W4YW — Thinking about What Happened This Week: Same-Sex Marriage and the American Church
On Wednesday, five members of the Supreme Court struck down a 1996 decision by the people’s representatives that had limited marriage to one man and one woman.
We have included for you a number of insightful posts addressing this issue below, but let me offer 4 brief thoughts of my own by way of introduction.
1. As one of the articles below says, we as believers must get used to being a “missional minority” rather than a “Christian majority” in our culture. This is not altogether a bad thing—the church does best in environments like these. The end result of our culture’s departure from Christianity will probably not be less actual Christians (i.e. true disciples of Jesus), but simply the elimination of more cultural Christians. What is sad is that when any people depart from God’s righteousness, their society deteriorates. As Proverbs says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” God uses his church as salt and light in their community (Matt 5:13–16), praying for the peace (shalom) of our city (Jer 29:7), and pleading with the civil magistrates to preserve our freedom to be disciples of Jesus in our culture (1 Tim 2:1–4).
To put it bluntly, this deterioration can be good news for the church even when it is bad news for America. Which is, of course, also “bad news” for the church, as we must now live and raise our children in an increasingly afflicted society, who will be feeling the reproaches of sin to even greater degree. Trevin Wax discusses this excellently in his article, linked below.
2. We should mourn for our nation. The Holy Spirit said in 1 Corinthians 6:9, “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, will inherit the kingdom of God.” As our culture increasingly approves that which God forbids, we bring upon ourselves the just condemnation of God. Paul goes on to say, of course, that “such were some of you, but you are washed, justified, and sanctified” in Jesus’ blood and by his Spirit. The gospel forgives and heals all sin, and God is gracious to all who call upon him in repentance and faith. We are people of the gospel, which means we live with perpetual hope for our society in whatever state, but we must mourn for those in our society who turn from what God says is right to “what is right in their own eyes.”
3. We must stand faithfully on our post. Martin Luther said that the courage of the soldier is tested in how well he stands where the battle is the hottest, not in how brave he postures himself where the battle is no longer being fought. It takes little courage to decry the evils of racism or the greed of Wall Street. Almost anyone would say “Amen” to that. Our faithfulness to Jesus is tested in whether we maintain his decrees in things our culture finds offensive. Remember, people got so mad at John the Baptist for preaching against open marriage that they cut his head off. But Jesus didn’t say, “John, you are putting obstacles in my way. If you’d just stick with poverty, corporate greed, and the need to recycle, you’d make it easy for me.” No, he said that John was the greatest prophet ever to live.
4. It is not possible to draw a neat and tidy line between the morality of homosexuality and the legality of it. Many say that this decision is only about the state respecting the free moral choices of others, and not the morality of homosexuality. But if you’ve read the official opinions of the Supreme Court on this issue, you can see this is not possible. Al Mohler (below) addresses these fuzzy lines. This is a complicated issue, but one that needs careful, reflective thought. The implications are massive.
Articles of the week
How Should Same-Sex Marriage Change the Church’s Witness? Russell Moore. “Permanent, stable marriages with families with both a mother and a father may well make us seem freakish in 21st-century culture. But is there anything more ‘freakish’ than a crucified cosmic ruler? Is there anything more ‘freakish’ than a gospel that can forgive rebels like us and make us sons and daughters? Let’s embrace the freakishness, and crucify our illusions of a moral majority.”
Gay Marriage: A Challenge and a Benefit for the Church, Trevin Wax. “In our churches, we have the opportunity to show the world a better way. To show the world what biblical manhood and womanhood looks like. To show the world the difference between commitment based on feeling and a covenant based on faith. The absence of a marriage culture will make biblical marriage stand out all the more. We’ll be ordinary oddballs. So let’s not waste the opportunity.”
Supreme Court Ruling Is Just One Link in a Larger Chain, Albert Mohler. This is one of the few reflections on the Supreme Court ruling that extensively quotes Justices Kennedy and Scalia, as well as tying this into past decisions. This article helps to put this week’s ruling in its larger context, including possible future developments.
Military Chaplains Voice Concern About Supreme Court Decision, Joe Carter. “Chaplains have been protected by DOMA as they minister to service members and their families. That freedom is now at significant risk.”
Religious Liberty and the Gay Marriage Endgame, Ross Douthat, New York Times. Douthat’s perspective is more patently political (instead of religious), but he makes some good points about the future of religious liberty in the wake of this decision. Churches that continue to support biblical marriage may soon find themselves to be the object of fierce public antipathy.
Why the Arguments for Gay Marriage Are Persuasive, Kevin DeYoung. “Gay marriage is the logical conclusion to a long argument, which means convincing people it’s a bad idea requires overturning some of our most cherished values and most powerful ideologies.”
Jonathan Leeman writes an article exploring what is wrong with same sex marriage. Pastors may be reluctant to take a stand on the issue of same-sex marriage, and understandably so—it is a fiery one. But Leeman reminds us that our flocks are looking to us for answers; if we don’t give them, they will look elsewhere.