In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court made it constitutionally legal for same sex couples to get married in every state of the Union. This vote was anticipated by many in the weeks leading up to the ruling. Now what? How does the church respond in ministry? How does the church respond emotionally? I have been reading a lot of materials on the answers to these questions and the answers are broad and varied. The following reflects my thoughts in response to this ruling.
- We Must be Grounded in Biblical Truth
While the ruling has essentially changed the definition of marriage in America, God’s definition has not changed. Every Christian will have to decide if his or her values will be shaped by the changing views of a culture or by an unchanging God.
For many evangelicals, the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice. That commitment is based on the self-proclamation of the Bible, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
This means that we must understand the Bible and live the Bible as it was given for our time. The truth of the Bible cannot be altered because public opinion polls change. We do not have the option of picking and choosing the portions of Scripture that we prefer. So, while a law has changed, the Bible and our commitment to it has not.
- We Must Pray
Many Christians are responding in panic and anger. We are to be reminded that the Lord has not promised a perfect place to do ministry. That perfect place is yet to come. It is not like this is the first time the church has been challenged to reach the world in a hostile environment. The first century church was born into a context of persecution. Not only did it survive, through the ensuing centuries it turned a world upside down.
In this first century of hostility toward Christianity, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy (1 Timothy 2:1-4), “First of all then, I urge you that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior who desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
I hear people say that we have to do more than pray. And, while there is truth to that, we had better first pray and continue to pray. Our God is sovereign and in control. Ultimately, what we want to see is changed lives and a righteous nation, but only God can do this. Our church leadership has made all of the recommended changes to our statement of faith and related documents to prepare us for this day.
The ruling is not the end of a battle but perhaps just the beginning. I don’t believe the agenda was just to change the definition of marriage, but rather to silence, if not wipe out, the church and the influence of religion. I suspect more state laws will be introduced to protect religious liberty while other laws will be introduced to label all dissent to the LGBT agenda as hate speech. All of these laws will face court challenges and will ultimately be determined by nine justices.
This is why prayer is so important. 2 Chronicles 7:14 challenges the followers of God to humble themselves, confess their sins and pray.
- We Must be Focused on Mission
Our mission has not changed. Christians and the church are to shine as stars in a wicked and directionless generation. The challenge to make disciples though the powerful gospel is still our first priority. All other enterprises cannot take priority or supplant our reason to exist. Like never before in our lifetime is our culture in need of the church to be the salt and light that Jesus commanded. The power and will to do so must also be the essence of our prayers.
- We Must Demonstrate the Love of Christ
Jesus showed us that while we are not to love the world and its ways, we are to love people. We have to love people not just the ones who agree with us or live like us. Jesus taught it and modeled it. Ed Stetzer, church leader and consultant, has stated well, “You cannot hate a people and reach a people at the same time.” Perhaps those in our world will find it hard to understand that it is possible to disagree and yet love, but that is our challenge and our prayer!
My prayer is that we at Woodside would do all four of these really well. And in doing so, we will bring honor to our God and his Word while we fulfill our responsibility to reach our world.