Same-sex Marriage: How Should Christians Respond?
On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court handed down two important rulings. In its ruling on California’s Proposition 8 (Hollingsworth v. Perry), the Court failed to uphold the will of the people of California. They had voted in November 2008 that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The Court did not strike down Proposition 8, but it ruled that the citizen group that defended it did not have standing since the state officials were not defending the law.
In the Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, the Court struck down Section 3 of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996). The ruling permits same-sex couples to receive benefits in states that recognize same-sex marriage. Neither of these rulings legalize same-sex marriage on a federal level, but both of these rulings function as a prelude to what will follow. For those who honor marriage, the trend is disturbing.
On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex marriage is legal throughout the United States. So how should Christians respond to this news?
1. We worship God.
Since the Lord reigns, we rejoice (Psalm 97:1). The Supreme Court rulings do not alter the supreme rule of the One whose throne rests on righteousness and justice. God created and designed marriage to provide partnership, pleasure, order, children, and ultimately a picture of His relationship with His church. Nine men and women in black gowns cannot alter the definition of His creation.
2. We sorrow for our neighbors.
Christians do not oppose same-sex marriage because we hate our neighbors, but because we love them. Every serious sociological study has concluded that a child does best with his natural father and mother. Of course, the presence of a natural father and mother is not always possible, but a society that legalizes same-sex marriage is codifying dysfunction and intentionally dismantling the family. This dismantling paves the way for every kind of sociological malady. As the meaning of marriage is stretched to near meaninglessness, polygamy and incest will eventually be recognized as “marriage.” If marriage is the government’s way of recognizing love, then on what basis can any government declare two or more sincere people unmarriageable? Marriage, friendship and “shacking up” have all been convoluted. No one can explain the legal difference. And children will pay the price for our country’s moral suicide. This makes us sad.
3. We repent of our own sin.
The marital somersaults of our political leaders are not as rapid as they appear. President Obama and former President Clinton recently flipped on same-sex marriage only because they discarded the traditional definition of marriage years ago. Marriage has never been “living with the one you love.” Gerbils do that. Marriage is a comprehensive, permanent bond of one man with one woman for a generative purpose. Christians re-defined God’s intention for marriage decades before gay activists marched on Washington. We paved the way for gay marriage by watering down the meaning of marriage through our immorality, selfishness and the culture of divorce in our churches. The call for same-sex marriage is an invitation from God to the church to repent of our own sin and to “let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).
4. We speak the truth with courage and courtesy.
I recently returned from Ethiopia, where some of my brothers are concerned that so many Ethiopians are turning to Jesus! Their concern is not that there are too many Christians, but that the day might come in Ethiopia when being a Christian will be fashionable and no longer require counting the cost. They had seen the purifying effect of persecution which makes the church lean and genuine, but that could change. America seems to be heading in the opposite direction. Christianity may not be illegal, but if you take Jesus’ teaching on marriage seriously (e.g. Matthew 19:4-6), you will be labeled a hater, a bigot or a criminal. Most American Christians cannot imagine being rejected for following Jesus, but according to many of our brothers and sisters around the world, suffering may be a gift to purify the church. The challenge is for us to continue to speak the truth without fear or self-righteousness. When the Apostle Paul wrote to Titus, who was ministering on the Island of Crete (well-known for its homosexual population), he told Titus to remind the believers
“to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy” (Titus 3:2-5).
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