Who am I to Think that I Could Stand in God’s Way?

Who Am I 1
I’ve had a scenario playing in my head over the past few days. It hasn’t happened but I’m wondering how I would respond if it did.

In it, a couple of friends, John and Kelly, arrive at my house one evening and I’m not prepared for what they have come to talk about.

For the purpose of this story, John represents a few guys that my wife and I have kept in touch with over a long period as they’ve gone through marriage to lovely Christian women (who turn out to be unfaithful to them), fatherhood, divorce and return to bachelorhood.

In this scenario, John has moved to Australia and, on a brief visit home about two years ago, had introduced to us Kelly, from China, who is a few years younger than him. My experience of working with the Asian community and background in mentoring and relationship coaching are useful in helping John and Kelly over the internet to work though issues that come with developing a committed and caring relationship that is good for both of them.

As the scenario develops, they are back in New Zealand for another visit and arrive at my door and I welcome them in. We sit down with a wine and they surprise me by asking if I would use my powers as a registered Christian marriage celebrant to conduct their wedding in a few months. We talk through why they want to get married and I become sure that they have thought carefully through everything and are at least as committed as any couple I have ever taken through preparation for marriage.

Also by Mal: I’m Heterosexual and that’s Not Okay

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I challenge them on cross-cultural issues and they show a remarkably good grasp of having worked through potential challenges that I have seen undo other cross-cultural relationships. We talk about a range of topics and they reveal in passing that they have not had sex and are saving themselves for marriage (which is not something I come across often these days – especially among Christian couples!). They also mention how they believe God has led them together and prepared them for each other through previous experiences. They speak about the future they see for themselves in mission for God and how they believe that their past experience in mission will be enhanced by both of them working together as a committed, married couple.

And so they talk excitedly about the wedding plans – what they want in their wedding service and who will be taking part – and we start to finalize the plans.

As I mulled over this scenario, the words from the bible came to me from the story of Peter and Cornelius – “Who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” This proposed marriage seemed to give evidence of such a strong expression of the way of God. It seemed to fit all the criteria of Christian marriage – careful courtship, abstinence, a sense of a call of God, a commitment to mission, a demonstrable commitment to each other. Why would I not agree to be the celebrant for this wonderful couple?

At this point, my scenario went into freeze frame mode. Kelly is a male. So, how do I respond to the question, “Who am I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”


Mal Green is a member of Incedo, a mission order in New Zealand exploring what it means to follow Jesus with young people 24/7 outside of the structures of Christianity so that we can invite them to join us in our faith adventure. He has been hanging out with young people since 1969 while studying, lecturing, mentoring, pastoring.

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About the Author

Mal GreenMal Green is a member of Incedo, a mission order in New Zealand exploring what it means to follow Jesus with young people 24/7 outside of the structures of Christianity so that we can invite them to join us in our faith adventure. He has been hanging out with young people since 1969 while studying, lecturing, mentoring, pastoring.View all posts by Mal Green →

  • Tomas

    Hi Mal, thanks for this thought provoking piece. Ok, I will bite. How would you respond to Romans 1:26-27, I Cor. 6:9-10, and I Tim. 1:9-10 and I guess while I am at it Lev. 20:13 and Deut. 23:17-18. Thanks and blessings of His peace and love in your ministry. Tomas from Costa Rica

  • Zach R

    “It seemed to fit all the criteria of Christian marriage – careful
    courtship, abstinence, a sense of a call of God, a commitment to
    mission, a demonstrable commitment to each other.”

    What about the criteria that marriage be between a man and a woman, as indicated in the Creation account and several epistles of the New Testament? Why do you assume that standing in the way of homosexual marriage is standing in the way of God? Just because two people want to get married doesn’t mean that God wants it, just as someone wanting to commit adultery does not mean that God sanctions it. Desire does not confer an automatic blessing from God.

    What many people seem to be forgetting in Christian circles is that we live in a BROKEN world. We live in a world characterized by sinful desires. We live in a world in which all of us have areas of our lives that are not in conformity to God’s will.

