Kim Davis: What Would Jesus Do?

Like you, I’m reading and listening to people who don’t understand why a Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk is refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on her religious beliefs. This is a clash of worldviews. Some see their religious liberties being violated. Some see their rights, as upheld by the Supreme Court, being violated. Some see this as religious intolerance and evil. Others see it as intolerance of religious beliefs and long-held values.

My brother-in-law (who describes himself as “anti-religious” and may be surprised that I describe myself the same way) recently asked some questions on a Facebook post that I have considered seriously and am trying to use good reasoning and biblical insight to answer, at least for myself. Before I get to those questions, I want to encourage my Christian friends to do the same. We absolutely must listen to those who are asking questions about what we believe and why. We must try to respond with both love and truth. We must be humble and caring in our communications. I see a lack of that from some of my fellow Christians today. To my non-Christian friends and family members, I’m sorry for all the unkind rhetoric that’s out there. I don’t believe it represents the hearts of true Christ followers. Please try to differentiate between the “religious” people and real followers of Jesus.

The Initial Questions

One of the questions my brother-in-law asked was this: “Does she issue marriage licenses to religions that she doesn’t agree with such as muslims and jews? Does she not sign off on divorce papers?” I don’t know the answers to those questions. But I do think the questions are legitimate. Where do government employees draw the line in regard to where their biblically based beliefs conflict with the nation’s laws and the contemporary culture? I don’t have answers for those questions, but I also don’t believe it is our primary role as Christians to hold rallies and constantly fight against our governing authorities. We can transform society through the power of God by helping people know him and believe in Jesus. Christians, please read Matthew 28:16-20 again. That’s our mission.

