It happened on the courtroom steps.
“God loves everybody, so I don’t pay attention to anything they say.” This was the response when a reporter asked a newly married man what he thought of the sign-wielding citizens across the street. That day, January 6, the protesters came out because the state of Florida lifted a ban on same-sex marriage. The man being interviewed, dressed in traditional groom garb, stood beside his legally-bound husband. To have and to hold. Other couples—grooms and grooms, brides and brides—held hands. They embraced like newlyweds do.
It happened two days after my fellow church members and I launched into a study on love and marriage. I don’t think the timing of the new sermon series intentionally coincided with the group weddings taking place at courthouses around the state. The focus of the first sermon was certainly not on the new law and the long-awaited liberty of a community. In a Q&A on Sunday night, the pastor did mention the design—the ideal—is that marriage exists between a man and a woman, but he didn’t harp on it. We didn’t need any instruction about that. One week into the study, it seemed the purpose was to show us the reasons behind God’s design for marriage. Some of those reasons are obvious, some more mysterious.
But it wasn’t lost on me that this new teaching began right before marriage took on a new definition in the only state I’ve ever called home. We are worlds apart—my community and that one. Yet here we are in the same time and place, coursing forward, making history. One group seems to have reached a goal that will alter our culture, while the other group stands against the prospect of being considered outdated, no longer a viable influence in this shifting society. The group on the courthouse steps, or at least their representative, has an eye on God’s love. But do they know what it means for them?
If I throw out the word them like I’m putting them on the other side of a long, tall wall of self-righteousness, forgive me. I’ll climb over any wall to help somebody get more than an eyeful of God’s love, because what we all need is a tight grasp on it. But we are in a world of us and them. Not them, the newlyweds specifically, but the rescued and the lost. You’re either one of us or one of them. We’re not over here on this side of the wall because we got everything right. We’re here because we’re clinging to the love they underestimate. God’s love is less about being accepted and more about being rescued.
Back to love—the married kind. The mystery. I heard something in that first lesson that got my attention. I’ve been a married Christian for a long time. I know about the symbolism of Christ and the Church. I’ve studied The Song of Solomon as a picture of that holy union. The thing that caught my ear was that marriage reflects God’s glory. My first thoughts were of the struggles—marriage is hard. The mess, the chaos, the money (or lack thereof). The changes that turn your spouse into someone other than the person you married. The disillusionment when life doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. Some people can’t handle it. They give up on each other. Even in the community of Christians, it happens. How can all that failure reflect God’s glory?
It all goes back to the design, the ideal. God made it that way. He created a man, and then a woman suited for him. And then He gave them to each other. He planned a perfect union full of fellowship with Him, unconditional love, and blissful intimacy. And then they screwed it up. Well, we all screw it up. Does that mean the ideal is gone forever? No, it just means it’s going to be hard to hang onto. Do I have that kind of relationship with my husband? We've still got it. Does it reflect God’s glory? It’s a poor reflection. If you look at my marriage, or anything about me, you’ll see a blurry image. But one day His glory will be perfectly clear.
“God loves everybody, so….”
Do those newlyweds reflect God’s glory? I’m glad they acknowledge His love, but do they understand the depth of it? Whether they do or not, I won't protest. Not planning a revolution. Not making rude comments. Reflecting God’s glory is hard enough. I’ll let Him deal with the willful twists to the ideal. If there’s any reflection of God in me, I don’t want it clouded with animosity. I want them to see it. Even if they don’t pay attention to anything I say.