    Some of us have unholy desires for wealth, others for fame, others for success, and some of us have unholy sexual desires. None are better or worse than any other, but we have to remember that what we want is very often different than what God wants. The word of God, revealed in the Holy Scriptures, MUST be our guide for discerning which desires are good and which are not. And I have never had a convincing argument grounded in Scripture that can intelligently claim that homosexual marriage ever constitutes God’s will for someone.

    • Anonymous

      I’ve never seen the world as broken. Occasionally cruel, yes, but certInly not broken. I suppose it depends on how one chooses to interpret Gen. 1-3.

      • Zach R

        Well, honestly, I see brokenness every day in myself. When I am convicted of my sin, and I realize how much my sin distances me from my Creator, I am forced to confront the reality that things are not as they ought to be. I think that if we accept that sin is a reality in this world, then our understanding of everything in it (culture, ourselves, other people, nature, science, art) must be informed by that reality.

        • Anonymous

          I don’t see the existence of struggle or imperfection as a sign that things are wrong. Being imperfect and making mistakes, to me, just sort of go with the whole “being a limited being” thing.

          I find that “people are basically good, we just make mistakes and have to train ourselves to not make those particular mistakes anymore” is better for my psychiatric health than “people are hopelessly broken and I’ll never be able to improve because the world has gone WRONG.” Which is kind of the thought process that original sin tends to lead to when your brain is wired to be clinically depressed.

          • Drew

            I take it you have never read OR you’re not a fan of OR you have cut out Romans 3 in your Bible.

          • Anonymous

            I have had it memorized since I was in elementary school. However, “ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” means “ME TOO.” As Jesus constantly pointed out, it’s bad form to point out the speck in your neighbors eye when you have a plank lodged in your own. As we judge others, so shall we BE judged.

            I also don’t see how “treat gay couples with basic human dignity” in any way falls under “doing evil to bring about good results.” As the patterns in suicide rates among gay teens clearly shows*, the current conservative attitude toward gay people has brought forth some very rotten fruit. And a good tree never gives forth bad fruit.

            This is something the Church needs to change on–just like it changed on slavery 150 years ago. If the Church does not change with regard to gay equality, it will die. Attitudes toward homosexuality are consistently given by young ex-Christians as a primary reason why they left the fold.
            _______________________________

            * Suicide rates are 4-5 times higher among gay teens than among the general teenage population–in conservative areas of the U.S. In areas where homosexuality is accepted, the gay-teen suicide rate is the same as it is for everybody else. This implies an external cause for suicidal depression among gay teens.

          • Frank

            If there was nothing wrong we wouldn’t sin. What is wrong with us is that we have a sinful nature and yes as we repent it helps us grow.

          • Drew

            So, if you’re a manufacturer, and every widget has a defect, and there is nothing wrong with the machine making the widget… you wouldn’t say that inherently the widget has something wrong? That is just complete foolishness.

  • Frank

    The real question is “who are you to reject God’s perfect plan for marriage and sexuality as one man and one woman?”

    Sounds like hubris to me!

    • Anonymous

      You’re right. Saying that “one man, one woman” is God’s perfect and unchanging plan for marriage is hubris. Especially when there is so much evidence in the Bible itself that marriage has, in fact, changed.

      Or do you have 3 wives and a handful of concubines and maidservants at home?

      • Frank

        I would suggest instead of posting your biblical ignorance for the world to see you go back and study some more.

        The answers in response to your assertions have been discussed and debunked over and over.

        • The_L1985

          And I say again: God is not subject to human control, and is able to CHANGE HIS MIND. To believe otherwise is to blasphemously assert that you know the mind of God and are capable of controlling him. Is that really what you want to say?

          Furthermore, seriously LOOK at the OId Testament. Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon, and probably several other people whose marriages aren’t recorded, were polygamous. Never ONCE is polygamy itself said or implied to be sinful in any of those passages. This idea about marriage has changed.

          In Leviticus, it says that if your virgin daughter is raped, she has to be sold in marriage to her rapist (essentially sex-slavery with less social stigma). This idea about marriage has also, thankfully, changed.

