Six Observations: Christianity in a Same-Sex Society

This past Friday, the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, a decision which flies in the face of orthodox religious belief, namely Christianity.  There has been much response to the decision, and many, on both sides of the decision, have commented.  Some have celebrated the decision, while others have voiced disapproval.  Still, others have looked past the decision and attempt to predict the impact on other facets of society.

I am a Christian.  I attempt to live my life according to the Scriptures.  I believe the Scriptures are the inerrant, authoritative, sufficient Word of God.  The Bible is, very clearly, God speaking to his creation and created ones.  And, throughout the Bible is the gospel, God’s plan to redeem sinful man.

Over the past few days, I’ve read, observed, listened, and tried to understand public response to the Supreme Court’s decision.  Here are six conclusions I’ve reached regarding the public response to the Supreme Court decision.

1.  If you are a Christian, and you celebrate or support the U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage, you stand in direct opposition to the teachings of Scripture.

The Bible is the inerrant, authoritative, sufficient Word of God.  It is how God reveals himself and speaks to mankind.  The Apostle Paul tells us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV)  Wayne Grudem, in Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith, states that “to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God himself.” (39)  He goes on to say that “…the Bible is necessary for knowledge of the gospel…but is not necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about God’s character and moral laws.” (54)  In other words, we all know the difference between good and bad.

Christians can, in no way, rationalize or justify the legitimacy of same-sex marriage based upon the teachings found in Scripture.

2.  Both the Old and New Testaments affirm the one man/one woman institution of marriage.

From the beginning, God created and ordained the institution of marriage as a one man/one woman relationship that is both complementary and purposeful.  In the early chapters of Genesis, scripture tells us that

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28 ESV)

and

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24 ESV)

In the New Testament, Jesus affirms this when he responds to the Jewish leaders, saying

Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matthew 19:4-6 ESV)

Scripture is clear regarding the definition of marriage.  As Christians, this is the principle we must cling to as right and good.

3.  The New Testament condemns homosexuality as a sin.

The general response from our culture regarding homosexuality is that the Old Testament’s prohibition of homosexuality is for another social era and that the New Testament never condemns homosexuality.  If we remember that “All scripture is God-breathed…”, we read in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman church this warning:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth…For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:18; 26-27 ESV)

Paul goes on to say in his first letter to the church in Corinth that,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV)

And, to Timothy, Paul writes,

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. (1 Timothy 1:8-11 ESV)

The New Testament is clear regarding disobedience to God.

4.  Religious freedom is in peril.

Many Christians gloss over the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision, thinking that a lifestyle contrary to God’s teachings is all that is at stake.  There is more…much more.

When our founding father, Thomas Jefferson, wrote his now-famous letter to the Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut, in 1802, he assured the Baptists that “a wall a separation between church and state” had been established and that the Protestants were free to worship as they saw fit.  This “separation” though, only prohibits the establishment of a state church and does not prohibit the free exercise of religion, meaning that religion is free to influence its citizens and, yes, its government.

In the recent decision regarding same-sex marriage, our government has imposed on many of its citizens a law which cuts against the very grain of its religious faith and conscience.  While Christians cannot, in good faith, participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies, or in licensing same-sex couple to wed, the recent court decision has implications that citizens are required to under the threat of penalty.

And, what of Christian ministers?  While the Supreme Court allowed for a dissenting conscience among religious leaders, and there is protection in the 1st Amendment, some in the media have already asked questions about church facilities, religiously-affiliated universities, hospitals and such.  In his article, “Now Is the Time to End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions,” Mark Oppenheimer states, “…the logic of gay-marriage rights could lead to a reexamination of conservative churches’ tax exemptions…” And, the Pew Research Center says “…it’s possible that institutions will be pressured to give ground on gay marriage by federal authorities.”

