I Did Not Vote No! - Guest Post from Tim Gittins


I don’t know about you but I can’t help but notice all of the Facebook polls that are popping up recently telling me that someone voted "Yes" for something or "No" for something or voted for their favourite TV Character,… it seems that an endless number of polls are being created everyday on Facebook.

I want to confess to something – not to purge my soul – but to share a thought: 
I did not vote “No” in the “Should Same Sex Marriage be allowed” survey. 
In fact I have not signed any petition on the issue. I have not written to my MP or participated in any protests and every time I get an email in my inbox from the A.C.L (Australian Christian Lobby) and the word marriage is in the subject line – I delete it without opening.

Am I saying that I am in support of same-sex marriage – no I’m not stating that – in fact I’m not stating my position on that issue at all – because I actually don’t think that is the big issue. 

So what is the big issue?? 

Patience, patience I will get to the big issue – but not yet.

Every time I see a “Christian” vote no on a Facebook poll, or engage in a protest or speak publicly against same-sex marriage, or write or sign a petition; what I see is a stone – perhaps a rock - in the hand of a committed, faithful, well-meaning person trying to do the right thing for the Kingdom of God.  Sadly, what I haven’t seen a lot of is I haven’t seen too many Jesus types quietly doodling in the dirt.  At this risk of being accused of having some type of misguided ‘Messiah complex’ I am putting these thoughts to writing in an attempt to perhaps do some dirt doodling of my own.

If you are not familiar with my veiled references to the Bible story you can read about it in John 8:1-11.  The essence of the story is that religious people were confronting Jesus on an issue of ‘Law,’ of ‘Morality,’ and of ‘what is right’.  You will also know that at no point did Jesus question the legitimacy of the ‘law/morality/rightness’ to which they referred, but rather, in the way that probably only He can, he pointed them to a person, an individual, a soul. One who has feelings, hopes, dreams, desires, conscience, heartache, tears, joy (I could be here all day – but I think you get the point).  Jesus reminded them that at its core, the essence, the motive, the reason for their law was in fact people; persons; human beings – in relationship with God and with one another.  It was at another time when he famously summarized all of God’s intentions for people in that famous phrase “Love the Lord Your God with all you are and love other persons as deeply and personally as you love yourself” (Paraphrase mine).
 
The astute Bible readers will now, I’m sure, want to direct me to Jesus parting words to the woman from John chapter 8 and remind me that he then said to her “Go and sin no more”.  This is true, and I am not intelligent enough, nor do I possess the historical or theological understanding to discuss those words on an incredibly deep level; rather I will simply point out the timing of Jesus words. 

He didn’t make that statement as soon as she and her accusers arrived on the scene.  He didn’t say to the accusers – ‘Look, you’ve made your point, you’ve scared her sufficiently, if I tell her to straighten up her act and behave properly; if I tell her to just stop sinning I’m sure that’ll do the trick’.  He certainly didn’t invite them to sign a petition telling her to stop sinning, he didn’t organise a protest in favour of their law/customs/moral standards and he didn’t ask them to get on a public rock-wall (or whatever they used before Facebook) and vote for her to change her ways.  I can’t help but wonder if the reason Jesus didn’t do that is because he knew it wouldn’t work.

Admittedly we are not actually told whether or not Jesus words to her actually held any sway, and whether or not she amended her behaviour (in other words ‘did it work?’).  What we do see, though, is that Jesus demonstrates to her her value as a person. He shows her acceptance, love, patience, and understanding. He shows her kindness and dare I say forgiveness BEFORE he makes any comment whatsoever on her behaviour, and I suspect (may I be so bold at to suggest that in fact I know) that if Jesus had come across her again, and she had not changed her behaviour he would have shown her the same acceptance, love, patience, understanding, kindness and probably even forgiveness BEFORE he did anything else. Then (and only then), with love and understanding, might He have spoken (with compassion, mercy and acceptance) to that part of her that was taking her further from God and from helpful, supportive, spiritual community.

