! Now we have true love, selfless indeed, and doubtlessly a wonderful husband.

    4. The wife is in a persistent vegetative state. He knows she’ll never know that she received a present, but he promised to love her in sickness or in health, and he can’t imagine how to behave on their anniversary other than to buy her present anyway. He knows he’ll smile at the thought of what she would think if only she could know what he’s doing for her.

    We’ll return to this example shortly.

    Notice this, no matter how “selfless” the husband’s love, in each example, he’s motivated by reward. The reward may be avoiding jail or just enjoying the thought of doing something nice for a woman he loves who is incapable of even knowing what he’s doing. But in each, he is rewarded by pleasurable feelings.

    The difference is whether he finds pleasure in a selfish way or in a giving way.

    Now consider Heb 12:2 —

    (Heb 12:2 ESV) looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

    What was the “joy set before him”? Heaven? Jesus left heaven to come to earth and be crucified. Heaven is what he gave up. He didn’t die on the cross to gain heaven!

    The glory that God gives? Well, he was already God.

    (Phi 2:1 ESV) 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

    I think Jesus’ joy was the joy of bringing salvation to millions. I think he took pleasure in the pleasure his giving would produce. Indeed, Jesus is like God —

    (Mat 5:45 ESV) For [the Father] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

    God does good even for those incapable (or unwilling) to acknowledge the blessings he showers upon them — because he delights in what gives others delight.

    So there are higher and lower motivations — but if we actually aspire to be like Jesus and to be perfect as God is perfect, then we’ll work toward finding joy in the joys of others — not fear of jail.

    And, really, would you want to attend a church filled with people only there to avoid prison? What kind of message would that send to a lost world? Would that actually accomplish God’s purposes in asking us to assemble?

    I’d add this thought. Consider Paul’s “crown of righteousness.”

    (2Ti 4:7-8 ESV) 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

    So what? I mean, a lifetime of beatings, starvation, shipwrecks — all for a laurel from God? Hardly a fair trade. I mean, what makes the reward worth the effort? Certainly not a crown of leaves.

    But what does that crown represent? God’s pleasure. God’s approval. God’s gratitude. Now, that is something worth giving up your life for.

    A son might cut the grass for money, but an adult son will cut his parents’ grass just because he enjoys helping out his parents — whom he loves. It’s not the iced tea or the thanks so much as the fact that he’s giving something back to someone he loves, who has given him so much more.

    Again, what if the son only cut the grass because a local ordinance threatened jail time for those who don’t care for the lawns of their elderly parents? Well, it wouldn’t be love. It wouldn’t make his parents proud. But the grass would be cut, which is something. Better than nothing.

    So if we look at obedience to God’s commands in terms of God’s purposes in issuing those commands, the command to love as Jesus loves us cannot be honored as mere obedience to a command because Jesus was never commanded to love us. He loves because it’s his nature to love. And we should aspire to the same end — and laws cannot get us from here to there.

    PS — “Kantian”? Did Kant make this argument? What makes what I said Kantian? Interesting comment.

  39. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Bob wrote,

    I have found that Christians have the tendency to want to criminalize that which they cannot persuade against.

    Well, I wish I’d said that. Now I’m jealous. I will definitely be quoting you.

  40. Price says:

    Of course gluttony is evidenced by obesity.. Who are you guys trying to kid ? If it’s not gluttony it’s ignorance and willful ignorance at that. The real objection behind the objection is that 2/3 of the assemblies are obese… and the food the churches serve at the pot lucks is as bad as it comes… The church doesn’t lead in the area of good health.. In fact, in this area of leading by example is it obsolete.. There is a study that says the more often you attend church per week… the more likely you are to be fat… Interesting how often gluttony and drunkenness are mentioned together in scripture.. neither alcohol consumption of eating is bad unless it is overdone.. Quit making excuses and get healthy.. take care of your temple… 15% of the Law of Moses was related to taking care of yourself… Read Daniel… Quit making excuses for out of control eating habits…

  41. John says:

    Jay,

    Patrick Mead’s article is moving and very well written. I recall reading it before. And no one has respect for education and degrees more than I. However, many people with the highest of degrees keep themselves planted in the soil of their youth, using their education, as they are able, to prop up their conclusions.

    For instance, I personally know legalists who have doctorates, a couple are relatives, who can use parts of their education to “prove” you, me, and every other progressive to be totally out of the faith. But I believe that real faith is more than words in stone. Faith is of love that makes grace and mercy the life giving power behind those words.

    In the same way, I believe that human beings are more than their decisions. While decisions do play the large part of our lives, we are more than the sum of those decisions. And when human beings say that they knew at an early age, apart from any decision, they were attracted to people of the same sex, for others to say, “No, you were not”, is to take on themselves a judgement that God has not placed in their care.

