When We Would Tell Others

By | September 5, 2015

There is an awesome story in the Christian New Testament where Peter and Jesus (post-resurrected, not-yet-ascended) have an interaction about John, a pesky disciple who gets all the press and attention, when as we know, Peter is the rock of the church:

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” ~ John 21:20-23, NIV

I love this story so much, because it is yet another example of the fine storytelling of the Gospel of John, a romance written 1800 years before we had the idea of a romance expressed as a novel. (By “romance” of course I do not mean an erotic story, but a story based upon the emotional connection of people as opposed to a story of pure details, a personal letter compared to a stolid biography.)

After all the time John and Peter had spent together with Jesus, and after the astonishing events of the crucifixion and resurrection (let’s remember, Peter and John were there and saw the events, and they are now dealing with a Jesus who is up and walking around, talking with them), Peter comes to his senses, reverts to his old self, and starts asking Jesus why his so-called “friend” isn’t getting the what-for from Jesus.

“What about him?”

“What about my brother? He gonna get a whipping, too?”

“But how come I’m getting spanked if my brother did it, too?”

“Officer, what about all the other people who were speeding when I passed them?”

The list of examples can’t be contained in a book, I imagine.

I think that desire to ask God about what he’s gonna do about those other people who are sinning, too! is a common desire.

“What about those gays over there, God!? They’re sinning!

“What about those heathen?”

“What about those immigrants?”

“What about those wimmin walking around without a man covering them as a father or a husband, making their own decisions!?

It’s common, and a pleasant emotion to feel. God, I thank you that I am not like them, said one person in the New Testament. There’s the story elsewhere in the gospels that the “Sons of Thunder” wanted to call down destruction upon a city that rejected Jesus. God, you destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah¸ the thinking went, so why don’t you destroy this city, too? We’ll just sit here and watch.

We want, as faithful Christians, to be sure that all the work we do, and all the sacrifices we make, and all the unpleasantness we endure in our obedience means something. We should be rewarded for our hard work, our privations, our giving. We give so much up for the kingdom. Surely it’s for good because it is for God.

We don’t get much in the way of reward, to be honest. Being obedient to the gospel isn’t a means of assured success, and we don’t always (or even often!) get a recognizable return, much less even an acknowledgement. Just doing our jobs, just being obedient, just being followers of Jesus simply is no guarantee of success here on Earth, and it’s a long time until our reward in heaven.

Of course we’re patient, and we trust God, so we wait.

But in the meantime—what about those sinners over there!? They’re having a great time, doing things we won’t or can’t or shouldn’t do.

They’re getting away with it! we say.

And so we are tempted to not only ask God what in blazes he’s doing by not responding, by not burning down the cities and calling destruction upon the people, but to take matters in our own hands.

To bring about destruction and ruin and penalty and judgment because God is oddly slow to answer our prayers for the destruction and ruin of sinners.

We are terribly tempted to tell others of their ruin, and to ensure that they feel an early penalty, now, here on earth, as long as we have the power to enact and implement that penalty.

Which brings me to the sad case of Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky.

Kim Davis, bless her heart, is a Christian who struggles with the same kinds of things we all struggle with, the common and ordinary temptations of life. After a long time of not knowing Christ and the gospel, she has come to Jesus.

As a fellow believer, I am glad for her to know the saving power of Christ. Well done, sister, I say.

But what she has done with that salvation and with her official power of office is not praiseworthy. It is not honest, it is not godly, and it is not an example of obedience to Christ.

It is, instead, a despicable set of actions, especially because she is using her office to enforce her own, peculiar interpretation of the gospel on others who are not following Christ and who are also not following her.

She has taken the role of Peter here, in asking God “What are you going to do about all those sinners getting married in my county when you, God, have assured me that there is no such thing as ‘gay marriage’?”

Those people, God, what about them?

I’m afraid that our sister in Christ is horribly mistaken in her actions to obey the gospel. She has turned something that is liberation for her into a tool of oppression for others.

The residents of her county in Kentucky are subject to laws of the United States, which are the highest authority citizens must obey.

The Supreme Court of the United States, on 26-Jun-15, declared that same-sex couples may marry in exactly the same way as opposite-sex couples may marry.

Ms. Davis, as an oath-taking member of the state government, is an agent of the government which must obey the laws and the Constitution.

If she feels that same-sex marriage is wrong, then as a government official she has only a few options:

  • She can do her job as a clerk and issue licenses
  • She can resign her job

Those are the only two options.

There is no third option, that as a “Christian” she can continue her job as a government official and refuse to do her job.

If she feels that she cannot, as a Christian, support same-sex marriage—well, then, fine for her. She doesn’t have to go to a same-sex wedding, she doesn’t have to leave her husband and join with another woman in same-sex marriage, and she does not have to officiate at a religious ceremony for a same-sex wedding.

Those are all her choices.

What she has no choice over is in the performance of her duties as a secular government official.

Kim Davis is not operating as a religious enactor of religious laws for members of her church.

She is a secular clerk who, as part of her tasks that she voluntarily swore by oath to do, must perform certain actions, including granting marriage licenses.

She is not participating in the wedding.

She is not getting married.

She is not officiating.

She is free, as a Christian who is attempting to follow Jesus, to dislike same-sex couples and even to avoid socializing with them.

But in the performance of her duties, she is not “Christian” or “Hindu” or even “atheist”: she is simply hired staff, paid by the citizens of Kentucky to perform the duties of her office according to the laws of her state and the laws and Constitution of the United States.

I am sorry she has taken it upon herself to judge others, and to enforce her ideas on others.

I am sorry she has fallen into the same trap Peter fell into, the trap of wanting to know why God isn’t dealing with those people the way she thinks He should.

Peter was lucky, I suppose, in that Jesus was able to stop him from the next foolish action, which would be to make sure that John had to do the same things Peter had to do.

Kim Davis simply needs to heed that example.

She can continue in her duties, a faithful Christian, or she can resign.

She just can’t be telling others how to live their lives, and she can’t expect God himself to back her up.