The Presbyterian Church (USA) has voted to redefine marriage as “a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.” The news was “welcomed” by the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which calls for “a Church as generous and just as God’s grace.”
There’s a lot more being redefined here than marriage.
God’s justice and grace both have to do with the manner in which he handles human right- and wrongdoing. In his justice he rescues the weak from oppressors, he rights wrongs, he punishes sin, and he rewards good, wherever they may appear. In his grace through Christ, he relents from delivering the just wages of our wrongdoing (for we are all deserving of the punishment side of his justice). Instead he releases us from that outcome and grants us the experience of his love—provided we come to him humbly, on God’s terms, which include being willing to admit we’ve done wrong.
Without the existence of wrong, justice is irrelevant. If justice is irrelevant, grace is meaningless.
But the church is no longer talking about justice and grace in terms of how God deals with us when we do wrong. It’s saying that what was wrong before isn’t anymore. Rather than being met with justice and grace, wrong is being met with an editor’s pen making it read “right” instead.*
So this is not a move toward a church that’s just, nor is it one that’s taking God’s grace for its example. This is a church that’s in the process of wrenching both those terms away from their historic Christian meanings; which by the way is impossible to do without redefining the word “God” as well, and leaving actual Christianity behind.
That doesn’t keep an influential subset of its members from using “justice” and “grace” as pleasant-sounding words to promote an agenda, however. The words have rhetorical effect: an effect that depends on ignoring their actual definitions.
Toward a church that distorts God’s justice and grace to achieve ends that make both of them irrelevant.
Hat tip to ordinary seeker
*I need to address a likely objection. Perhaps the justice they think they’re referring to has to do with just attitudes toward LGBT people. The Bible is replete with prophetic calls to stop oppressing the weak, helpless, and disadvantaged; and it certainly calls this a matter of justice. I agree with that. Bullying LGBT persons is wrong. Shunning them is wrong. Discriminating against them where their sexuality is irrelevant (housing, most jobs, etc.) is unjust. Making them feel unwelcome among us in our churches is wrong.
To the extent that simply being LGBT disadvantages a person socially, Christians seeking justice must stand up and shout, “No, don’t treat them that way: They’re created in God’s image just like you and me, and worth every bit as much in God’s eyes!”
That does not, however, entail standing up and shouting, “No, don’t treat them that way: There’s nothing wrong with anything they’re doing!”
Sometimes, you see, justice says, “It’s wrong to treat the person that way, because you’re treating them as wrong when they’re actually right.” Sometimes it says, “It’s wrong to treat another person that way, regardless of whether they’re wrong or right.”
Note, then, that justice does not require us to say the person is right. Whether a person is right or not is an important question, but it’s not determined by, “What’s the just thing to do with this person?”
Justice, then, does not requires us to say that gay marriage is right, nor does justice require us to act as if it’s right–not unless it is, which is determined by other means.