The BIG Question
My brother-in-law asked another great question in his post that I think is the main issue: “Is this what Jesus would support?”
Let’s tackle that one from the Bible and with sound thinking.
I’ve seen social media posts recently quoting Peter and the other apostles in Acts 5:29: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” That sounds like a good reason for the county clerk to refuse to issue marriage licenses, doesn’t it? But that’s what we call proof texting, that is, finding a Scripture verse to prove our point of view and then twisting it or taking it out of context. But as always we must use good biblical interpretation. Peter and the other apostles were not responding to a government edict here. They weren’t refusing to do what the Romans were telling them to do. The group they were in conflict with were the religious leaders, specifically the Sanhedrin and the high priest. So this biblical instance would be more akin to a Christian today being told by a head religious leader such as an elder or the Pope to refrain from preaching about Jesus. That’s not at all the case for Kim Davis.
So let me get back to the main question: Is this what Jesus would support? In other words, what would Jesus tell Clerk Davis to do? I don’t want to guess on this. I’d like to go to the source and see what Jesus actually did in situations like this.
Two Examples from the Life of Jesus
I can think of three times when Jesus dealt with people who worked for the government: Levi (Matthew), Zacchaeus, and the Roman centurion. Jesus treated all three men with great love and respect. I’ll look at the first two of them in this post. Both Levi and Zacchaeus were tax collectors who worked for the Romans to collect taxes from their fellow Jews who lived in Roman territory. Let’s look first at Levi and what we can learn from his situation to answer this question.
Jesus saw Levi sitting at his tax booth and simply said, “Follow me!” The tax collector responded immediately: “Levi got up, left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:28). The next thing we read is that Levi threw a party and invited Jesus, all the disciples, his tax-collector friends, and other “sinners.” They all were eating a banquet meal together. Jesus was building relationships with them. I imagine him laughing with them and telling stories . . . with “sinners.” The fact is Jesus was the only non-sinner in the place. I don’t see judgment here. But I see lots of grace. This was Jesus’ way. Just then the religious leaders showed up to spoil the party. They just couldn’t understand why Jesus, a rabbi, was hanging out with these people. Jesus explained that this was why he came to earth: to love and to call and to reach out to those who need him the most.
Seems to me like this scene is being played out today. But what about the issue of marrying same-sex people? This wasn’t the issue for Levi, of course; his issue was extorting money from his fellow Jews for his own gain. Nothing is mentioned in this passage about what Jesus told Levi about how he should conduct his business. All we know is Levi left his tax booth behind to follow Jesus. Jesus changes us from the inside-out when we decide to follow him.
Perhaps the other taxman, Zacchaeus, can help us out here (see Luke 19:1-9). He was not only a tax collector, but the chief tax collector in the region of Jericho and a very wealthy man. For whatever reason, he wanted to see Jesus, and more importantly, Jesus saw him, and invited himself to Zacchaeus’s house for dinner. Again, don’t miss the relational aspect here. Zacchaeus decided to become a follower of Jesus too, and during dinner, he stood up to tell Jesus he would make everything right. He’d give half of his possessions to the poor and repay up to four times what he had cheated people of. This passage does not say Zacchaeus stopped being a tax collector. Unlike Matthew, apparently he continued working for the Roman government, carrying out his legal duties, but he did so with integrity as a follower of Jesus.
One Application for Kim: Two Choices
What can we make of these two biblical cases in relation to Kim Davis? Here’s my application. If she can continue to carry out her legal duties as a government employee and Christ follower, she should do so. But she then must do what her job description entails. If not, she can quit the job, because her duties conflict with what she believes is the right thing to do as as Christ follower who believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. I believe those are her only choices.
I think Romans 13:1 applies in this situation: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities” (see also Titus 3:1 and 1 Peter 2:13-14). If you work for the governing authorities, you are subject to their laws and rules. If you cannot in good conscience carry out those rules, it seems to me that you leave the job, which itself can make a statement about your priorities.
One Vital Question for the Rest of Us who Follow Christ
The big question in all this is, How do Christ followers live in a culture that is increasingly based on beliefs other than the Bible? Christians live with a specific standard for truth: the Scriptures. But much of our culture does not. Truth is relative, not absolute, in the minds of many people. We are living in a society very much like that of the early church, which means our beliefs are no longer the vast majority view. We live as they did as “foreigners and exiles” on earth (1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13), looking forward to “a better country—a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16).
While I live in this world, in this culture, I believe my purpose is to live for God and to allow him to make an impact through my life. As a follower of Christ, who humbly modeled for us how to live (read Philippians 2:1-11), I want to extend as much grace to others that I can. I want to speak God’s truth in love.
My prayer is that God can change each of us, from the inside out, to reflect his love for the world. He lovingly wants what is best for humankind; and I believe that’s why he has provided his truth through the Word. People don’t need the law; they don’t need for us to correct them. They need God’s unconditional love, which transforms lives.

OTHER POSTS ON SIMILAR SUBJECTS

Is Your Small Group (or Church) Ready to Go Underground?
Christians and Religious Knowledge

Is Your Small Group (or Church) Ready to Go Underground?

What will happen to the church and to small groups if (or when) it becomes illegal for Christian ministers to publicly hold up biblical values? What if your testimony became “hate speech”? These are the questions Francis Chan addresses in this three-and-a-half-minute video. The video, I believe, is actually misnamed. While politics is the backdrop of his comments here, Chan’s focusing on the church being the church it’s supposed to be. Take a look:


Francis Chan on Politics from Nate Hanson on Vimeo.

The church that Jesus imagined and founded, the one that is at its purest state, the church the early believers developed and grew under God’s guidance, was an empowered church. God empowers leaders who empower others who continue empowering generation after generation of Christ followers to share the simple and life-changing message of the gospel.

I’d like to think, and I pray it’s true, that if church buildings were closed and church leaders were jailed, the church would not only keep going but would become better and stronger.

It’s sad to me that it would take those kinds of extreme measures to get us to do what we were suppose to be doing in the first place. 

Perhaps we need to stop fighting so much for our “rights” and start empowering others and proclaiming the gospel as we should. Let’s start with prayer, recognizing God’s power, presence, and purposes. May his will be done!

