Would Je­sus be in fa­vor of Civil Unions?

The Covington News - - Religion -

In a town meet­ing last Sun­day, Sen­a­tor Barack Obama made an in­ter­est­ing re­li­gious state­ment. He said, “I be­lieve in civil unions that al­low a same-sex cou­ple to visit each other in a hospi­tal or trans­fer prop­erty to each other … If peo­ple find that con­tro­ver­sial, then I would just re­fer them to the Ser­mon on the Mount.”

I’ve just two com­ments. First, ho­mo­sex­ual cou­ples al­ready can visit each other in hos­pi­tals. Hospi­tal rules gen­er­ally are that a per­son can re­ceive no more than two vis­i­tors at a time, but the vis­i­tors are not re­quired to be le­gal spouses or bi­o­log­i­cal fam­ily. Sec­ond, where in the Ser­mon on the Mount would Sen­a­tor Obama point us?

The ser­mon is found in chap­ters 57 of the Gospel of Matthew. Nowhere in it does Je­sus men­tion “civil unions.”

Sen­a­tor Obama was not spe­cific. He could have been think­ing of the beat­i­tude, “Blessed are the mer­ci­ful, for they shall ob­tain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). He could have been think­ing of the warn­ing, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Most peo­ple think that the Sen­a­tor was re­fer­ring to the “Golden-rule, “There­fore, what­ever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

Look­ing at th­ese three pas­sages in re­verse or­der, the Golden-rule is easy to mis­in­ter­pret. A thief would prob­a­bly pre­fer a vic­tim’s home to be left open and the valu­ables sit­ting neatly packed on the ta­ble, ready to grab and go. Does this mean that the Chris­tian, “do­ing unto oth­ers” ought to leave door un­locked, valu­ables packed, ready to go? No, not at all.

The call to be sym­pa­thetic does not mean that Chris­tians are to ab­di­cate val­ues. Right and wrong do not be­come what­ever we want them to be. What the Chris­tian home­owner should do is con­front the thief in love, just like we would want to be con­fronted, if we were about to make the same mis­take.

The other pas­sages — “blessed are the mer­ci­ful” and “judge not least you be judged” — are both recog­ni­tion that no one is per­fect.

This is like John Bard­ford’s fa­mous quote, when see­ing a pris­oner taken away to be ex­e­cuted, “‘There but for the grace of God, goes John Brad­ford.”

This does not mean that there will be no judg­ment; rather, it is state­ment that we are all sin­ners and, thank­fully, God is the judge, not us.

There is one other pas­sage in the Ser­mon on the Mount that the Sen­a­tor from Illi­nois may want to con­sider when de­ter­min­ing Je­sus’ views on same-sex unions. Je­sus said, “Do not think that I came to de­stroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to de­stroy but to ful­fill” (Matthew 5:17).

Je­sus fol­lows this state­ment with sev­eral il­lus­tra­tions which make his view of the Old Tes­ta­ment Law clear. He said, “You have heard it said that you shall not mur­der, but I say to you whoever is an­gry with his brother with­out a cause shall be in dan­ger of the judg­ment.”

He said, “You have heard it said that you shall not com­mit adul­tery, but I say to you that whoever looks at a wo­man to lust for her has al­ready com­mit­ted adul­tery with her in his heart.”

No­tice, Je­sus isn’t tak­ing away from Old Tes­ta­ment Law, he is adding it. He is ex­pand­ing the in­ter­pre­ta­tion be­yond the lit­eral to the in­tent of the au­thor. Now here is the crux of the mat­ter, this same law that Je­sus is in fa­vor of is the same law that teaches that same-sex unions are wrong. (Leviti­cus 18:22).

So why would Je­sus be in fa­vor of the law, in gen­eral, but not in this spe­cific in­stance? What is right and wrong does not change even when it is un­pop­u­lar.

The Sen­a­tor from Illi­nois needs to read the Ser­mon on the Mount again, es­pe­cially the part where Je­sus says, “Do not think that I came to de­stroy the Law or the Prophets.”

John Donaldson

Colum­nist

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