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?
“What would you have done in Davis’s situation?”
I don’t know. I believe the Bible is filled with absolutes and guidelines. The absolutes include one God, one Lord, one Spirit, one Body, one faith, one hope, and so forth. The absolutes are never ending, eternal truths.
It’s the guidelines where we have struggles although we have to do our best to live by them. And 99.9% of the time, we will be blessed by following them. The .1% of the time is when God steps in and says, “Obey My Spirit, we’re going a another direction because I want to do something different.
So, when Kim Davis disobeyed authorities, was this one of those .1% of the times? That’s for each of us to think about, but in the end, only she and God knows.
And as far as messes goes, God doesn’t mind them in the least because the messes usually rankle our flesh and we certainly need more of that.
I agree Larry, that Davis’s actions are between her and God. These situations all require prayer and discernment, for sure. And I absolutely agree that messes are opportunities for us to really see God, who he is and what he is doing, as opposed to the patterns that we have become accustomed to. He colors outside of our lines all the time; we think it’s a mess and he thinks it’s beautiful.
Thoughtful post on a difficult subject, Judy. I wish I could’ve read the WSJ article, but I didn’t want to subscribe or sign in (at least not at this point). If I were the person wanting a marriage license, to get married, get a divorce, or do anything requiring legal approval, I would want the clerk/judge/whoever to do what the state/national law allowed that person to do, rather than have that person impose their personal views upon my case. What if that judge or clerk didn’t hold views that were compatible with me/us getting the ruling/license/whatever that the law allowed me to get? Then the clerk/judge is trying to make the law rather than enforce it. Like I said, I wish I could’ve read that WSJ article to see that perspective on it.
But really, the bigger issue for me personally is what would I do if I were in Ms. Davis’ position? I’m not certain. I would hope that I would be willing to resign rather than violate my personal convictions, if I had concluded that I couldn’t in good conscience sign those licenses. But I’m not certain if that would be my personal conviction. Maybe it’s a good thing that I’m not in a position with any legal aspects right now! Sorry if this is all a jumble. I need caffeine!
This is a jumble of an issue, isn’t it? I think that in the coming days we will see more situations in which Christians will feel the force of kingdoms crashing. We should pray for those around whom they crash and think about what we would do. I’m still working this one out myself. With regard to the WSJ article, if you google “My Old Kentucky Double Standard” you should be able to read the whole article. Thanks for your comment, and hopefully caffeine helped!
Caffeine helped! I’ll google the phrase and read the article. Thanks.