SCOTUS decision, marriage & Christian response

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Photo credit: Meredith Teasley. Check out her beautiful work.

Shortly after posting a critique of Jennifer Hatmaker’s response to the World Vision event as it related to gay marriage last year, I was asked by a reader to explain my view on homosexuality and how I find support for that in Scripture.

I haven’t done so before now because I thought others were articulating it better than I and because I wanted to give it careful thought.

Now in light of the SCOTUS decision, Christians again are asking questions about marriage. Some are asking, “Am I on the wrong side of history?” Like some pop-Christian authors and preachers, some Christians are buying into a redefinition of love that finds its meaning, not in God or Scripture, but in self-fulfillment. Other Christians chide fellow Christians for speaking up in any way negatively about the issue because they, too, have bought into a different understanding of love — that is, to put it negatively, love doesn’t offend nor does it hurt feelings, or, to put it positively, love is accepting and non-judgmental.

As it relates to the meaning of love, Christians who want to be faithful to Scripture, must ask how Scripture defines and lives out its definition of love. We must ask ourselves if our definition of love squares with Scripture. Was God’s message to Nineveh through the prophet Jonah, loving? Were any of the prophets’ messages to the nations and even to Israel considered loving? Why were God and his prophets so concerned with other nations? (Imagine doing evangelism like the prophets! And read the prophets if you haven’t already.) Was Jesus loving when he told Peter, “Get behind me Satan”? Was Jesus loving when he rebuked his disciples for not letting the children come to him? Was Jesus loving when he overturned the tables in the temple? Was Paul loving when he rebuked the Roman, Corinthian, and Galatian Christians or Peter? I could go on.

Make a test. Use the world’s definition of love (or even perhaps your own) and see whether God (in the Old Testament) and Jesus and his disciples in the New fail or pass your love test.

If the basis of love is truly self-fulfillment, then same-sex marriage is right before the eyes of God. However, this is not how the Bible defines love or marriage. Scripture speaks unanimously that practicing homosexual behavior is a sin. There are never any exceptions to this in the narrative.

But just because we oppose same-sex marriage doesn’t mean we oppose people. Love both corrects and welcomes. We welcome people (whoever they might be!) into our homes; we share with them the gospel of Jesus; we get to know them and have dinner with them. We can do all these things while at the same time teaching that Scripture teaches that practicing homosexuality is a sin just like any other sin.

We also do not teach that marriage is the end-all nor do we teach that one finds ultimate fulfillment in marriage. We do not separate the married from the singles as the haves and the have-nots. Instead of offering an institution as the savior we offer Jesus as the savior.

So how should we understand marriage, our culture, the SCOTUS decision and what our response should be?

Again I refer to others who speak on this better than I can. Over at First Things magazine, a number of “male and female, gay and straight, Christian and Jewish, Protestant and Catholic and Orthodox” contributors give their answers. I highly encourage you to read each response. The following quotes are some that really stood out to me, and I hope they are helpful to you as you process a Christian response and a biblical view of marriage.

For marriage policy to serve the common good it must reflect the truth that marriage unites a man and a woman as husband and wife so that children will have both a mother and a father. Marriage is based on the anthropological truth that men and woman are distinct and complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children deserve a mother and a father.

The government is not in the marriage business because it’s a sucker for adult romance. No, marriage isn’t just a private affair; marriage is a matter of public policy because marriage is society’s best way to ensure the well-being of children. State recognition of marriage acts as a powerful social norm that encourages men and women to commit to each other so they will take responsibility for any children that follow.

Redefining marriage to make it a genderless institution fundamentally changes marriage: It makes the relationship more about the desires of adults than about the needs—or rights—of children. It teaches the lie that mothers and fathers are interchangeable. — Ryan T. Anderson

When a culture treats the family primarily as an arena for self-fulfillment and self-expression rather than first and foremost as the sphere dedicated to the education of future generations, that culture manifests a weakening of its faith in the abiding value and imperative power of its core beliefs. That this spirit of “negation and despair” has corroded liberal Western culture, to its detriment, is an old story. Justice Alito’s dissent notes the rate of illegitimate birth, and nobody is shocked at the routine acceptance of marital infidelity and instability. All this is ominous for the sustainability of Western civilization. To outsiders, however, it appears inconsistent and selective to judge practicing homosexuals, for whom same-sex impulses are usually deep-seated, more strictly than wanton adulterers. If the bonds of faithfulness have frayed, a 5-4 vote in the other direction would not have reversed the ravages of the sexual revolution, the fruit of chronic secular despair under the progressive commodification of late capitalism. — Shalom Carmy

However, there is one thing that, tempted as we may be to expect it, will not happen, either in our lifetime or beyond: Marriage will not go away. The Gospel-imaging union between a man and a woman as a sacred testimony to Christ’s pursuit of His church will never be scrubbed from our culture, as if it were a coat of paint on our social consciousness. No, marriage is not merely a cultural accessory, it is a cosmic, spiritual, and deeply human reality is embedded into the creation itself. No amount of same-sex marriage in the twenty-first century will change this, just as no amount of blue-collar, Bible-belt divorce culture in the late twentieth century changed it then.

