Today, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning found Kim Davis, Country clerk of Rowan county, in contempt of court over her refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses. While I agree with Mrs. Davis that same-sex marriage is morally wrong and a violation of Biblical principles this does not give her the right to violate a court-order. The fact is, she has had her opportunity to make her position known and to appeal to the courts.
After Governor Steve Beshear told county clerks to issues marriage licenses to all eligible couples, Mrs. Davis filed suit in a Federal court. After a District court ruled against her, she appealed her case to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court. In each of these instances, she lost. While I wish that her case would have gone differently, the fact is that she has been ordered by the court to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. But she has refused to comply and has now been jailed for contempt of court. Rather than following this course, I think a better and more Biblical course of action would have been to simply resign her office, publicly stating the reason for her decision is that she in good conscience could not issue licenses for same-sex couples.
As Christians we can disagree with the finding of the Supreme Court that go against our core Biblical beliefs but this does not give elected officials the right to a disobey a court order. (see Romans 13:1-5, Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13-14) The truth is that Mrs. Davis is not being discriminated against, nor are any of her rights being violated. No one is saying that she does not have the right to practice her religion or to hold her beliefs. Some Christians have cited Acts 5:29 as a justification for Mrs. Davis’s refusal to comply with the court order, but I think this argument misses the points.
In Acts 5, the Apostles had been arrested and put in jail for preaching the gospel. That night an Angel of the Lord came and opened the prison doors, commanding the Apostles to, “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.” (Acts 5:20) When the high priests and Sanhedrin heard about this they sent and had the Apostles brought before them, when they arrived the Chief Priest asked, “Did we not strictly, command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine…” To this Peter replied, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:28-29)
Those who cite this Scripture in defense of Mrs. Davis argue that she is simply carrying out the command of God. But this misses the point. The Apostles were actually being denied the right to preach the gospel. The government was actively telling them to violate the command of God with no option to obey. This is not the case with Mrs. Davis. She has every right to hold her belief but not if it interferes with the execution of her job as county clerk. She is free to hold her religious beliefs and if she does not want to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples she has the option of resigning, but this of course, wouldn’t have made the evening news.
When I was teenager our family belonged to a church that took a very strong position on the issue of alcohol. In our church covenant, every member pledged to abstain from the sale and use of alcohol as a beverage. That was a common position for Baptist churches at that time and I don’t bring it up to make a point about alcohol but rather to recount the testimony of one faithful member of the church who had the courage to live out her convictions.
One of the ladies in that church had a job in a grocery store. When she first took the job, the store did not sell alcohol so when the proprietor secured his liquor license she was faced with dilemma. Her conviction was that it would be wrong for her to serve alcohol, so she went and talked to her boss. He explained that he had no other positions available and that if she was going to continue working for him she would have to sell alcohol. She was faced with a very difficult decision. On one hand she wanted to live according to her deeply held religious opinions. But on the other hand, she needed the job to help provide income for her family. After much prayer, she decided to live by her convictions, quit her job, and trust that God would provide for her financial needs.
This was not an easy decision. She didn’t get any press coverage and most people in the church didn’t even notice. I’m sure there were probably moments when she wondered if she had made the right decision. But eventually, God was faithful and provided her with a new job where she did not have to violate her conscience. My point is that she didn’t make a big fuss about it. She didn’t go to work and then refuse to do her job. She didn’t go on TV or to court to appeal her case, she simply lived by her convictions and trusted God.
As believers we need to stop applauding people who grandstand and start applauding those who by simple faith live out their convictions day to day.