Beyond same-sex marriage: the Gospel remains our most important message to the world
The final vote of the French Parliament on same-sex marriage is due to take place on Tuesday and I feel a degree of relief that we are nearly done with the debates that have dragged on for over a year.
President Hollande ran his election campaign amongst other things on allowing gay marriage and since his election last May hardly a day passes without the press mentioning another demonstration for or against, or a new comment from a politician. Indeed demonstrations are expected on Tuesday for the final vote - which is about concluding the legislative process, not deciding whether or not to legalise gay marriage. That decision has already been made.
Surveys suggest around 60% of the French public are in favour of it, but still, the speed with which the Hollande government legislated to legalise same-sex marriage was quite remarkable. As if no other issues were requiring urgent action, such as France's high unemployment or the swollen public deficit.
As a Christian I have an opinion on this issue because I believe it is God who defines marriage and sexuality, not the state. Unfortunately one-track thinking is spreading on this issue and those who think differently from the majority are quietly asked not to express their views.
It is peculiar to be labelled "intolerant" or "homophobic" because of not matching the majority's opinion. This is the label supporters of same-sex marriage love to apply to Christians and others who believe in traditional marriage. Actually, many do not understand that homophobia implies physical and/or oral hostility and a feeling of hatred towards gay people. Let's be clear: God loves homosexuals and he wants all people of faith to do so too.
It is unfair to be misrepresented in this way and rather than being intolerant, I find that Christians are increasingly part of a minority whose perfectly reasonable views and concerns are not tolerated by the majority.
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As I said earlier, these debates have dragged on and at the same time, the die has been cast and we now have to work with the reality whether we like it or not.
Whilst important, I still feel this topic should not be the most worrying to Christians. Just like the government , too much energy has been deployed by Christians on same-sex marriage at the cost of other social issues that need their voice.
Many Christian people and organisations are deeply concerned about the poorest all around the world. We regularly mention these issues on ChristianToday.com. But the average Joe watches his TV or reads his newspaper and the message he takes away is not that Christians love people, but that Christians are against homosexuals. In France, some Christians have even demonstrated against same-sex marriage alongside organisations that are homophobic in the true sense of the word. The shortcut to homophobia is easy to make.
By contrast, all around the world, there are Christians teaming up with each other and with non-Christians too to address human needs, but is this message of love in action the one the world hears?
The fact is, both here in the UK and in France, same-sex marriage is going to be reality and that changes the context within which we speak and act. Opinions against same-sex marriage are likely to be even more shut down. As Christians, we will of course continue to speak up for traditional marriage, but we should also take every opportunity to make our voices heard on the most important issue - the Good News.