Responding to the Court’s Ruling on Marriage
Part 2: Application—Eight Reasons Why The Supreme Court
Has Crossed an Ominous Line
…This noble doctrine and heritage of religious liberty calls to us…to be the right kind of Christians. Let us never forget that a democracy, whether civil or religious, has not only its perils, but has also its unescapable obligations.
—George W. Truett, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, in a speech on religious liberty delivered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, May 16, 19201—
In part 1, we examined Romans 13:1-7 and drew from it six biblical principles relating to the state. Here is a summary of our discussion.
- All people are to submit to governing authorities. Christians in particular are to be good citizens.
- The state’s authority is not absolute but has been delegated by God.
- The government’s primary job is to maintain order by rewarding those who do right and punishing those who do wrong.
- Government does not have the authority or the right to promote ideas or actions that are morally wrong or contrary to God’s will.
- When government uses its authority to further immorality, injustice, or other unethical ideas or practices, it abuses its God-given power. Thus, whatever is legal isn’t necessarily right. Moreover, whenever and wherever man’s law directs Christians to disobey God’s law, believers are obligated to obey God.
- The state wields “the sword”; it has the power to enforce its laws. However, it misuses this authority when it penalizes those who refuse to obey immoral laws. Of all people, Christians must resist this tyranny.
Against this biblical backdrop, let’s now consider briefly the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. The state, obviously, is a major player in the debate over marriage and in the implementation and administration of national policy regarding marriage. In the days ahead, the government, especially at the Federal level, will enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling and the implications and policies that flow from it. How should Christians respond?
Dr. R. C. Sproul, founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, along with several of his colleagues, wrestled with this very question on Ligonier’s Monday, July 6 radio broadcast, Renewing Your Mind.2 In addition to Sproul, Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow Dr. R. C. Sproul, Jr, President and CEO of Ligonier Ministries Chris Larson, and program host Lee Webb participated in the discussion. All agreed that the ruling represented a watershed moment for America because it was so horrific and terrible. It was both lawless and unconstitutional, on par with both Roe v. Wade and Dred Scott.3 These rulings appear to be unique American history because they are not just egregious in degree, but in kind; they stand in a class all by themselves. Without doubt, the marriage decision is offensive to God, and He will not ignore it.
The panel’s observations about the nature of the Supreme Court’s marriage decision underscore the need for believers to relentlessly oppose it—even if and even when it costs them dearly to do so.
Here are some of the panel’s observations. Some statements are closer to quotes than others, but each fairly represents the ideas conveyed. Minor edits have been made for clarity.
- The marriage decision doesn’t mean a massive shift within the homosexual community alone, but also in the culture at large. Also, it will trigger a shift within the church because of the heavy influence of the culture on the church.
- This isn’t just people giving themselves over to homosexuality; it’s also their celebrating it in the streets and celebrating it as a positive good. And it’s the state saying the same thing. This is not just giving validity to homosexual behavior, but it’s creating counterfeit marriage and calling it real.
- God didn’t give marriage to Christians or to Jews only. It wasn’t simply a religious group that was singled out to participate in marriage. Rather, marriage was given in creation as God’s law for all human beings throughout time. Moreover, it was defined by Him. The state does not ever have the right to redefine a creation ordinance—an ordinance that has been in effect since the very act of creation and since the very existence of the institution of marriage itself.
- The church doesn’t expect the state to do the work of the church, but it does expect the state to do the work of the state. The state, remember, also is ordained by God. Protecting life and protecting marriage aren’t just religious values but humanitarian values. When we say we object to the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, our concern isn’t that the state has separated itself from the church, but that it has separated itself from God! Since the state is a God-ordained institution, it is doing this to its own peril and to the detriment of its people.
