Twelve Qualities that Should Characterize the Church’s Case for Natural Marriage


These qualities originally were named in parts 4, 5, and 6 of the series titled “Upholding God-Ordained Marriage Is One of the Greatest Ways to Advance the Gospel.” We highlight all twelve in this single post to make it easier for users to read and share.

Key point: Because marriage is about the gospel, the church must contend for marriage in the same ways it contends for the gospel.


Marriage is, and always has been, about more than individual adults alone. It’s also about children, the larger community, and the future of society. Recognizing this, Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet declare, “Marriage must be both taught and portrayed as an institution that is bigger than our desires, whims, feelings, and affections.”1


Marriage is about the gospel.


As Christians, we know as well that God-ordained marriage reflects Christ’s relationship with the church, and consequently, the gospel. Non-Christians cannot understand this aspect of marriage in a way they can explain. Even so, from, in, by, and through marriage, even unbelievers can grasp gospel-related truths, although they may do so unconsciously.

Recognizing all of this, the church must uphold and defend marriage as God designed it. We can call His design “natural marriage” because nature echoes what the Bible says about this foundational institution.

Never before has the church, society, and culture needed a clearer and more accurate message about marriage. In a BreakPoint commentary dated March 31, 2017 and titled “The Silent Suffering of Gay Men,” John  Stonestreet astutely observed that for a variety of reasons “the debate over gay ‘marriage’ and homosexuality has largely fizzled out…[a]nd that’s a shame, because so-called ‘progress’ isn’t bringing about the rosy picture we were promised.”

The church must reignite this debate! It is in a unique and strategic position to help society get out of the mess that has resulted from redefining marriage—and I don’t just mean redefining marriage through Obergefell. The meaning of marriage has been under assault for decades!


God’s people must teach the next generation of Christians why and how God’s Word is right about marriage.


To begin with, God’s people must teach the next generation of Christians why and how God’s Word is right about marriage. This includes explaining how natural marriage represents the gospel. In a previous post, we’ve already discussed two specific ways marriage does this. Explaining these connections, though, is only the beginning. What qualities must characterize the church’s case for natural marriage? Here are twelve.

What the Church Must Do

First, believers must contend for marriage with greater sincerity. All too often Christians and the church have ignored the marriage issue as too controversial. It will turn people away! People will misunderstand! Yet marriage really is about the gospel, and upholding God’s design can indeed help non-Christians see and understand God’s good news about His Son, Jesus Christ.

Second, we must uphold marriage with greater authenticity. We need to work on our own marriages and, with God’s help, bring them to a clearer representation of Christ’s relationship with His church. Churches must step up to the plate to teach and equip men and women to be better husbands and wives—and to teach young people to become men and women of God who will be better husbands and wives when they’re married.

Remember, though, that as important as good marriages are, we have a responsibility not just to have good marriages, but to uphold marriage.


As important as good marriages are, defending marriage isn’t just about improving marriages, but about upholding marriage.


Be Aware, Speak Up Often, and Never Misrepresent God’s Truth

Third, God’s people, both individually and corporately, must speak with greater awareness. This includes an awareness of

  • the hurt and pain associated with homosexuality (go here, here, and here),
  • the longings of children to have both a mother and a father, and
  • the benefits of natural marriage on individual and societal levels (go here and here).

With an awareness of these things, we become gravely concerned for our homosexual neighbors, family members, coworkers, and friends—and we become more determined than ever to expose the lie that limiting marriage to one man and one woman robs them of fulfillment and happiness.

There’s more. A primary reason we as believers defend marriage is because of its underlying meaning in the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we aren’t ashamed of the gospel, then how can we be ashamed of marriage as God designed it, for in it we see the gospel? This doesn’t mean we pick fights with those who disagree with us, but it does mean we are willing to engage with people on this important issue.

Fourth, we must uphold marriage with greater frequency. When was the last time you attended a Bible study, or heard a sermon, not on improving your marriage, but on God’s design for marriage and the importance of revering it and upholding it as an institution? Pastors, where are you?


