After the recent ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States on same-sex marriage, I read several online comments on the matter. I noticed two extreme positions.
On the one hand, standing with the supporters of same-sex marriage, are those who appeal for love, acceptance, inclusiveness and respect for their views. On the other hand are those who voice opposition to the ruling because of their conviction of what the Bible teaches on the subject. In the former case, the appeal is on the grounds of grace. In the latter, it is based on truth.
When grace alone forms the basis of our position, the result is adaptation to the mood of the times. Over a longer period, this position becomes relative. As society changes, our behaviour goes with the flow.
When truth alone is the foundation of our position, it soon slides into legalism. With the passage of time, our hardened hearts become merciless and inhumane. Phariseeism is the result.
What has led to the situation in some supposedly progressive countries was the gradual erosion of truth. There is no longer any reliance on absolutes which are non-negotiable values of life. Everything is relative (“it all depends”).
As Christians, we are to be grounded on truth as the root of our conduct. How we live is shaped by what we believe to be the revealed truth from God. Our conduct is guided by God-inspired motivations prompted by His Spirit living in us, and the revealed Word of God. We are to love even our enemy – that is grace – on the truth that is written in the Word of God. To exercise grace not founded on God’s Word may turn out to be “cheap grace”.
For the more conservative in our community, our response is supposedly based on truth. Yet for many of us, what was originally truth is today’s folklore. We do not really know why we believe what we believe. We accept these beliefs because they were handed down to us. As a result, what we think is truth has actually been shrouded with myths and half-truths, which often become the weapons used by those who are more fundamentalist among the conservatives.
Often, such diversity is resolved by resorting to a “balance”. But our heavenly Father’s approach is not a balanced one.
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
John 1:17, ESV
Jesus was the Father’s singular response to His own people who had rejected Him. To those who believed in Jesus (who is both grace and truth), there was salvation.
Grace and truth came in a Person. These are not just theological concepts to be debated. In the end, they have to be incarnated. Grace and truth are to be embodied in a person who lives them out in action.
This singular response that Jesus portrayed is seen in His words to the woman He saved from being stoned by the crowd. “Neither do I condemn you: go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11, ESV) With these words, He indicated to her that she had been living in sin. But He did not condemn her. He told her to turn her life around, i.e. repent.
May all of us respond with such singularity, something that will only come about when we have moved further on in being Christ-like.
Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2012. He has been a Methodist pastor for 30 years.