In our small groups and churches, it’s time to share leadership! This is one of the 7 signs of a healthy small group and the one that is the biggest catalyst for a group growing, bearing fruit, and reproducing itself. (See Chapter 3 of Small Group Vital Signs.) It’s time to empower everyone in our groups and churches and to share ownership with every person.

Is your church and your small group ready to go underground? What are you doing to prepare? 

MORE ON THIS TOPIC

10 Stupid Things That Are Keeping Your Small Group from Growing
The Fool’s Gold of Group Discipleship: 6 Small Group Elements Easily Mistaken for the Real Thing
Seven Steps to Share the Leadership of Your Group

What Are the Best Methods and Models for Small Group Ministry?

As a coach and consultant, I’m often asked to talk about the right methods to achieve the goals and mission that the church wants to accomplish. Sometimes the questions sound more sanctified, as I’m asked about the most biblical methods. Other times the discussion forms around models, usually relating to the ones certain successful churches use.

Methods and models often become sacred cows we trust to get results, as if Jesus said, “Those ministries that utilize the best models will bear much fruit. Apart from the correct methods, you can do nothing.”

I suppose it’s easier that way. Just give me a method or at least a good model, and I can implement it. Three simple steps and voila, paydirt. Methods and models don’t take a lot of work and can be implemented quickly. Beginning with mission and culture takes time.

However, the Bible rarely if ever provides one specific method for worship, evangelism, discipleship, community, or anything else of importance.

I was reading Psalm 150 and was struck by all the various ways listed for how and what instruments we can use to worship God. Some commentators imagine a symphony orchestra in this psalm; all these instruments are playing together and people are dancing. I see it more as a list of choices God gives us.

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heaven!
Praise him for his mighty works;
praise his unequaled greatness!
Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;
praise him with the lyre and harp!
Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;
praise him with strings and flutes!
Praise him with a clash of cymbals;
praise him with loud clanging cymbals (vv. 1-5, NLT).

Note that the passage doesn’t even tell us where to worship. It might be in the “sanctuary” or a church building; or it could be outside under the open sky or under the heavens (cf. John 4:21-24).

The main point: “Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord! Praise the Lord!” (v. 6). Praise the Lord is the value. How we praise him is up to us.

When we try to twist (proof text) the Bible to fit into our preconceived notions of where or how we are to do (or not do) “church,” we not only miss the point, but make our faith confusing for people. We also add to God’s Word in direct violation of the Scriptures.

God gives us freedom in methodology. The values and the principles are what are most important.

Last Saturday I had breakfast with two church leaders who are planning their small group ministry strategies for the fall and the next several years. I began by asking them a lot of context questions about their church so I’d have a good idea of the culture there. At first they talked about campaigns, different “types” of groups, and adding people into groups. That’s all good stuff, but those tactics come way down the line in the strategic planning process.

We would then go back to discussing vision, mission, and purpose. The big question: What’s the purpose of groups at the church? After that: What would your senior minister and elders say is the purpose of small groups? How about your group leaders? Group members? Do those match up?

Then we discussed the culture of the church. Like anything else, small groups must work within the culture of your church. That’s why I believe using some other church’s methods and models is foolish. Those things work in their culture. Sometimes they worked in their culture several years ago when they wrote that book or made that video, but as with all things in life, people and cultures change. So figure out your culture and then design your “model” to work with it now. Keep it flexible so that as things change, so can your methodologies. That takes real leadership!

Let’s say your church culture is not as conducive as you’d like for a life-changing small group ministry there. It’s OK. Start slow and develop one, then two, then four, and then more healthy groups. Over time and with much prayer, you may be able to change the culture to become, for instance, more community-focused or more missional in nature. That takes prayer, patience, God’s presence and power, and a commitment to his purposes.

Once the vision, mission, purposes, and culture are known, the strategies, plans, and tactics (the methods) become clearer.

Keep praying. Keep trusting God. And then you can praise the Lord for his mighty works!

MORE ON THIS TOPIC

Top 10 Small Group Ministry Launch Failures