what we believe about marriage
The Supreme Court of the U.S. derives its power from God. The judges, however, are not appointed to interpret and apply the Bible’s teachings to the citizens of the United States. The church of Jesus Christ exists within the boundaries of this country and exists for the sole purpose of God’s glory here and throughout the world. The church, not the courts, is the chosen means by which God is establishing His eternal and righteous Kingdom.
The U.S. is a secular state whose legislators make the laws of the land and whose courts interpret and enforce those laws. As citizens of this country, we abide by and respect the rule of law. However, as members of the church there may be occasion when the laws of the land are in direct contradiction to God’s law given in Scripture. In such instances, the church must seek wisdom and discernment as to how best to respond that respects the government while holding fast to her faith. Thankfully, this type of conflict is rare in the United States. When it does occur, we realize that the freedom to practice our faith is a powerful and precious gift that shouldn’t be taken lightly. We are free to express dissent and disagreement as Scripture directs the church’s life in very practical ways in this world.
Followers of Jesus should support and pray for leaders and government entities. Members of the church, however, should not look to government to be the primary facilitator or reflection the Kingdom of God on this earth. This is the local church’s unique role in this present age. Followers of Jesus should not be surprised when conflicts arise nor should they disregard the call to be gracious while speaking the truth of Scripture in the public square.
This is no less true for the church during this time when marriage is being redefined in the courts of this country. This redefinition is yet another symptom of the pattern of sin that has been unfolding since Genesis 3. It is further evidence that in our fallen state, we prefer to use Scripture as we see best instead of allowing Scripture to direct our lives as the Living Word of God. The following are five principals for Jesus’s followers to keep in mind during times such as these:
First of all, by way of reminder, the Supreme Court does not render judgements based upon Scripture. This does not mean that those of who by faith live by the teachings in Scripture shouldn’t try to influence the courts and government to reflect the truth and wisdom of Scripture. But, in our attempt to be “salt and light,” to be light in the gray and darkness of this world, we can neither be duped by our naiveté nor can we give into despair. We must remain focused on Jesus, who is the “author and perfecter” of our faith. He himself warned us that the laws and lawmakers of the land hated him and that his followers would experience similar adversity. With our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can address issues with love and respect.
Second, let’s remember that the decline of marriage and the family has been happening since Genesis 3! The church, despite the grace and truth of Scripture present within her, has seen its own members divorce, betray vows, and abuse loved ones. While same-sex marriage is a distortion of God’s design for marriage, it certainly isn’t the first nor is it the only such distortion. That being said, the church can’t adjust our expectations and teachings to be more “realistic” according to the world’s standards. What it means is that we need to be even more clear on what Scripture teaches about God’s glorious plans for marriage.
Third, the church must remain gracious. and compassionate while being true and faithful to Scripture. I’ve already mentioned this, but it is so important that it bears repeating! There is no room or excuse for being mean to others, no matter their lifestyle. The church can and should welcome all people to gather within her walls and to receive the blessing of hearing God’s Word and being with God’s people with the hopes that by grace through faith their hearts are opened to the truth of Scripture. This gracious hospitality, illustrated in Jesus’s own life, does not require the church to bless lifestyles that are not blessed in Scripture. This means that local churches seeking to honestly engage the world while remaining true to Scripture should seek to be as clear as possible in her expectations for would-be members.
Fourth, as wonderful as the United States of America is, it pales in comparison to God’s coming Kingdom. For now, the system of government is arguably the best example in human history of how an open democracy promotes human flourishing and how capitalism can be a tool for good in the world. While it is deeply flawed, we give thanks and we continue to long for something far better (See Hebrews 11). As followers of Jesus and citizens of this country, we must be humble in our national pride. As good as it is to be a citizen of this country, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are, more importantly, citizens of God’s Kingdom Come. We have yet to fully realize the moment when all sin is eradicated from the universe and all of God’s perfect and righteous judgements are realized on earth. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead ensures Christ’s followers that our future hope in God’s Kingdom is secure. For now, we, as Paul says, “wait expectantly as we groan inwardly.”
Finally, the laws of the land that are a direct challenge to teachings in Scripture make life in the public square for the follower of Jesus difficult. This is important to remember. Before the ruling on same-sex marriage, Jesus’s disciples rightfully take a stand against and oppose laws like no-fault divorce and the legalization of abortion. These rulings violate God’s design for the flourishing of human life on the earth. There are other examples laws that legalize behaviors and actions that are in direct violation to God’s design. All of these are like scourges on a fallen people and within their communities. This present age rejects an absolute truth and therefore navigates societal issues, mores, and norms on a slippery slope that is ultimately a path of its demise. God has given the church His “living and active word” which brings “life and light” to the world through Jesus Christ. For those who are being saved by grace and growing in their faith in God, we must be prepared to face the hostility and marginalization that inevitably will come.
In the end, the 2015 rulings create an environment in the us that is not unlike the environment in Europe and Canada. The church’s faith in God and in God’s Holy Word in the Bible is the basis for wisdom. The abundant life given to us by Jesus and nurtured in Scripture will look increasingly foolish. Together we believe that Jesus had this reality within his view when he prayed in John 16:
“Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”