The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision sanctioning gay marriage comes as no surprise to me, or to many of my Missouri Baptist colleagues. As I read reactions from Christian leaders across the state and around the nation, it’s hard to avoid the angst and anger arising from their deeply held convictions.
“The Supreme Court has stripped all Americans of the freedoms to debate and decide marriage policy through the democratic process,” writes one such leader.
“The sacred institution of marriage has been legally transformed into an abomination,” writes another. “The rule of law in our nation has once again been subverted by an arrogant oligarchy of federal judges who have anointed themselves as the architects of a new social order.”
Even the dissenting Supreme Court justices had harsh words for the majority. “The majority’s decision short-circuits” the political process required by the Constitution, writes Chief Justice John Roberts, “with potentially ruinous consequences for religious liberty.”
I’m tempted to pile on with my own expressions of self-defined righteous indignation about how five justices have thrown the convictions of millions under a bus headed for national destruction. But I believe there’s a better way to respond to today’s landmark ruling.
First, while many Christians feared the Supreme Court ruling was inevitable, our great God has known about today from eternity past. No human actions – regardless of how brazen – surprise Him or thwart His divine purposes for human history.
Second, we should not despair. This is a God-ordained opportunity for followers of Jesus to love our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender friends, and for the church to minister to those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction.
Third, Christians should be committed to a biblical understanding of human sexuality and marriage, and proclaim the whole counsel of God – no matter the cost. The MBC’s new resource, What Every Christian Should Know About Same-Sex Attraction, is a timely and relevant primer for the local church. Pastors and Bible teachers: Teach your people about what the Bible says.
Fourth, our churches should be a safe place for people struggling with same-sex attraction. This does not mean that those living unrepentant, openly gay lifestyles should be received a members, or should play any role in the leadership of the church. But vibrant, disciple-making local congregations should not deny church membership to those who confess same-sex attraction and agree that same-sex lust and conduct are sinful, and who seek to overcome these sinful desires and behaviors by the power of God and the accountability of a community of fellow believers.
Fifth, we should be consistent in our stand on biblical conduct and church discipline. Same-sex conduct is not the unpardonable sin, nor is it a special category of sexual transgression worse than any other. However, we must learn about the value of community and holy behavior that is acceptable to God.
Sixth, we should buckle up. As the dissenting Supreme Court justices acknowledged, there are serious legal issues ahead for people of faith and for faith-based institutions. While we swim against the tide of public opinion and common practice, Christians have a divinely appointed opportunity to be salt and light. Consider first-century Christians, who faced ostracism and intense persecution – not merely for their stand on moral issues but primarily because they loved Jesus and served Him faithfully. As a result, the church grew from120 on the Day of Pentecost to 30 million by the middle of the 4th Century.
Finally, we should look up – in praise of our sovereign God; in prayer for our churches, government leaders, and those struggling with same-sex attraction; and in petitions for gracious responses as we engage a lost world and lend our voice in the court of public opinion.
We live in a sinful and fallen world, and I am as responsible for this sad reality as much as anyone else. The world was not always this way, and it will not always be this way. Ultimately, the redemptive work of Christ will rise to its crescendo in His glorious return, and He will set things right.
Until then, be faithful. As Jesus told His disciples in John 16:33, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”