  42. Rose Marie says:

    Dwight said, “I dont’ think this comes from a “hypocritical standpoint” as much as a “guilt standpoint”. In otherwords, If my child grows up and decides to be homosexual, then somethings is wrong in the way I taught him or he decided by himself, but if I am a parent without Christ I would rationalize it out to my childs favor and to mine. And don’t want to think I or my child did something wrong. Thus the sin would no longer be a sin by choice and I would not be responsible for a child comitting sin, if it isn’t sin. I think many parents have bypassed responsibilty by now assigning it to “well they were born that way” and then how can you not support your child. It relieves guilt from both parties, parents and child. Everything now is all right in the world.”

    While this seems true and I wouldn’t argue with it, I actually was thinking of people in our church who have struggled with this in their own families and guilt doesn’t seem to be their accommodation to the sin. They are gradually being forced into accepting that this inclination for homosexuality and/or transgender lifestyles are not just a bad choice but comes included in the psychological makeup of their child or relative. So if you love them, how do you treat them? Throw them out? Some parents have tried this and it damages both parent and child. What are we to do for or with them. At the very least acceptance of the inborn inclination will keep a conversation going. Patrick Mead is able to touch a very few lives with his treatment of love and psychological help. Where do the countless thousands who are facing this go? Christians need to find a way to be useful in this battle.

  43. Nathan says:

    Jay,

    I appreciate your very thoughtful response. Kant didn’t make this precise argument. I was thinking of his Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. The work is best known for formulating the categorical imperative. However, he also makes the claim that an action only has moral worth if it is motivated by duty. In other words, if it is done out of natural inclination or self-interest, it lacks moral worth. If we say the “duty” is loving God, then I’ve heard many Christians make arguments that are reminiscent of Kant’s theory.

    Another analogy that God seems to like is the image of Him as the Father and us as His children. When a parent gives a child a command, the parent wants obedience. Like God, they may reward good behavior and punish bad behavior. Like God, they hope their children will grow to understand the reasons for the rules. I’m sure they appreciate when a child behaves out of love rather than obligation, fear of consequences, or naked self-interest.

    Children will reach physical maturity absent some unnatural circumstance. The process of spiritual maturation, however, never really ends. I don’t think I’ll ever reach the stage where I do everything out of love for God 100% of the time. Sometimes I force myself to do things I don’t want to do because I know they are right. Sometimes I avoid certain behaviors because I am afraid of the consequences. Kant would say that those actions have no moral worth. Many Christians would agree, or at least say that they are far inferior to what they abstractly call “pure motives.”

    I’m not so sure. I think C.S. Lewis was onto something in his chapter “Let’s Pretend.” We pretend to be like Christ in the hope that God will make us more like Him. The process will never be complete. In the meantime, I need all the help I can get (fear of hell, longing for heaven, love of God, civil government, church leadership, positive peer pressure, etc.).

  44. John F says:

    from Paul Faulkner: I resolve, in a world of needy others, to do as I ought, and like it.

    Sometimes the only joy or satisfaction we can take is knowing that we are doing as we ought. sometimes christian service is dirty and messy.

    from the beginning God told us thru His words to Cain Gen 4:5-8
    So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. 6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
    NASU
    This truth speaks yet today. God knows that we experience spiritual / emotional / psychological well being from doing what is right. And love for God is the highest motivation, but not the only one of any value.

  45. Dwight says:

    Rose Marie, I do think this is true in the church…the more personal it is the harder it is to think objectively. This is why the concept of shunning has fallen by the wayside, where another brother sins, and i mean a known, obvious sin, and we don’t stop associating with them and then this becomes more problematic when they are family. It is a hrd treatment that is hardly practiced today, but then again if your child was a glutton and a drunkard in the OT and rebellious the parents could bring them forward for stoning. I doubt this happened much even in the real case where the son was like this. But thankfully shunning isn’t anything like stoneing physically, but mentally it is.

  46. Monty says:

    Nathan,

    Excellent post at 9:45

  47. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Nathan,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. Let me toss a couple of other ideas in.

    1. I could not disagree with Kant more. Obedience out of duty is not bad but neither is it much of a source of joy. Obedience out of love — out of taking pleasure in the joy of the object of your love — is not only very biblical, it’s the motivation that leads to a a fulfilled, happy life. It’s abundant life.

    2. Certainly we all sometimes act out of lesser motives. “Fake it ’til you make it.” Or sometimes you have do the right thing in order to learn the joys of doing the right thing. It’s a legitimate psychological principle that sometimes the high motivation follows the action, not the other way around. I entirely agree with you on this point.

    Parents know this, which is why they sometimes force children to eat cherry Jello or to attend a birthday party — figuring the kid will ultimately enjoy the experience once he’s been forced to have the experience. Parents also know that there’s a huge risk of backfire — that the child will hate cherry Jello or birthday parties just because he was forced to try — or maybe he really just doesn’t like cherry. Not everyone does.

