I Agree with the Supreme Court (sort of)

Today, in a landmark decision that was basically split right down the middle, the Supreme Court of the U.S. decided to fully endorse same-sex marriage as a Constitutional right according to the 14th Amendment that applies to the entire nation. Five judges held the majority opinion and four were dissenters.
I was contacted by the local TV station (WLFI) today and asked to give them a couple sound bites for their evening news, so I thought I would publish here what I said or at least intended to say and to explain myself a little.

What SCOTUS Did Right

Essentially, I was not surprised by the decision of the court. The wave of change on the issue of homosexuality has been like a Tsunami in our nation for the past decade or so, and I thought it was an inevitable outcome to have the court decide that the freedom to choose to marry whomever you wished was fundamentally protected by the Constitution.
On the plus side, I’m an advocate of personal freedom and so I’m generally a fan of any time the government decides to remove restrictions on individual liberty. From one perspective, this is one of those times. Some may say that this decision undermines the freedom of the states, but as a matter of fact, I’m a fan of the FEDERAL government telling the STATES when they have overstepped their authority—a fan in principle, at least.
However, this decision has religious implications. Some might ask me, “Aren’t you scared of the religious implications of this decision? Aren’t you afraid that because of this decision, the moral fabric of our society will crumble and speaking against homosexual behaviors will be considered a hate crime?”
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I’m not afraid of a society that moves away from God. I’m afraid of a church that fails to make the gospel beautiful to people in that society!
Anyway, I was very pleased to read this in the majority opinion:

Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex (Section IV, Final Paragraph).

Do you see what the Supreme Court did there? They did exactly what they needed to do on this issue. They outlined the importance of individual liberty to make decisions such as life-long covenants but they also reemphasized that reasonable people may disagree and should be allowed to.
I have never been so pleased with the left side of SCOTUS.
But just to be clear, I would have preferred it if they simply said, “The Constitution takes no interest in the definition of marriage or the rules governing it and therefore neither will we.”

A Christian Response

Nevertheless, in light of this, we need to come face to face with how Christians should respond to a society that fails to share its convictions over seemingly foundational issues.

The Biblical Truth

Of course, the first thing is that Christians need to be aware of what the Bible’s teaching on marriage really is. In the Old Testament, God gave Moses a bunch of regulations about sexual ethics, but one of the most interesting ones to me was the regulation that if two people had a sexual relationship, they were to be considered married.

(67) Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. — Genesis 24:67 NIV

(16) “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. (17) If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins. — Exodus 22:16-17 NIV

In each context, a sexual relationship is the equivalent of a marriage. Jesus talks about marriage in a very similar way when he says this:

(8) Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. (9) I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” — Matthew 19:8-9 NIV

For the Bible, there is only one concept for marriage and it is equivalent with the Bible’s notion of sexuality. The sexual union of a man and a woman is called marriage and it should last for life. Any behavior that deviates from that ideal is properly called adultery.
Notice that I’m not talking about same-sex marriage here. I’m talking about the true ideal for marriage: an ideal that our society largely abandoned ages ago.
It’s sad because much of our modern notion of marriage came directly from the teaching of Jesus and the Apostle Paul. Jesus is the first person to truly teach that marriage should be for life, and Paul was the first person to emphasize that husbands and wives should love each other. Seriously, the notion of marriage based on love and lasting for life wasn’t common before Jesus and Paul!
However, it’s clear today that we live in a society that has abandoned both of these notions. The modern day notion of love is an emotionally confused shadow of the self-sacrificing other-first love that Paul advocated, and marriage-for-life is still hoped for by many but enforced by almost no one.
In other words, our society is filled with people who aren’t measuring up to the marriage ideal. What should we do about that? Should we isolate one category of people and ostracize them for their particular way of missing the mark? Should we ostracize everyone who misses the mark? Should we instead just accept them all uncritically?

The Biblical Response

Our best guidance on how to respond to this comes from the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5. Here are a few relevant verses:

(1) It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife…. (4) So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, (5) hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord….
(9) I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— (10) not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. (11) But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

(12) What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? (13) God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