5.  The role of the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court has changed.

Since when do a group of unelected lawyers create law for the citizens of its nation?  The 14th Amendment, which was used to argue for marriage equality, never addresses marriage.  It’s a stretch to say that it does.  It is clearly the responsibility of states to determine marriage laws, yet our Supreme Court justices, who are appointed and who are not representative of the nation at-large, have overstepped the bounds of responsibility and taken it upon themselves to decide what marriage is and is not.

The court has opened Pandora’s Box in regard to all sorts of equality issues, all based on their convenient interpretation of the 14th Amendment.  What of polygamy, or any other sort of contrived relationship?  The equality in the 14th Amendment is pointless unless applied to all, or it ceases to be equality.  That, too, is the danger of this decision.

6.  Civil disobedience is biblically permissible.

In Romans 13, the Apostle Paul affirms the role of government in the lives of Christians.  In essence, government is created by God to provide protection and welfare for the good of its citizens.

Yet, when the government imposes a law upon its citizens that requires disobedience of God’s laws, and then forces obedience to that law under threat of penalty, it is biblically permissible to disobey civil authorities.

Grudem states, “God does not hold people responsible for obeying the civil government, however, when obedience would mean directly disobeying a command of God himself.” (88)

We see an example of this in The Acts of the Apostles when some of the apostles are arrested and then commanded “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”  Their response? “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”  Later, they proclaimed that “We must obey God rather than men.”  If disobedience to God is demanded, Grudem states that “God requires his people to disobey civil government…” (88)

From this, we see clearly that we are called, as Christians, to stand firmly on the beliefs we have based on the Word of God found in the scriptures.

Following the Supreme Court decision, many on social media included the hashtag #LoveWins.  I don’t doubt that at all.  Love does win, and in the future, love will win out.  But, it will be the love of Christ through his Church that shows the ultimate love…despite sin, any sin, the love of Christ overcomes and gives grace to all of us sinners…gay, straight, or otherwise.  It is because of this love, though, that we are called to proclaim the commands of God and, by the power of the Spirit, walk in those commands.

10 Comments

Filed under Commentary, Politics

10 responses to “Six Observations: Christianity in a Same-Sex Society

  1. Linda

    Well-said, Mark.

  2. Peggy

    Thank you for writing this article. I hope many people will read this and it will help them understand what scriptures says about this subject. Great article!!!!!!!!

  3. Sam Spradling

    The other day I was listening to Lue Holts speech to a graduating class. He said of all the laws of man there were only three that insured a successful, happy life. The first really struck me.
    !- Always do what is right.
    If you don’t know what is right READ YOUR BIBLE, IT WILL TELL YOU WHAT IS RIGHT.

    2 What ever you do in life, do your very best.
    That too is Bibilicle. .

    3-Help others.
    Again that is Biblicle
    I did some simple research and found the Constitution
    and the Declaration of Independence in its pocket form
    only contains 56 pages. and has directed this great nation for over 200 years.

    The affordable health care act is over 2000 pages and has
    caused more desentation in less than 10 years than any document is history of this nation.

    My Bible from Genesis to Revelations contains only 1516 pages and has changed the lives of untold generations of
    people who have patterened their lives after its teaching.

    It is true “Happy is the man who finds wisdom and acu\quires understanding.”

    Thank you for sharing you Wisdom of the Lord.

  4. Jan Hubbard

    You cannot overestimate the power and authority of our Bible. Praise God. He really does think of everything.

  5. Hey, Mark.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I was hoping you would. There is quite a bit to digest and respond to, so if you care to have the dialogue, I will start with your first conclusion.

    Although I do not celebrate the SCOTUS decision, I would say that I support it. I am supporting a legal decision that does not restrict the people’s free will (this is my elusive conservative side, mind you). The Bible may very well teach that homosexual acts are sinful, but just because something is sinful doesn’t mean we need our government to outlaw it. Eating three Big Macs in one sitting is gluttonous, but that doesn’t mean it should be illegal. There are certain sins that need to be outlawed–namely those that impose upon another person’s freedoms or property: assault, murder, theft, etc. Gay marriage doesn’t meet that criteria for me, and my support of the ruling certainly does not constitute direct opposition to the teaching of scripture. Direct opposition to scriptural teachings would be committing the sin of homosexual acts.

