This morning many people on my Facebook friends list were posting their thoughts and feelings – good and bad – about the decision the Supreme Court made this morning. If you’ve been hiding in a cave all day, just to bring you up to speed the SC declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. If you’ve been hiding in a cave since 2003, DOMA is a federal law that prevents same-sex couples from partaking of federal marriage benefits and allows states to make their own decisions as to whether or not they will recognize same-sex marriages.
Doubtless, there are many Christians out there who are in a quandary about this whole thing. How do we react? How should we feel? Does this mean the end of America as we know it? What’s going to happen to my marriage?
I guess I can’t really answer all of those questions, but I do have some advice about the first one.
1. Don’t panic
Alright, I’m not saying that there aren’t some big ramifications here. I would fully anticipate that from this point we’re going to start seeing some pretty heavy pressure on Christian groups to recognize same-sex marriages. Who knows, maybe somewhere down the road we’ll start seeing laws being seriously considered that make it illegal to call homosexuality sin.
But even if we do, our God is bigger than any government, than any law, and he is not subject to the Supreme Court. So it can’t change his opinion on this issue, and he won’t leave us on our own when we stand up for what he says. Many nations and empires of the past have embraced – or at least widely tolerated – homosexuality and yet the Church has survived, the Word has spread, and heterosexual Christians are still getting married. Today’s decision does not spell doom for any of those things. Trust that God is still for us.
2. Don’t get belligerent
Yes, the Bible is quite clear about homosexual activity – it is sinful. So is heterosexual activity outside of marriage. I’m not saying we shouldn’t call homosexuality a sin, but we should be careful not to treat your gay neighbor like he is a greater sinner than your nephew who just shacked up with his girlfriend. Or your bachelor brother with the porn addiction. Or your cousin who just got divorced last year.
We also shouldn’t make it our personal mission to go out and get in-your-face to as many people as we can. Yes, your friend or coworker may speak glowingly about today’s decision, or may post excitedly on Facebook. You’re probably not going to make any headway choosing that moment to get red in the face, spout some Bible passages, and pronounce damnation.
3. Don’t confuse a legal judgment for a moral judgment
We have this strange problem in our culture where we equate “legal” with “moral”. Sadly, this seems to happen even among Christians. It used to be illegal in most states to live together outside of marriage, and when that was the case no one argued that it was okay to do. Now that only three states still even have a law on the books making it illegal (and even those don’t bother enforcing it, as if they could), even some Christians can be caught asking, “Well, who are they hurting, anyway?”
We could probably come up with many other examples, but let’s leave it at this point – a judgment made by the Supreme Court does not change what God defines as sin. You will almost certainly experience it within the next few weeks or months where someone will try to impress on you that you shouldn’t call homosexuality a sin because it isn’t against the law and “they’re not hurting anyone.” That is absolute craziness. Might just as well say that it is not a sin to use the Lord’s name in vain because it isn’t against the law and it isn’t hurting anyone. What glorifies God does not so easily change.
4. Do speak graciously about the subject
Lest you thought that point #2 above meant I was saying you should keep silent, let me disabuse you of that notion. I do think it is good for Christians to be outspoken about these issues. We have a responsibility to be “salt and light” in the earth, and that means proclaiming the truth. But when we do so, we want to “do so with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
What does that look like with this issue? It can start with respecting and loving all people, yes, even if they declare themselves to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transexual. When someone you know asks your thoughts on the matter, quietly and gently expressing your reliance on God’s Word for what you see as right, rather than what is popular in society. Acknowledge your own need for a Savior, and your hope that everyone, including gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transexuals, could know Jesus and his salvation. And yes, if someone says, “Don’t you think it’s a sin?” be willing to say yes, and be willing to show them where in the Bible it says so. But also be ready to show them the Gospel.
5. Do be an advocate for godly marriage
You might be fired up to do something about this whole thing in light of this morning’s news. But before you go and write to your representative and join the campaign for DOMA 2: The Renuptualizing (just wait, it’s coming), let me suggest a different option: Show people what God intended marriage to be.
If you’re married, invest yourself in being the best spouse you can be. Strive to set a good example for others. If you’re single or widowed, find a couple to support by praying for them (and let them know you are!), offering free babysitting so they can focus on each other, and encouraging them by telling them what you like about them as a couple. If you’re divorced, acknowledge the sins that led you to that point and be an advocate for faithfulness, and if you remarry, commit yourself 100% to that new marriage.
Be willing to confront other sins against God’s institution of marriage, especially within your own family. Address things like sex outside of marriage, cohabitation, and pornography. Don’t sweep them under the rug just because they’re related to you. Help them see that Jesus wants them to change too.
6. Do remember the power of the Gospel to change hearts
Over the last several years Christian groups have spent a lot of time working in and through the legal system to see God’s will enforced in our laws and courts. I don’t want to besmirch their hearts and intentions, but let’s please remember this very important fact: you cannot make someone better by passing a law. Oh, you might be able to change behavior, though I think Prohibition showed us how ineffectual that is. But that doesn’t change their spiritual state. It doesn’t make them any more acceptable before God. Only one thing does – a relationship with Jesus through faith.
Where does faith come from? “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). You want to make a change? Be a witness for the Gospel, both in word and in action.
That starts inside your own heart. If anything in the previous five points has pricked your conscience in any, know that you have been forgiven. If you bear a load of guilt and are deeply conscious of your sinfulness, know that you have been forgiven. If you struggle daily with temptation and fall so easily, know that you have been forgiven. You are washed clean in the blood of the lamb. You do not need to live with guilt. God has removed your sin. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).
Knowing this, you have every reason to speak out in joy about how great your Savior is. So do so. If you want to see a difference in the lives of people, in our culture and nation, carry the Gospel to people. Let the Holy Spirit change their lives.