    As a parent, I’ve had mixed results, and I’m glad that phase of my life is over. Kids turned out very well, but forcing them to try something was a 50/50 proposition. They still remember some of my failed experiments all too well.

    In short, duty is no fun. Love, however, can lead to an abundant, joyous life. But not everyone knows that going in. Indeed, often duty has to come first.

    And if you were God, would you rather that your followers worship you out of love or duty? Would love-motivated worship be lesser because the worshipers enjoy their worship activities? No, because God is a loving God and he wants a reciprocal relationship. He finds happiness in the joys of his children. And if they were to find joy in their worship of God, then it’s win-win and very much what God intends, I believe.

    This is no mere interesting philosophical question. It defines our assemblies. Those who have been taught to worship out of fear or duty will have a very different experience from those who worship out of love.

    And it defines whom we imagine God to be. We become like the god we worship. If we worship a rule-imposing, demanding, foot-faulting god, then we will become just that sort of person. If we worship a God who loves his children and takes pleasure in their joy, we’ll become the same.

  48. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Bob,

    “I have found that Christians have the tendency to want to criminalize that which they cannot persuade against.”

    I’m not convinced that this is entirely accurate. Could it not be the case that, sometimes, we want to criminalize an action or activity simply because it is the right thing to do? For example, you infer that Christians are seeking to criminalize abortion in its so-called “war on women” (not the same things, BTW) because we have not been able to effectively persuade against it. I don’t think that’s true at all. We would seek to ban abortions because it is the right thing to do. Murder of the innocent is both spiritually sinful and morally reprehensible.

    Think about it. According to this statement, God criminalized what he could persuade against throughout the OT. Was He wrong to do so?

  49. Johnathon says:

    Jay said, “In short, duty is no fun. Love, however, can lead to an abundant, joyous life. But not everyone knows that going in. Indeed, often duty has to come first.”

    It depends on the duty. A duty is made none the worse for being fun. When you write about love are you writing about storge, philia, eros, or agape? I suggest people read C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves. Audible has a version that was made from Lewis’s only radio broadcast in the United States. Even though it is abridged I highly recommend this version for those who would like to hear it read in Lewis’s own voice. In this book he discusses in great detail the natural loves (affection, friendship, & romantic love) and the Love God has for us and we are to have for God and are fellow man. The simplest (but by no means complete) definition of Love (Agape) I can give is to will the good of the other. Sometimes Loving someone means we are to withhold affection, friendship, or romantic love. This will not be joyful or pleasurable. As Lewis words it (forgive me I am typing from memory) there are times when we must sacrifice our affections, friendships, and romantic feelings on the altar of Love. Only that which participates in the crucifixion can share in the resurrection.

  50. Johnathon says:

    Now respecting gay marriage (not whether or not sodomy should be legal) the supreme court has for the time being removed the legality of the issue from the purview of the American people. Now if there comes a time again when the people of the various states can vote on the issue, I have trouble imagining how legitimizing the nonsense that is gay marriage is Loving our fellow creatures who happen to be homosexual. Doing so might be showing them affection and friendship, but is it showing them Love? No I don’t see it.

  51. Monty says:

    It often took God breaking out in the camp with wrath(killing people) and therefore instilling fear in the people for them to turn to God. Don’t touch the mountain or you’ll die! Everything about God’s visitation to Mt. Sanai brought fear. The Law itself imposed some fearful punishments like stone to death a child who basically refuses to quit acting the fool. Don’t touch the Ark of the Covenant or you’ll die. Don’t pick up sticks on the Sabbath or you’ll be stoned to death. Don’t go into the Holy of Holies except on the Day of Atonement and only that day with blood or else. The whole system was one of fear. Obey God or else! We come to the N.T. and Jesus gives us more teaching on the horrors of Hell than anyone ever. Cut off your right hand if it offends you, better to enter the kingdom with one hand versus Hell whole. The story of Lazarus and the rich man surely sent shivers down the hearer’s spines. All the parables about the angels coming and separating the saved from the lost and throwing the lost into blazing fire and outer darkness and so on. The whole book of Revelation has some pretty grim and devastating imagery surely meant to put the fear of God in folks as it is perhaps the most talked about letter in scripture. Finally in Hebrews were are told we can approach God’s throne without fear because of the blood of Jesus. Shew! But even then later on in chapter 10 some more warnings about “no more sacrifice for sin” and what will happen. It’s pretty hard to deny IMO the fearfulness of God in scripture. It is only the juxtaposition against that fear and dread that makes the Gospel shine through and presents God as something more than just Holy but also a God of tremendous love. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Not where it ends, but the starting point.

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