Church, State and Kentucky

If you’ve been watching the news or any social media the past couple days you know that a county clerk in Kentucky, Kim Davis, has refused to issue marriage licenses in her county – straight or gay – and is now in jail for her refusal based on her religious convictions.

This is a tough one for the Christian community. Some believe that she should stick to her guns and defend her faith and 1st Amendment rights of freedom of religion. Others think she’s violated the law as an elected official, which is why she’s in jail, and it has nothing to do with her personal religious beliefs.

When these types of things come up I have to stifle my worldly reactions and go back to Jesus to figure out how as a Christian I am supposed to respond. So what does Jesus and the Bible teach us?

Jesus lived in a time that was significantly more corrupt and depraved than what we experience today in America. Beyond the sexual immorality that included adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, orgies and the like, Paul describes the culture this way in Romans 1:29-31, “29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.”

Pop Quiz: How did Jesus respond to a government that allowed and even perpetrated these things and a culture that embraced it?

Yes, it’s a bit of a trick question because Jesus did not engage it at all. Instead He taught His disciples and anyone else who would listen that all of those worldly ways were Satan’s ways and were wrong. His people were not to engage in them. Further, His disciples were to go into this very brutal world and love people – not judge them – and share with them the love of God and the offer of grace and salvation.

In short, Jesus did not engage in the politics of His time. And believe me, there was plenty to discuss given both Roman and Greek influence in Israel.

What does this teach us about Ms. Davis and her refusal to issue marriage license?

For me it comes down to a few questions:

  1. Is issuing a marriage license a required part of her job or is it optional?
  2. Is she violating the law by not issuing a marriage license?
  3. Is she violating her oath of office by not issuing a marriage license?

Believe me, I’m with her in terms of believing as a follower of Jesus I also could not issue a marriage license to a gay couple. But my response would be different than hers based on what I see Jesus doing in scripture.

If it were part of my legal obligation to issue those licenses or part of my oath of office I would have to resign my position rather than issue them. “Caesar” has declared that gay marriage is legal and while I disagree with Caesar Jesus Himself said we must give unto Caesar what is His. Jesus did not break Jewish or Roman law even though He had every right to AND every moral obligation to. He did break Jewish tradition, which is different.

That said, like Jesus I would not do anything that conflicts with my faith – Jesus teaches this very clearly in His actions when He heals on the Sabbath; doesn’t wash His hands before eating; and turns over the money changer tables in the Temple. They guy certainly stood up for what He believed!

For me, however, taking an elected position in the secular world means that I am agreeing to the conditions of that secular job. If I reach a point where those conditions, however, conflict with my faith I must abdicate the position – it’s a matter of integrity.

I understand why Ms. Davis is drawing a line in the sand and feels she must martyr herself over this cause. I think she sees herself as Paul going to jail for preaching the gospel. But Paul was imprisoned for his teachings; she is in jail for not abiding by the laws she swore in an oath to uphold. It’s a little different.

I do respect that she’s chosen jail over rejecting her faith. What I struggle with is whether her decision follows Biblical precepts. For me, I’ve always believed that when you take a job you are submitting to the conditions of that job (pay, work environment, hours, politics, etc…). If you accept any job you don’t really have the right to whine about the details because you agreed to it. If you don’t like it, leave – the great thing about America is you can go get a different job!

In Ms. Davis’ case I think she should have simply resigned her position as others in the same predicament have done around the country. The conditions of her job changed to the point where it conflicted with her faith. Good for her for acknowledging that and not compromising her faith, but show the love of Christ by humbling yourself, declaring Christ’s love for those with whom you disagree, and quit.

If you want to fight the political fight against gay marriage, go for it. But realize that the Bible doesn’t say you are supposed to be fighting political fights. Jesus tells us that we will make a difference in this world by the way we love one another.

I prefer to do my best to love, show grace and mercy, and agree to disagree with secular people on a variety of topics (Gay Marriage, Abortion, Divorce, etc…). But I want them to know that Jesus loves them as much as He loves me even if they are not doing things God’s way. And it’s not my job to judge the world – Jesus already took care of that.

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3 comments

  1. Lisa Mann · · Reply

    Finally got to read this. So well done and level in approach—biblical and true.

  2. This is a very appropriate and informed treatment of this subject and there is much to agree with in your words. Politics certainly is not the realm of the Christian, for it is the ultimate arena where compromise reigns for those who would survive, which is not really the call of the Christian! Believers would do well to remember that while governments are to rule in righteousness and justice (see Romans 13 for example), the Christian is to be ruled by grace. We should pray that our government would rule in this manner that we might lead peaceable lives while we wait for Him to return, if we do indeed trust that He will.

    Not that we turn a blind eye, only that we realize God’s sovereignty and our proper position as ambassadors for Christ. Prayer is our best response here; prayer that there would be a godly working in the hearts of those insisting on these rights. We will affect far more good with knees bent and heads bowed than with fists raised.

  3. This is a very appropriate and informed treatment of this subject and there is much to agree with in your words. Politics certainly is not the realm of the Christian, for it is the ultimate arena where compromise reigns for those who would survive, which is not really the call of the Christian! Believers would do well to remember that while governments are to rule in righteousness and justice (see Romans 13 for example), the Christian is to be ruled by grace. We should pray that our government would rule in this manner that we might lead peaceable lives while we wait for Him to return, if we do indeed trust that He will.

    Not that we turn a blind eye, only that we realize God’s sovereignty and our proper position as ambassadors for Christ. Prayer is our best response here; prayer that there would be a godly working in the hearts of those insisting on these rights. We will affect far more good with knees bent and heads bowed than with fists raised.

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