I’ve hesitated for a number of months now of speaking out on this issue. Perhaps it’s because there are so many diverse opinions on it, even among conservative evangelicals. Who am I to presume I have the best one? Perhaps it’s because it is more comfortable to wax poetic on theological maxims in the blogosphere than it is to actually address contemporary moral issues. Maybe it’s simply that I’ve been scared to have anyone mislabel me a bigot. But by now I’ve read enough of the life of Dietrich Bonheoffer to know, “not to speak is to speak, not to act is to act.” In light of that, allow me to speak for a bit on the new hot topic of our time, same-sex marriage. Intentions
My goal in this blog is not to prescribe a particular “war strategy” among my readership. There are many thoughts as to how to practically affect change in our nation, ranging from legislation and lobbying to complete removal from the political sector. Each side makes compelling arguments and I for one am not yet settled on either entirely. Suffice it to say that one strategy that should never be forsaken in this culture war is prayer, for, “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16).
I would rather like to talk about what’s at stake in the embracing of same sex marriage as a constitutional sanction. As many of you know (hopefully), there are two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court right now that demand rulings regarding the legal legitimacy of same-sex marriage. Until recently, I hadn’t really thought much of it. It seemed to me that not much would change about our country should the courts rule in favor of the plaintiffs. After all, same-sex marriage is already legally legitimate in a number of states and I’m still doing fine. Sure, I wasn’t happy about it, but it really has no direct impact on my day to day. Turns out, I was very wrong. That’s why I’m writing this, so that we as the Church can speak thoughtfully with our friends and neighbors about this very important topic, and so we can prepare ourselves for what waits over the horizon. There are in fact things at stake in this matter, and I will be arguing them from three positions: Theological, social, and legal.
The Purposes of Marriage: Why Same-Sex Marriage Won’t Work Theologically
If you thought same-sex marriage can’t coalesce with the Christian message simply because homosexuality is a sin, you’d be only partially right. Despite the theological dance that is being done from religious liberals, we know from Scripture that homosexuality is denounced as a sin. However, what we fail to consider is the inconsistencies that come when an unbiblical union collides with a biblical institution.
Several months ago, I had the privilege of sharing the stage with Pastor Voddie Baucham. In his sermon he laid out what he sees as the three purposes of marriages. Namely, that marriage exists for multiplication (bearing children), sanctification (being made holy) and reflection (picturing to the world Jesus’ union with the Church). The theological problem here is that none of the three fundamental purposes of marriage can be achieved by a same-sex couple. The first is obvious why. The final two deserve a word of explanation. As for sanctification, God uses our circumstances and our spouse to draw out of our sinful, selfish leanings and daily make us look more like Him. However, if the very foundation of your union is itself not pleasing to God, then to be fully sanctified would mean to end the relationship, which is a logically absurdity. The problem in this case is plain. As for reflection, nothing to me is as dastardly as the undermining of this purpose. Each married couple serves as a parable of the archetype: Jesus and His bride. Any combination of as marriage partners besides one man and one woman serve as poor parables. Whether we know it or not, when we enter into marriage, we are making statements about God and his gospel to future generations. We must be careful about what those statements are.
Taking the Sticky out of the Glue: The Social Ramifications
As with everything God does, there is deep purpose to the existence of biblically defined marriage. The marriage union is vital for the stability of culture. As one pastor put it, “God has created three institutions, marriage (and family), the Church, and the government, and the latter two hinge on the former.” In truth, this God given institution acts as the glue for an otherwise chaotic society. Study after study only confirms this. Children in loving homes of one mother and one father are statistically less likely to abuse drugs and/or alcohol, commit suicide, go to prison, live below the poverty line, get pregnant out of wedlock, etc. To tamper with the understanding of marriage is to remove the stickiness from society’s glue.
What Looms Ahead: The Legal Ramifications
What looms ahead of us? An assault on religious liberty, that’s what. Believe it or not, we are on the precipice of a nationwide governmental intrusion into our freedom of religion. Practically speaking, this final point should open eyes more than anything previous. Consider what has already happened in states where same-sex marriage has been legalized. In his article in Decision Magazine, Al Mohler points out, “In Massachusetts, the legalization of same-sex marriage meant the end of the adoption ministry of the largest faith-based agency there…Given its refusal to recognize same-sex couples as candidates for adoption, the agency was forced by law to end its respected adoption ministry.” In California it is now illegal for a licensed professional counselor to counsel a minor away from same-sex attraction. Things like these are beginning to happen around the country, but these are just birth pangs. Imagine what would happen to our ability to practice our faith freely if on a national level our government rules against one of Christianity’s longest held institutions. What might happen to our religious universities? Our churches? What will be the consequence if a church parishioner refuses to perform a wedding of a gay congregant? Will sermons speaking against homosexual behavior become a hate crime? We can only speculate. This much is certain, what was once far away is now very near and we must know that things might never be the same for people of faith.
God, Give Us Strength
I’m not saying our government owes us the luxury of religious freedom. In many ways I’m surprised we’ve had it this long. The Spirit opposes the flesh and the flesh the Spirit. We cannot expect that a secular institution will always uphold our viewpoints. I thank God that for so many years it has. However, as our culture takes yet another large leap away from the gospel, I want to encourage all of us who love Jesus to bear this well. Many societies around the world for most of history have resisted the gospel and persecuted God’s people. Perhaps it’s our time now to bear up under the coming heat. I want to challenge you, brother, sister, to be faithful to God’s Word. May we, the Church, resist the urge to co-opt un-truths in pursuit of comfort. May we be vigilant in prayer for our nation and each other. And may we always be marked by kindness and compassion to the gay community, even as we stand firm on the ground of the gospel so that though “they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12)