Last Wednesday, U.S. Marshals took Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis into custody. The Associated Press and CBS News affiliate in Washington, D.C. gave this report:
A defiant county clerk was sent to jail for contempt Thursday after insisting that her “conscience will not allow” her to follow a federal judge’s orders to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
“God’s moral law conflicts with my job duties,” Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis told U.S. District Judge David Bunning. “You can’t be separated from something that’s in your heart and in your soul.”
The judge said she left him with no alternative but to jail her, since fines alone would not change her mind. A deputy escorted her out of the courtroom, although not in handcuffs, to be turned over to the custody of federal marshals. . . .
“I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will,” said Davis, an Apostolic Christian, in a statement this week. “To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s word.”
Her critics mock this moral stand, noting that Davis is on her fourth marriage.
A new era has begun. Americans with religious convictions regarding marriage as a God-inspired, God-revealing, God-directed covenant between one man and one woman have new waters to navigate. Their convictions stand in opposition to the definitions of their governing authorities. We have entered an era of civil disobedience for those who hold a biblical view of marriage and gender. In this era, the conscience of the country will be moved only by the unjust suffering of those who continue to love while experiencing the consequences of their opposition to the government (1 Thessalonians 3:12, 1 Peter 2:21-23, 3:13-17).
Shortly after Obergefell, Toby Sumpter, pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Moscow, ID, provided some helpful instruction. He begins with a most important observation:
One of the immediate conclusions that we must draw about the recent Obergefell decision is that the Lord is giving us this moment. He is giving this set of circumstances to us because He is our faithful and wise Father. He does not give us more than we can bear; He knows our frames. He knows what He’s doing, and despite appearances to the contrary, it’s a gift, a talent for us to invest and make a return on.
Part of that stewardship means repenting of sin and growing in holiness both in the Church and in our individual lives and families. Part of that stewardship means growing backbones and flexing our courage muscles and living and proclaiming the gospel more zealously than ever. But we need to know and believe in our bones that God throws us curveballs because He wants us to learn to hit curveballs. (Emphasis added.)
We have a faithful and wise Father who is not wringing his hands in worry. His will prevails over all other wills. God has intentions for us in these times, and they are good intentions.
Sumpter, then, offers three simple pieces of practical advice:
Some of you may be bakers or photographers, and my advice to you is a. Talk to a good Christian lawyer about all your legal options, b. Consider changing jobs or the nature of your business or moving to a different state, and c. Brace yourself for impact. But it’s easy to cheer those brave Christian souls over there, until it’s your business, your livelihood, your children’s future we’re talking about, and everything suddenly becomes way too real. And you start wondering if that’s really what Jesus meant.
As we have witnessed over the last week, the stakes are high. To be clear-headed about things as dear as our children’s future, we need resolve. We must ready ourselves to obey God while we seek the good of our city and its residents. Using a variety of possible scenarios, Sumpter teases out “the difference between loving sinners and refusing to assist them in their sin.”
So let’s say you’re a contractor, and you get called up to pour a foundation. You do all the necessary bidding and paperwork and show up at the site with your backhoe to dig the thing out and lo and behold there’s a sign that says, “Future Home of Planned Parenthood.” What do you do? Well, you get back in the truck and call the fellow up who hired you for the job and you apologize for wasting his time and politely explain to him that you can’t pour his foundation. And when he asks why, you explain that you are a Christian who loves Jesus and you cannot in good conscience support the work of murdering little babies. Likewise, if you work at a county courthouse that issues marriage licenses and a couple of lesbians walk in and ask for a marriage license, you say, “Sorry, I can’t do that.” And when they demand to know why and whether you’ve been living in a bomb shelter for the last three decades, you explain that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that we would not perish but that everyone who believes in Him might have everlasting life. And when they want to know what that has to do with anything, you say that you’d love to tell them more at dinner tonight, how’s six o’clock? And if your supervisor at the courthouse asks about it, you tell her the same thing. And you keep doing good honest work with a smile on your face until they decide to let you go or decide to let you do what Jesus requires you to do. (Emphasis added.)