Pastors, where are you?


Here is an article with links to Bible studies that will help Christians uphold marriage. These can be used as Bible studies or easily adapted as sermons.

Fifth, we must speak with greater clarity. The Bible is unambiguous about the fact that homosexuality is a sin (also go here). We cannot afford to be confused about this basic point; nor can we afford to present an unclear message about it.

In addition, a number of symbols God established to have specific meanings are being grossly and horrifically distorted. If the church does not seek to clarify this misinformation, who will? The need for clarity was the theme of one of my earliest posts at Word Foundations.

The Situation Is Desperate

Sixth, we must uphold marriage with greater urgency. A new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center “found that two years after Obergefell, the Supreme Court decision that required states to recognized [sic] same-sex marriages nationwide, support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally is at its highest point in more than 20 years.” The survey also found that while white Protestants in the evangelical tradition oppose same-sex marriage 59 to 35 percent,

younger white evangelicals have grown more supportive: 47 percent of white evangelical Millennials and Gen Xers—age cohorts born after 1964—favor same-sex marriage, up from 29 percent in March 2016.

Additionally, while African-Americans have generally been less supportive than whites of redefining marriage, since 2015 support among blacks has increased 12 points—from 39 percent to a majority—51 percent.

Overall, 62 versus 32 percent of Americans favor same-sex marriage. Contrast that to findings in 2010, when Americans opposed the idea 48 to 42 percent.

Without question, the pro-LGBT media have had an impact on societal opinion. Even so, another survey found that the number one factor compelling people to open their minds to idea that same-sex rights are needed “is knowing somebody who is gay.” I’m sure this is true in the church as well, especially among younger believers.

Why would knowing a homosexual cause a Christian warm to the idea of allowing same-sex couples to “marry”? Having a gay or lesbian friend or family member understandably personalizes this issue for us—but in the debate over the meaning of marriage, we must use our heads, not simply follow our hearts. This is not unloving, because authentic love never ignores the truth!


In the debate over the meaning of marriage, we as Christians must use our heads, not simply follow our hearts. Authentic love never ignores the truth!


Bible-believing Christians recognize all sexual activity outside of natural marriage as sinful and wrong, whether it is illegal or not. This includes homosexuality. So we must ask, Does knowing a drug addict compel us to support that person’s “right” to abuse drugs? What about knowing an alcoholic, or a thief? Do we support his or her “right” to keep behaving the way he or she is behaving just because knowing that person puts a face on this issue for us? Of course not!

Homosexual activists have succeeded in making homosexuality an identity in people’s minds, but in reality it is linked inseparably to behavior, and destructive behavior, at that! (Also go here). If we really care about someone, we will not shy away from telling him or her the truth, even though telling and hearing the truth might be difficult at first.

What About the Children?

Moreover, we must remember that children adopted by same-sex parents are being denied a mother or a father by virtue of the design of the “marriages” of their parents. These parents may be loving and may do a great job meeting many of their children’s needs. The children may appear to be happy, and all may seem to be well. None of this changes the reality the parents’ “marriage” is denying their children an extremely critical need—that of a mom or a dad. Children need both, argues social researcher Glenn Stanton in this short but excellent piece. He is absolutely right! (Also go here.) These children are real people—every bit as real as their adopted parents. Can we please acknowledge their existence and their needs? Let’s let these children, whether we know them by name or not, personalize this issue for us!


Read “Why Children Need a Male and Female Parent” by Glenn Stanton


Stand with Understanding

Seventh, Christians, both individually and corporately, must uphold God-ordained marriage with greater understanding and depth. Among other things, this means never using trite clichés like these.2

  • God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve! Never say this! It trivializes not only God’s creation of human beings as male and female, but also the challenges many young people face as they grapple with sexual feelings, cultural messages about gender identity, and what it means in practical terms to be male or female.
  • I love the sinner, but I hate the sin! Typically, a gay individual cannot separate his identity from his behavior. The same can be said of a lesbian.
  • Homosexuality is a choice. Certainly choices are involved in being homosexual, but homosexuality is complicated. Typically, people do not choose to experience same-sex attraction (see page 9 of this publication from the Family Research Council).

