How should we respond to the SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage?
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:15-17
And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Last Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States (aka SCOTUS) ruled 5-4 that same-sex marriages must be recognized and legal in all 50 states. This is most likely not news to you. And by now, almost certainly you have already seen dozens upon dozens of responses, from every possible angle, regarding this decision. Perhaps you’ve been surprised by the positive response of certain friends, through things like posting positive links on their Facebook page, putting up a well written quote from someone famous, or changing their profile picture to one of solidarity with the LGBT community. And if you’re a Christian, you’ve no doubt come across different “What do we do now?” posts. So what we are seeking to do here is not give you new information, but provide a pastoral response to help you navigate these interesting times in which we live.
3 things we need to remember
First and foremost, we need to remember that God was not surprised by this ruling. There was not an emergency meeting between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to figure out what to do about America. In fact, we should take comfort that God is sovereignly in control of all of human history. Nothing has ever taken God by surprise. You may be surprised at how quickly the cultural landscape seems to be shifting in America, from a nominally Christian nation to a starkly unChristian one. But the God you worship is still on the throne and is still guiding history for his glory and our good.
Second, we need to remember the truth about sin. Sin is an exchange of the truth about God for a lie (Romans 1:25), and we are all guilty of sinning against God (Romans 3:23). In sin, we all believe the lie that we can be our own autonomous being, apart from God, and have full authority to live as we please, believe what we want, and have no consequences for it. In sin, we worship and serve something (anything!) in the created order instead of God. Because of sin, all human beings are not as they were made to be – we are distorted in our affections by nature and perpetuate those distortions by our choices. Sin fractures every relationship for every person – with God, oneself, others, and creation. Homosexual practice is sin in God’s eyes, and unrepentant sin leads to God’s righteous judgment. But all sin leads to God’s righteous judgment… homosexual practice is not unique in this regard. There is a truth that homosexuality is not like other sins, but we must remember that the real issue is sin in general.
Third, we must remember the power of the gospel. In the same part of Scripture (Romans 1) that the Apostle Paul goes into the devastating consequences of sin, including but not limited to homosexual practice, he also declares that the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Jesus is saving people this very moment around the world from all kinds of sin, be it different religions, atheism, addiction to pornography or drugs or alcohol, violence and hatred, racism, and homosexual practice. We worship and serve a great God who has shown his love to the world by sending his only Son to be the sacrifice for our sin, so that we can be reconciled to God. God rescues sinners and turns them into light posts to a dark world, shining the truth and love of Jesus. Through personal faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, God delivers us from the power and penalty of sin. We are able to overcome in our lives what once could not be overcome, and we are seen by God as righteous because of the only righteous One, Jesus Christ. God gives us a new heart out of which to love and serve him, and a new power through the presence of the Holy Spirit to live a joyful and obedient life, fully submitted to his Word.
Below are several questions and answers that we hope are relevant, timely, and helpful to you as you think through these issues as a Christian:
What should a Christian believe about marriage?
We should believe what Jesus (and all of Scripture) teaches about marriage: that it is a God-ordained institution, as old as the first two human beings, reserved for one man and one woman. In Mark 10:6-9, Jesus says “…But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
What should we make of the government’s redefinition of marriage?
There are two tensions that we need to hold together as we respond to what SCOTUS has mandated regarding same-sex marriage. One is that the actual, God-originated definition of marriage has not changed. Many examples could be given of laws going into effect, either permitting or banning certain activities or lifestyles, that would require us to take a strong position in opposition to the government’s views. This new ruling does not change God’s definition; it only makes legal what some in our country want to be legal. The second tension we must navigate is the new reality that marriage is now legal in our country between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman. What is legal and what is right in God’s eyes are not identical, but it is the world in which we live. We have a responsibility to live as citizens firstly of God’s Kingdom but also as good citizens of the earthly dwelling place God has placed us in. We must find ways to speak about our dissent of the government’s redefinition while still extending real love and compassion to the growing number of people in favor of the court’s ruling.
Is this a civil rights issue?
Put simply, no it is not a civil right’s issue. It is constantly portrayed as a civil right’s issue, that much is certain.
What if undeniable evidence shows someone can be “born gay”?
This is a very important question to understand, but one that can be answered quickly from a biblical perspective. Because of sin, all of us are born with dispositions toward different things. Homosexual orientation has not been proven to be genetic by any credible science. But even if it were to happen, it would not change the issue of homosexual practice being a sin. From a Christian perspective, an orientation, disposition, or tendency towards something, even if it were genetic, does not therefore give someone permission to act upon that impulse.
Can a person be gay and a Christian?
Another important question that can be answered briefly. Yes, a person can have a disposition toward same sex attraction and still be a Christian. God saves people by his grace from all walks of life, with all kinds of pasts, struggles, and sins. God is not somehow put off by someone having same sex attraction in a more significant way than he views other sin. Praise God that nothing stops God from saving people!
That being said, just as with all other sins, as followers of Christ we are called to deny ourselves, put sin to death, and seek the Holy Spirit’s help in living a God-glorifying life, growing in conformity to God’s will. This includes all forms of sexual sin… ALL forms! Adultery, lust of the heart, viewing pornography, sex outside of God’s definition of marriage in all forms, and so on must all be equally called what they are: sin. This does not minimize the difficulty of leaving these sins behind, or of working through the complex issues of psychology, addiction, and the like. For an amazing testimony of God’s redemption in Jesus for those with same sex attraction (and lifestyle), please read Love Letter to a Lesbian.
The differences between American mainstream culture and the Christian Church are becoming more glaringly obvious. The ability to hide “somewhere in the middle” – to call yourself a Christian because you’re an American (but really not be a Christian), or to be a Christian but to successfully hide it from the watching world, is becoming more difficult. And this is a good thing! God has called us to be a light to the world, proclaiming the truth of God’s Word in a way that points people to Jesus Christ. And, God has called us to live in a way that is consistent with the gospel: to show by actions that we have a God who is compassionate and loving, as well as holy and good. He does not sweep our sin under the rug or ignore it, and he has made a way for sinners to be reconciled to himself through Jesus Christ. We actually have the greatest news in the entire universe, and now is a perfect time to commit to that news. It is a common belief among those who affirm gay marriage that to be against gay marriage is to be a hateful, vindictive, bigoted, and so on. And sadly, some people who are against gay marriage speak of those affirming as if they are the scum of the earth. Only gospel believing Christians can declare without reservation (in the words of Tim Keller) “You are far worse than you ever dare imagine, but in Jesus Christ you are far more loved than you ever dared believe.” The gospel is indeed the power of salvation, the only real hope for a dying world that desperately needs people who preach it and live it. Do not give in, and do not give up. Pray that God conforms you to the image of his Son through the power of the Holy Spirit, for his glory and your joy.
You are loved.
More resources to consider reading:
So Called Same-Sex Marriage: Lamenting the new Calamity by John Piper
How Should You Talk to Your Children about Same-Sex Marriage by Russell Moore
Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage from Christianity Today
Top 10 Quotes from Dissenting Justices on Same Sex Marriage from The Gospel Coalition
Why the Church should Neither Cave nor Panic about the Decision on Gay Marriage by Russell Moore
If you have any questions or comments regarding the content of this post, please email Pastor Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org directly.