          I would suggest that instead of implying that someone who’s read the entire Bible is ignorant, that you self-examine and decide whether the things you promote as Biblical really are, or whether you merely want them to be because you want to be right. Pridefulness is unbecoming.

  • Drew

    I admire the appeals to raw, unadulterated emotion. However, that is no substitute for the Bible and what the Bible says about marriage.

    • Anonymous

      You mean like how Jesus himself said we aren’t supposed to divorce people?

      You’re absolutely right. No-fault divorce is an abomination and counter to Biblical marriage. We need to go back to the Biblical system, in which a man keeps numerous wives as, essentially, sex slaves and housekeepers FOR LIFE.

      There is a lot more said about polygamous marriage in the Bible (and not really anything negative) than there is about gay marriage–which wasn’t even a concept. There wasn’t even a word for “homosexual” until the 19th century.

      • Drew

        I give you credit for being savvy enough to use multiple rhetorical devices in your post. Well done. However, I’m not a fan of empty rhetorical devices. We’re not talking about polygamy or divorce here, and it is not relevant to the discussion. Genesis and the NT are pretty consistent on monogamy, and I am not an advocate of divorce. However, gay couples can already live together, so the debate is about legal benefits of living together. Prohibiting gay marriage would not be akin to prohibiting divorce but rather prohibiting the legality of divorce.

        • Anonymous

          1. Genesis and the NT are NOT consistent on monogamy. Jacob marries two women (and stays married to BOTH at once), and fathers children on both wives AND on their personal slaves, Zilpah and Bilhah. Never once is Jacob condemned for having multiple wives at once, or for having sex with their slaves. In fact, the birth of the 12 tribes of Israel in this manner is seen as a good thing.

          Abraham has sex with his slave Hagar, but that aspect of things isn’t the problem. No, God’s just mad at him for not having faith that Sarah will conceive.

          Later in the Old Testament, David and Solomon both have multiple wives. Again, their polygamy is not described as a sin or flaw in any way. David is punished for marrying Bathsheba solely because he killed Uriah to get his wife.

          A nuclear family, with one breadwinning husband, one stay-at-home wife, and their children living as a unit, is a 20th-century invention. People used to live with their extended families.

          Marriage has changed, yet couples are still devoted to each other. People still love their spouses and enter into the commitment of marriage. Marriage is a stronger institution than you seem to think. It will survive this change too.

          2. No-fault divorce is relevant. See below.

          3. The Roman Catholic Church (tied with Greek Orthodox for the honor of being the oldest surviving offshoot of the Pauline church) has prohibited divorce among its members since the Council of Nicaea. When no-fault divorce was legalized, other churches started marrying divorced people–but the Catholic Church still does not allow it. The RCC suffers no legal penalties for their stance on divorce.

          If gay marriage is legalized, then those particular denominations, Christian and otherwise, that accept gay marriage as legitimate will be able to perform same-sex weddings that are backed up by the law. (Don’t kid yourself–ministers, priests, and rabbis of all sorts are already performing same-sex wedding ceremonies nationwide. They just can’t pronounce such couples legally married in states where same-sex marriage is outlawed.)

          Those churches that oppose same-sex marriage will not have to change a single thing that they are doing. This is because legalizing gay marriage only affects CIVIL marriage (i.e., getting a marriage certificate notarized and approved by a justice or registered clergy) and its legal benefits, not religious wedding ceremonies. Churches can recognize or not recognize whatever marriages they want to.

          • Drew

            I should have clarified Genesis by prefacing it with “before the fall.” You never addressed the NT, conceding that point to me.

            If your question is why the RCC prohibits no-fault divorcees to remarry while other Churches allow it, that is an interesting question.

          • Montanamama1980

            Go to CNN or Fox News and you will see the consequences of Abraham’s sleeping with Hagar. Just because the Bible records something doesn’t mean God is approving of it. Plus, does God bless you? In spite of your sins and “mistakes”? I’m sure He does.