I don’t know if I’m making sense, I don’t know if you are following me and joining the dots – but the reason I haven’t participated in the reaction to proposals about same sex marriage is because I have people in my life who I love and care for who experience same sex attraction.  Persons, individuals, souls, ones with feelings, hopes, dreams, desires, conscience, heartache, tears, joy – and I actually don’t want to pick up stones and throw them at these people – because I think that’s only going to hurt them and push them away – and I love them too much to do that.  What I want to do is build relationship with them, to know them, to show them acceptance (as Jesus did), love, patience, understanding, kindness.  And then (and only then), with love and understanding, I might be given the opportunity (with compassion, mercy and acceptance) to speak to that part of them that may be taking them further from God and from helpful, supportive, spiritual community.

It’s easy to click “No” on Facebook, to sign a petition, to write to an MP, even to be involved in or organise a protest.  It takes a lot more time, a lot more effort, a lot more heartache, a lot more pain and most certainly a LOT more risk to build relationship.   

And that – in my opinion – is the main point here.  It’s not about my views on same sex marriage – it’s about my relationships with people who experience same sex attraction._____________________________________

About Tim Gittins...
Tim was born in Toowoomba, Qld, in 1975. When he finished high school he entered the Salvation Army's School for Youth Leadership in 1993. Upon completion, he started work as a community youth worker in Bega, on the south coast of New South Wales. Following this he moved to Bonnells Bay Corps in 1994 as the Corps Youth Leader. Tim married Laura in 1997 and in 1998 they left Bonnells Bay Corps to train to become a Salvation Army Officers.   Together they took up their first appointment at Bathurst Corps. They spent nine years at Bathurst before being appointed to Canberra City Oasis Corps. At the start of 2011 they took up another appointment as Corps Officers at Bonnells Bay Corps. Tim and Laura have four children, Joshua (10), Abigail (8), Samuel (6) and Bethany (4). 

Comments

  1. "I have people in my life who I love and care for who experience same sex attraction"

    This is a great point, I think people (definately including myself here) often form opinions without any personal experience of the thing they are giving their opinions about!

    A few personal experiences shifted my opinion on the topic of same-sex attraction, from a very conservative position to, I guess, the greyish unknown I now occupy.

    What is great while I stand in this greyish unknown is that people like you, and Adam, are offering insight that isn't lengthy theological debate or theories that end in a lose-win scenario, but just real thoughts and feelings that acknowledge the most important things at play here. One of which, the importance of relationships, you have highlighted particularly well in what you've said.

    Anyway, thanks very much for your wise contribution Tim.

    Peace

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  2. It is good to hear such discussion. It is encouraging to see that honest discussion in this field is slowly beginning. It will be many, many years before the discussion is over, but at least it is beginning.

    Thankyou both for placing this post for others to read.

    Yours in Christ
    Graeme Randall

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  3. I agree that we need to show mercy and grace and come beside people who maybe Gay and then at the right time speak into them God's truths to keep them from moving further away from God. I agree totally that we need to build relationships wi...th them, to know them, to show them acceptance (as Jesus did), love, patience, understanding, kindness. And then (and only then), with love and understanding, I might be given the opportunity (with compassion, mercy and acceptance) to speak to that part of them that may be taking them further from God and from helpful, supportive, spiritual community. But we need to seperate that from politicians in Canberra who have an agenda. Voting NO on the issue of Gay marriage is not throwing stones at gaypeople. If legislation is going to be put in place by politicians that endorse gay marriage as the norm, then we need to let them know that Christians disagree with this. There is no time to build relationships and show our grace and compassion with the politicians from Canberra who would put this in place. Logistically this would be a problem, so we need to let them know by the most effective and fastest way we can. This is not to condemn the way Gay's feel about one another, this is simply to send our politicians a message that as Christians we cannot be silent on the issue. As Christians we certainly need to demonstrate grace, love, tolerance and forgiveness, but we also need to take a stand on what is right or wrong. Jesus did with the Pharisees. He did by clearing away the money changers from the temple with a whip. There are numerous verses in the bible about homosexual behaviour being an abomination to God, is this also throwing stones? Whether the lady sinned after Jesus telling her to sin no more is a mute point, the fact is He told her not to sin any more and after her ordeal and after the amazing grace and forgiveness shown by Jesus, the reader would be left feeling that it would be more than likley her life was changed from a life of sin to a life of walking in the light of God. Jesus also told them that whoever follows Him shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life. My voting no wasn't to throw stones at anyone, but to simply vote on an issue that if passed into legislation would be going one more step toward eroding our values and morals.....

