RENDER UNTO CAESAR WHAT IS CAESAR’S AND UNTO GOD WHAT IS GOD’S
By T.L. HEADLEY
MBA, MAT, MA
The Supreme Court has spoken – gay marriage is now the law of the land and short of a Constitutional Amendment there is little that can be done to reverse the decision.
As a Christian, I believe homosexuality is wrong. This is clear from numerous passages in The Bible – both the Old and New Testaments. There is no gray in this. From the Book of Genesis to the Epistles of Paul, the position of The Bible is clear – a marriage in the eyes of God is properly defined as being a joining of a man and a woman.
As an American, I understand the reasoning that in the eyes of the State ALL people are entitled to equal protection under the law and discrimination against anyone is a violation of that right. As a human, I have friends who are gay. I want them to be happy and not feel like “second-class citizens.”
As a political conservative, I am worried about the “unintended consequences” of opening the door to “alternative definitions” of marriage. Where does it stop? Is it unconstitutional to prohibit polygamy? How about pedogamy? Where do we draw the line? Is there a line that can be drawn?
I have thought a lot about this over the past few years and I think I have an answer to these concerns – one that draws its authority from the most authoritative source I know – the words of Jesus Christ.
When confronted with a question from the Pharisees regarding the payment of taxes to Rome, Christ replied simply “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.”
There you have it… very simply and perfectly put. As Christians we should obey the laws of the land. And unlike the people of Judea in A.D. 30, we are lucky enough to live in a nation that has a Constitution that guarantees individual rights. So in that sense, “the yoke is easy and the burden is light.” Also, as Christians we are not supposed to be “of this world” but instead a “strange people.” So in essence, while we are bound by the laws of man, God’s laws supersede them and they apply ONLY to those who accept them. We cannot and should not seek to hold others to that standard. God’s yoke is a yoke of love. It is a yoke offered freely and accepted willingly. It is not offered to us because of something we have done to earn it, but rather by Grace. In light of this, how do Christians live, work and practice our faith in a world that is increasingly – it seems – antagonistic to the values we hold?
The answer is equally clear – we practice our faith and we continue to hold ourselves to those values. It simply doesn’t matter what the government does. We observe its laws in our public lives and we hold ourselves to a higher standard of conduct so that we are “lights unto the world.” We do not act as though we are “better” than our neighbors. We do not crawl into a hole and try to live as hermits or ascetics, rejecting the secular world. Instead, we open ourselves up to be true servants of God through our example. We step up to the plate and show our neighbors love. The issue of marriage is a perfect example – and perhaps we should see this decision as a blessing rather than a challenge. It has reminded us of the true path forward. Marriage has two components – the civil contract and the religious context. As such, it shows clearly that we hold ourselves to a higher standard – separate from the requirements of man.
People can get married in the eyes of the state simply by going to a judge and signing a contract no different than any contract. It simply requires two or more willing adult parties of sound mind. It can also be broken simply by going back to a judge, filling out paperwork and dissolving the partnership and forfeiting any penalties deemed appropriate. For a marriage to be sanctified by God, the parties must meet the requirements set for marriage by God as stated by the religion of the parties. In terms of my faith, the definition is clear. It is a joining of a man and a woman in love with a commitment given to each other and vows made before God. This commitment goes far beyond the simple requirements of the law and, in my mind, cannot be broken in the eyes of God.
In a real sense, we, as people of faith, have cheapened marriage by making it a civil ceremony in the first place. It was our acceptance of government as an agent of marriage that set the stage for this decision – in fact it was our acceptance of government’s role that basically mandates this decision under the rights afforded us by The Constitution. If we had simply continued to observe marriage as a religious ceremony with a civil component of “registration” of the marriage with the government, this decision would never have been necessary. After all, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion … or the free exercise thereof.” We must remember this lesson in the future. As people of faith, whether Christian, Jew or whatever, we must maintain a distinct separation of church and state — as a protection for the faith.
As we conservatives say, “the separation of church and state was intended to protect the church from the excesses of the state.”
Funny, those pesky Founders apparently created a pretty good document after all. Now, addressing this issue as a Christian, we must approach it with love. If it is not already clear, there is no real difference in the eyes of the church between the remarriage of divorced people and a homosexual marriage, just as there is no difference between either and living together outside of marriage.
Does this mean that we should brand those who enter into these relationships with a big red letter and treat them as social pariahs? Of course it doesn’t. Our values do not apply, nor do we have a right to judge them.
Ultimately, what we should concern ourselves with is our own relationship with God, with our spouse and our families. We should count our blessings and work every day to bring people to God, not push people into hell. Now, that doesn’t mean we should not voice our beliefs in the public square. By all means that is not only a right but a responsibility. But it should be done from a perspective of love and in the spirit of neighborliness. We also have a responsibility to stand up for what is right, to protect those who can’t protect themselves, to give voice to the voiceless and salve to the afflicted. THAT is the path forward – and that path hasn’t changed since Christ gave us our Great Commission to take his message to the world.
So in the end… nothing has changed.
About the author: T.L. Headley is a journalist and public relations professional specializing in the energy industry and economic development. He holds an MBA from West Virginia University and an MA in public relations/journalism from Marshall and is working toward a Ph.D. in Education. He is 2001 graduate of the state Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership West Virginia program and is qualified for professional certification in economic development.