            The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick;
            Who can understand it?“I, the Lord, search the heart,
            I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways,
            According to the results of his deeds. Jeremiah 17:9-10

          • The_L1985

            Wait. Are you honestly insisting that, instead of punishing Abraham himself while he was still alive, God waited about 4000 years to do so by making interfering Westerners destabilize the Middle East, causing historical tensions between Jews and Muslims to escalate into outright bloodshed?

            The violence we’re seeing in the Middle East in general was pretty much non-existent before the 20th century–about the time that oil was discovered in the region. Americans, Brits, and other white people wanted that oil very badly, so we started sticking our fingers in. Our leaders don’t actually want peace in the Middle East, because they are in the pockets of the oil industry, and the oil industry wants countries it can more or less control. Saudi Arabia is run by oil tycoons that WE put in power. WE encouraged the Ayatollah Khomeini to replace the old shah in Iran, then realized what a horrible decision that was by 1979. WE put Saddam in power, then took him out. WE make sure that the only people with any real power are the ones who keep feeding our society’s petroleum addiction, and the rest of the Middle East remains a horrible place to live. WE are the sinners here, not Abraham.

            Besides, I’m pretty sure that punishing a person only works if you’re punishing THAT person, not distant descendants who had nothing to do with his actions at all. The former makes you look just, the latter makes you look cruel and arbitrary.

  • Owen

    These comments are all fine assuming that our understanding of the scriptures is perfect. If we see things that look like God, taste like God and smell like God, then maybe it is God. If it doesn’t line up with our understanding of scripture, we should be open to the possibility that we’ve got it wrong.
    Scripture has been used to justify so many horrid things that I don’t see how scripture by itself in isolation can be used to defend any argument with any certainty. We use what we see and feel and our spirits to help discern what is good. All I ask is that we take the time to at least consider that there is a chance that we might have got it wrong.

    • Frank

      There is too much in the bible around sexual ethics and sexual,practices to claim in any way shape or form that we may have gotten it wrong. There is just no evidence at all to suggest that and quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. So while there may be some issues that we might have gotten wrong, sexuality and marriage is not one of them.

      So theologians and biblical scholars and myself have considered they might be wrong on this but after further study it’s clear that heterosexual, monogamous unions are what we were created for and the only sexual relationship that God blesses and does not condemn.

      • Anonymous

        The Bible says you’re supposed to be monogamous? Gee, better run and tell Abraham (Sarah AND Hagar; no implication that sexing up Hagar, in itself, was wrong*); Jacob (married sisters AND had sex with their handmaidens as well; no implication of sinfulness or punishment); David (married more than one woman and was only punished for the whole killing-Uriah-to-get-HIS-wife aspect of things); Solomon (300 wives, 700 concubines)…

        Polygamy is not condemned anywhere in the Bible. Nor is the keeping of concubines, which were essentially your own private prostitutes. Nor is using your wife’s personal servant (the source of some of those 12 sons of Israel) to father children on.

        Monogamy is not the only form of sexuality that God “blesses and does not condemn.” Indeed, one could just as easily argue that God “blessed” Jacob by giving him those 12 sons (again, by 2 wives–which were sisters as well as his 2nd cousins–and 2 of their servants).**

        __________________________________________

        * Abraham wasn’t scolded for having sex with his slave. He was scolded for refusing to have faith that his elderly wife could still conceive. Note that what our modern society would consider adultery (having sex with Hagar), God completely ignores.

        ** To be clear, I’m not trying to argue that polygamy is somehow better than monogamy, or that using sex slaves is in any way a Good Thing. But if we can accept that Times Have Changed and that modern marriage doesn’t look like anything that Biblical patriarchs would have recognized, then all that polygamy stuff in the Old Testament makes a lot more sense.

    • Drew

      “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” – Genesis 3:6

      Sometimes, when we see things that look like God, taste like God, and smell like God… it is from Satan. Paul told people to check against Scripture what he is saying. Likewise, we have to check what Mal is saying against Scripture.

  • 21st Century Episcopalian

    Mal Green, please reread Acts 10.