The Sexual Revolution always promises fulfillment but betrays its followers bitterly in the end. Even as we brace for a generation’s worth of confusion and enforced conformity, we must also stand fast in holding out hope to the refugees from the Sexual Revolution who will come to us, being wrecked by the fantasy of autonomy and self-creation. We must keep the light lit to the old paths. We must point out why marriage is rooted not just in nature and tradition but in the gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:32).

Marriage is resilient because it is God-created, not another government program. That’s why hand wringing and siege mentality has no place among those who want to champion traditional marriage. Marriage does not exist thanks to humanity, and so it cannot be unmade thanks to it either. Even in the aftermath of a Supreme Court ruling, we know this to be true. Let’s be compassionate, confident, and, like the institution we care about so deeply, let’s be resilient. — Russell Moore

Bruce Jenner has become a celebrity because his decision “to define and express” his identity as a woman epitomizes our reigning view of freedom. It’s our national religion now, the religion of Me. Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said, “Every country gets the government is deserves.” We’ve gotten the Supreme Court decision we deserve. …

We’re part of the culture that now embraces the religion of Me and it’s perverse view of freedom. Our first task today is do differentiate ourselves from this false religion—and to do so with clarity. This means speaking forthrightly about matters of moral substance.

We need to speak about sexual morality. We need to demand marriage equality. Why do the rich today get married, but the poor don’t? Why is our supposedly progressive culture fixed on the luxury good of gay marriage while ignoring the collapsing family culture elsewhere in our society? We need to talk about the complementarity of men and women, something political correctness tries to prevent us from doing. We need to sin against the religion of Me by speaking of God—and God’s laws.

In traditional Islamic societies, non-Muslim’s are dhimmis. They are allowed to exist, but they live under severe restrictions. Islam alone is permitted to define the public square. Over time, dhimmisinternalize their subjugated status, accepting their subordinate roles.

The greatest challenges we face will not be legal. They will be cultural. We will be tempted to submit, tempted to remain silent. We will be tempted to reorient our efforts, trying to find a way to survive in an American regime governed by the religion of Me.

We must fight against this temptation. We must resist dhimmitude and its false path of self-imposed submission. Now is the time for truth-telling. We need to find our footing in today’s cultural landscape so that we can speak boldly about the goods of marriage, the sanctity of life, and the true nature of human freedom. — R.R. Reno

There are many ways that we can respond in these coming days: prayer, conversations, posting articles that reflect truth, writing letters to congressmen, teaching our children truth, etc.

Here are my two concluding thoughts:

1. We should not shame each other for believing and standing up for traditional marriage. Nor should we shame each other for speaking up that nationalized same-sex marriage will have negative repercussions for our children. We believe traditional marriage is the best for our society, and working toward a betterment for our society isn’t wrong or shameful.

2. Should we shout and defame people? Should we cry and stamp our feet? Should we be rude to others? No. Whatever side you are on that kind of behavior is wrong. Rather we share the truth (notice that part) in love. A love that is patient, kind, not arrogant or rude.  A love that rejects and warns against false teaching, which leads to death, and upholds truth, which leads to life. And even when people reject the truth, when a nation redefines the institution of marriage based on a new definition of love, we do not despair, because “our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

“Jesus Makes A Cross For You.”

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Running from our sin. It’s a natural tendency to want to flee and hide when we are confronted with the reality of our own sinfulness and the ugliness of the sin.

We want it etched from our memories. We want a fresh start. We long for forgiveness.

My son recently turned 4 and he is at an age where he is becoming more cognizant of his fleshly reality. It’s a difficult age, for many reasons, but it is also an exciting age in that he is very moldable and teachable.

I began a series on #GraceForTheSinner a few months back because, after a personal experience of coming to grips with pride in my heart, I felt compelled that there might be others who needed to be reminded of the grace that comes from Christ Jesus. Not a cheap grace that requires no repentance on our part nor grace that doesn’t result in obedience. Rather, the grace that is taught in Scripture came at a very costly price (the life of God’s Son), yet is given to any and all who believe and is more powerful than any of sin’s grip on our lives.

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Looking back, I had some unrealistic expectations for Mother’s Day given the age of my child. Yet, somehow I had conjured up images of a day where Philip would be easy and obedient, a day where I got to do what I wanted to do, and a day full of thanksgiving for all that I give to my family. Ahhh. What a nice thought. Isn’t that what Mother’s Day is all about anyway?

 

Both Osvaldo and I prepped Philip for the day. “Sunday is Mother’s Day, that means we get to celebrate Mommy for all that she does for us.” “You’re going to be a good boy on Mother’s Day for Mommy, right?” spoken in an almost pleading voice.

 

I’m shaking my head as I even put down on paper the tactic we were using to produce an obedient child for one day. Parents make mistakes too!

 

It would have been one thing if Philip had been his normal self on Mother’s Day – fun and delightful with a few issues here or there. But no. He began the day and finished the day as a completely different child. He was the exact opposite of the child I had imagined for the day. Screaming, throwing himself down in tantrum style, spitting, kicking, talking back, saying “No,” are just a few of the things we dealt with on Mother’s Day.

