On Friday June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that according to the Fourteenth Amendment, same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. This decision came with a vote of 5 to 4, with strong dissents by the minority Justices calling the majority's decision out-of-line, arrogant, and not founded by a sound interpretation of the Constitution (read the majority and minority comments here). Advocates of same-sex marriage celebrated by waving rainbow flags before the courthouse. In the eyes of the majority Justices and supporters of the cause, love, equality, and dignity have triumphed.
On Friday June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that according to the Fourteenth Amendment, same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. This decision came 5-4, with strong dissents by the minority Justices calling the majority's decision out-of-line, arrogant, and not founded by a sound interpretation of the Constitution (read the majority and minority comments here). Advocates of same-sex marriage celebrated by waving rainbow flags before the courthouse. In the eyes of the majority Justices and supporters of the cause, love, equality, and dignity have triumphed.
As soon as this decision was pronounced, the Christian radio station I listen to, King of Kings Radio, interrupted its normal programming to take callers to hear opinions on the ruling. Bro David Carr, the founder and spokesman for the radio station, asked the callers three questions: where do we, as Christians, go from here, what does it mean for our pastors and churches, and how do we respond when asked to obey this ruling.
After hearing several opinions, something became clear: advocates believe that equality has won while opponents believe that this is all-time low in American culture that points to the advancing of end-time prophecies.
So, who is right? Is it a good or bad thing that same-sex marriages are now legal in all 50 states?
We can correctly understand the situation and the appropriate response by looking at the fundamental issues at stake. These are: is homosexuality a sin; does equality override God’s law; and, if God’s law and man’s law conflict; which do we obey?
Is Homosexuality a Sin?
The Bible is clear on this issue. Leviticus 18:22 reads, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” At this point, advocates of same-sex relations can claim that since Christ came, the old law was abolished; we now live in the dispensation of grace, so if two men truly love each other, God will not punish us according to the old law. This is incorrect. The sins of the Old Testament are still sins in the New Testament. Adultery, idolatry, murder, thieving, etc. are still sins in the eyes of God. The only difference since Christ came is that we can now receive complete forgiveness for our past sins by accepting Christ into our lives. Without Him, however, we are still in sin.
Romans 1:21-28 reads:
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and the birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness though the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one towards another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.
Here in the New Testament, Paul says that same-sex relations are the result of people willingly forsaking God to pursue their own gods and lifestyles, calling the behavior unnatural, unseemly, vile, and not convenient. Homosexuality is an outward manifestation of a spiritual darkness brought about by a refusal to learn about God.
Whatever arguments you have in favor of same-sex relations, you cannot argue that Scripture supports such behavior. If you are a follower of Christ, you must adhere to the teachings of Scripture, and therefore this particular issue is settled squarely in the Bible.
Does Equality Override God’s Law?
The main premise of the Supreme Court’s ruling is that same-sex couples are guaranteed the same equal rights as heterosexual couples. This equality assumes that equal treatment does not result in another human’s harm, and that is where Christians need to split hairs.
The Bible teaches that every human has a free will (Josh. 24:15). We all choose to obey or disobey God. The Bible also teaches that we are to respect another’s decision to disobey God (Rev. 22:11). In essence, every person has the God-given ability to chose who to live his/her life. However, this right of choice has consequences, with obedience to God’s ways leading to everlasting life and disobedience leading to everlasting torment (Rev. 21:1-8).
Whatever laws man creates, God is the ultimate authority, and He will have a day of reckoning when all those who have chosen wickedness over righteousness will be held accountable for their sin (Jer. 17:10, Rev. 20:11-13). Therefore, while I am to respect every individual’s right to choose to sin or not to sin, God will punish all who refuse to repent of sin.
Because at death we are held accountable to God’s and not man’s law, it is important for any man-made law to coincide with God’s law. If the man-made law teaches people to do that which is contrary to God’s law, then obedience to man’s law leads one directly into judgment from God, which is eternal death in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 21:8). Therefore, a ruling of equality that endorses a sin (such as homosexuality) is to the harm of the people it involves and should thus never be voted into law. Equality, then, does not supersede God’s law.
If God’s Law and Man’s Law Conflict, Which Do We Obey?
Once a man-made law that contradicts God’s righteous law has been put into effect, what do Christians do? I hope, after the previous section’s argument, you can see that obedience to the man-made law is spiritual suicide. If I know that I am judged according to God’s word and His word teaches me that homosexuality is a sin, then (supposing I had the authority to marry) marrying same-sex couples because the man-made law told me to do so would be an act of direct disobedience to God’s command. As James writes, “to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jm. 4:17). Therefore, if you know something is a sin, even at the command of man you are not to do it.
What, then, are we to do?