    Peter’s vision of the 4-cornered sheet, filled with NON old covenant-approved animals, came with a very clear threefold repeated message from God to make it obviously crystal clear that those old Jewish dietary restrictions were to be released in this new covenant era. This, we know, was symbolic of the gospel invitation to gentiles and was also accompanied by Cornelius’ vision/call to search out Peter.

    Both men, Peter AND Cornelius, had Holy Spirit-induced visions, both received audible messages from the Lord, per scripture, and it was crystal clear that the old way was being replaced by a magnificent new way. This was about the gospel expansion to gentiles.

    To use this story to (weakly) support homosexual marriage (or same-sex sexual relations, for that matter), which has NOT come with any clear visions or messages directly from the Lord, is sad and unfortunate. To extrapolate that application, even obliquely, is very poor scholarship.

    [sarcasm follows] Hey, after we rewrite the bible (to fit our current American/Western individualistic desires), why don’t we take a stab at some of the classics like ‘Gone With The Wind’ and definitely let’s rewrite the ending of the series finale to “Seinfeld”; That was wholeheartedly unsatisfying too ;

    • Anonymous

      Re-read the book of Jonah in its entirety. God is allowed to change his mind.

      • 21st Century Episcopalian

        Not worth a reply

        • Anonymous

          That was, in fact, a serious comment. THINK about it.

          God sends Jonah to tell the Ninevites that their entire city will be destroyed. (Jonah doesn’t want to go out among pagans and sinners, hence the whole whale sub-plot.) Jonah finally gets to Nineveh, tells them that God’s going to destroy the city, and the people repent.

          And God changes his mind and decides not to destroy Nineveh after all. That’s right there in the book.

          Jonah is confused and angry. “You said you were going to destroy them because they were sinners! You lied to me!!”

          And God’s all, “First off, they were sinners, but they changed. I also am allowed to change my mind and not destroy them–comes with the whole “omnipotence” thing. Second, people matter. There were thousands of men, women, and children in Nineveh. There were even animals, who aren’t self-aware enough TO sin. If I didn’t care about those people, I wouldn’t have sent you to warn them in the first place.”

    • Anonymous

      By the way, I never liked Gone With the Wind anyway (and I’m a Southerner). Five hours of watching Scarlett be a self-centered, heartless, back-stabbing, overgrown child was NOT worth the payoff of Rhett divorcing her. Even knowing that divorce was a lot more shameful in those days and that Scarlett would be a pariah for life didn’t provide the sort of catharsis you need after 5 hours of idiotic whining.

      She didn’t even learn her lesson–she thought if she went back to her former plantation that Rhett would just have to take her back.

      Even if I somehow believed that it was legitimate to change what works of literature say, Gone With the Wind would not be good enough to be worth changing.

  • Mathhugh

    What I love about these comments is that they are beautifully civil. Thank you.

  • KCAMP

    Beautiful thoughts! I believe above all else that all people were created with the same level of value and humanity, all of which was instilled in them by their creator. I believe then that their creator sees them as equal and deserving of the same privileges, wether it be clean drinking water or marriage. The Bible could easily be picked apart for every piece of our current culture that is “not okay.” However we would quickly find commandments none of us would be willing to keep (like marrying a man who rapes you…I have some issues with that). I think it is necessary to remember that our faith has been evolving since the beginning of time. If all the answers were in the OT or the gospels or any piece of scripture, the church would not have been holding counsels to rule on major issues since its conception.

    I think an even more prudent question is not who are you to stand in G-d’s way, but who is anyone to speak on what or whom G-d blesses? Scripture has not given us the authority to determine others rights. Personally, with the issue of homosexuality, it shouldn’t be about wether heterosexuals can make peace with it, but if homosexuals can. And if so, then our greatest call is to love.

    So, I say that, yes, you should perform their marriage. Myself, and many other thinkers, believe that marriage is best as a union of two people who can be better together than they ever could be apart–the joining of two to become one flesh. And that sounds a lot like the situation you have presented.

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