The Golden Rule

16 04 2013

Disgusting is the only word that describes it.  Scrawling pink spray paint across the War Memorial on Ealing Green carried the illiterate and hateful message: “We didnt foght [sic] 4 gay voting.”  Well here’s some news for the morally degenerate half-wit who wrote that.  Actually, we did.  People died to defend the principle of a society where people are free to decide how they want to live, provided that they do not harm others, and to overthrow a regime which pitilessly exterminated those who did not conform to its image, whether they were Jews, communists, gypsies, or gays.

That principle is profoundly Christian, one of the radical elements of our faith which is deeply challenging for all of us who profess to follow Jesus.  When he said in the Sermon on the Mount, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12), he did not make any exceptions.  If we expect others to tolerate us, we must tolerate them.  If we expect others to respect us, we must respect them.  If we expect others to let us live as we choose, we must let them live as they choose.

Christians often struggle with this because at the same time Jesus also told his disciples to be salt and light in the world, showing others how God wants us to live, and calling them to bring their lives into harmony with his will.  When people live in a way which some Christians perceive to be contrary to God’s will, or when society makes changes which appear to be contrary to the teachings of Scripture, many Christians feel an obligation to speak out and to protest loudly.  Of course, in a democracy we have every right to do that.  But is it the best way?

In first place we are meant to be people who bring good news of God’s love and forgiveness.  There is a danger that all that others will hear is what we are against, and quickly conclude that we – and God – are against them.

In the second place there is the radical and challenging behaviour of Jesus.  The teacher of the Sermon on the Mount, some of the most demanding moral teaching ever given, was also the person who was notorious for associating with people who lived the most disreputable lives. He was called the friend of sinners (Luke 7:34) and rather than stridently confronting their lifestyles he told them that if they wanted it, they had a place in God’s kingdom from the moment they met him.

A lot of Christians are upset about Parliament’s decision in favour of equal marriage for gay and lesbian couples and are voicing their opposition.  What would Jesus do?  It’s not as obvious as we might at first think.  Christians debate the Bible’s teaching on sexuality.  What seems to one to be the plain teaching of Scripture is sincerely held by another to be referring to specific practices at the time.  Jesus’ Golden Rule demands that we respect those who disagree with us about how best to live as God requires.  What is clear however, is that the mission of the churches and every individual Christian is to invite others to connect with God by following Jesus.  That’s best done the way Jesus himself did it, by welcoming others unconditionally and without condemnation to come as they are, and journey together with us in pursuit of God’s best for our lives.

Whatever we think about equal marriage, we should rejoice that people in our society are free to make that decision, and reflect that this freedom is actually, amazingly, something God given. Best wishes Simon



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