Gay marriage. Regardless of which side of the great divide you find yourself on, when it comes to this white hot cultural issue, one thing is certain – same-sex marriage will be legal in not just California and Massachusetts (and the few other states which now recognize such unions), but will eventually be the law of the land throughout these United States of America. And, sooner rather than later. Earlier today, U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. DOMA, enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, defines marriage – for federal purposes and benefits – as between one man and one woman. DOMA also allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where those marriages are legal. With today’s ruling in Boston and a ruling in the California Prop 8 lawsuit expected soon, America is one step closer to nation-wide legalization of gay marriage.
Court rulings like the one handed down in Massachusetts impact every segment of our culture and society, including the Church. Whether you live on the east or west coasts, in the heartland of America, or in the desert southwest like me, the magnitude of these rulings cannot be underestimated. Some conservative groups have already begun attacking the ruling, calling Tauro a “rogue judge” and accusing him of “judicial activism.” While I certainly agree with these sentiments, Christians within Southern Baptist churches and other evangelical churches must respond to these rulings. Our primary response must be from faith, grounded not in our own opinions, but in the inspired, infallible God-breathed Scriptures. Whenever we break loose from the strong moorings of the Bible – substituting our own wisdom for Biblical wisdom – we will find ourselves to be utterly ineffective and irrelevant in our increasingly debased, post-modern culture. Much like the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
In a sad and tragic bow to the cultural gods of anything goes sexuality, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Thursday continued its descent into the spiritual abyss by voting “to allow non-celibate homosexuals in committed relationships to serve as clergy.” No word yet on whether non-celibate heterosexuals in committed relationships will also be able to serve as clergy within this once great denomination. On second thought, maybe they already can. By listening to the “winning” side in this divisive vote, you would think that Jesus’ Greatest Commandment was not to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, but instead, “don’t judge – ever!” With this mantra now serving as the guiding doctrine for some within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the delegates to the General Assembly this week will also vote whether to “change the church’s definition of marriage from between a man and a woman to between two persons.” Apparently the delegates gathered in Minneapolis need a gentle reminder that they don’t get to define marriage – God does and He’s done a pretty good job! The Presbyterians this week, like some Episcopalians and Lutherans before them, have capitulated to culture, allowing the culture to transform them instead of allowing themselves to transform culture.
When we try to transform culture by surrendering to it – like some Presbyterians – or when we try to transform culture by warring against it – like some culture warriors – we miss out on the best opportunity we have to transform the lives of our family, friends, and neighbors – by being the “salt and light” that Christ has called us to be! Our primary response to issues like homosexual marriage must not be political (although we must never retreat from the public square). If the Church relies primarily on political power to respond to the spiritual wreckage all around us, we not only risk losing opportunities to build relationships with those whose lives the enemy has destroyed, but we also relegate to secondary importance the most powerful weapon we possess for seeing battered lives restored and transformed – the Gospel of Jesus Christ! As the 21st Century Church continues to grapple with cultural issues affecting American society, we would do well to remember the Apostle Paul’s word to the Church at Corinth as they confronted similar issues in the 1st Century:
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. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)