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  4. One final point (to labour it) ... just because someone as a Christian has voted on an issue or has made it clear where he or she stands on issues does not mean that they do not show grace and compassion and is willing to develop relationships. The Salvation Army shows the grace of God to others, but they still do have positional statements so people know where they stand.

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  5. Jeff,

    Just to let you know, there are a lot of openly gay Christians, who are in committed relationships with their same sex partners, and are committed christians. Gay marriage is not a biblical issue that we need to talk about. And it is not true that the bible speaks against homosexuality as we understand it today - it is silent at most. To take a 'biblical' stand on something that is not biblical, and assume we need to 'gently' bring homosexuals out of that lifestyle, is extremely dangerous in the very least for all involved - including the one doing the 'witnessing' as they are doing something without a biblical mandate.

    In my view, gay marriage is a social justice issue - allowing 2 people who love each other not to be descriminated against. A better translation or understanding of 'holiness' is 'to do justice'. As a Holiness movement, TSA is committed to 'doing justice'. We may not always agree with the politics or philosophy of justice, but we must practice it. Allowing anyone to be descriminated against for whatever reason is not doing justice, and it is not 'be(ing) holy, as I the Lord your God am holy'.

    What is it you think will happen if gays are allowed to marry? Why does it scare you? Do you know any gay Christians in committed relationships? Do you know that committed gay relationships tend to last longer (percentage wise) than heterosexual relationships?

    Just some food for thought

    Yours in Christ
    Graeme Randall

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  6. All I am saying we need to be preaching the word of God, and as Christians we need to understand what contitutes sin and what does not. There are plenty of churches that advocate gay marriage and open lifestyles. They tell their congregations what their itching ears want to hear. Where did discrimination come in? We preach each Sunday on holiness and if it is a sin to steal, is it then discrimination to the thief? It is a sin to watch pornography, is it then discrimination against the watcher if we preach against it? We love the person but dislike the sin. I have to disagree with you, my bible speaks very clearly today about homosexual lifestyle. Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ speaks about it. It couldn't be clearer. We can't tear the pages out the bible so it suit ourselves. As a minister of Jesus Christ, I will direct people away from sin each time. no appologies.

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  7. one more comment, you say that Gay marriage is not a biblical issue.
    The bible says that it is an abomination for a man to lie with a man as with a woman, or a woman liw with a woman as with a man. (Lev 18:22; 20:13) Not my words the bible we are called to believe in. The bible says that because of certain abominations such as homosexuality, a land will vomit out it's inhabitants (Lev 18:25) Not my words, the bible we are called to believe in as Christians. The apostle Paul called it "shameful", the result of being given up by God to vile passions (Rom 1:24-27) Not my words, the bible we as Christians are called to believe in. In the old testament, those who practised these things were removed from the congregation of Israel by execution. We are told in the new testament that those who practice homosexuality will not enter the kingdom of God (1Cor.6:9-10) Not my words, but the bible that we are called to believe in. The apostle Paul shows homosexuality as a final order of rebellion against God. When people exchange the truth for a lie, and begin to worship the creature instead of the Creator, they are given up to evil. When values are turned upside down and moral anarchy appears, men burn with lust for other men and women burn for women, and they will receive in their own bodies the punishment for their actions (Rom 1:22-27) Not my words, but the bible we are called to believe in as Christians.
    Not a biblical issue? From a biblical standpoint, the rise of homosexuality and the normalisation of it is a sign that a society is in the last stages of decay. As a minister I am called to believe in and preach the word of God. When we read the bible there are very clear guidelines (as above) and as a Christian and minister, I won't compromise the word of God for the political correctness of the day.