At this point it is helpful to consider how Biblical characters responded to similar situations. During the Jewish exile in Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar made an idol and told all people in his kingdom to fall down and worship the golden statue which he had made. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to do so in accordance with the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me…Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them” (Exo. 20:3-5). At the time when everyone was supposed to worship this idol, these three Jews simply did not do so.
This disobedience to the king’s law was brought to the king’s attention. As members of his council, it was unseemly for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to refuse a royal decree. King Nebuchadnezzar asked if the accusations were true, and the three replied calmly that no matter the consequences, they would not worship the golden statue. Furious, the king commanded that they immediately suffer the penalty for disobeying this law, which was to be cast alive into a fiery furnace. Without resistance, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound hand and foot and thrown into the fire. (Dan. 3:1-23)
Before going any further into their story, what can we take away from these three faithful Jews?
To refuse and to rebel are very different things. Christians should refuse to adhere to this new ruling. However, we should not rebel against those who created it. Going back to the free will of man, we are to respect man’s decision to legalize sin. This means that we do not rail against our rulers, slur any names, or support any type of violent retaliation. If our leaders choose to direct the people towards sin, that is their decision.
Thankfully, because we live in America and not a dictatorship, we have civil and judicial means for countering the rulings of our leaders. I hope that each of you will take the time to see how you can support the Christian legal foundations which will be battling this decision in the coming months and years. Also, I trust that each of you will prayerfully consider if God wishes you to write to your representative or congress member concerning the creation of legislation to strike down this court ruling.
If despite these efforts sin continues to be legal, it is our moral job is to represent righteousness by refusing to partake of anything evil. If the law tries to force us to commit a sin, we are to calmly state that we cannot do so. If the law requires that we be punished for refusing, then, out of respect of the authority given to our earthly rulers, we are to submit to the punishment.
If pastors and ministers are fined for refusing to marry same-sex couples, we should help them pay the fine. If churches are told that we must allow same-sex couples to use our facility or be shut down, then we should shut down and simply meet in private homes.
Whatever laws are passed, Christians have the duty to stand on the principles of God. Since part of those principles is to submit ourselves to earthly authority (I Pet. 2:13-14, Rom. 13:1), we are to submit to their decision regarding punishment and restitution for refusing to perform the man-made law.
This is a difficult truth to accept. Our flesh wishes to rise up and sling accusations against sin. Nonetheless, Christ teaches us to submit to His laws of obedience, meekness, and love. Ideally, we could all be like Stephen who loved his persecutors so much that he could make an intercessory prayer for them even as they stoned him for believing in Jesus Christ (Acts. 7:59-60).
The Christian's Best Response: Prayer
In conclusion, let us return to the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Because they remained faithful to God and submitted to the judgment of their earthly rulers, God miraculously delivered them from burning alive. The Bible reads:
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? … Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God… Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire and no power, nor was a hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. (Dan. 3:24-27)
If we do exactly what God commands of us, then we have a hope no other people have; namely, we have a living God who is able to intervene and override man-made laws to accomplish that which is good for His people.
The key to unlocking this hope is simple: prayer.
The Bible says that we are to pray for our rulers (I Tim. 2:1-4). Furthermore, if we pray for that which is good, believing that God will give it to us, God will not withhold our prayer from being answered (Ps. 84:11, Mt. 7:11, Mt. 21:22). Since it is a good thing for man’s laws to encourage righteousness and discourage unrighteousness and since it is a good thing for Christians to be able to endure whatever persecution arises from being steadfast in the faith, I believe wholeheartedly that God will give us those things if we sincerely pray.
Along these lines, my pastor preached a timely message this morning concerning Aaron and Moses. After they delivered the Jews out of the bondage of Egypt, the whole congregation of Israel turned against them because they were displeased with the current turn of events. Even though under Moses’ direction they were headed for the promised land which flowed with milk and honey, the people wanted to go their own way and return to Egypt. In response to this rebellion, God told Moses and Aaron to come up away from the people because He was going to consume them as in a moment with a plague.
In the face of this decree, did Moses forsake the people? No. He commanded Aaron to make hast, take fire from off the holy altar, and run to the people to make atonement for their sin. As Aaron did so, the Bible says that he “stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.” (Num. 16:42-48)
Because Moses loved the people, he did all he could to turn the wrath of God from them. He did not forsake them when they turned to sin but choose to stay, thus endangering himself by potentially receiving the plague if it reached him, for the sole purpose of getting God to forgive them of their sins. And God heard him. True born-again believers can, with a genuine concern for the condition of the lost, move God to withhold His judgment and give the people another chance to change. Our prayers can change the hearts of men and change the direction of our government.
So, my final message is hope. Because anything is possible with God, let us pray for a great revival that will return our nation back to the path of righteousness. Then, our leaders will want to change their laws to once again reflect the righteousness of God's ways. At that point, we will once again be a nation under God's blessings, and I believe we can get there. I want to leave you with these finals words from II Chronicles 7:14:
"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."