As the door to the county clerk’s office swings open, Kim Davis prepares to flee to a back office, fearing reporters and yet another same sex couple seeking a marriage license.
Instead, a tall, elderly gentleman wearing a turban walks in with an elderly woman shoving a young woman toward the counter. The young woman’s eyes are downcast. She shuffles forward and bows toward Davis.
“Peace to you,” the tall elderly man says.
“Look,” cuts in the elderly woman, “We’ll be quick. We just need you to issue a marriage license to my husband and her.” She pointed at the young woman. “Her name is Hagar.”
Hagar continues looking down as Davis tries to make eye contact.
“We’re having… problems conceiving,” the man offers.
The elderly woman shoots him a look of daggers.
“I’m sorry,” Kim cuts in. “You two are already married?”
“Yes,” replies the man.
“Does she even want to be married to you?” Davis asks, glancing over her shoulder for a deputy.
The elderly couple burst into laughter, leaving Davis visibly shaken.
“As if THAT even matters!” the elderly woman cuts in. “Hagar does what I tell her to do. If I want her to bear my husband’s child, that’s none of your business.”
Now the man grows cross. “That’s how our culture assures each family has a male heir. Who are you to tell us how to run our family?”
“Deputy! DEPUTY! I need a deputy up here right now!” Davis calls to the back.
As the woman prepares to really let Davis have it, the door opens again and a short but muscular man strides in wearing a jeweled crown and resting his right hand on a massive sword at this side.
“Good day Abraham! Sarah!” he says with a bounce in his step. “Is there much of a wait today? I have a few new wives to add to my harem.”
“It’s slow going today, King David” Sarah replies.
A large company of women, children, and guards swarm in through the doors behind David.
“Let’s see…” the king says, counting the women assembled in the waiting room. “This week I’ve got three, four, five, six licenses. OK, just six. It’s been a slow month.”
“I’m afraid times are changing,” Abraham says to the king as deputy clerks scramble from their desks to relieve the retreating clerk.
“It’s not that Kim Davis lady again, is it? Do I need to get Abner on this?”
“No! Don’t! That will only make things worse,” Sarah says. “Look, she sent her deputies out to issue the licenses. I guess she doesn’t support the prophecy that our descendants will be as numerous as the sand. I mean, how else does she expect that promise to be fulfilled?”
“Hey,” David cut in, clearly distracted by Hagar. “Who is this beautiful lady? I’m sure I could match whatever your price is for her. If I’m already getting six licenses, what’s one more?”
“Sorry, David, but Hagar’s my only ticket to future descents,” Abraham replies. Hagar slips behind Sarah to avoid the king’s intent gaze.
“She needs to do as we say,” Sarah added.
“Well, I don’t think you technically NEED to marry her,” David offered, “But… spoilers!”
“Um, excuse me,” cut in a short man with glasses and paisley tie behind the counter, “But we can’t issue a marriage license if she’s not willing to marry you.”
David, Abraham, and Sarah laughed long and hard at this suggestion.
“Yeah, I don’t think you understand how marriage works,” David replies to the deputy clerk. “Don’t worry, she’ll want to marry him if she knows what’s good for her.”
* * * * *
While we can’t precisely imagine how the Bible’s patriarchs would react to our culture today, there’s good reason to believe they would be jarred by our definitions of marriage, family, and morality. Even if the Old Testament Law offered mandates that were far more merciful and just than those in the surrounding cultures, we’d still most likely arrest people who lived according to several of these laws today.
As we try to figure out what it looks like to faithfully follow Jesus today, we can get hung up on perfectly imitating the standards in the Bible, forgetting that the Bible’s standards have been anything but “standardized” from one generation to another. God’s laws have adapted and shifted with each culture.
This isn’t a wishy washy free for all. It’s a call to a higher law and a deeper morality.
The higher law of love and the deeper morality of justice govern how we apply the teachings of scripture. Pervading it all is the grace and mercy of God who is willing to reach out to people in any time and culture.
If God could respond to the patriarchs with grace and mercy despite marriages that fall dramatically short of what we would consider moral or sacred today, is it possible that there could be situations where God operates with love and mercy within our culture today, even in the places that run counter to the standards of the patriarchs and other biblical writers?
Do you see where I’m going here?
Unless we’re willing to treat the likes of Abraham and David as unrepentant sinners over their marriages who would be excommunicated from our churches today, we must admit that God acts with mercy within particular cultures.
