The aftershocks of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage continue to reverberate in our nation, denominations, and congregations. The 5-4 decision split reflects the deep divide in popular sentiment on the subject.
I shared previously that The United Methodist Church’s policy remains unaffected by the court case. The Book of Discipline prohibits clergy in our denomination from officiating at same-sex marriages. Some applaud the church’s stance while others call for change.
Over the past weeks, I’ve listened to strident voices on both sides of the issue. In the midst of the national debate, I have wrestled with three questions:
- What is the core character of a Christian?
- What are the core beliefs of a Christian?
- What is the core mission of a Christian?
The Core Character of a Christian
One day a Jewish teacher asked Jesus: “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” The Lord added that the second commandment is like the first: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The core character of the Christian is love of God and love of neighbor. We can agree to disagree and continue to love one another.
The Core Beliefs of a Christian
Hmmm . . . this one’s trickier because the “what” varies in size among believers. Unitarians profess a minimalist belief in one God—period. Contrast this to a church sign that declared: “We are a 1611 King James Version, Inerrant-Bible, Premillennial, Post-Tribulation Believing Church.” For me, The Apostles Creed sums up the core beliefs that I cannot compromise.
The Core Mission of a Christian
In Matthew 28, Jesus gave the church its “Great Commission:” making Christian disciples. Set our current debate in a larger context. Many congregations’ worship attendance drops yearly. The United Methodist Church has not posted a positive membership increase in decades. Christianity continues to decline in the United States. According to a recent Time magazine article, the only world religion outpacing world population growth is Islam.
The ship hit the iceberg long ago, and we’re still rearranging chairs on the Titanic. God forgive us as the rest of the world goes to hell.
When I grow pessimistic, I recall that Jesus promised the gates of Hades would not withstand the church’s march. The Christian church continues to grow in many parts of the world, including Korea, and Africa. However, if the American church does not experience revival, then our grand churches will become museums, restaurants, and bars just like they have in Europe.
So it’s time for Christians to make the main thing the main thing: making disciples of Jesus Christ. If we cannot agree to do this, then all of our other debates are meaningless.