Tag Archives: christian

Thoughts on the recent Supreme Court Decision on DOMA

Thoughts on DOMA

In the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act

 Recently the SCUSA struck down the 3rd part of the DOMA passed by Congress several years ago in an attempt to define marriage as between a man and a woman at the federal level. This law did not restrict states from passing their own laws in regards to defining marriage. We have seen several states, pass legislation that allows same-sex partners to either marry or enter into “civil unions” which bestows practically all the benefits legally given to heterosexual married partners at the state level. Colorado has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, but a new law allows civil unions, bestowing many of the same rights as marriage.

What does the SCUSA decision mean?

DOMA itself basically said states did not have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states where it was legal

  • For instance, my wife Casey and I were married in North Carolina, but our marriage has been recognized in Virginia, California and now Colorado
  • Similarly driver’s licenses are recognized across state lines no matter the issuing state.
  • DOMA deemed states were not required to recognize same-sex marriages in the same way

DOMA also states the federal government would only recognize marriages between a man and woman

  • The term “spouse” can not be applied to same-sex couples
  • This is important for several legal rights and in issues such as tax filing and protections

This so-called “third clause” is what SCUSA ruled on.

Two women, (Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer,) legally married in Canada and then moved to New York where their marriage was viewed as legal

  • Thea Spyer died leaving her rather substantial estate to her partner, Edith Windsor
  • The surviving partner attempted to claim the “spouse exemption” on the estate taxes
  • The IRS denied the exemption based on the 3rd clause of DOMA: a same-sex partner could not claim “spouse” status
  • Amounted to a payment to the IRS of nearly $400,000

SCUSA deemed the 3rd Clause unconstitutional in a 5-4 ruling, arguing it violates the 5th Amendment and deprived Edith Windsor of her liberty to be in a relationship with whom she chooses

It made no specific ruling on the legality of same-sex marriage at the federal level

  • The Court’s lack of ruling on this, basically choosing not to rule on this, means it is still up to each individual state to determine whether or not to legalize same-sex marriages or civil unions

While not going so far as to say the federal government deems same-sex marriage and civil unions legal (which is ultimately a function of the Congress), it is a step in that direction

What does this mean as a Christian?

First we must talk about the question of whether or not homosexuality is a sin.

All sex outside of heterosexual marriage is sin

  • Fornication, (sometimes referred to in the bible as “sexual immorality) or sex before marriage, is considered a sin. (Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:21, Acts 15:20)
  • Adultery, sex while married with someone who is not your spouse is a sin. (Exodus 20:14, Matthew 5:27-28, 1 Cor. 6:9)
  • Homosexual activity is no more or less sinful than heterosexual sin outside of God’s plan, but it is still sin. (Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 6:9)

Christians often have a bad habit of viewing homosexuality as “worse” than other sin

  • Christians tend to “go up in arms” against those living a homosexual lifestyle, but do very little towards the heterosexual couple that’s sleeping together outside of marriage
  • Christians also have a very bad habit of forgetting Romans 3:23, that says ALL have sinned and fallen short. I like to call this the “equal opportunity clause.”
  • We’re all in need of Jesus’ grace and forgiveness, all of mankind.

God’s design for sex is in heterosexual marriage

  • Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
  • Jesus reaffirms this verse in Mt. 19
  • Any sexual act outsides of this definition of marriage is sin

Also, we must understand, sin is anything that separates us from God and is a commitment of “cosmic treason” against the Creator

  • All sin leads to death (Romans 6:23)
  • Murder to gossip
  • Societal consequences may vary, but the spiritual consequences do not vary

At the same time:

  • Leviticus 20 specifically calls homosexual activity as a sin
  • Romans 1 says the same thing, specifically speaking to lesbianism as well

There is no caveat for “loving relationship” as a reason to defy the guidance God has given us when it comes to our bodies and our sexual activity

God made our bodies and declared heterosexual, marriage as good and the only right place for sex

So as Christians who believe the bible to be the word of God, this is what we believe in regards to homosexuality

  • Let me reiterate, at the same time, sin is sin…
  • active homosexuality is no worse or better than any other sin that all of mankind struggles with
  • I like to put it this way, little old Sister Sally that gossips about everyone is just as much a sinner as the mass murderer. Again, societal consequences may differ, but spiritual consequences do not.

