'Follow the Law' or 'Take up your Cross', Which Will it Be?


I have held off writing about Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Ky. clerk, who is now residing in a jail cell for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.  There’s so many opinions here (you know what they say about opinions) and only a few facts, so I took some time to read and pray, and avoid the fire and aim mistakes others have made.

Reviewing the facts, it’s very simple:

The main fact is that Davis knew she was going to jail the minute she decided to take her position. What she didn’t know is that many Christians would take the side against her.

The Supreme Court ruled, by one black-robed judge’s vote, that there’s a right for a tiny minority of Americans to overturn a millennium of history and redefine the institution of marriage as recognized by law.  One man decided this because he wrote a legal opinion that began thusly: “‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.”

To which Justice Antonin Scalia responded in his dissent: “If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”

So by the mystical aphorism of a fortune cookie, marriage has been redefined in America to include couples of the same sex (“gender” now being too tender a term to use to describe one’s biological equipment for reproduction or one’s “birth gender”).  The decision is now the “law of the land,” a Supreme Court precedent (excluding the dicta attached to the actual legal opinion, which comprised most of the meandering logic in the Justices decision), and individual states with constitutional provisions that define marriage other than the “official” interpretation may no longer rely on their own law, duly passed through the will of the people.

This is the situation in which Kim Davis found herself.  The Commonwealth of Kentucky has a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, and Davis’ own religious beliefs, (supposedly) protected under the First Amendment, conflicted with the new SCOTUS precedent.

Davis had several choices:  (1) issue the licenses anyway and say she was just “following the law,” which many Christian clerks have done; (2) not issue the licenses but let others in her office do it and say she was exercising a right of conscience but “following the law” in the discharge of her duties as county clerk; or (3) not issue the licenses or allow others in the office to do so under her signature as the elected county clerk.  She chose the third option, likely knowing it would result in a contempt of court citation and jail time.

The blogs that published her sins and past tended to be pro-gay outlets, or liberal news organizations like U.S. News & World Report, which used this lede in their article:

The Kentucky county clerk facing potentially stiff penalties for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses has been married four times, raising questions of hypocrisy and selective application of the Bible to her life.

The marriages are documented in court records obtained by U.S. News, which show that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis divorced three times, first in 1994, then 2006 and again in 2008.

She gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband. They were fathered by her third husband but adopted by her second. Davis worked at the clerk’s office at the time of each divorce and has since remarried.

The writer noted that her last divorce was in 2008, but the article failed to mention that she converted to Christianity just four years ago (that would be in 2011), three years after the last divorce.  In such an oversight, liberals ignore the central tenet of Christianity—the actual core of the Gospel:  forgiveness of sin.

I expect raw humanists, Biblical skeptics and hardened atheists to ignore such a wishy-washy thing as forgiveness of sin, because to them it’s meaningless, along with Christ’s death on the cross, substitutionary punishment, and resurrection from the dead.  They can no more explain Christian doctrine and application of Scripture truths than I can explain the Einstein field equations.

But there’s a flaw in my analogy:  I can watch a few Youtube videos and learn enough about the equations to speak intelligently about them, but without a personal experience of God’s grace in their lives, unbelievers simply cannot grasp Biblical truth and speak to Christians about it.  Period.  But that doesn’t stop them from trying, obviously.

Where I’m completely confused is when Christians come out against Davis, calling her a hypocrite because she had sin in her past, or an immature Christian because she chose jail over submission to a legal opinion in contradiction of clear Biblical teaching.

I’ve heard many arguments:  she went too far; she violated her oath of office, which is sacred under the Christian doctrine of vocation; she didn’t submit to the “authorities that rule over you.”  They are all useful arguments, but they don’t change the facts one bit, and they miss the central issue of the conflict between God’s Kingdom and the world’s kingdom.

Our government pitted itself directly against God in Obergefell v. Hodges (just like it did in Rowe v. Wade in 1973, or Dred Scott v. Sanford in 1857), and a Christian took a stand for God and against the government.  As a Christian, either one stands on the side of God or the side of the government in such a situation.  There’s really no fence-sitting here.  If you think Davis should have resigned to avoid jail, then you’re saying that, put in the same situation, you’d resign and keep your God to yourself, and take the government’s side.  Or you’d “follow the law.”

