The road to the big day had been long and hard-fought, but Sunday would settle everything. Those guys would leave everything on the field. Some in the crowd were cheering, some were biting their nails. But no one present could be neutral because there was too much at stake.
After all, this had become much more than a game. And then it happened. Just when there was a possibility of redemption, the worst play call in Seattle history took place and the hopes for a team legacy were dashed in mere seconds.
Of course, most people would think I've just described the infamous ending to this year's Super Bowl, but like I stated, this is much more than a game.
On January 15 of this year, TIME Magazine came out with an article entitled, "How Evangelicals are Changing Their Minds on Gay Marriage". Prominently featured is Ryan Meeks, the pastor of Eastlake Community Church, a large, multi-site congregation in the Seattle area. On the morning of January 25, Meeks confirmed the position of the church's leadership: the staff of Eastlake had unanimously embraced the homosexual lifestyle, promoting the straw-man argument that the Church owes this group a debt for the various ways we have mistreated them. Some left the stands depressed. Others cheered in jubilation. But for me, the hope for a team legacy, one where we as pastors on the Eastside of Seattle might work together, began to quickly crumble. This Sunday pass call was going to cost us dearly.
I had never met Ryan, but was compelled to contact him directly to clarify his position. I wanted to know if the TIME article had been intentionally provocative, reporting things with a salacious slant just to garner readership. I was thankful that he was willing to briefly answer some of my questions as well as discuss Scripture, hermeneutics, and culture. In the end, after one phone conversation and two quick texts between us, it was clear to me that TIME had basically done its job. The only irony I discovered was that in an article about the changing beliefs of Evangelicals, Ryan told me several times without equivocation that he isn't an Evangelical!
As it stands, Eastlake had already performed a gay marriage before the article was released, so they were clearly "all in". Now, had this decision been denominationally driven, say like the Episcopal Church, I may not have been as compelled to go to the top and ask them how they had reached their decision. But Eastlake is in my backyard. It's a local church. They're my neighbor.
I know a number of people who attend Eastlake. They are kind and decent people with whom I've never had any problems. Ryan, too, was amicable, generous with his time for a local pastor he has never met. But maybe it's his "niceness" that has gotten in the way. "Niceness" has a way of lulling people into thinking that what they are hearing is truth because of the way in which it is delivered. "Niceness" makes us feel good because it has a way of dulling our spiritual senses. "Niceness" is the off-white interior paint we use so we don't offend any potential buyers.
I love how Peterson's The Message captures Lamentations 2:14:
"Your prophets courted you with sweet talk. They didn't face you with your sin so that you could repent. Their sermons were all wishful thinking, deceptive illusions."
You see, "niceness" sells. It's the ecclesiastical windsock that goes wherever the culture is blowing. It's the spoonful of sugar that helps the arsenic go down.
And yet, God's Word isn't exactly "nice". God's not exactly "nice". His Word is sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), and the last time I checked, swords are for war, not stirring the brownie mix. And it's that very Word that has some very pointed things to say about the homosexual lifestyle (a la Genesis 19:1-13; Romans 1:26-27, I Timothy 1:10).
Eastlake is convinced that homosexual behavior is acceptable provided it's in a relationship governed by fidelity (which may be why they support gay marriage). How this fidelity would have ever been expressed in the Early Church is not mentioned. Let's face it, gay marriage wasn't exactly on most peoples' radar 20 years ago, let alone 2,000 years ago. And while it isn't my business to judge outsiders (I Corinthians 5:12), it is my job to welcome them in and point them to Christ. He saves them and cleans them up. Then it becomes my job as a pastor to love them enough to help them grow spiritually. And remember: love brings people closer to God and His Word; it doesn't alienate them from it.
Eastlake's "welcoming and affirming" position might sound nice, but it just isn't Biblical. It's choosing tolerance over truth. It allows Christians, as the Bride of Christ, to be unfaithful to her Husband and the standards we find in Scripture. In Eastlake's peculiar position, fidelity is required by homosexual partners to each other, just not to Christ. Now that's a strange interpretation if I ever saw one.
So, on that fateful Sunday, two teams took to the field: Christ and Culture. And on that particular Sunday at Eastlake, I believe Culture won. But take heart, Christian…this isn't the last time these two will meet. There's always another Sunday to watch them go head-to-head. Just make sure you're rooting for the right team.