Thursday, September 3, 2015

Could Kim Davis Change?

One of the biggest stories in the news right now is the saga of Kim Davis. Davis is the clerk of Rowan County, KY. After the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling granting legal status to gay marriage nationally, numerous states and local governments have been scrambling to determine how to best handle this newly created and unprecedented civil right.

Davis’ response was to refuse to grant any marriage licenses at all, since the idea of gay marriage is against her religious beliefs. She feels that being required to grant her official imprimatur to such unions is to force her to act against her Christian faith.

The legal issue at the heart of this case is interesting, and will have a long-term impact. However, I think I have gained the most insight from the misunderstanding it has betrayed among secularists, especially in the media.

After this started to become a major story, reporters started looking into Davis’ past and discovered that she is in her fourth marriage, and has been divorced three times. Many have capitalized on it as a sign of her hypocrisy. Many others have encouraged this conclusion without actually stating it. How can she be against gay marriage when her own personal life shows that she has not strictly adhered to the Bible’s teaching on marriage?

But they have all missed a crucial detail, or have at least glossed over it. Davis’ last divorce took place in 2008. She converted to Christianity in 2011. The supporters of gay marriage are criticizing Davis for not being faithful to beliefs she did not hold at the time she last ended a marriage. This would be like criticizing me today for not following the rules of grammatical writing when I was three. You cannot act on knowledge or beliefs before you have them.

Yet, somehow, that is exactly what her critics are expecting Davis to have done. It shows a fundamental weakness in the secular mindset. They do not believe people can change. Not in their souls, anyway.

Think about what is going on right now, and you will understand what I mean. To have homosexual desires is to have always had them, and to have them forevermore. A man who thinks he is a woman must be encouraged to go on thinking it, because it must be who he is and he can’t help it. Abortion needs to be provided on demand because we cannot expect young mothers and fathers suddenly to become responsible. Only Christians need to change, though why we are the exceptions to the rule, I can’t tell you.

As a result of this view of the human incapacity to change, secularists are unwilling to fathom the idea that someone can have chosen an entirely different lifestyle than the one they once lived. Davis must have always been against gay marriage, and must always have refused to see the hypocrisy in her own marital failings. She cannot have had a change of heart, because that doesn’t happen.

Christianity teaches something completely different. When someone asks Christ for forgiveness through His sacrifice, they are made new (2 Corinthians 5:17). They are then expected and enabled to put aside their former way of living and become more and more holy (Romans 12:2). Christians not only can change, but do change. It is a defining characteristic, so much so that Jesus Himself refers to it as being “born again” (John 3:3).

When a person like Davis becomes a Christian, she starts over. It is a new life lived in a new fashion. It is not lived perfectly, mind you. But it is lived in a new direction. Some steps will be faltering or backward, but the overall movement is closer to God and further from the worldly way.

And this new life can begin in anyone. I do not know Davis, but I cannot help imagining she was encouraged to come to Jesus through the story of the Woman at the Well. This story from John 4 tells of Jesus meeting with a woman who had been married, and more than likely divorced, five times, and who was currently living with a man to whom she was not married. Jesus did not speak of condemning her, but offered her a better way of life. That woman’s life was changed by the encounter, and she began spreading the message of unending life that Jesus preached. Her former life no longer had to define her future.

If grace could come to her, it could come to Davis. It could come to me. It can come to any homosexual, liar, murderer, gossip, or thief, as many can attest. But it has a definite beginning, and it would be foolish to expect anyone to live in keeping with the power of Christ before they experienced the forgiveness of Christ. It seems to me there are no people more judgmental than those who try to hold Christians to such an impossible standard.

 I suppose that for them, true change must be a thought too scary to admit. But I hope they do. It is the only way to find a life truly worth living. Kim Davis did change, and so can they, if they learn to see the freedom in surrender.

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