How do we respond?

The typical Christian response usually falls on two sides

1)   Hardened, politicized war as seen in the early days of the pro-life movement

  • Not usually motivated by love
  • Violent, or at the least, vitriolic protest

2)   Conversely: allow culture to dictate theology, which usually results in moving away from orthodox Christianity in favor of “getting along”

Both are wrong

As Christians, I believe we must:

  • Hold to a biblical view of sex, marriage and family that is not condemning but enticing
  • Contend for love and heterosexual marriage to be seen as a beautiful and desirable thing
  • Cultivate caring relationships with those in the LGBT community so as to have a foundation to express the love, grace and acceptance of Jesus (this should be the case throughout our lives, not only with those of the LGBT community)
  • Lovingly stand firm on a biblical foundation, even though it is more and more outside the cultural norm, of one man, one woman, married for one lifetime
  • Understand the battle is spiritual not physical, according to Ephesians 6:12
    • The wrong response of a politicized war aims to battle the physical side of this issue and that’s not where the real war lies

Let’s fight the SPIRITUAL battle while lovingly and with care leading people to Jesus

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A Biblical View of Alcohol

 

Position on Alcohol, the Church, and the Christian

The purpose of this paper is to establish the position of Ephesus Church (Charlotte, NC) on alcohol, the church, and the Christian. For well over 100 years, the Protestant Christian Church in the United States has held a mostly negative view of alcohol consumption of any kind. This has led to the view that abstaining completely from the consumption of alcohol is holy, godly, and “Christian-like” for all believers. The leadership of Ephesus Church believes this to be an incorrect and unbiblical viewpoint on alcohol. This has led to shame, guilt, and secrecy among many Christians who do consume alcohol. Additionally, it has further separated the U.S. church from the culture it has been called to reach out to by placing undue and unnecessary restraints on living missionally. This paper will clarify a biblical view on alcohol consumption as held by the leadership of Ephesus Church.

Background

Historically, the Church has not held a prohibition on the consumption of alcohol. This is a new phenomenon stemming from social changes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A new piety swept the nation and influenced how Christians viewed alcohol. This led to a widely held value that Christians must be abstentionists or prohibitionists. This culminated in the passing of the 18th Amendment in 1919. Concurrently, imbibing alcohol by Christians took on the label of “sin” and became a new standard by which holiness could be measured. This attitude towards alcohol has continued to the present day in many Protestant Christian churches and organizations. There are instances that this is explicitly stated as requirement for membership in churches and/or denominations. However, more often, it is just “understood” that a righteous Christian will not drink alcohol. These perspectives on the consumption of alcohol have led to a disconnect with the culture the Church has been called to reach, limiting opportunities to gather and share the Gospel with those that do not yet know Jesus. Additionally, a false legalism has led to expectations placed on Christians and non-Christians alike that further separate the Church from its community, a mentality which leads to self-righteous superiority and failure to love people as Jesus does.

 

Position of Ephesus Church

The leadership of Ephesus Church holds the position that consumption of alcohol, in moderation, does not violate Scripture and, in fact, is shown to be a part of the lives of many Leaders of the Faith and biblical persons, including Jesus, the Apostles, and early church pastors. Below, we will present the biblical and historical support for the consumption of alcohol, in moderation, in the Christian’s life.

Biblical Support

  • Psalms 104:15-“wine makes glad the heart of man.” The Psalmist praising God for His Creation that provides for mankind. This includes wine, oil, and bread, the staples of Hebrew life.
  • Ecclesiastes 9:7-“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works.” This is a celebration of a life lived following God.
  • Song of Solomon 1:2-The wife of Solomon makes it clear that wine is good, although married love is better!
  • Luke 5:27-39 (Matthew 9:9-17, Mark 2:13-22)-Jesus celebrates the salvation of Matthew the tax collector at a party thrown by Matthew that includes eating and drinking. He then equates the Kingdom of God to new wine in new wineskins.
  • Luke 7:33-34 (Matthew 11:18-19)-Jesus makes it clear that John did not drink wine, but Jesus had been accused of being a drunkard through His partaking of wine. From this, we know Jesus was not a drunk, but did drink wine.
  • John 2:1-10-The first recorded miracle of Jesus’ ministry is turning water into wine at a wedding feast. It is not feasible that Jesus would miraculously create wine knowing that its imbibing would lead those around Him into sin.
  • 1 Timothy 5:23-Paul encourages Timothy, the young pastor of the church in Ephesus, to “use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.” Modern medicine has shown the positive value of moderate alcohol intake for any number of health issues.
  • Titus 2:3-Church leaders are to “not be given to much wine” along with other valued traits. This is not a call to abstention in leadership, but wise consumption.

