It was bound to happen. Kim Davis, county clerk in Kentucky, is in the news for appealing to her Christian beliefs as a defense for not signing marriage licenses of any sort. Davis has been in jail, was released, and the news is all over it.
Davis feels that marriage was defined by God, and therefore she cannot in good conscience allow her signature on same-sex marriage licenses. She believes that the constitution guarantees freedom of religion and she is exercising that freedom.
On the other hand, she was elected to do a job and many say she should do it. It is the law.
Handling Colliding Kingdoms
Things tend to get messy when kingdoms of this earth conflict with God’s Kingdom. Davis is attempting to do her job for the United States while following the laws of the Kingdom of God. Most of the time the laws line up fairly well, but sometimes they don’t.
This country is rightly proud of its religious freedom, and Davis has put it to the test.
For those who think Davis should fulfill all of her duties, this Wall Street Journal article points out that government officials often pick and choose which laws and duties they will enforce and which ones they will ignore. Additionally, this New York Times editorial describes how the process could have been handled more smoothly.
On the other hand, if you feel that her religious liberties should be respected, would you feel the same way about Islamic Sharia law calling for an adulterer to be stoned? I wouldn’t, but religious freedom is religious freedom. I believe the Bible is correct; others believe the Quran. They are vastly different world views.
We in the USA must come to terms with the fact that this is no longer, if it ever really was, a Christian nation. There are many Christians in the United States, and for that I am very grateful, but the laws of this country are not all derived from a Christian world view. That reality will become more apparent as time goes on.
No matter your point of view, the situation leads us to put ourselves in Davis’s shoes and ask, “What would I have done in her situation?”
Serving as a Faithful Witness
As we consider how to handle colliding kingdoms, one goal of a Christian’s behavior should always be to serve as a faithful witness for Jesus Christ. In this situation, a couple of questions come to mind:
Would Davis signing marriage licenses for same-sex marriage participants in her official capacity have done damage to Jesus’ name? Chances are no one would have thought much about it. When you’re getting a marriage license you’re pretty focused on the end result.
Davis, however, would have had to live with acting in opposition to her own conscience and to God, and she was not willing to do that.
How has Davis’s refusal to sign the licenses affected her witness for Jesus? It has certainly gotten attention. Whether the spotlight is positive or negative is up for debate. My guess is that those who would most benefit from a positive witness see it as antagonistic. They think it’s intolerant; unimaginable.
However, if Davis had quietly resigned or done her official duty there would be no discussion. She would have been a witness to a small group of people who knew of her struggle. Her actions have demonstrated to the country that a Christian’s beliefs are deeply and firmly held.
I believe Davis honestly desires to follow God and his Kingdom, and she was willing to go to jail rather than dishonoring Him. From what I saw she was not fighting; she was standing.
Unfortunately, the whole incident has become politicized. It makes me uncomfortable to see news reports, like the one on Tuesday, September 8, of Davis leaving jail, with a presidential candidate at her side, displaying Christians as victorious, at least for the moment, over oppressors. That seems counter to the Kingdom that Davis follows. The Kingdom of God operates quietly, like a seed or yeast; its citizens will not be known until Jesus claims them. Jesus led many people while he walked this earth, but he never held a rally orchestrated to generate support for himself or his Kingdom. He let people come, he wanted them to come, but he never manipulated them.
What Would You Have Done?
How should we handle colliding kingdoms? With great humility, prayer, faith, selflessness, and discernment. Each situation will be different, and God may call individuals to very distinct actions. We shouldn’t be too quick to take sides, and we can count on the Lord to accomplish his purposes through it all.
“But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge…” Acts 4:19
What would you have done in Davis’s situation? How have you handled colliding kingdoms in the past?
This post is featured on the blog of Unlocking the Bible. I encourage you to check out Unlocking the Bible for many excellent resources.