Over the past few months, I have often written in regard to the same-sex marriage issue. Because of the timing of the ruling, I was unable to comment because of publishing deadlines. I am glad I wasn’t able to comment right after the ruling because I have since read some very sensible and helpful insights. I have also read some senseless things that hurt rather than help. I shall attempt to write something sensible and helpful.
One of the hidden tragedies of the ruling is the significant step taken by the Supreme Court toward becoming a legislative branch. In my opinion, our republic is on a slippery trajectory of the courts and the president becoming legislative—the president, through executive orders, and courts that have determined to stop interpreting the law while finding new points within the law. These actions make us a more lawless society because these two branches were not meant to legislate laws.
The Supreme Court ruling will result not only in the legal redefinition of marriage, but also will strike a severe blow to marriage in general. While traveling recently, I heard a report regarding a Scandinavian country where same-sex marriage was enacted many years ago. Marriages there have taken a dramatic drop, and marriage has become less and less important with its redefinition.
Perhaps my biggest concern is the loss of religious liberty. The very next morning after the ruling, the New York Times carried an article calling for the removal of tax exempt status for all who refuse to abide by the ruling on the basis of religious conviction. Worse yet will be the increased calls for churches and leaders, who stand on Holy Scripture and refuse to bend on same-sex marriage and homosexual issues in general, to face heavy fines and, in particular, lose tax exempt status. Do not be surprised if there are calls for those who defy the SCOTUS ruling to face jail time. While this may seem like a panic reaction, and I do not speak of it lightly. Though I do not think anything will happen soon, if things do not change, penalties will come.
So, what do we, as Bible-believing Christians and churches, do that will not compromise the truth on this subject or any other subject addressed by the Bible?
We stand strong in the power of His might. The church at its best has always been counter-cultural. The Word of God is counter-cultural, and so was our Savior. Our theme must be as the words of the old quartet song about the Hebrew children before Nebuchadnezzar, “They would not bend! They would not bow! They would not burn!”
We preach and live the Gospel. Peter and John told the Jewish leaders, when instructed to be silent and not speak in the name of Jesus, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Preachers must stand and preach the truth with conviction and kindness. We must lace our words with grace, but that does not mean explaining away the truth. Preach the truth.
But preaching the truth is only half the story. The greatest salt to be applied to a decaying culture is gospel living. We must practice what we preach. Therefore, if we believe marriage between a man and a woman reflects God’s only and best approach to human relationships, then we make our marriages the best to be seen. If the Gospel transforms sinners, then let us demonstrate this change by living a Christ-like life with humility and love before the world. Show the world the difference Christ makes in our lives.
We protect our churches from legal intervention to the best of our abilities. Over the next few weeks, the Messenger staff will print a compilation of some of the best approaches for churches. This compilation comes from some of the finest sources available and will provide the greatest protection under our ever more shaky religious liberty safeguards. These resources will also be available on the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma website at www.bgco.org/marriage. A good place to begin is the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission website at www.erlc.com. These materials are well-documented and well-conceived advice to churches. Do not panic, but do take thoughtful and careful steps forward.
These are new days in America. Days we wish had not come. But remember, these days are not new to the history of the followers of Christ. Most importantly, remember that our Sovereign God is still on His throne. He reigns!