Friday, June 26th was a hard day for me. I had forgotten the Supreme Court ruling would come on that day; it wasn’t even on my radar as I dressed the kiddos, grabbed some breakfast, and got my first cup of coffee. It wasn’t until lunch time that I decided to check in on the world of Facebook. I just wanted to take a few minutes to see the newest status updates, witty comments, and summer updates from my friends. But as soon as I logged in, the tsunami of commentaries, pictures, articles, lamentations, celebrations, name-calling, stone-throwing, doom-saying, and rainbow-everything hit my eyes. I quickly realized that the decision had been made to redefine marriage, and according to the federal government, marriage now included homosexual unions.
As I sat, reading and taking in the differing reactions, I felt a deep sadness settle in my heart. This was quickly followed by frustration, and then a profound desire for Jesus to return and make all things right. It seems that many of my trips to social media lately end with that last sentiment (Come quickly Lord Jesus!) Before I go too much further, I need to disclose something here: The ruling by the Supreme Court was not unexpected or a surprise to me. It has felt inevitable to me for quite some time. Now, I know that there are some who may find fault in my resignation to this. In all honesty, I have long ago lost any expectation that our government would honor the spiritual truths taught in the bible regarding marriage and sexuality. We do not live in a Christian nation. Consequently, it is increasingly unlikely for the government of our nation to submit to the spiritual truths revealed in the Bible. This is especially true concerning something so carnally contentious as sexuality and marriage. Quite the opposite is true. Our culture, and subsequently our government, seems more compelled towards a humanistic ethic devoid of any objective morality, and is increasingly hostile towards orthodox Christianity. Why is this so? Apologist Ravi Zacharias said it well, possibly years ago, when he observed (I am paraphrasing):
“We do not have a morality problem in our culture, we have a faith problem. Our culture no longer has faith in a God that has the authority to direct our steps.”
It is true. Our culture does not revere or honor God, so it should not be surprising when it makes choices that go against His revealed will. When God ceases to have the authority to order our lives, what steps in and takes that place of authority? Our own sense of entitlement supersedes the place of authority. Without the authority of God’s commands to constrain it, our culture will continue to accommodate what it feels entitled to. This is nothing new, and that is why this ruling was not a surprise or shock. It would be dishonest, however, to say it wasn’t discouraging or disheartening, and also a bit worrisome. There are definite consequences that come with this ruling that could, or more likely will, impact the religious freedoms of those who hold to orthodox Christianity. Let’s not be naïve. With increasing hostility towards those who hold an orthodox view, we should expect that with this ruling will come increased opportunity for persecution. I am concerned about that, for sure… but it is not what grieved me most on Friday, June 26th…and it is not what I am most concerned or grieved about today. So, what does grieve me most in all of this?
Two scriptures come to mind:
3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
As I watched the social media culture war play out in front of me, it was not the world’s response that grieved me most, but the responses and reactions of those who claim the name of Christ. It was painful to watch. It seems that though there are many who claim Christ, their responses so often bear no resemblance to Him. This is true on both ends of the spectrum of reaction to the ruling. On one side of the issue there was an abundance of deception and accommodation/celebration of sin. I am greatly disturbed by the amount of Christians who have abandoned thousands of years of orthodox teaching, and fallen to deceptive teachings that accommodate and celebrates that which the scriptures calls sin, all in the name of Jesus. There were the responses of those that consider themselves “allies” to the gay community who do not, or have not, struggled with same-sex attraction personally, yet affirm the homosexuality of those wanting to embrace it and claim Christ at the same time. Whether they are theologically deceived, or influenced by a misdirected compassion, I am greatly grieved by the spiritual consequences for these individuals and those they influence with their affirmation. There is a way to love those who have embraced a gay life without affirming their sin or their ideology, but many of these individuals have thrown off biblical wisdom and given their support to sin.
Then there is the long list of individuals, some who I have known and personally walked alongside, who formerly sought to surrender their sexuality to the Lordship of Christ. As the years past, they have changed their minds, fallen into deception, became disillusioned, or decided that it was just too difficult or painful to continue, and now are donning their rainbow-colored profile pictures, celebrating what they once fought so desperately to resist. It was impossible for me to not feel a deep sense of loss while observing this.
While grieving the former, on came the latter… the litany of those believers who hold to an orthodox view of sexuality, but whose response to the ruling was rooted in anger and fear, focusing not on the deception and potential spiritual destiny of those deceived by all of this, but primarily on “how will this impact, threaten, or inconvenience me”, and on the potential (and realized) loss of personal rights. I recognize that this ruling brings a paradigm shift. I recognize that the favor and freedoms that many of us have enjoyed for years seem, and may very well be, threatened, as opposition or disagreement of homosexual unions/marriage may now be interpreted as discrimination or a hate crime. But may I just remind us all, God is still God. He is still sovereign. We can still trust Him. And He calls us to trust in Him…not our government or country. After all, we are in the world, but not of it. We are strangers and aliens here, this is not our home. If we truly believe we belong to the Lord, can we learn to claim His peace and trust that He will guide us through whatever changes or persecutions may come?