I see God extending mercy in the midst of their social constructs.
It’s telling that David is described as a man after God’s own heart rather than as a serial adulterer.
Somehow God looks into our hearts and determines whether we are receptive to his grace and mercy.
This is why it matters to talk about how we would respond to the likes of Abraham and David. God worked with them right where they were. The invitation to them remains the same for us today. The grace for them extends to us as well.
Jesus issued the most basic of all invitations to would-be followers, saying that anyone who is thirsty, heavy-hearted, or weary should come to him. The wording on the invitation is spare and just about as basic as it gets.
Are you thirsty for God?
Do you desire to seek God with your whole heart?
Whether you are affirming or not, gay or straight, the same invitation applies to you. The messengers don’t get to alter Jesus’ invitation. The messengers don’t have access to the guest list.
We are charged to look for people who are thirsty or weary and to then issue the invitation.
Whether you are gay or straight, affirming or not, we all suffer from the same two fears:
- Discovering the invitation doesn’t apply to us.
- Getting deleted from the guest list.
Even the stand of county clerk Kim Davis against same sex marriage is rooted in a fear of the fires of hell—in other words, supporting same sex marriage will delete her from the guest list. By the same token, Kim Davis and her supporters believe that the message of Jesus to LGBT folks is “Repent or burn!”
The message from Jesus was quite different: “Are you thirsty? Then come!”
Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost. So if you’re feeling lost right now, I have good news for you: Jesus is searching for you.
He’s not hunting you down to cast you into the flames. He’s seeking you in order to bring you home. No matter what the other messengers have said about the invitations or the guest list, they aren’t allowed to judge anyone and they don’t know anyone’s heart.
I want you to imagine Jesus speaking directly to you:
“I am a doctor who has come to heal the sick…”
“I rejoice over every repentant wanderer just as a farmer rejoices over finding a lost sheep…”
“I will run out and embrace you if you return to me…”
I don’t get to change the invitation that Jesus issued. I’m not in charge of limiting the scope of his love. The Gospel of John says that God “So loved the world…” If you’re in “the world” right now, then I have good news for you.
You are a precious creation of God.
You are being earnestly sought.
You are beloved.
There aren’t caveats or check boxes for your sexuality.
Who am I to judge another man’s servant?
Who am I to change the invitation Jesus issued?
Who am I to judge with finality on how God relates to people in today’s culture?
I’m not in charge of convicting anyone of sin. I’m not in charge of telling people with different sexuality from my own how to relate to the Bible. I’m a messenger tasked with telling as many people as possible that they are invited to join Jesus at his table. The more lost they are, the thirstier, the more unworthy, the better.
It’s as if we’ve imagined the cross is a barrier from God rather than a beacon showing us the way to redemption.
Can you see Jesus hanging on the cross with his face beaten and bloody as the crown of thorns digs into his brow?
Can you see his determination to bear his pain and agony as he defeats sin and death on our behalf?
Can you see how he bears that isolation and excruciating pain with each passing second?
This was not the act of someone determined to judge, condemn, or set up yet another barrier between humanity and God.
The cross was God’s ultimate expression of love for us and identification with our suffering. The cross was our rescue.
The cross is God’s saving power for all of us, and it is freely to given to all who will receive it.
However you think you fall short, I want to know if you can see the cross right now. If you can see the cross, then you are called to come forward to be healed and reconciled.
You may pile up excuses or remember that someone said you are unworthy because you’re too judgmental, too distracted, too gay, or too greedy.
Bring your flaws to the cross. They’re your ticket.
If you’re weary and unworthy, then you are just the kind of person Jesus wants to come forward. The temple veil has been ripped in two, and now we are all officially out of excuses for avoiding God.
Whatever you believe, whoever you’ve slept with, whatever you’ve been told, the cross is for you and will always stand strong and steady for you. The invitation stands, the words have been etched with the blood of God’s Son. No human being can change that.
God is not meticulously scanning our lives in search of a reason to send us away. God is meticulously scanning our lives for any moment to reach us with a word of love that will sound too good even if we do manage to pause long enough to receive it.
Here is the word he has for you:
“You are loved more deeply than you can ever imagine. The more unworthy you feel, the more I want to heal you. My love will fill any gap you imagine between us. I’m seeking you right now. You’re welcome home any time. Your invitation always stands. Come!”