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  8. Jeff,
    What you say is not new. Where I am coming from, is that a deeper exegesis of those passages you refer to indicate that the Bible was not referring to homosexuality as we understand the concept today. The OT largely referred to a form of idolatry, specifically referring to 'male shrine prostitutes' (which is a better translation than simply 'man') (incidently, the passage you quoted does not say 'or woman lie with a woman...'). And where it doesn't (story of Sodom & Gommorah) it refers to the sin of inhospitality. The sexual ending of the story does not appear in any of the orriginal accounts - and only appears as a very much latter addition - underscorring how little respect the men of Sodom had for strangers - their 'lack of hospitality' (incidently - again, these men were not homosexuals. They just participated in a sexual act aimed at degredation. They equally degraded the women of the town. This gives us more of an indication as to what Paul was referring to in Romans). Paul mainly refers to 'pedaresty', which is quite different to homosexuality - closer to a concept of peadophilia today - though not quite the same. That is what the Bible says. To translate/understand any of that as 'homosexuality' indicates either we don't know what a homosexual is or what homosexuality is, or we don't know what scripture says. Either way, why should anyone take what we say seriously if that's the case? No. We need to have a better understanding of what we are talking about before we start condemning and saying 'this is wrong', or 'this will lead to hell', or 'this is causing the moral degredation of our society' etc etc etc.

    Yours in Christ
    Graeme Randall

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  9. I just want to thank you Tim for such a profound, honest and challenging post. You strike at the heart of the issue- it's about relationships, and what is shown through these relationships.

    A lot of food for thought..

    Vanessa.

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  10. I think Graeme is completely correct. One needs to understand the true historical significance of the time in which the Bible originates from before they condemn anyones lifestyle in the name of Jesus (under the guise of leading them closer to Jesus). Obviously Jeff does not have any friends or colleagues who are committed christians (yet are gay). My work colleague is hounded on a regular basis by "heterosexual christians" who believe they are doing the right thing and saving her soul. These christians at my place of work make snide comments about my colleagues sexuality. They tell her that her lifestyle is disgusting and degrading (she has been in a committed relationship for years with the one person). They then tell her that she should do things this way and that way and if she does not- she will go to hell. These christians are the last people that my gay christian colleague will now go to for spiritual guidance. She will never speak to them again unless she has to. It's discrimination. She sits in her office and cries and now suffers from depression. Is this love? compassion? Understanding? I'm surprised she hasn't turned away from christianity. I will not vote on this issue. I refuse to damage the relationships I have in my life and make the people in my life feel insignificant because of my personal beliefs. Why do you think suicide rates among homosexuals are so high? Imagine what Jesus would say if he read the posts. It's not about being a meek christian. It's about being compassionate, showing love and offering assistance when the time is right. It's not about bullying people into doing things the way we would like them to. It's not about labelling people. It was mentioned that support, care and love the person and dislike the sin. Well.... being gay is part of who a person is. Being gay is their identity. You really are saying that you dislike the person as the sin is part of who they are. The thief analogy is flawed- you cannot compare it to relationships. Really need to be careful in this debate....... I agree with this statement "To take a 'biblical' stand on something that is not biblical, and assume we need to 'gently' bring homosexuals out of that lifestyle, is extremely dangerous in the very least for all involved - including the one doing the 'witnessing' as they are doing something without a biblical mandate".

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