To live in this world, we make agreements of all sorts every day. Certainly, we will work for and with people who support things contrary to the Bible. Should we avoid all such exchanges? Again, Sumpter:
But what about buying a Disney movie or the new MacBook like the one I’m typing on — Apple and Disney being two outspoken and vocal supporters of “gay rights”? What’s the difference? The difference is that there are many ordinary life goods and services which Christians may participate in. In order to escape transactions with sinners you would have to go out of the world (1 Cor. 5:10). You may buy coffee from a homosexual because coffee is a common good and that homosexual man has many common life needs (food, clothing, rent) which are entirely lawful. But if the guy puts up a sign that says all proceeds support “marriage equality legislation” then you find a different coffee house. You eat the meat that’s put before you with no questions asked, but if the fellow says that he just bought the steak from Aphrodite’s Hump House then you politely decline (1 Cor. 10:28). Not because the steak is unclean or dirty but for his conscience sake (1 Cor. 10:29). He is eating the meat sacrificed to idols because he’s an idolater. And participation in that feast now becomes a celebration of that idolatry in his eyes.
Some might say, “Wait, aren’t we missing the point here? Aren’t we picking at nits? Isn’t every person a sinner? Aren’t we distracting ourselves from more important issues by focusing on what people do in their bedrooms?” Sumpter answers these concerns with wise (though challenging) words.
First, the principle that what we are trying to embody with all of our enemies is love. . . .
We disarm evil by doing good in return. We disarm cursing by blessing in return. When they try to steal from us, we give our cloak freely. When they demand our service, we go the extra mile. But all of these things assume actual blessings, doing real good. But to help a sodomite celebrate sodomy is to do him evil. To bake the cake for his so-called wedding is to hand him a long metal post in an electrical storm. It’s to do him harm and it’s to assist him in harming others. It isn’t kindness or love. To feed a hungry homosexual dinner is to do him good. To invite the director of Planned Parenthood over for dinner is to invite her (if for a few minutes) out of her love affair with death and to taste and see that the grace of Jesus is good. To give them clothing, to give them rides, to sell them groceries, to give them medical assistance — these are all good things, blessings, acts of kindness which we can and must do. But to bake a cake in celebration of evil is to multiply evil. To rent him the tux for his “marriage” to his gay lover is to curse him. We are called to overcome evil with good, but if we help them celebrate their evil, we are returning evil for evil.
Those who make this stand will find difficulty, but this difficulty is not the sign of God’s abandonment — it is the sign of his favor. Remember, exiles, this is not our home.
. . . God . . . sends us out every week to transform this earth into heaven. And He sends us out to do that by taking up crosses and dying. Shrinking back from these conflicts and their attendant hardships is shrinking back from the very means by which God will bless us and give us this land. We should be thinking about crowns and rewards and the glory of the kingdom. What kind of crown will Jesus give us for losing our business for standing with Him? What kind of reward will be ours for getting hauled off to prison for refusing to help Planned Parenthood, the LGBT Alliance, or the local Porn Hut? We need to see this moment, these circumstances as Jesus handing us glory on a platter. We must not look this gift horse in the mouth. . . .
May the Lord bless us in this, and may the knowledge of His glory fill this land.
And may we soon sit on this sweet hanging curveball and send it far into the stands.
To that I say, “Amen.” To that I say, “Alright, alright, alright.”
One final observation. Now is not the time for hypocrisy — no time is — but all that we stand for will now be evaluated based on our consistency. Did you notice how the AP was faithful to report that Kim Davis is on her fourth marriage? It was an intentional effort to discredit her stand. And, thanks to a dutiful press corps, we all know about Josh Duggar. But before we rail against the bias in the press, let’s pause and consider: Josh did violently defile his own marriage while acting as a defender of God’s definition of marriage. As horrible as his betrayal is to his family, we must not forget that his sin will lead to the ruin of many more who will use it as a justification to ignore the Bible.
In this new era, what we do with our own lives matters far more than we dare consider. Let’s not take our eye off of that ball, either.