Friday 8 February 2013

A Bigger Perspective?

I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

For David Cameron and his supporters, Tuesday’s vote to back gay marriage was ‘a step forward for our country’. Newspaper coverage, meanwhile, seemed more keen to highlight the seeming implosion of a divided Conservative Party. Indeed, whether we see the outcome as a victory for ‘equality’ or a step toward an antidemocratic redefinition of marriage, perhaps even a contravention of natural law, depends on the perspective from which we look.

As it happens, with this as with other issues which divide Christian and non-Christian alike, ‘connecting with culture’ may involve probing the bigger ‘stories’ that lie behind the headline sentiments. How we now respond to Tuesday’s vote will also reflect our larger outlook.

For some Christians, it’s bound up with the inevitable decline of Christendom, where the church no longer enjoys a privileged position at the centre of society. For others, it’s a further indication of Paul’s repeated declaration in Romans 1 that God has ‘given us over’ to the outworking of his judgment against a society which has continually suppressed and distorted his creational design.

Even here, though, Romans 1 is the first chapter not the last chapter. What follows is the promise of redemption through Jesus, available to all through faith. This salvation produces a new people who find their identity in Christ, through relationship with each other, and as ambassadors of God’s mission of reconciliation to the world, themselves harbingers of the restoration of creation!

This being the case, the gospel is not just one perspective on reality, but the true story of the world as being in the hands of the Lord of all. The hope and confidence that comes with this neither sanctions a crusading zeal to enforce our views on society, nor allows us to sink into silent despair or settle into smug quietism.

In keeping with Romans 12 and 13, our identity in Christ produces a community where genuine love is exercised, which extends – like God’s does – even to those who oppose us. But it’s not a love without moral backbone, which papers over differences or is unprepared to challenge. Engaging with this issue will doubtless involve ongoing conversation and debate, but it will be done best by those whose lives demonstrate the beauty of Christ’s relationship with the church, where – in the words of Romans 12:21 – we are not ‘overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’.

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