The following are remarks by Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at Family Research Council, to the congregation of Faith Church in Budapest, Hungary (following the conclusion of the World Congress of Families and Budapest Family Summit) on May 27, 2017.
Family Research Council is a Christian organization that seeks to influence public policy. Our office is in Washington, D.C., halfway between the White House and the Capitol building—a very strategic location.
Like other organizations involved in the World Congress of Families:
We believe in defending the right to life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death;
We believe in marriage being defined as the union of one man and one woman;
We believe that such a marriage is the only appropriate context for sexual relations;
We believe that such a marriage is the ideal environment for raising children;
And we believe in religious liberty for all.
Now, those of us who speak out as Christians on public policy issues are sometimes accused of violating a principle known as “the separation of church and state.” This actual phrase does not appear in our national constitution, but it is a traditional American principle if it’s correctly understood and correctly defined.
The separation of church and state means a separation of the institutions and offices of the church from the institutions and offices of the state. It means a person who becomes a pastor or a bishop does not automatically get power in the government, and a person who takes an office in the government does not gain any power over the church.
But it does not mean a complete separation of God and government, and it does not mean we must completely separate our faith from public policy.
The classic biblical text on this subject is the story of when Jesus was asked if people should pay taxes to the Roman government (Matthew 22:15-22). He replied, “Give to Caesar [the emperor] what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
This was a very clever answer by Jesus. He showed respect for the government by saying people should pay their taxes. But he showed respect for God by saying there are some things we owe to God which government cannot touch.
I heard a sermon once that suggested another way to view this story, though. The preacher pointed out that Jesus held up the coin that was used to pay the tax, and he said to give it to Caesar because it had Caesar’s image on it.
However, this pastor asked, whose image is on Caesar? Caesar, like every human being, was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). So while we have a responsibility to government, each of us—and everyone in the government—has a higher responsibility to God, because we bear his image.
Sometimes, we are accused of not respecting the human rights or human dignity of those with whom we disagree. But the very concept of human rights and human dignity is rooted in the fact that we are created in the image of God.
And sometimes we are accused of hating our opponents. We must guard against this. The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and that includes all our neighbors.
But love does not require that we affirm or celebrate every behavior people choose to engage in. Love requires that we call people to live their very best life. For most people, that means to save sex until marriage; to marry a person of the opposite sex; to build a family based on that marriage; and to remain married for a lifetime. And of course, it means calling them to accept the good news of Jesus Christ.
This is not hate, this is love.
I add my thanks to the people of Hungary, of Budapest, to the Hungarian government, and to Pastor Sandor and Faith Church for all your hospitality.
May God bless you, and your country, and may God bless all of our marriages and our families.