Today the Supreme Court made a decision that will drastically change the cultural and civil definition of marriage in America. Gay marriage will now be legal in all 50 states. I join many of my fellow pastors, church members, and Christians as we console one another about what this means for America, for families, and for the church.
I have seen several responses. Some people assume it is a sign that Jesus will come back soon. This is a challenge, since nothing we do can change when He returns (Matt. 24:35), so instead of reading the tea leaves in the newsprint, I would focus on living for eternity (1 Peter 2:11).
Some people have expressed a belief that American society is on the decline. I will not dispute this, yet it is not hard to feel this way every day when we look at the headlines. We should let God define how we feel, not our society (Romans 15:13). We should be active in reaching out to the world, not reactive. We live in a post-Christian society. Christians should no longer assume everyone else is just like us, or that we have a majority opinion on ethical issues.
I have heard people say that we may be on the wrong side of history. This is a terrible argument. It drives fear into people. We should not be concerned with the opinions of others, only that of Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ (Gal. 1:10). History is constantly rewritten by those who are writing it. Those writing it have changing opinions. The one thing that does not change: God’s Word. We need to stand on this above all else. Additionally, the church has stood for two millennia on this issue with a clear record. It is difficult to throw out two thousand years of Christian tradition and believe we have found something new from God in this age. There is nothing new in the world, and we need to keep our eyes focused on Jesus (Eccl. 1:9). When He returns we will see history as it truly is.
I have heard people tell me that gay marriage is similar to the civil rights movement. It has also been compared to women’s suffrage, or in the church women being ordained in ministry. In both of these cases, we have clear examples in Scripture of women leading in the church and of women being valued highly by God. We also know God does not condone slavery, which is clear in the Bible. Some verses have been misused on these subjects, but looking at the context, we see clearly the Truth, and the church and our country have done the right thing on these issues.
There is a growing voice that claims some people are born with a same-sex attraction. This really does not bother the Christian viewpoint though. We see our whole world broken by sin. We know that daily people are born with physical and mental deformities and problems. Does God love those people less? No. It is a mark of the fallenness of this world. We are all born with a bent toward sin (Psalm 51:5). If someone is born with a problem, we treat their problem. If it is possible that someone could be born with a same-sex attraction, as Christians we encourage them to not act on that attraction, just as we encourage all people to follow God’s commands.
I have heard some people say that we should give liberty in civil matters for people to have same-sex relationships, since this allows freedom to live as they want. The church can stand opposed to it. Live and let live. It is true God gives us all free will to accept or reject His grace. When Christ saw parts of the culture that did not conform to God’s will, what did he do? Did he leave them in their sin or did he show them a better way? Did he pass by others with deformities and not heal them? It is much the same thing. God heals the wounds of sin just like God heals physical wounds. As Christians we need to stand together in love to offer grace to others. We respect that God gives us all a decision, yet we resolutely stand for the Truth as well. There is a definite right and wrong. There is absolute Truth in Scripture. We live a world that believes truth is relative. We firmly show the world that Truth is not negotiable, but instead filled with a wondrous grace and love.
Yet now we have a decision that shows we are living in a post-Christian world. Today there is another Supreme Court decision that clearly disagrees with Christ’s ethics and values. What are we supposed to do as Christians? What can we do? Are we not supposed to care about these issues? Do we not find our joy in obedience to God and should we not try to lead others in that same way?
We do need to care about these issues, but we should never care more about issues than people. Sin’s greatest pain has been felt by God (1Peter 2:24). We should know when people sin, their greatest sin is against God, so we need to follow God’s example (James 1:2-4). This Supreme Court case really changes nothing. Nothing. God’s Word still stands (Matt. 24:35). The Bible was as true yesterday as it is today and will be tomorrow. Take heart. Nothing can overcome those in Christ (Romans 8:37).
As Christians we are not to be known what we are against. We should be known what we are for. We are for loving others. That love comes in a context. Love is not freedom to do whatever we want. Love is freedom to follow God’s commands as shown in Scripture. Jesus is the Way, Truth, and Life (John 14:6). So when we see someone in sin, be it a same-sex relationship, alcoholism, gluttony, gossip, abuse, pride, idolatry, or anything else that misses the mark of God’s will for us, we should love that person to show them the better way (1 Cor. 12:31). That way is love, and that love is the love of a resurrected Christ.
There seems to be confusion with some about what the Bible says about homosexuality. I am not going to debate every single verse. I could write an entire book about that, but others have already done so and done better than I would. I will point out two verses. First, to define marriage, in Matt. 19:4-5 Jesus quotes Gen. 2:24 and 5:2. Marriage is between one man and one woman. Nowhere, in all of scripture, is there ever a reference that the act of homosexuality is condoned, supported, or not sinful. Acceptable marriages have always been between one man and one woman.
Let me be clear here. The Bible does not talk about same-sex attraction. It only talks about the act of homosexuality. One of the best references is in Romans 1:26-28. It is the act of homosexuality we need to address. We all have inclinations to sin. Some of us gossip more than others. Some of us eat too much food (including myself, just to confess). We all have sin (1 John 1:8). We should not see homosexuality as any worse.
It is, though, becoming accepted in our society. What are we to do? Should we build a moat around the church to protect us from the culture? Certainly not! We should go and serve the world. We should go and show the world the better way. We should build relationships with people who are different from us. We should repeatedly show them Jesus’ love until they know Jesus as their Savior. We should show unconditional love to them just as Christ showed to us.
What happens when someone clearly believes differently than us? There may be more people than I realize that disagree with me now. Polling suggests that possibly up to 60% of Americans support same sex marriage, versus 27% in 1996. In twenty years our culture has changed radically to adopt a position that is clearly not Biblical. Instead of mourning our loss of cultural influence, we should remember that Bible told us the world would not follow God (2 Cor. 4:4). We should instead continue to do the work God calls us to do. When the church is persecuted, we find that it has revival. Faith becomes most active when it is least popular. We need to see that God died for every person, and every person can accept him. Who will you offer life this week? Who is it you can show grace?
We do not need to stand around talking about our rights as Christians. We have no rights in the church. It is all grace (Eph. 2:8). Thus we must serve one another. We come humbly, not as those courageously defending the Truth. God does not need us to defend him. He is quite powerful enough. Instead, we use all our resources. This includes the civil rights given to us in voting. We can elect those who represent our values. We can share the Truth publicly and privately with others. We can speak up when we hear or see things that are not correct, and respectfully show others a better way (Eph. 4:2-3). When we do this we show the world we are not like them. We will surprise them.
Finally, we can pray. Prayer changes things, especially us. Pray for our country, for its leaders (whether you agree with them or not). Pray for our churches. Pray for pastors. Know that God has great plans for his people. The world can do what it wants with its own laws. We should remember we are created for eternity, and our time spent on this earth is only a very, very short part of that eternity.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2