 

Every parent knows exactly what I’m talking about. It was as if the more we tried to produce a good child, the more he rebelled and became exactly the opposite child we were wanting him not to be.

 

By the end of the day, after I came to terms with my real Mother’s Day (not the one of my expectations), Osvaldo and I were exasperated. We stood in the kitchen and looked at each other with defeat both thinking the same thing, “We are failing as parents!”

 

We decided it would be best to talk to Philip in his bedroom. Osvaldo began the conversation with, “Philip, no matter what you do, we love you. Our love for you will never change. We will never stop loving you.” Then he followed with, “We are always ready to forgive you when you come to us and say, ‘I’m sorry.’” From there he told Philip what it was that he had done that we did not like.

 

I followed by saying, “Philip, God gave us to you as your parents to give you a place to live, to give you clothes, to give you food, to take care of you when you are sick, to give you love, hugs and kisses, to play with you, and to even do fun things with you. The only thing God and we ask in return – the one thing you are to do for us – is to obey. When you do what you did today you are not showing love to God and you are not showing love to us.”

 

Then we left. We closed the door until there was just a crack and left him in his room to think about these things. A few minutes later, I went to peek through the crack to see what he was doing. What I found was that Philip was going around in a circle and every time he stepped on his Superman cape, which was lying on the floor, he grunted.

 

When we brought him out of the room shortly afterwards, we asked Philip what he was doing in his room. This is what he said: “I was trying to get away from all the bad things I did.” And in his 4 year old speech that needs my translation he explained that he was stepping on his Superman cape to give him the power he needed to get away from those bad things.

 

We gave him a hug and Osvaldo said, “Philip, you can never get away from the bad things on your own. None of us can. Papi can’t. Mommy can’t. But there is one who can, one who is greater than Superman and who has the power to take away the bad things. His name is Jesus. When he died on a cross, he took away all those bad things. If you turn to Jesus and ask him to forgive you and to take away those bad things, he will do it, Philip.”

 

Philip said, “Ohhhh.”

 

We weren’t sure if the truth stuck, but the next evening before dinner, Philip prayed, “Jesus make for me the cross to take away the bad things I did.”

 

A week later he told me, “Mommy come see.” When I came into his toy room where his Grandpa was sitting on the floor, he showed me that he had made a cross out of two sticks in his room. He said turning to Grandpa, “Grandpa, Jesus makes a cross for you to take away those bad things you did.”

 

And just last week after telling Philip three times to get into the car without him doing so, I said very sternly, “Get in the car now.” Philip got into his chair and said to me, “Mommy, why did you talk like that?” I said, “Like what?” “Like mean to me.” “I didn’t talk mean to you, but said to get into the car firmly after you kept disobeying.” Philip looked into my eyes and said, “It’s OK, Mommy. Jesus makes the cross for you.”

 

“Jesus makes the cross for you” is Philip’s way of saying that Jesus forgives you. Jesus, because of what he did on the cross, can take away those bad things from you – to make them as far as the east is from the west.

 

John Newton, famously known for penning the words to that great hymn, “Amazing Grace,” was an unlikely person to come to faith in Jesus. Prior to his redemption, Newton was a cursing, blaspheming sailor who lived in the 18th century. He lived a life of complete immorality, who immersed himself in the evils of the slave trade and made women and alcohol his hobbies.

 

While on one of his many journeys at sea, Newton woke one night to someone crying, “The ship is sinking.” It was during this terrifying experience that he later wrote, “What mercy can there be for me?” Biographer Jonathan Aitken wrote about this experience saying that Newton came to the conclusion “that anyone who had ridiculed God and his gospel with so much profanity could not possibly receive divine salvation in the hour of need.”

 

“Conversely, however, Newton kept on remembering the promises of God, which he had learned from Scripture in his youth. He recalled the extraordinary twists and turns in his adult life, describing them as ‘the calls, warnings, and deliverances I had met with,’ as he wondered whether they could be interpreted as any sort of sign of God’s favor.”

 

This was the beginning of Newton coming to terms with the great grace Jesus offers to him because of what he did on the cross.

 

Newton would eventually go on to become a great preacher, pastor and hymn writer. Yet Newton “never forgot that he owed his redemption from a life of sin to a life in Christ entirely to divine mercy.” As he said on his death bed, “I am a great sinner, but Christ is a great Savior.”

 

He made this further clearer by writing the words that would later be the inscription on his tomb:

John Newton
Once an infidel and libertine
A servant of slaves in Africa
Was
By the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour
Jesus Christ
Preserved, Restored, Pardoned
And Appointed to preach the faith
He had long laboured to destroy.

 

Jesus made the cross for John Newton.

 

Jesus makes the cross for Philip.

 

Jesus makes the cross for Grandpa.

 

Jesus makes the cross for me.

 

Jesus makes the cross for you.

 

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Col. 2:13-14

 

“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.” Col. 1:20

 

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15

 

*My quotes from John Newton and about John Newton come from Jonathan Aitken’s “John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace.”