The decision by the United States Supreme Court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage is now about a few days old. During that time I have read through different articles, commentaries, op-eds, along with a whole host of Facebook posts and twitter feeds. In response, I initially thought it best to refrain from adding to the noise that is, at times, overwhelming from both sides. But in the end, I weighed that hesitation against a responsibility that I carry as a Christian minister to come along side my own congregation and network of friends and offer what I hope to be both a biblically resolute understanding to the questions that are being raised as well as a gracious response to those who will disagree. Here are a few of my thoughts (Feel free to stop reading at any time.).
There has been a lot of talk about all that has changed as a result of the SCOTUS ruling. There is truth to much of the talk. Change has occurred and depending upon your presuppositions, that change can be seen as either good or bad. But in the midst of the obvious cultural change, much still remains the same for those of us calling ourselves Christians. In other words, for Christianity, much is exactly the same today as it was a few days ago prior to the ruling of SCOTUS. I want to highlight just three. Here they are in no particular order…
1. Christianity’s Theology remains the same: Same-sex marriage cannot be justified
If you are reading this and not a Christian, your response to my first point probably makes you no-never-mind. But this needs to be stated clearly to anyone who confesses Christ as Lord and Savior and also supports the decision handed down on Friday. It is this: one cannot turn to the Scriptures to justify or endorse in any way same-sex marriage. That is as true today as it was prior to the judicial ruling. But please do not take my word for it. Do your own research. I would encourage you to begin with Dr. William Loader. Dr. Loader is not only the most prominent expert on ancient and biblical views of sexuality but is a strong proponent of same-sex marriage himself. You read that right. Loader applauds the same-sex marriage SCOTUS ruling. But he would be the first to tell you that the Bible offers no support for same-sex marriage. That’s worth repeating. A liberal biblical scholar who affirms same-sex marriage will tell you what orthodox biblical scholars have been saying all along: Scripture does not teach or endorse in any way same-sex marriage.
Following Dr. Loader I would then direct you to Dr. Dan Via. Dr. Via is also a pro-homosexual advocate and current professor emeritus of New Testament at Duke Divinity School. He is the co-author of the book, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views, a point-counterpoint volume where he agrees that the Bible’s rule against homosexual practice is “an absolute prohibition,” and that Scripture condemns homosexual behavior “unconditionally” and “absolutely.” Loader and Via aren’t the only two liberal biblical scholars who agree that scripture does not allow for homosexuality and same-sex marriage, but their scholarly work is a good place to begin.
As for myself, I remain today a conscientious dissenter to the SCOTUS ruling. But the basis of my dissent is foundationed solely on Scripture and not on any personal feelings of my own. The Scripture simply does not allow for the practice or endorsement for same-sex marriage, and my conscious is bound to the Bible. But this should be true for anyone who says that Jesus is Lord and Savior. We cannot play fast and loose with the Scripture when it comes to our sexual ethic, and if our views towards sexuality and marriage are narrow or arcane and happen to be out of step with 5 federal judges–so be it.
We need to remember that our whole faith is foundationed on the arcane and narrow. Think about what makes us Christians in the first place. We believe that God came to earth via a virgin birth, grew up and died for us, was brought back from the dead and that our salvation is based not on our merit but rather on His imputed righteousness alone. And our culture thinks that our views on marriage and sexuality are out of step? Our views on marriage and sexuality don’t even crack the top ten in what makes us out of step with our culture.
2. Christianity’s Role remains the same: Keep Calm and Carry On
The response of the Christian church to the culture-at-large is the same today as it was Thursday of last week prior to the SCOTUS ruling. We are not to wilt under the pressure of being accepted, relevant or liked by the culture around us. This is nothing new and has been going on now for 2,000 years. You need to remember Christianity began as an outsider to Rome. If this ruling makes us outsiders to America, exiles in our country, we should be ok with that. Honestly, when we are on the outside looking in, history demonstrates that we have been most effective in our mission and ministry. So do not panic. But on the flip side, we should not simply shake a fist, rage against the culture and articulate an ‘us vs. them’ narrative either.
With this ruling (and others rulings will surely come) there will be the temptation to err on one of those two extremes. The first will be to capitulate to the culture and go along to get along. We’ve already seen that happening within the church and make no mistake; it will continue. The other extreme will be to look at this ruling and blame the homosexual agenda as the downfall of our society. Pardon me, but if we are going to point fingers to identify the ‘downfall of society’ perhaps we should begin by looking in the mirror. When the divorce rate drops significantly inside the church, perhaps then we will have a more credible witness to speak about marriage to those who remain outside the church. But as long as Christians continue to shake off the yoke of biblical sexual morality, we should not be surprised when the culture around us shrugs and does the same thing.
3. Christianity’s Response remains the same: Gracious Conviction
Christianity has always been a home for refugees. Whether those refugees have come to us out of religious, political, societal or cultural revolution, the response of the church has always been to provide grace, mercy, aid and comfort and be a home to those who come regardless of the reasons. The American Church must now prepare for the refugees of this sexual revolution. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in an editorial for the Washington Post put it this way:
There are two sorts of churches that will not be able to reach the sexual revolution’s refugees. A church that has given up on the truth of the Scriptures, including on marriage and sexuality, and has nothing to say to a fallen world. And a church that screams with outrage at those who disagree will have nothing to say to those who are looking for a new birth. We must stand with conviction and with kindness, with truth and with grace. We must hold to our views and love those who hate us for them. We must not only speak Christian truths; we must speak with a Christian accent. We must say what Jesus has revealed, and we must say those things the way Jesus does — with mercy and with an invitation to new life. Moore is correct.
So while there is much to grieve in the prevailing cultural winds, we as Christians are not to grieve as those without hope. This latest ruling provides an incredible opportunity for the church to be the church and provide ‘gracious conviction’ to refugees looking for new birth. Let us not miss this opportunity that has been presented on a silver platter (or in this case a judicial ruling) that now carries the weight of law.
One other thought comes to mind, and it involves the mantra that has been uttered by those who applauded Friday’s ruling. Many have said that with the codification of same-sex marriage ‘Love Wins.’ Yes, it is true that love won, but that victory happened only once in history, and it wasn’t this past Friday. Rather the day ‘Love Won’ was on a dusky Friday night over 2,000 years ago when Jesus Christ went to the Cross and gave up His life for me, you, and sinners of all stripes. The victory was secured when three days later he rose from the grave. That was the day that love truly won. The Supreme Court ruling can do many things, but it cannot reverse that decision and put Jesus back in the tomb. He is still alive, and He is still calling the universe towards His kingdom. That’s something else that hasn’t changed. To quote the scripture: Jesus is also the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).