Many Summit members have asked how to respond to last Friday’s Supreme Court legislation of the legitimacy of same-sex marriage for all 50 states.
Let me offer four thoughts about the decision, and then suggest a Jesus-centered way to pray for our country, and ourselves, during this time.
1. The institutionalizing of same-sex marriage did not redefine marriage; rather, it is the fruit of a redefinition of marriage. Same-sex marriage is one star in a constellation of changes arising from a rejection of God’s pattern for family, a rejection that began decades ago. Many are amazed at the speed at which the cultural revolution on same-sex marriage took place, but that is because our society long ago rejected the Creator’s basic pattern for sex and relationships. When we enthroned our desires, rather than God’s designs, as the ultimate arbiter for what is right and wrong in relationships, the acceptance of same-sex marriages became inevitable. Improvisations on God’s designs have disastrous effects on society as a whole–most notably on the children–and this improvisation will be no different.
2. Now more than ever we, as Christians, should realize that we are citizens of another Country. We have grown accustomed to living in a country quite hospitable to our faith, and we should be exceedingly grateful for that. But we should also realize that this has been a privilege almost unknown in Christian history.
The entire New Testament, for instance, was written not from the seats of cultural and political control, but from the cultural and political margins. The Apostle Peter did not open his letter to the church with “to those in power” but “to those in exile.”
The good news is that Christianity thrives in such a context. Many of our country’s great spiritual awakenings came in times of great political darkness, times when the country’s spirituality seemed at its lowest point. Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. As the darkness becomes darker, the light becomes more distinct. Christian families, operating by the Creator’s design and with the Creator’s blessing, will become more enigmatic and attractive than ever.
The early Christians recognized that the Lordship of Jesus was a direct challenge to the lordship of Caesar. Many paid the ultimate price for it. At its core, the Lordship of Jesus is a political claim: we pledge ultimate allegiance to Jesus, not to any court or the will of the people. If the government continues to exert an ever-increasing amount of control over our lives, we will reach a point when such a counter-cultural claim will not be tolerated.
I want neither to overplay or underplay the ramifications of this. The persecution that is coming is real–the first wave being economic. Some have already lost their livelihoods for refusal to conform to the party line. For years the LGBT community argued, “What could it possibly hurt to let these two people get married?” The answer now has become clear: it means that a lot of people who will not pick up the mantle of affirmation will lose their jobs.
This is going to be difficult for many of us to get used to. We are used to living in an environment that is friendly toward Christianity, and expecting our social institutions to reflect, however imperfectly, Judeo-Christian ethics. The Supreme Court decision reminds us that we should temper our expectations, disabusing us of any hope to create a utopia here on earth. While we will never quit working for “a more perfect Union,” we know that the struggle between God and the Enemy rages in every sphere, especially in the halls of power.
3. The ruling itself reflects an illegitimate use of the Supreme Court’s power. In the dissenting words of John Roberts, this decision by the Court had nothing to do with the Constitution. Rather, it was the legislation of an agenda, the writing of a new law into our country by a body never commissioned to do so.
Some have said that we, the church, should not be making a big deal (if any) out of this, since this is only the granting of a civil right. We have to, it is said, acknowledge that not everyone in our country believes like we do and they should be free to follow the dictates of their consciences in matters of conviction or morality. That is, indeed, a principle we hold to very strongly, but it is not the issue in this case.
The questions in this case are not whether gay people should be free to be gay or to enter into whatever covenants with one another they wish. (They have had the freedom to do that for some time, a freedom we respect and would want to see upheld.) Rather, the questions in this case were (a) whether the state should institutionalize that relationship and, concomitantly, (b) whether the state possesses the ability to define, or redefine, marriage (as opposed to recognizing that the definition of marriage derives from sources of authority outside the state).
As to (a), this Supreme Court decision institutionalizes what God calls sin. The state has not taken a neutral position, but an affirming position–which God expressly condemns (Romans 1:32). This means that (b) the state has taken upon itself the right and responsibility to define marriage. This decision presupposes that the U. S. government recognizes no authority other than the state–that all things start and stop with the will of the people. This is a precarious position to be in, as it, ironically, puts all of our rights in jeopardy.
Our founding fathers recognized the basis of freedoms and rights to be the will of the Creator, not the will of the majority. As Thomas Jefferson said, rights that derive their authority from the mob can be removed by the mob. Only when our rights are seen as “endowed by our Creator” do they become “inalienable.” That God, not man, defines and bestows our most basic freedoms and institutions has been the bedrock of our Republic, and, subsequently, the basis of every significant societal reformation in our nation’s history. Martin Luther King, Jr. appealed not to the will of the majority for the equality of races, but to a higher law, the law of the Creator. Abandon the design of the Creator, and we have no higher authority than the changing will of the people, the tyranny of the majority. Ben Franklin famously quipped, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a lamb having grounds on which to contest the vote.”
