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There is currently a debate in my country, Australia, about gay marriage. Amongst those who believe homosexual sex is wrong, there is a split with regards the correct approach. Some say that Christians should not seek to legislate their values onto non-Christians. Others say that Christians, as members of a democracy, have every right to seek to have their values legislated.

Which approach is correct?

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This is a good question, but not new, and not confined to Christianity. I'd suggest looking up the phrase 'tyranny of the majority.' I know that doesn't directly answer your question, but it may provide some more general answers. –  drewbenn Sep 24 '11 at 7:33
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Related: Should biblical laws apply to non-Christians? –  dancek Sep 24 '11 at 7:44
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I'm going to quote Fred Clark (again): "The Bible is not a Rulebook for Other People. If you're going to insist on treating it as a rulebook, then you're going to have to pay attention to the rules that apply to you as well as to the rules that apply to others. I'd suggest starting with this rule: Don't treat the Bible as a rulebook." –  TRiG Sep 24 '11 at 20:55
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3 Answers

If we believed that Christianity was merely a good way to live, then there might be a justification for simply adhering to a "live and let live" philosophy such as it pertains to society and social issues. But it's not; rather Christianity is the expression of God's plan of salvation for a fallen creation, and our moral code is the expression of God's perfect and absolute moral law.

As Christians, we are called to be the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world":

Matthew 5:13-16

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Salt is a natural preservative, slowing down the spoiling of food - it's not about changing the taste of the food it's about inhibiting the speed at which it rots. Additionally, a light dispels darkness - where there is light, darkness ceases to reign and dominate.

The effect of Christians on society as a whole should be to improve society as a whole. This mandate is, therefore, a command to have an impact on society, drawing general society to be a better reflection of God and his law, not simply a call to evangelize. Part of that is to have a social and political impact on society.

Furthermore, there is ample evidence in scripture that entirely reprobate societies are subject to God's judgement (witness Sodom and Gomorrah, the Noahdic flood, the Canaanites, etc). It is also worthwhile to examine the rise and fall of all empires in history; nearly all mark the end of their influence with reprobate societies, in particular of a sexual nature.

Apart from that, Christians have historically been deeply involved in society and social issues. This is because Christians "impose" their "values" onto those around them - specifically that all humans have inherent dignity and inherent "God-given" rights in keeping with that dignity.

So, I would say that Christians have a moral duty and obligation to have an impact on their society. Being involved in social-political, including law-making, issues is a part of that.

Now that being said, we do have to be careful of exactly what stand to take and how we go about taking it.

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Absolutely agree. Though I would emphasize that we should be sure that we are not neglecting evangelization of the spirit by evangelizing the laws. –  Ben Richards Sep 26 '11 at 17:26
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I think this has to do with whether biblical laws should apply to non-Christians or not.

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 (ESV)
12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you."

So, we should not seek to judge outsiders. Not even by democratically passing laws that aren't meaningful to non-believers.

However, we should seek the good of our country.

Jeremiah 29:7 (ESV)
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

So it comes down to a personal interpretation of which biblical laws are good for the country as a whole, and which are just for the edification of Christians.

I think it makes sense to democratically uphold Christian morals as long as we have them. But once they're lost, there's not much sense to try and bring them back. In the process we'd judge a million people that don't believe in Christ either way and are not saved no matter what laws they have.

Still, we should democratically seek the good of our country. So the questions for each individual matter are,

  • What effect would this have on the country as a whole?
  • Would we be judging non-believers? How much?

A very important point to remember in our actions is this:

Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

We are not to fight against other people, but the forces that keep them separated from God. God is our father, and theirs too -- they just don't know it. So our main objective should be to bring these people to God rather than pass judgement on their lifestyle. As @Flimzy put it, it's far more effective to love our gay friends than it is to pass laws about them.

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I look at it from a different point-of-view. Should another religious group, perhaps animists, or we could go with a non-religious group such as vegans, push their views, if they had the majority? So, if the majority of those in power were vegans, and they passed a law banning any meat or products from animals not willingly given (so honey for example would be banned), would that be right of them to do?

If you can comfortably feel that it would be right then you can continue with this thought, if you think it is wrong, then it would be wrong for Christians also.

OK, so, it is right, now we can look at Jesus' examples and the apostles. I would like someone to point out where Jesus or the Apostles ever forced their beliefs on anyone.

Jesus didn't feel it was necessary, but if you can argue that he was wrong to not do that, that he should have attacked people that weren't going to live as He felt they should, then perhaps forcing your beliefs on others is acceptable.

Personally, I think stating that Jesus was wrong, and we will correct it is risky, so I believe that people will choose to come to God on their own, perhaps based on the examples of extreme love shown by Christians, but if Christians are seen as hate-filled, intolerant and ramming beliefs down the throats of others, then that will push people away from God, and we will be held accountable for our actions, as our non-Christlike example may have been an influence.

But, you do have every right to express your opinion, as long as you do it with love. So, read 1 Cor 13, then think about what you were saying, and see if what you stated was done with love. If it wasn't then immediately apologize for the mistake you made, as that was a commandment by Christ. We should always be holding Christ up for everyone to see His love by how we love those that hate us and those that live in ways that we feel are wrong.

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James 5:20: "whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins", so Christians should do everything possible and legal to save others from sin. –  Max Gontar Sep 24 '11 at 6:03
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@Max "But fighting legally for a righteous law is really not the same as forcing beliefs. " - it effectively is, if that law is only "righteous" due to those beliefs. Righteousness is very subjective (I know the Christian belief is that certain parts of Christian Morality is objective and absolute, but that is only because it is defined as such by those same beliefs). –  Marc Gravell Sep 24 '11 at 10:48
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@Max Gontar - If you pass a law defining a marriage to be between a man and a woman, and in the same breath don't ban divorce, then there is a disconnect. If marriage is sacred, then have it be binding. If you want to ban homosexuality because it is an abomination, then ban shellfish, as that is also an abomination, according to Leviticus. Be consistent in what you try to do. Unfortunately when we have certain ideas that we want to force on people, religion is often either a tool or scapegoat in order to get the law passed. I question the motivation of these people. Show Gods love always. –  James Black Sep 24 '11 at 16:23
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@JamesBlack is divorce a sin? It depends. While any food became permitted, homosexuality stays forbidden. –  Max Gontar Sep 24 '11 at 17:35
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@MaxGontar - Regarding Jesus in the temple. The religious were defaming God's house, so Jesus responded with anger, against those that claimed to follow God. Jesus has shown anger toward religious hypocrites, but toward unbelievers, or those that were not living as He would like, he showed love and understanding. Look how Jesus treated prostitutes, and then consider how homosexuals are treated. If we are going to legislate all sexual immortality then fine, but until we charge teen parents with crimes we are picking on a minority, and that is wrong. Be consistent, treat all with love. –  James Black Sep 24 '11 at 18:10
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