Why I believe Kim Davis should have resigned?

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.

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Meek = Submissive (but submissive to the will of God)

Joe BuchananYesterday, I began a series of blog posts on the importance of meekness or humility in the life of the believer.  I mentioned in that post that Moses is a classic example of what meekness looks like.  Today, I would like to explore the issue further by looking more carefully at the life of Moses and then to provide an example of how God has taught me humility.

The Pride of Moses’ Youth

The story of Moses is one of the most interesting in the entire Bible. Few men have ever been born with such high expectations of what their life’s purpose was going to be, only to then have their lives redirected in such an unexpected way. Having grown up in the house of Pharaoh, Moses had all of the privileges of growing up in the royal family. He had access to the educational, cultural, and political benefits of being the adopted grandson of the ruler of Egypt. But in spite of his privileged position, Moses never forgot where he came from; down deep in his heart, he knew he was a Jew and his national identity came to a head one day when he witnessed an Egyptian beating a Hebrew.

The Bible says that Moses “looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand” (Exodus 2:12). The very next day, Moses witnessed two Hebrews fighting, and once again tried to intervene by saying to one of them, “Why do you strike your companion?” The man answered him, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Exodus 2:13–14). Moses became afraid, and it says in the next verse that Pharaoh found out about what Moses had done and put a warrant out on his life. At this point in the story, Moses did what any of us would do in his situation: he ran! He ran as fast and as far as he could, ending up in the land of Midian where he settled down and lived the next forty years of his life.

One thing that makes the life of Moses easy to remember is that his life can be broken down into three equal periods of forty years. During the first forty years, he lived in the house of Pharaoh. During the second forty years, he lived in the desert of Midian, shepherding the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro. Then during the final forty years of his life, he led the children of Israel during the Exodus. Pause and think about those numbers for a minute. Moses spent 80 of his 120 years preparing for the job God called him to do. I know guys who are so anxious to get started working for the kingdom that they can’t even take three years out of their lives to attend seminary. But Moses spent fully two-thirds of his life preparing for the mission God had in store for him. But even more significant is the fact that the first lesson Moses had to learn dealt with meekness.

Moses’ Learns Meekness in the Desert

We can see the need for Moses to cultivate the attitude of meekness in the fact that his initial attempt at leadership failed because he did not wait upon God’s timing or direction. Nowhere in the text of Exodus 1–2 does God speak to Moses and give him directions about how he was supposed to lead the people. Instead of waiting for God’s instruction, Moses acted impulsively and ended up nearly getting himself killed by his own adopted grandfather, the Pharaoh. Thankfully, God had bigger plans for Moses’ life and sent him to school on the backside of the desert.

Having grown up in the home of royalty, Moses must have been shocked by the rustic, tent life of a nomadic shepherd. Nevertheless, God was working out His plan and purposes in Moses’ life, and this required teaching him genuine humility. Nothing will humble a man like being thrown out of the royal family and forced to leave his homeland as a fugitive from justice. If there is anything more humiliating, it would have to be working for your father-in-law for the next forty years—and that is just what Moses ended up doing. For the next forty years of his life, Moses lived in the home of Jethro, his father-in-law, and tended his flocks.

It’s not hard to imagine that Moses might have felt like a total failure during this period in his life. Whatever dreams he’d harbored faded into distant memory as he went about the daily grind of caring for his father-in-law’s sheep. But what Moses could not see was that even in the midst of his greatest setbacks, God was at work accomplishing His divine purpose and plans. If we look at Moses’ life up to this point, all we see is failure and wasted potential. But God had different plans, and the fact that we know how the story ends should remind us to never give up on someone just because they aren’t progressing as fast as we think they should. It took God eighty years to get Moses to the point where he could be used.

The truth of the matter is that one of the most important traits God wants to build into our lives is the attitude of meekness. God is not looking for the most talented, or the most intelligent, or the most powerful people to use. God uses people who are wholly and completely dependent upon Him. This often means that before God can use us, He has to break our reliance on our own natural abilities and talents. In other words, God has to cultivate the attitude of meekness in our lives so that we will learn to be submissive to His will and the control of the Holy Spirit.

How God Taught A Young Preacher Humility

Early in my ministry, I had the great privilege of serving at Open Door Baptist Church in Colliers, West Virginia. Most likely, you’ve never heard of this little church located in the Northern Panhandle of the Mountain State, but I will always have fond memories of the loving people in that church who called me to be their pastor when I was just twenty-four years old and loved me through thick and thin. Over the ten years I served as their pastor, the church grew from an average attendance of twenty-five to over one hundred. While that may not seem like a large or significant church, in that part of the state of West Virginia, we were one of the fastest growing churches within our denomination. Soon I was being invited to speak at our state convention meetings and at other churches around our state.

Somewhere in the middle of this excitement, I began to think the church was growing as the result of my skill and prowess as a pastor. I started to believe that I had a unique ability to grow churches and needed to be serving somewhere where my abilities could be used in a greater capacity. So I started looking for a bigger and better opportunity. Rather than being content with where God had placed me, I began to think I was too big for a rural church in West Virginia. To make a long story short, I ended up taking a pastorate in suburban Richmond, Virginia. The prior pastor had been the son of a well-known evangelist in our denomination, and I was certain that soon I would be pastoring the next great mega church within the Southern Baptist Convention. As you may have guessed, God had very different plans for my ministry.

The three years that I spent pastoring in Richmond turned out to be anything but fun. In fact, they were three of the most difficult years of my life as God literally stripped away everything I’d been depending on for the previous few years. At the time, I did not realize it but God was humbling me so that I would learn to be dependent on Him. This was not an easy experience, but it was necessary, and looking back now, I can praise God.

What I learned during those years is that God will not use anyone who is not fully dependent upon Him. Usually this means having to come face-to-face with who and what we really are. When forced to take a good, hard look at myself during those three years in Richmond, I didn’t like what I saw. It was not that I’d fallen into some notorious or scandalous sin, but something far worse—I’d fallen into the trap of believing I was actually a good guy and a talented pastor. The problem this attitude created was that I stopped depending on God and started relying on myself. It was not until God stripped away all of my self-confidence that I could see how arrogant and self-righteous I had become.

The hardest thing for me to admit in all of this is that when I left Open Door Baptist Church in Colliers, I stepped out of the will of God. Looking back now, I can clearly see it was my own selfish pride rather than the hand of God that moved me to leave that church. Rather than being submissive to the will of God, I went looking for greener pastures. I wanted to do something for God. Something big! Something that would really show how much I loved Him and would help build His kingdom. What I didn’t understand back then is that God is not looking for me to do anything for Him, but instead wants to do something in me. That requires a submissive heart—a heart willing to submit to the will of God, but also that is yielded to the control of the Holy Spirit.

Eventually I learned the lesson, and God has since called me to a wonderful church in Southern Illinois. Honestly, I needed to learn the lesson and am grateful for God for taking me through this experience, but nevertheless, I can now see how wrong my motives were and how unsubmissive to God’s will I was in making that move.