4. As a church, we must speak about this with others in a tone that communicates the spirit of our Savior, who came not to judge but to save. We are not a community of the righteous condemning the sexually wayward, but fellow rebels redeemed by Jesus’ blood, calling out for others to experience the grace we’ve experienced. With the gay and lesbian community we share a common humanity; a common problem–sin; and a common hope–the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ.
I was saddened to hear that one of our church members who lives with a same-sex attraction recently overheard someone saying, “There is a special place in hell for gay people.” Actually, there is a special place in hell for self-righteous people. We should never speak in a way that separates gay and lesbian people from us. If we are right with God, it is because we are forgiven. If we are awake, it is because God roused us from the sleep of death. We have absolutely nothing about which to boast–and that transforms our entire disposition. It is not enough to possess the truth of Christ, we must also reflect the spirit of Christ.
Furthermore, we cannot “give up” on our culture or withdraw from it, as tempting as that is right now. I have felt the impulse to throw up my hands and say, “To hell with the culture” and to burrow myself into the Christian community, where I feel accepted and safe. But thank God Jesus did not do that with me. He entered our world, living and loving among us. We must enter our world as he did, sending our children into it as he did.
The Summit Church must continue to be a place where gay and lesbian people feel welcome as they seek repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, a place safe to “come out” with struggles of any kind. We must be the loudest advocates against acts of injustice or abuse of gay and lesbian people. They are us. And we must prepare ourselves to receive the refugees of this sexual revolution, for they will be many.
Now more than ever we need to put forward the distinctive Christian view of marriage and sex. We need to be able to show–through word and deed–the Creator’s better way for these life-defining relationships. Those who experience the bitter fruits of following their own way will likely be in a better place to receive it.
As my friend Russ Moore has said, this is a time for the church neither to panic nor to cave. The arc of history is long and gradual, but it tilts toward Jesus. The Supreme Court can do a lot of things, but it cannot put Jesus back in the grave. He sits enthroned over history, and all of history—his story—moves his direction. “Why do the nations rage, and set themselves against the Lord’s anointed?… You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Ps 2:1, 9) The Greeks rejoiced when the high priest Menelaus put a statue of Zeus in the Holy of Holies. But God had the last word. He always does. Rome crumbles; the kingdom of Jesus endures forever.
It turns out that the hashtag is true, #LoveWins—but Love has a name, and at his name every knee in heaven and earth will one day bow.
Over the last few days, I have felt compelled to pray the Lord’s Prayer over our country. I believe no better pattern exists for how we should pray in this, or any other, situation.
Our Father, who art in heaven, holy is your name… Father, you reign in heaven. No human court can undermine your throne, put your Son back in the grave, or thwart your plans.
Let your kingdom come, your will be done… You willed this for your church at this time. Your plans are good, and we know you will turn what the enemy means for evil into good. The salvation and glorification of your church is the goal. So we receive this as from you, and ask that you enable us to use it for kingdom purposes, as you have willed.
“Give us this day our daily bread…” This turn of events presents new challenges for us, challenges we are unsure how to meet. We trust that you will supply the wisdom, courage, and grace to be faithful for this day.
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Father, I confess part of me wants to throw up my hands and write off our culture–to withdraw into a secluded Christian subculture where I feel safe and loved. But that is not what you did with me. While I was still in sin you came for me. By your grace, I will do the same for my neighbors. We remind ourselves that we are first sinners. Each of us is guilty of our own willful rebellion and sexual misconduct. We are included in the number of the guilty. And our own churches have been plagued by marital unfaithfulness. We need forgiveness and renewal. As you have treated us graciously, we will seek to treat others the same way. You didn’t run from us; we won’t run from others. We recognize that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. An Enemy holds our culture captive, just as he once held us captive.
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We recognize in these developments an attack by our Enemy, an Enemy who wants nothing more to destroy us and ridicule your name. He will use our weaknesses in the process, and sadly, he has much to work with. God, save us from ourselves, and from our Enemy. We believe the power of your grace trumps both our weaknesses and the designs of our Enemy.
“For yours in the Kingdom, the power and glory, forever.” The arc of history tilts toward you. Why do the nations rage? You have commandeered all of history to prepare the church as a bride for your Son. This, too, will work toward that glorious end. You win, Jesus. We declare it. It’s all from you and through you and for you.
Here are some other helpful responses to the SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage:
Reaction to the Supreme Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage (video), Russell Moore.
“Everything Has Changed and Nothing Has Changed,” Albert Mohler.
Is there anything wrong with same-sex attraction? (sermon), J.D. Greear.