—1 Corinthians 5:1, 4-5, 9-13 NIV

This passage answers it all for us.
First, we should recognize that Paul was really upset about a kind of sexual behavior that would seem relatively tame in our Fifty Shades society but was outlandish even to the pagans of his day. A man is somehow having a sexual relationship with the same woman who had previously been with that man’s father. I can easily imagine a movie with that premise doing quite well in theaters these days!
Anyway, the response is clear: Kick him out of church fellowship.
But pay attention to the details that Paul offers next. Paul says that they shouldn’t associate with people like that, and in the category of “people like that” he also includes greedy people, dishonest people, people who honor gods in addition to the Father. That means Paul would say the same thing about the sexually immoral person and the greedy person! We live in a society that encourages greed, and for some reason SCOTUS hasn’t ever had to hear a case on whether we should continue to allow greed. Oh well.
Therefore, the first lesson about our response is that we should respond the same way to sexually immoral people that we do to greedy people and deceitful people. In other words, we should treat all sin seriously.
However, the other detail Paul offers in this passage is to remind the people that he is only talking about “Christians” who are also sexually immoral, greedy, deceitful, or idolatrous. Paul specifically says that this “non-association” rule only applies to sinful Christians. When it comes to people who are outside the church, who don’t claim to be following Jesus, he actually says, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?”
So the second lesson about our response is that we are only supposed to have a response when it comes to people who claim to be Christians but are also living out sinful patterns of behavior.
Therefore, wanna have my quick and dirty summary for how Christians should respond to the recent ruling in our country that same-sex marriage is protected by the Constitution? It goes like this:

Seriously address the sinful behavior of fellow Christians. Let the unbelievers do their thing. Pray for both.

One more thing…

There’s only one more thing I want to say about all this. My heart is broken whenever the society goes down a path that makes it harder for people to come to God, and this is one of those times. What pains me the most is that I can imagine a future day when I am sitting down talking to someone about the incredible grace of God that he sent his son to live, die, and rise again all that this man’s sin could be forgiven and that he could be brought into the family of God. I can imagine seeing the look on his face as he begins to understand the weight of his own sin and the glorious gift of grace. I can imagine him coming to the moment of prayer to confess his sins to God and to ask for forgiveness. And then, I can imagine him stopping and asking me, “Does this decision mean my husband and I will have to break up?”
Regardless of the laws of the land, I would have to tell him the same thing: “I believe so, but I’m willing to walk with you through the process.”
However, if they are legally married, their relationship will have been enacted, solemnized, and protected by the state making the “process” of growing in faith much more difficult. I fear that in such an instance, the actions of the state will have made it more difficult for a person to come to a saving faith in the good news of Jesus.
Nevertheless, I believe that the saving grace and the love of God is so powerful that there is no obstacle it can’t overcome. I am saddened that the gospel might possibly be hindered by this, but I am not afraid. I know who’s in charge.

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25 thoughts on “I Agree with the Supreme Court (sort of)

  1. This topic fascinates me, but it’s also very frustrating for me to process in my little bitty brain. There are a few questions that have crossed my mind recently and I’d enjoy hearing some feedback.
    I’ve always been curious if there are former gay people that have repented from their sin and went on to have heterosexual relationships. There might not be big data on sin, but this peaks my curiosity. We’ve all seen people beat alcohol, drugs, pornography, ect. I’m interested to know how many people are beating being gay? I’ve heard the term “a sin is a sin” thrown around quite a bit, but is being gay the same category of sin as stealing? Does being gay belong in a category of its own all together?
    When a gay person is no longer gay anymore what does that look like? Do they marry and enter into a heterosexual relationship, have children, and live happily ever after? Do those life changing stories exist?
    Is it fair to consider the “gay demon” or “homosexual action” as one of the worst things that
    an individual could go through? Is it bigger than alcoholism? Adultery? Stealing? Drugs? How do you rank the layers of sin? In my mind being gay would be an extraordinary layer of sin. Or maybe we can’t technically layer sin, since a sin is a sin….. ?
    Your thoughts are appreciated.

    1. Josh,
      As a matter of fact, there is a woman on Purdue’s campus who has a personal story of overcoming gender identity confusion. Her name is Linda Seiler (http://www.lindaseiler.com/).
      However, there aren’t a lot of stories like that out there because our society has really ostracized people who feel same-sex attraction but don’t want it. Our society has been teaching people that if you feel same-sex attraction, you should come out of the closet, admit it, be proud of it, and indulge yourself in it. As a result, there is no scholarly research into this topic as far as I know.
      Finally, one other thing that doesn’t get talked about much is the fact that no one is truly “gay” or “straight.” In fact, significant research (see this: https://youtu.be/m2rTHDOuUBw?list=PLduvCVlxLRFkA10-N6jqibX6FtDxbjrS5) is now showing that no one is 100% gay or 100% straight. Instead, what we are learning is that people are simply sexual beings whose desires fluctuate depending on a number of factors. As a result, I don’t classify “gay” or “straight” as anything different from “tempted,” and the issue is never whether you are tempted but what you do as a response.

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