DES MOINES, Iowa (BP)–There is often a conflict between values and higher values. I ran into one of those conflicts when an Iowa judge issued a decision legalizing “gay marriage.” In his opinion, which is being appealed, he stated that “marriage has evolved over time” and that “homosexuality is a normal expression of human sexuality.”
In responding to Baptist Press, I indicated that we are not informed by our own opinions regarding such matters. We are informed and led by Scripture. Scripture defines marriage as a faithful, lifelong covenant between a man and a woman. That is a value that believers are not free to dismiss.
Baptist Press understands that value. Other press representatives, with delightful exceptions, seemed to want a stronger statement from me. They were not satisfied with my expressed view that what we believe has nothing to do with any lack of love for people in the homosexual community. They apparently wanted to present me as an angry person anxious to spill out hateful and vindictive words against the homosexual community.
They failed to understand the commitment of believers to higher values. We value the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. We also hold to a higher value, the value of extending the love of Christ to all people. Homosexuals are not beyond the reach of God’s love. Nor should they be beyond our love. We find a most remarkable truth in 1 Corinthians 13:13. Love is greater than faith. Love is greater than hope. We will be tried and tested as believers by the love we do or do not extend to others.
To the degree that we are unable to love those who disagree with our values or refuse to adopt our practices, then we fail in our most sacred mission. To the degree that we extend both the Gospel and the love of Christ to all persons, then we have succeeded. We have succeeded even if the world falls into moral decay. If we continue to choose Scripture over popular culture, love over hate, forgiveness over vindictiveness, words of comfort and reconciliation over expressions of hatred and anger, then we will continue to succeed in the eyes of the Lord Jesus.
My personal commitment to the higher value of love was tested a while back when a young woman visited my office. After minutes of awkward silence this normally very verbal person squeezed out an observation and a question, “You are my friend, but you know me for what I am. Is that true?”
After what seemed like an eternity of pain and confusion, I finally found my voice. I said to her, “Yes, I know you are attracted to women and not to men if that is what you mean.”
“But you are still my friend?” was her quiet and fearful response.
All kinds of questions and thoughts were running through my head, but words once again failed me. When I was finally able to speak, what came out of my heart and mouth were words that solidified a friendship that continues to this very day. “I love you almost as much as I love my own children. Nothing changes that.”
It pleases me to say that this friend has been transformed by the power of the Gospel. In fact, she is active in the ministry of her church. She has a godly husband and beautiful children who are growing up in a home in which the power of the Gospel is revealed each and every day.
The clash of values and higher values leaves me with two personal prohibitions. I cannot endorse a definition of marriage that is not true to Scripture. That is an unshakable value. The second prohibition is the higher value. I must not say to anybody, the words, “I do not love you. I will not befriend you. I will not minister to you in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
The value of love supersedes all others. I know that to be true because the Bible tells me so.
Jimmy Barrentine is executive director of the Baptist Convention of Iowa.