As Australia prepares to fill out a survey about Same Sex Marriage, I recently conducted a simple survey of my own.
I asked what my friends consider the “best song/hymn about Jesus’ death on the cross”. Polling highest was the great hymn by Isaac Watts, ‘When I survey the Wondrous Cross’.
‘When I Survey’ is a favourite of mine too. It reminds me that when I survey the cross, I will ‘pour contempt on all my pride.’ It reminds me that when I survey the cross, I will not boast in anything, ‘save in the death of Christ my God.’ It reminds me that when I survey the cross, I meet ‘love so amazing, so divine’ it ‘demands my soul, my life, my all.’
‘When I survey the wondrous cross’ reminds me of these great words from the Bible:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:8-10
It seems to me that it would be a really good idea for believers in the Lord Jesus to survey the wondrous cross as they survey the upcoming survey about Same Sex Marriage.
Here’s a few points that flow for me.
- Jesus is Lord and Saviour. Salvation is found only through Jesus’ death for our sins. What Australians (and all people) need most is to turn and trust in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. They need to see the amazing love of Jesus in the cross.
- Jesus teaches us – and the Bible consistently says – that marriage is between a man and a woman, for life (Matthew 19:4-6). For those who call Jesus Lord, he is Lord of every part of our lives. We seek to obey him in everything, including what he says here about marriage.
- Australians who turn and trust in Jesus as Lord will find that obeying him means changing their lives dramatically – it ‘demands my life, my soul my all.’ Everything now belongs to Jesus. He re-orders our loves. We will no longer worship money or sex or ourselves or others, but will bring everything under the Lordship of Jesus.
- Australians who have not turned to trust in Jesus all have one clear and pressing need in common. They need to meet Jesus’ love at the cross. Other loves are only properly ordered through that love. LGBTIQA people need to be saved by Jesus’ love. Heterosexual people need to be saved by Jesus’ love. This is the gospel. We don’t re-order our loves and then get saved by Jesus. We are saved by Jesus and then re-order our loves.
- Therefore, the stance the church needs to take in this discussion is a stand for the gospel. It is wrong for us to speak about sex without speaking about the Lord of sex. To give any impression that we are saved by our sexuality is dangerous and unloving. We are only saved by Jesus. We need to speak in a way that invites people to survey the wondrous cross, to then survey their lives differently.
What will it mean to vote for Jesus in this survey?
It is our practice at Creek Road not to tell people what to vote in elections and we won’t depart from such practice for this survey. Our church community is made up of people who agree on the Gospel of Jesus, but hold different views on how that belief is best expressed in the political realm. Because what unites us is so much bigger, it is important for us to engage respectfully in discussions with those that hold different views to us.
Because Jesus is what unites us the best guide for how to vote is through surveying the cross of Jesus. It’s possible to do that and vote no, vote yes, or not vote at all.
A believer in the Gospel of Jesus might vote no in the survey…
… because we believe God’s design for marriage does not just reflect his love for the church, but what is good for all the people he creates.
We might do this as a way of loving our neighbours by holding out this ideal as we hold onto it in our communities.
A believer in the Gospel of Jesus might not vote in the survey…
… because we believe our parliamentary democracy serves us well, as it has to balance majority and minority views, and a plebiscite is a dangerous precedent for life together in our community.
A believer in the Gospel of Jesus might vote yes in the survey…
… because we enjoy the freedom to practice our faith, and uphold our own Christian definition of marriage within the broader community, and we believe it is right to extend that freedom to others. This might keep preserving our freedom, and it does treat others as we would have them treat us.
A believer in the Gospel of Jesus might vote any of these ways for many other reasons.
We recognise that by taking a stance that sees any of these options as legitimate responses to surveying the cross, we take a stance different to those insisting that Christians must participate in this survey and conversation in a particular way. It’s important, within our own church community, to recognise our unity in the cross as we survey it together; and also that our brothers and sisters in Christ will come to different positions on what to vote, if not how. We recognise that some voices in our denomination have spoken strongly in favour of adopting the first position, but at the same time making it clear that we cannot bind consciences on the issue of how to vote (either in our theology, or our Presbyterian polity).
Here is a brief suggested prayer we can unite in, as we survey the wondrous cross of Jesus together.
Our great and loving God.
Thank you for your amazing love shown to us in the cross of Jesus. Our heartfelt prayer for our nation is that many people will come to know this love. So please help us to proclaim the gospel of Jesus as clearly as possible in everything we do and say, rejoicing that his love ‘demands my soul, my life, my all.’
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Steve Cree, Senior Pastor, with,
Nathan Campbell, South Bank Campus Pastor
Josiah Wilson, Springfield Campus Pastor