From these passages we see that God created wine for mankind to enjoy, that Jesus made and drank wine, and that early church leaders were encouraged to include alcohol in their diets in moderation. There is no restriction on consuming alcohol in moderation in Scripture (over-consumption will be addressed below), therefore Christians today cannot have any such restrictions either.

Alcohol in the History of the Church

This does not seek to be a complete view of alcohol in the history of the Church but selected instances of respected church leaders and Christians throughout history that consumed alcohol.

  • Martin Luther, in letters to his wife, lamented missing her beer while he was away traveling. On the one hand, we see that Luther was deeply in love with his wife; on the other, she was a beer brewer who apparently made a good brew that Luther enjoyed. (Radical Reformission, Mark Driscoll)
  • The Puritans brought beer over on the Mayflower, and the first building they erected in New England was a brewery. (Drinking with Calvin and Luther, Jim West)
  • Arthur Guiness, who began brewing Guiness beer in Ireland in 1759, was a devout Christian who used the proceeds of Guiness beer to finance Sunday Schools throughout Ireland teaching literacy and the bible. His motivation for brewing beer was in response to the large-scale alcoholism throughout Ireland from the consumption of high-alcohol content, yet poorly made, gin. Guiness Beer was a lower-alcohol option, with the added benefit of also cleaning out dangerous bacteria from the water as it was brewed. (Guinness, Relevant Magazine April 2011)

Prohibitions of Alcohol

The position of Ephesus Church is not complete without also addressing the issue of drunkenness. While the bible makes it clear that consuming alcohol is not sinful and, in some cases, encouraged; it also makes very clear, the sinful consequences of drunkenness or the inappropriate use of alcohol in certain circumstances.

  • Leviticus 10:9-10-The priests were not to consume alcohol while performing their priestly duties in the tabernacle.
  • Isaiah 5:11-Isaiah declares “woe” on those that drink all day and become drunk.
  • Proverbs 31:4-5-Leaders are not to drink excessively while presiding as judge.

Multiple times in the New Testament Christians are called to not be drunk.

  • Romans 13:13
  • Ephesians 5:18
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:7
  • Galatians 5:21
  • 1 Peter 4:2-3

Additionally, Christians are called to obey the law of the land in regards to drinking.

  • Romans 13:1-Christians must be “subject to the governing authorities.” In the United States, the legal drinking age is 21. Therefore, Christians who have celebrated their 21st birthday are allowed to drink alcohol. Christians who have not celebrated their 21st birthday are violating Scripture if they drink alcohol in any quantity.

An argument against drinking uses 1 Corinthians 8:9 as a prohibition to drinking alcohol. This verse addresses Christian liberty wrongly causing another brother or sister to stumble in their faith. The argument in this context is that Christians drinking alcohol may cause those prone to alcoholism to stumble. This is a noble challenge. There are those that are prone to alcoholism, and the Church must recognize and appreciate that struggle. At no point can we see our consumption of alcohol from a sense of “selfish entitlement.” 1 Corinthians 8 should not, however, be seen as a wholesale prohibition on alcohol consumption by Christians. Others are prone to obesity, yet Christians celebrate over meals regularly. Also, some are prone to sexual addiction, but Christians do not prohibit interaction with the opposite sex! We must be aware and considerate of those prone to addictions in our actions and words, but we cannot wholesale prohibit many healthy areas of our lives in the process.

Conclusion

The biblical and historical evidence points to the reality that a holy, righteous, and godly life can include the moderate consumption of alcohol. There is clear direction from the bible to avoid drunkenness and, as with all things, be mindful of those around us. But the Church cannot rightly claim that imbibing is sinful. As we joyously live in the freedom of Christ in this area, we are less prone to legalism and religiosity while making Christ and Christian-living more accessible to those that do not yet know Him within our cultural context. And enjoying a drink with friends is a great way to build community!

 

 

 

 

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