I was speaking at an event in Nottingham this weekend. It was a consultation within the Methodist Church, which is looking at redefinition of marriage, including the recognition of same sex marriage within the church. As you would imagine there were a number of views, and the group spoke graciously to each other as we expressed our feelings and how we had each interpreted God's word.
Towards the end of the event a lady stood up at the back of the room to comment. She explained that she was once an Indian citizen but had moved to this country where she found that life was very different. She told us that there came a point when she decided that she wanted to become a citizen of this country and how in order to do this she had to learn a lot about our culture. She knew that becoming a citizen would mean that she would have to make decisions as to whether she wanted to be part of this nation, whether she was prepared to live by our laws and submit to the authority of the British government.
Then she likened this to becoming a Christian and I was suddenly struck by how pertinent her example was. All the time she had been living in this country she didn't have to embrace our culture, she didn't have to agree with our laws (although of course she did have to keep them!), she didn't have to identify as British. But the day that she took on British citizenship was the day that she said yes, I embrace the culture of my new country, I agree to abide by the laws of my new country and I fully identify as a citizen of that country.
And why this resonated so much with me, was because when I first started attending church I didn't embrace the Christian culture, I didn't immediately say that I wanted to abide by God's laws, but I did want to spend time in the church environment, enjoying community and friendship. When I got to the point that I wanted to take my relationship with God further and become a “citizen of heaven” I had a choice to make. I could choose to say yes, I embrace the Christian culture, I agree to abide by God's laws and I leave my old, gay identity behind fully identifying as a child of God or to say no, I’m not prepared to do that and carry on in my old lifestyle, remaining a "citizen of earth".
Needless to say I am more than happy that I was able to make that decision, and now rather than just being on the outside looking in, I am fully immersed in my Christian identity and committed to the sovereignty of Christ over my life.