- What we’re talking about here is not just a rejection of God as Redeemer or as potential Redeemer. We’re talking about a rejection of God as Maker. This is what Paul warns about in Romans 1 when he talks about homosexuality—but the court went even further than this. This ruling shakes a fist at God and says, “You made all of us, redeemed or not, to be this way (meaning that a man and a woman fit together naturally in marriage), and we’re going to turn this on its head; we’re going to pervert this as heinously as we can. We’re going to celebrate it, too!” This isn’t just telling God, “We know better than You; You’re mistaken and we’re wiser than you.” It’s “This will really tick You off because we hate You!”
Here are some additional observations we can add to the list.
- The court not only rejected God, but also set itself up as God.
- The redefinition of marriage nationwide gives proponents of same-sex marriage the ability to use the government to force those who disagree with them to participate in their celebrations—against their desires and against their consciences. This is diametrically opposed to the principle of religious liberty on which this country was founded.
- The court didn’t bring marriage to same-sex couples; instead, it brought same-sex couples to marriage. In other words, the court didn’t just bestow marriage on same-sex couples that desire it; it brought the characteristics of a same-sex relationship into the institution of marriage, thereby negating those things about natural marriage that make it special. (1) The court severed gender and gender differences from the meaning of marriage. In a practical sense, the institution of marriage no longer is about the dynamics inherent in opposite sex relationships; it isn’t about male and female differences anymore. (2) The court separated procreation from marriage. Marriage no longer is about a relationship that can produce children. This portends ominously for the future of civilization and its youngest and most innocent citizens. (3) The court severed gender from parenting, negating the unique contributions of both mothers and fathers from the family. Marriage and the family are no longer about the special skills and contributions a man can make as a father or that a woman can make as a mother. (4) The court, rather than validating children, has trampled on their emotional needs by depriving many of them of either a mom or a dad. Put another way, the court ignored the needs children have for the protective influence of a father and the unique, nurturing touch of a mother. When a society favors adults’ rights over children’s needs, it has become barbaric in the worst possible way.
In the 1953 biblical epic The Robe (Twentieth-Century Fox), Tribune Marcellus Gallio is the Roman soldier who wins the robe of Jesus when he gambles for it at the foot of the cross (see John 19:23-24). Tribune Gallio eventually becomes a Christian, and his life is forever changed. As a Christian, however, he is seen as a traitor to the Roman Empire. (The early Christians were seen as traitors to the state primarily because they were misunderstood. The misunderstandings, however, were widely believed and acted upon.) At the end of the movie, Marcellus stands before Emperor Caligula. He is accused of treason and is condemned to die, but Caligula gives him a chance to escape the death penalty.
Caligula: Tribune Gallio, you stand condemned to death, but it is our desire to be merciful, to give you a chance to recant your treason and go free. Kneel to us, and renew your tribune’s oath of loyalty to your emperor. Renounce your misguided allegiance to this dead Jew who dared to call himself a king.
Marcellus: Sire, with all my heart I renew my pledge of loyalty to my emperor and to Rome, a pledge which I have never broken.
Caligula: And the other—Jesus—renounce Him so all can hear.
Marcellus: I cannot renounce Him sire, nor can you. He is my King and yours as well He is the Son of God.
Caligula: And that is your answer.
Marcellus: Yes, sire.
Caligula: Tribune Gallio, we decree that you be taken immediately to the palace archery field and put to death for high treason!4
Was Tribune Gallio a traitor to Rome? No; he fulfilled his God-given responsibilities to his country. Yet he also understood that as a Christian, he had to put his Savior first—even before his country and even before his own life—when Rome demanded he renounce Christ.
While Christians do not yet face death for practicing their faith in America, the cost for being a Christian is rising significantly. Despite the cost, we cannot stand idly by and remain silent when the God-ordained institution of marriage—a picture of Christ and His church (see Eph. 5:31-32)—is being disfigured and mutilated by the state. The Supreme Court really isn’t Supreme. God is, and Christians have the job of obeying God’s verdict rather than the Supreme Court’s.
Won’t you speak up? Won’t you make a commitment to work tirelessly to reverse this horrific ruling? Let’s work together to bring our country back from the brink!
Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
4The Robe, Twentieth-Century Fox, DVD, original movie 1953, renewed 1981