Last year at the March for Marriage on the National Mall, my friend Eric Teetsel, executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, opened his speech with the facetious question, "Is anyone else out there on the wrong side of history?"
That is, after all, what many proponents of one-man, one-woman marriage keep hearing. To oppose gay marriage is to be relegated to history's ideological dustbin along with those who resisted civil rights for African-Americans or the vote for women. Of course, as we've seen in the forced resignation of Mozilla's CEO, opposing gay marriage can make your career history as well.
Even more disheartening are the Christian voices joining in on the chorus. World Vision's announcement on hiring same-sex married employees shook the evangelical world before the organization recanted. Megachurch Vineyard pastor Ken Wilson made a splash when he endorsed same-sex marriage. And many of us have seen more and more surprising endorsements on Facebook and other social media outlets from friends who have, shall we say, "evolved" on the issue.
Among the most common reasons offered by these Christians for endorsing same-sex marriage-or at least not resisting it-is that it's too contentious and so unwelcoming. Taking a stand for marriage, they say, gets in the way of the grace of the Gospel. It excludes people from the church. We have to reach out, and strong opinions about sexuality and marriage are only distractions, we hear.
I think today of all the days in Holy Week is the time to confront this repeated refrain. Why? Because the Thursday before Easter is known as Maundy Thursday, the day set aside on the Church calendar to remember the Last Supper.
The word "maundy" comes from the Latin word for "mandate," or "command." At this first celebration of communion, Jesus gave His disciples what He called "a new command" to love and serve one another. And He demonstrated what He meant by washing their very dirty feet.
Now to fully appreciate this command, we have to remember that at this supper Jesus and the disciples were obeying God's command to remember the Passover. The Passover meal celebrated God rescuing His people from Egypt, as described in Exodus. For Jesus to have the audacity to offer a "new" command when the old one was such an important part of Israel's history, is astounding enough. But Jesus went even further. Rather than remembering the redemption of their forefathers from Egyptian tyranny and the way the angel of death "passed over" the homes with lamb's blood on their doorposts, they were now to remember His broken body and His shed blood. In Christ's death, death itself is not just avoided; it is defeated.
Since the mid-twentieth century, the American Church has been divided over whether it should be primarily about proclaiming truth or about serving others. But the Lord's Supper reminds us that this is a false dichotomy. These two things can never be separated. On the same night that Jesus commanded us to remember His broken body and shed blood that rescues us from sin (that's the truth), He commanded us to demonstrate our new life by loving and serving others (that's the grace). We don't have to choose between speaking truth and showing grace. They always, always go together.
Thus, we can-and we must-offer both the truth about marriage and the grace of God to all of our neighbors, including those with same-sex attraction.
Let me encourage all of us to meditate, as individuals and as families, on the Last Supper and all the other events of Holy Week: the Triumphal Entry, which we remembered last Sunday, the Crucifixion which we'll remember tomorrow, the Resurrection on Sunday, and the Ascension forty days later which culminated Christ's earthly ministry.