Last night we began a series called “Fire and Grace.” It is a study through the book of 1 Peter, in which Peter writes to the churches of Asia Minor. He instructs the churches on how to deal with the persecution they are facing. In the midst of that conversation, Kim Davis came up. I have avoided writing on the subject for a couple of months now because the issues are much more complex than they appear at first glance. However, after last night’s discussion, I thought it might be time to share a few thoughts…And I would love to hear yours as well.
First, Kim Davis is to be commended by Christians. Regardless of whether or not you believe she made a stand in the right place or not…whether her convictions were misguided or appropriate…she is to be commended. As a pastor, I am thankful for people like Kim Davis. She is living out the transformation of the gospel. Whether her decision to be arrested was right or wrong, she showed that the gospel had radically changed her life and she would not sacrifice her faith in the midst of the trial. Our churches need more people like that…we need committed believers willing to stand firm on convictions. Quite frankly, our country needs more people like Kim Davis. She represents a person who is willing to stand by a decision in public office, regardless of the consequences. As a country, we need people with strong convictions.
Second, as the Christian community, we must not marginalize persecution by confusing it with oppression. Several people have asked me about Daniel’s stand, as recorded for us in the book of Daniel. Some have compared Kim Davis to the three Hebrew children thrown into the fiery furnace. I get it…I really do. But having sat across the table from one of the bravest men I will ever know, who lives each day as though it may be his last because of his acceptance of Jesus, please don’t take the Kim Davis scenario to the extreme. I believe it is worth using different terminology, because our words matter. One could argue that Kim Davis is being “oppressed” for her religious faith. She has been put in a difficult position of either issuing a license against her conviction (with her name on it, which is the real issue) or losing her occupation. THAT IS NOT FAIR! However, her life does not hang in the balance for her faith…and there is a difference. When the Supreme Court made its ruling on homosexual marriage, I believe they made the wrong one. They essentially determined that the Federal Government has the authority to define marriage…this will one day come back to haunt them (and us). They put Mrs. Davis in this unfortunate position (and all Christian public servants for that matter!). In my opinion, Mrs. Davis should ask the federal government to issue marriage licenses, which would solve her problems (though it would not address the moral decay of a nation). The federal government should be happy to do so, as they ruled that states do not have the authority to define marriage…therefore, states shouldn’t be the one’s issuing marriage licenses.
Third, the question that most Christians are pondering – “Is she right or wrong?” It’s tougher than it appears on the onset. The truth is, I don’t think you and I can answer that question for her. Here’s what I mean…Looking at the Hebrew children in Daniel 1, they were called upon by the Babylonians to sacrifice their held positions. We remember the three for their refusing to bow and being thrown into a fiery furnace. We remember Daniel for his continual prayer and being thrown into the lion’s den. But chapter 1 begins with compromises. They were reeducated, their names were changed, and their language was changed. Then there came a moment: the king wanted them to defile themselves by eating food forbidden by God. This was the defining moment! A line needed to be drawn in the sand and they were willing to do it. You remember the story, they took their stand and God blessed them. But there is some application here…don’t you think? There were some things they were willing to sacrifice. Their names had beautiful history and heritage, they were testimonies to their God – but they allowed them to be changed, no easy task. Then there came a “line in the sand” moment, at which point they could go no further.
Is Kim Davis a Daniel? I don’t know…apparently, the marriage license issue was her “line in the sand” moment. I commend her and honor her for her willingness to stand on conviction. But there are other Christians, conservative Christians (I have two close friends who serve in the same position), that see the issue differently than Kim. One of them said to me in an interview, “I am not the one issuing the license…the state is. I am called, as a Christian, to obey the law of the land.” His position was not that he was endorsing the marriage by granting the license. He feels that he is only acting on behalf of the state. I know…you will say, ‘But the law of the land is against God’s law!’…and YOU ARE RIGHT!!!! My point is only that there are sincere Christians who have taken a different opinion on this matter than Kim Davis. Whether she is right or not comes down to the testimony we see in Scripture… So let me offer my thoughts: I think Kim Davis is right for taking her stand. She reached a Daniel moment and she stood on her conviction. If another Christian, serving in her position, feels differently then he should operate according to his conviction. We are called to give an account one day and I want to be able to say ‘I had strong convictions rooted in Scripture and I acted upon them.’
But let’s be careful here…don’t marginalize the persecuted church in an effort to make a point. She is being OPPRESSED, not persecuted. IT’S NOT FAIR AND I STAND WITH HER IN A FIGHT FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. Christians should not have to abandon public office, we should be able to act upon our convictions. But let us heed the words of the Apostle Peter, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19) Our response in the midst of difficulty is to entrust our souls to the One who created them and TO DO GOOD.
The church needs committed Christians willing to “draw a line in the sand.” My challenge to you…or should I say, “My challenge to myself is”…make sure I draw the line in the sand in the right place. May we be a people who are known for drawing our line where God draws His…not just a contentious people willing to fight over anything. Every general knows that there are hills worth dying on, let’s make sure we are following our General’s orders on which hill that is.
Held By Grace, Pastor Chris