And then, after the responses based in fear and anger, came the responses based in judgement, the Christian social critics of our nation and culture who rail and rant at the lack of sanctity and reverence for a biblical understanding of marriage. The observations of those in this group may be true enough, but they focus almost exclusively on the decay of the culture around us, to the exclusion of a critically honest look at the state of the church. Sadly it seems we forget those words of Jesus that CLEARLY call us to deal with our own sins before trying to contend with the sins of our neighbors. I believe Christ is calling us as His Bride to contend with our own sins FIRST. That is what tears my heart up most in all of this… that as a whole, the Church in our culture has lost its saltiness when it comes to sexuality and marriage. We are broken, bleeding, and mangled and rather than owning it, repenting, and recovering that which we so clearly understand conceptually as sacred, we are commenting on and judging the inability and refusal of our secular culture to honor and submit to what we fail to preserve ourselves. That is hypocrisy. When we are in such a state it is no wonder why we are exerting so little influence on the culture around us.
A large portion of the Church no longer believes in God’s ability to transform and sustain a life surrendered to Him in the area of sexuality… Why is that? Is it because God’s word isn’t true? Is it because God isn’t able to transform a person? Or is it because there is so little evidence of that in the lives of those in the Church? Broken marriages, pornography use, premarital sex, all of this is rampant in the Body of Christ. Not just that… gossip, favoritism, elitism, un-forgiveness, inhospitality, pride, selfishness, a lack of repentance, all of these things destroy gospel community and are rampant in the church. Consider this passage of scripture:
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
1 Peter 4:1-19
Many have asked me my perspective on the ruling… wanting to know how, as believers, we are to respond. As I have sat with my thoughts, I have felt this unspoken expectation to come up with the formula for the perfect Christian response to this cultural trend. Sometimes the subtext in the question is “Tell me how I can win the debate or argument”. Sometimes it is “Tell me how to convict my loved one”. A common theme in the majority of the response on social media, and even of the questions asked to me personally is the thought that the problem is with “them over there”. I always seem to land in the same uncomfortable place. Honestly…my only answer is that we, as the Body of Christ, need first and foremost to collectively repent. We need to repent of our hypocrisy. We need to repent of our selfishness. We need to repent of our lack of compassion. We need to repent of our lack of true discipleship. But please don’t misunderstand me… I am not saying that we are to have no voice to the world around us. I am saying that our comments should sound more like this:
“Marriage and sexuality is sacred, and we as the church repent for not demonstrating tangibly and consistently what we say we hold sacred. We repent of not calling our own members to repentance, as well as not being places where the broken sexually can find compassion and healing. We repent of not bringing those struggling with same-sex attraction, gender identity, singleness, heterosexual struggles, and broken marriages into our church families in a real and powerful way so that these individuals do not have to resist their temptations and struggles alone and isolated from real community. We repent of accommodating, rationalizing, and normalizing sin on all levels. We repent of being such a poor example of what a Holy people looks like.”
We, collectively, need to pursue Christ with a renewed fervor. Our remedy, whether we are in a culture that affirms our spiritual convictions, or in a culture that is oppressive and hostile towards our faith, is to be firmly rooted in Christ.
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:3-11
I want to say a quick word to those for whom June 26th was not a hard day, but a day of celebration. First off, I want to say that I understand. Almost 20 years ago, I was in a relationship with another guy. It was the first time I felt loved. He was my first sexual experience. For a short time, I found myself imagining a life with him. I could not imagine a heterosexual life at the time. I felt, and believed, that my homosexuality was permanent. If I stop and imagine that my sexuality had remained unchanged, and if I was in that same relationship, or in another relationship, or if I had believed I could remain a faithful Christian and a practicing homosexual, then I am certain I would have been celebrating too. I know how real my feelings were back then. I know how lonely I felt, and how ominous a life of celibacy felt. I want you to know that I do not hate you, or judge you for celebrating. I truly understand why this was, and is a significant victory for you.
Many of you who claim the name of Christ already believe that He loves you… He does love you. But you may not believe that those who grieve the court’s decision love you. Obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but I know I, and many, many others love you. And it is because we love you that we must simply say, in love, that you are pursuing the wrong path…whether that is in embracing your own homosexuality, or in affirming the homosexuality or sexual brokenness of those around you. God is loving and God is a holy, righteous judge. I personally know that my words cannot convince you that you are on the wrong path. I know that only the Holy Spirit can do that. Please know that because of what we believe to be true about how our Lord calls us to live, we are deeply concerned for your spiritual lives. If we believe what we believe, and do not speak up, or pray for your repentance, that would not be showing love on our part… Please do not take our prayers that He will convict you as anything but a tangible expression of our love for you.
My prayer is not that the Supreme Court will change its mind. It is not that my religious freedoms are ultimately protected. My fervent prayer is that the Bride of Christ will regain its saltiness. I pray that we will repent. I pray that we will regain our zeal for holiness. I pray that we will believe in God’s redemptive, transformative power. I pray we will learn to love Jesus more. I pray we will learn to love one another more. I pray we will learn to love those who are far from Jesus more. I pray that the Holy Spirit will convict all who claim the name of Christ of our sins, and awaken to His truth those who are deceived.
I pray that we, the Bride of Christ, will truly represent our Bridegroom well as we move forward from here.