    It doesn’t make sense at all that Christians are so concerned with gay marriage. If it is a sin, it is a sin that impacts far fewer Christians (or non-Christians) than divorce. And I don’t see much discussion from the Christian community about amending the Constitution to outlaw divorce.

    Satan has so many fooled into focusing on an issue that has far less bearing on their lives than the personal sins they should be working on.

    As for your second conclusion, you add that “…As Christians, this is the principle {definition} we must cling to as right and good.” I don’t think anyone is asking us to cling to a different definition of marriage. The Bible has not been rewritten or unwritten. In America, we have that great freedom of conscience to believe what we want. If I want to believe that the sky is green, I am free to do so. And if the court ever rules that the sky is blue, I am free to disagree. Another person’s beliefs about what marriage is (or isn’t) doesn’t threaten or undermine your beliefs. I think a large part of the problem is that the Christians who do feel undermined and threatened do so only because their beliefs now fall into what may be perceived as a vulnerable minority. That has forced some into a back-against-the-wall defensive posture that leads to lashing out uneccessarily.
    It really doesn’t matter what the Bible says to those who do not accept it as part of their religion. Just like it shouldn’t matter what the Quran says to you.

    I don’t really have any qualms with your third conclusion. Although I do find it problematic for Christians that so many things can be scripturally sinful in one context/time period, but not necessarily interpreted as so today–take some of the strange laws in Leviticus, for example. I do find it interesting that Corinthians 6:9 specifies men “who practice homosexuality” as opposed to homosexual men. I think this is evidence in support of the idea that sexual orientation is not a choice–as opposed to the acting on that orientation.

    The support for your fourth conclusion is speculative, so I would be happy to discuss it further if/when a Church is forced to marry a gay couple. Your point about a Christian having to issue a marriage license is well taken, but what about the Christians who have been issuing divorce paperwork for years? You can’t start picking and choosing the sins you want to object to, but again, if and when the courts rule against a person’s or a church’s legitimate freedom to “exercise” religion, we can have a different discussion.

    Conclusion five: The role of the court is to ensure equal protection for all Americans. Once any government decided to get involved with issuing marriage licenses, that “right” of entering into a now legally binding contract had to be extended to any two consenting adults. The government cannot discriminate against people based on things that people cannot control (age, race, gender, etc.). It has just taken a while for this realization to come about. Honestly, it does open the door for other non-Christian marriages–incestuous marriage comes to mind–but those are the unintended consequences of the government breaking that wall of separation and getting involved in what should have always been the sole institution of the church.
    Conclusion six looks good to me, but I don’t think this is a law that has been “imposed” on Christians. No one is forcing anyone to marry anyone else. Marriage (gay or straight) is still a completely voluntary act.

    • J.

      Oh, how I’ve missed you! Would you consider relocating to Murfreesboro so we could go to the Nashville Sounds games and discuss the problems of the world!

      You make valid points in each rebuttal, and I certainly understand your points. Allow me to embellish and provide more insight on some of my thoughts.

      In my first conclusion, my objection is to the use of the word “marriage” for same-sex couples. As Christians, we see the establishment of marriage (and a definition or description of) in Genesis as well as in Matthew. Based on that criteria, same-sex unions are not marriage. I have no issue at all with same-sex couples entering into civil unions or contracts so that they can benefit from health benefits, death benefits, and family decisions. I feel like that is how equality would be established in these relationships. But, let’s not call it marriage, because it does not meet any of the criteria for a biblically-defined marriage.

