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When sin has a face


On June 26 The United States Supreme Court announced its ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8. The high court decided to overturn provisions in DOMA signed in 1996 by President Bill Clinton protecting traditional marriage between one man and one woman as husband and wife. The decision not only allows, but encourages same-sex marriage in our country.

The Supreme Court also announced its decision to reverse the voter-approved Proposition 8 in California, making it legal for same-sex couples to wed in the state. In making this landmark decision the court ruled against the democratic, or majority, vote of the people of California, saying that state bans on gay marriage would also be unconstitutional.

Regarding these decisions, the leadership of Traditional Values Coalitions released a statement explaining, “Some days our civilization erodes slightly in feet and inches, other days it drops a mile at a time. Today is one of those days when our culture’s decline is widely felt.”

When the Court decides what is legal and appropriate for a secular, civil government and when comparative changes take place in our own personal environment how should we respond?

Many conservative Christians have knee-jerk reactions to such decisions and are quick to pass judgment. We have been programmed to view divorce, abortion, homosexuality, and other sins with condemnation and vehemently declare that they are among those transgressions that are symptoms of our moral decline and crippling our culture. We sometimes even dare to paint the transgressor with a “scarlet letter” and isolate them or keep them at arm’s length.

But what happens when the Supreme Court rules against our biblical principles or what happens if those sins suddenly have a face?

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio reversed his stance on same-sex marriage two years after learning that his son is gay.

In a review with reporters in his senate office earlier this year Portman said that his son, Will, announced to his mother and him in February of 2011 that he was gay. Portman added, “It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that’s the perspective of a dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have – to have a relationship like [my wife] Jane and I have had for over 26 years.”

Portman said that his son, who is now a junior at Yale University, inspired him to reassess his position on same-sex unions. The senator also consulted clergy on the matter, as well as friends such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter, Mary, is openly gay. According to Portman, Cheney told the senator to “follow [his] heart” on the matter.

Portman explained, “The overriding message of love and compassion that I take from the Bible, and certainly from the Golden Rule, and the fact that I believe we are all created by our Maker, that has all influenced me in terms of my change on this issue.”

In John 8 we are told that the religious leaders in Israel brought to Jesus a woman taken in adultery and said, “Moses in the law commended us, that such should be stoned; but what sayest thou?”

Those scribes and Pharisees were prepared to pelt her with rocks. I can imagine that throughout the horrible ordeal she had her head hung down in shame, perhaps with her long, flowing hair hiding her face, concealing her identity. They were all ready to stone her because they saw her as a fallen woman and they were committed to meticulously keeping the law.

But what if when she turned her face upward to look at Jesus her hair fell away from her face and her identity was exposed for all to see? And what if one of the Pharisees suddenly recognized the woman to be his daughter, niece, or sister? Do you think he would have been as eager to stone her once he saw her face?

... what if when she turned her face upward to look at Jesus her hair fell away from her face and her identity was exposed for all to see? And what if one of the Pharisees suddenly recognized the woman to be his daughter, niece, or sister?

Should our convictions about adultery change when the adulterer is a family member? Should our view of homosexuality be altered when we discover that our son announces that he is gay or our daughter comes out of the closet to admit that she is a lesbian? Should our condemnation of abortion be modified when we discover that a loved one has terminated the life of her unborn child?

Should we alter our convictions when sin suddenly has a face?

Portman may have followed his heart and may have found some passages of Scripture that supported his conclusion, but most of us could find proof texts to justify our beliefs or behaviors.

The pleasingly plump person could cite Nehemiah 8:10 as his/her justification for gluttony – “Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto the Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Through the years men have used the account of Jesus turning the water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee as a justification for imbibing strong drink. However, oinos, the Greek word for “wine” in that context, can mean “grape juice” that is not fermented. Anyone who understands Jesus Christ would find it completely out of character for him to be in the business of making any kind of alcoholic beverage.

In the 19th century both the North and South in this country used the Bible to justify their views on the issue of slavery, illustrating that there are “proof texts” in the Bible for just about anything.

So, Portman was wrong to use a few verses of Scripture to satiate his desire to appease his son and condone his lifestyle. Real love involves correction and chastening. God’s Word tells us that He chastens those whom He loves.

It is because He doesn’t want us to disobey Him, because He loves us and understands the damage that sin does to us.

If we love our children, we discipline them in order to protect them from the dangers of this world. We get that entire attitude from our Heavenly Father, because He will do whatever is necessary to conform His children into the likeness of Christ inasmuch as He predestined us for this very reason.

It is absolutely true that we are most protected in close proximity to Him. Therefore, since sin separates us from Him, then sin places us in an unprotected position.

So, how can we say that we love someone then stand by and say nothing knowing that they are practicing sin and carrying on as though it is okay? When we continually shield loved ones from the consequences of their errors we often deprive them of the opportunity for the growth and maturity that could possibly eradicate problematic behavior. In what has come to be known as “tough love,” the chastening hand is always controlled by a loving heart.

So, when sin has a face we do not change our view of sin, but we demonstrate an unconditional love for the sinner – a love that prays for them, a love that tells them the truth, a love that warns them of the consequences of sin, a love that points them to Christ, a love that doesn’t waver even if is rejected or fails to produce a change, a love like the father had for the prodigal son, and a love that continues to love even if the prodigal choses not to come home.