Friday morning, June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States made gay marriage the law of the land, forbidding individual states to create laws or amendments to their constitutions that forbid same-sex marriage. Many, including myself, saw this ruling as a foregone conclusion. That is, if the Supreme Court had not ruled as they did, the individual states would have allowed same-sex marriage in due time, as indeed many already have. The Supreme Court’s ruling merely sped the process along, albeit in a more expedient fashion. To the extent that the Supreme Court and our leaders acted unconstitutionally, I am disappointed.
Spiritually speaking, we should not be surprised that our nation has embraced same-sex marriage. The world is acting like the world and sinners are acting like sinners – what more did we expect? – and there but by the grace of God were we as well. At the same time, God remains on his throne. He was not caught off guard by this ruling – in fact, he allowed it to happen. Such times and events call for a distinctly Christian response, and that is how we need to be thinking as we move forward in this brave new world. As faithful Christians, it is our duty to ask the question, “How now shall we live?” What follows are some of my reflections from Friday morning’s ruling.
1. Romans 1 is both instructive and prophetic. Romans 1.18-32 describes a group of people who have refused to recognize God as Creator, and as a result have turned to idolatry in various forms. God warns us in his word that if we turn from him, he will remove his hand of grace from us and allow us to indulge in the sin which we desire. While we think that the sin we desire will satisfy and fulfill us, it will instead do us severe harm. So not only are we instructed to keep a recognition of God as Sovereign Creator in view, but we are warned of the consequences of failing to do so. We are seeing the fulfillment of this warning play out before our eyes. Note that I am not so much referring to the passage’s references to homosexuality per se, but am referring more the notion that God gives people over to their sin, part of which includes an inclination to homosexual behavior, but also many other forms of ungodliness. What the Bible describes in Romans 1 has played out in our society: people have rejected the revelation of God, and as a result, God is giving our nation unrestricted access to the sin that it so desperately craves. This unrestricted access to (and approval of) sin will have monumental consequences on how we live and particularly on how we worship. Christians need to ready themselves (and especially their children) for challenges to the Christian faith that have not been seen or experienced for generations.
2. We need to consider the possibility that God has allowed this ruling as a corrective for the church. When hard times come, it is beneficial to consider how God uses these times to help us trust in him more and to encourage us to turn from our sin. This ruling affords the church a wonderful opportunity to examine itself and turn from sin where it is found. For example, is it possible that the church has trusted in the government instead of God for its salvation, and now we are getting our just deserts, and this ruling is a means of shaking us from our slumber and focusing our love back to the Lord? Is it possible that we have shifted our focus and time and energies from the gospel to political issues, and this ruling is a means of bringing our focus back to where it belongs (the gospel)? Is it possible that instead of speaking the word of God prophetically into the culture that we have resorted to declaring political talking points? Is it possible that we have stigmatized the gay community to the extent that we have not been loving toward them, and this ruling will reopen our eyes to the reality that God is calling homosexuals to repentance and salvation, and awaken in us a new zeal for the preaching of the gospel? If the church is guilty of any of these, we need to repent and get back to serving God as he would have us do so according to his word. As Phil Johnson has rightly said, “If our energies are so focused on defending our liberties that we neglect to make the gospel clear, we’ll lose our liberty anyway, along with the influence of the gospel.”
I believe God will use this ruling as a benefit for the church, although it may not seem like it at present, and the process of coming to a deeper trust in him may be unpleasant and difficult. We should be praying that this ruling, and the effects it will have in our culture, will cause us to lean on God more and realize the idolatry of trusting in anything or anyone but him. And we should be praying that God will use this ruling to give us a new zeal to reach the lost with the most glorious message on earth: Christ Jesus died to save sinners.
3. How now shall we live? As we consider specifically how to move forward from this point in our nation’s history, I would encourage you to spend much time in prayer confessing sin, examining yourself, and asking God for the strength to partner with him in his mission in this world, which is the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some Christians will become angry at the Supreme Court’s decision, and will write their political leaders and march and demonstrate and protest. All of these reactions have their place and time, but their ability to affect change is severely limited. We’ve just learned first-hand that when we place our trust in people we will always be disappointed (Psalm 146.3). So if you want to write your congressman and march and demonstrate, go ahead, but don’t forget that we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20.7), and in nothing else. Don’t be discouraged that the culture and politics of the day seem to be against us. Remember where Christianity began: with a Roman empire and a bloody cross. And remember that since that time Rome has died and Jesus is living still.
Can I suggest a very practical activity for you in response to this ruling? Share the gospel with someone this week. That is how hearts are won, people are transformed, and nations are changed, although we don’t preach the gospel to change nations, but to bring lost sinners the message of salvation. It is not the job of the Christian to win the nation through moral legislation. It is our job to point the lost to salvation.
So in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, how now shall we live? In continual repentance with an ever-increasing love for the lost and zeal to be obedient to Jesus’ command to preach the gospel.