By the way, the “follow the law” defense of putting Davis in jail is the weakest and most debunked argument the left has ever made.  It’s hypocritical to the core.  The left put Davis in jail because she opposed their authority, not the law.  If the situation had been reversed five years ago, with a county clerk issuing same-sex marriage licenses and violating a law against it, the left would have been outraged if the clerk was forced to resign, or jailed—“follow the law” or not.  The liberals who rejoiced at a White House resplendent in rainbow colors couldn’t care two shakes of a rattlesnake’s tail about “following the law.”

Any Christian taking the position of “follow the law” is equally hypocritical.  There’s only one law Christians need follow, and that’s God’s law.

There’s a difference between submitting to the authorities and doing what those authorities decree because they decreed it in law.  Nowhere in Scripture does it say to submit to human or government decrees against God.  In fact it says just the opposite.

In Daniel chapter 3: “Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up?”  These three were thrown into a furnace, but lived.

In Daniel chapter 6, King Darius signed a law requiring everyone to worship him, but Daniel would not.  “So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”  Daniel was not eaten by the lions.

The prophet Elisha prayed that his servant Gehazi’s eyes would be opened when they were surrounded on a hilltop by the King’s men, who ordered them to come down.  “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Peter and John replied to the Sanhedrin (the Supreme Court of the Jews in Judea), when ordered to stop preaching in the name of Jesus, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!  As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  They continued to preach Jesus, and were again arrested.  After having their lives spared by a plea from Rabbi Gamaliel, the book of Acts records: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.”

Submitting to the authorities is exactly what Kim Davis has done.  She appeared before federal District Court Judge David L. Bunning, she accepted his contempt citation, and she went peacefully to jail.  She is probably singing hymns there, and being treated much better than if she was sitting at home, reading the attacks on her from other Christians.  Davis could have run, she could have taken up arms against the government, she could have done a lot of truly stupid and unBiblical things, but she didn’t.  She followed God’s law and stood for Him.

If you’re one of those Christians who has criticized Davis for being too zealous for God, or making too much of a stink in her stand for Him, then you might want to rethink your position.  First of all, nobody’s perfect, and if you expect them to be perfect, you’ll be wrong every time, not to mention spending your life in perpetual disappointment and frustration.  Also, if you apply your own criticisms to your own life, how many times have you failed to live up to Biblical teaching?

The fulcrum that moves the world for Christ balances on a point of grace, and is set upon an unshakeable Gospel.  If you’re trying to move the world using some other fulcrum you’re going to break your own back—if you’re using a different foundation, you’re going to do nothing but give the world more broken promises.  Stop it.  There’s plenty of stones to throw, but Christians are not to throw them.

The biggest hypocrisy and saddest lukewarm fence-sitting cowardice of taking the government’s side against Kim Davis is this:  she is doing nothing more than persecuted Christians around the world (outside the United States) do every single day by just being Christians.  Every house church member in China risks arrest.  Every believer in places like Pakistan, or Malaysia, or parts of India, or most of the Middle East, risks their safety—and many times, their lives—just by being a believer.  And believers in those parts of the world don’t suffer fence-sitters.

If you want to be considered a believer in some persecuted areas, you have to declare yourself and participate, not just consume Christianity from a church pew like a spectator.  And those believers don’t sit back and throw stones at the sins in each others’ lives before they converted.  They were all sinners (like you and me).  Taking the position that Davis should be accountable for her sins prior to becoming a Christian leads to the conclusion that it’s okay for ISIS to behead converted Christians because under Sharia law, they are apostates and need to be accountable for their sin.  Once covered by grace and under God’s law, everything done prior to that is gone—null and void—in Christ.  Isn’t that the Gospel message?

Christians who don’t stand behind Davis send the message that Christianity is weak, that it’s just a doctrine, just a dead philosophy taught by dead teachers in a very old and outdated book.  Weak, milquetoast Christianity tells the world that the progressive postmodernists are right: that people like Davis are just bigots and holdovers from a long-ago discredited age which should be scoured from the Earth.

There’s only one Christianity that can stand up to all the world’s governments, and that’s a living faith, willing to go to jail for God’s glory.  Every Christian killed for their faith, every modern martyr, every jailed missionary or pastor (like Pastor Saeed, locked up in Iran and abandoned by our government), demands our obedience to God’s law, on pain of death.  If we value our own convenience and riches more than God’s riches, how can we expect Him to bless us?

In three Gospel accounts, Jesus’ words are recorded:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.

Christians, stand behind Kim Davis and take up your cross.  She is taking up her cross.  We should do no less.

(crossposted from sgberman.com)

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