Recall from last week that the above image appeared on a Facebook friend’s page and it fostered a discussion which was both spirited and misguided. Once again, the two basic recurring premises were these:
1) The church should stop harping on the sin of homosexuality, treating it as worse than all others.
2) Because of rampant divorce in the church, the church has lost its moral authority to speak to the issue of gay marriage, and to continue to do so is the height of hypocrisy.
Having already addressed the first premise, let’s proceed to the second. In my estimation the second notion is even more wrong-headed than the first.
The church shouldn’t speak against gay marriage because divorced folks have the audacity to attend worship services? How does one answer such illogic?
Is the subject of greed taboo with all the registered Republicans and overzealous ushers afoot? Perhaps we shouldn’t address drunkenness or sexual lusts because our churches sometimes contain closet-Episcopalians and public school-teenagers.
In other words, the idea that we cannot speak of certain sins due to sinning saints is ill-begotten. The opposite is true. Because the church is filled with sinners we must never cease to talk of sin, repentance, and forgiveness. Sinners—especially Christian ones—need to be reminded of God’s law and Gospel.
Aside from all this, I’ve often wondered: What do our detractors want us to do with people who’ve experienced the heartbreak of divorce? Dis-fellowship them? Maybe quarantine them from the more “righteous” parishioners—a Sunday separation akin to “children’s church”?
What about divorce and moral authority? Are we to believe the church’s moral authority rises as its divorce rate falls? Imagine someone saying: “Well my church can talk about the sin of gay marriage all day long because we kick divorcees to the curb like it’s nobody’s business. We’re holy like that.” This is no standard of righteousness.
Furthermore, and more fundamental, do we speak of the sin of homosexuality (or any other sin for that matter) based upon the moral authority of the church, in and of itself? I think not.
The church is not its own moral authority. The moral authority of the church is derivative and it does not rise or fall. The church’s moral authority comes from sacred scripture. We appeal to the undiminished authority of God’s word in matters of faith and conduct—not to the lives of individual Christians.
Nevertheless, should we be concerned with how the unbelieving world perceives the church? Indeed we should. Should we eschew even the appearance of hypocrisy? Of course! But should we abandon teaching biblical morality—as it pertains to marriage and other things—because Christians often falter and fail? No, absolutely not.