      I would reluctantly agree with you on the second conclusion. Christians do feel like they are being pushed aside and beat on; but, can you blame us? The liberal trend over our recent history seems to push everything aside in favor of a moralistic therapeutic deism, or worse, relative truth. Obviously, this goes against orthodox Christian belief. Regarding traditional marriage, though, there is evidence that shows the benefits of a father/mother/child model for the family. The male/female relationship is complementary, and the benefit a child receives from a father/mother model is extremely positive. Yes, there are exceptions, but, in general the father/mother model in marriage and family is, as I say, right and good. As a Christian, though, I’ll stand firm on the biblical definition of marriage found in the Bible.

      I had lunch with my son, today, and we discussed these same issues. He brought up the same point you do regarding divorce. I freely admit that we, as a Church, have done a poor job in the past regarding divorce. We’ve not disciplined church members, nor have we been active in helping to restore marriages. If we, as Christians, don’t respect the institution, then we lose credibility when we criticize a different model. While the original model for marriage in the Bible was a lifetime union, Jesus himself addresses this issue when he defines marriage in the Matthew account. Divorce is permissible for sexual immorality, yet we as a Church have been lax is holding our brothers and sisters in Christ accountable. In recent years, our staff has recognized this and are making a concerted effort to discuss this issue and encourage faithfulness and commitment in marriage for life.

      In the fourth conclusion, I merely put that out there as a way to make Christians aware that the door is open for challenges from the left regarding religious freedom. In our Sunday School class, every comment this past Sunday was directed toward the same-sex marriage issue, and not one thing was mentioned about the possible legal side-effects of the Court’s decision. I’m just not sure most people are aware of what the possibilities are. While I do think Justice Kennedy allowed for protection for ministers, specifically, I’m not sure there will be the same “freedom of conscience” for Christian court clerks. The Oppenheimer article I linked to was pretty scary. From what I’ve read, it went over like a lead balloon on both sides of the issue. It’s still scary to think someone out there is throwing that up against the wall to see what sticks. Maybe there will be no issues, but I wanted to make sure our folks knew what could happen.

      My biggest disagreement with you is regarding things people “can’t control.” Until I see significant, reputable scientific proof that a person is born gay, I’ll have to view that lifestyle as a choice. If that evidence comes out, then I’ll be required to revisit my thoughts on that.

      Please know this: I will never, ever let hate rise up due to a person’s ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc. I believe that we are all created Imago Dei – in the image of God – and that we are called to love and care for everyone, regardless of differences. Even in disagreement, I will respect others and seek to be their friend. I agree with you wholeheartedly when you say there are other sins to worry about. According to my biblical view, homosexuality is a sin, as is gluttony, vanity, dishonesty, murder, and so on. All of these need to be condemned. But, we all have a sin nature inside our hearts and minds, and we battle for sanctification daily.

      So…give us a blog post regarding the 2016 presidential election. Things are looking really interesting all the way around. Do you think Hillary is the answer for the Dems? Or, is there too much flak from Benghazi and her foundation to survive? The debates will be interesting to say the least.

      Again, good to hear from you, and thank you for your thoughts. I really do appreciate your opinion.

      • Good stuff, Mark.

        Just to clarify, I view the gay “lifestyle” as a choice too, because I think lifestyle denotes actions one takes to live in a particular way. However, I take gay folks at their word when they say the orientation was something they were born with. I never “decided” to be straight. I doubt a gay person “decides” to be gay. If my beliefs are accurate, then a gay person has been dealt an incredibly difficult lot and needs more grace from the Christian community than perhaps any other type of sinner.

  6. Pingback: 6-String Salvo, July 3, 2014 – Mike Lee

  7. This man is right on. God’s law is Supreme, just as God is Supreme and one day, and probably soon, we will ALL bow down to the true God, the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of the Universe. Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

  8. Ann Barrett

    Mark,,
    I so appreciate your wisdom and your ability to share it s it is clear to all. Thank you. I firmly agree with you and I am so glad that Jesus is still the friend of sinners, without Him,what a terrible state we would all be. Ann Barrett

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