The church has a need to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the nature of homosexuality from a theological perspective as well. It is misleading to say things like, Homosexuality is no worse than any other sin if we don’t sufficiently clarify what this means. While even a sin that seems minor in our eyes is an affront to God and makes a person deserving of hell, on other levels, all sins are not equal. Furthermore, among sexual sins, homosexuality is unique in that it defies what nature teaches about human sexuality. Note the phrases “natural use” and “against nature” in Romans 1:26-27.

Furthermore, Paul wrote that God gave up those who refuse to acknowledge Him “to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.” Then he added, “God gave them up to vile passions” (vv. 24, 26). James Montgomery Boice notes that God’s giving people up in this way isn’t like His releasing a porcelain pitcher in outer space where it would float harmlessly away. Instead, His action is like releasing the pitcher on earth, where gravity takes over and pulls it fast to the ground!

Stand Wisely

These realities, along with Christians’ love for their homosexual friends and neighbors, compel believers to speak out. As it does, the church must exercise  greater wisdom. This is the eighth item on our list.

As we make the effort to learn what we need to know to become effective defenders of marriage, we also need to pray God will give us the right insights and the right words.

We know that our message is difficult to deliver and difficult to hear. Jesus didn’t sugarcoat the task, either. He told His disciples in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” This eighth item emphasizes the first portion of Jesus’ admonition—that we be “wise as serpents.”

Let us not forget that ultimately, we have good news for our country and for the individuals in it. Words the prophet Isaiah wrote centuries ago still have application today (see Isa. 55:6-7; 1:18). God forgives if we come to Him on His conditions!

Stand with Humility

Thankfully, God really does stand ready and willing to forgive. We need Him to, because we are in need of His grace just as desperately as is everyone else. As we are “wise as serpents,” therefore, we also must be as “harmless as doves.” This includes having the ninth item on our list—greater humility!

We are not better than anyone else, but because of God’s grace, we are better off! God gets the credit for that—not us, even though we had to receive his offer of grace by exercising repentance and faith (active trust in Jesus Christ).


As Christians, we’re not better than anyone else. Rather, we’re better off because of God’s grace, something He freely makes available to all who are willing to come to Him in repentance and faith.


Stand with the Right Perspective

Tenth, we must make our case with greater reverence and awe. The inspired writer of Hebrews declared, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (NIV). What a privilege we have to be guardians of marriage as God designed it, and consequently the gospel!

Eleventh, we must make our case for marriage with greater resolve. Closely connected with this is making it with greater authority. We always must be gracious, but we need not be on the defensive on this issue! We know we are right, not because our wisdom is superior to anyone else’s, but because of what we have learned as observers of nature and students of Scripture.

Against this backdrop, we never should be thrown off by statements like “Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality” or “Scripture condemns homosexual acts only in certain contexts.” The Bible is consistent in all that it teaches about human sexuality, marriage, and human relationships.

Jesus attended a wedding at Cana and thus celebrated marriage (see John 2:1-11).
painting by Maerten de Vos, c. 1596

Having greater resolve and speaking lovingly, yet with authority, we acknowledge a twelfth and final quality that must characterize the church’s case for natural marriage. We must speak with confidence. Let’s learn from the advocates of same-sex marriage. They now have what they sought for so long—government recognition of same-sex unions as marriage—because for decades they contended for this recognition without shame and with great confidence. They didn’t care what people thought of them. Why are we ashamed? Why are we hesitant? History and the truth are on our side!


Homosexual activists didn’t care what people thought of them when they relentlessly and repeatedly contended for same-sex marriage. Why should we be ashamed? History and the truth are on our side!


Speak Now!

As we have said, the situation is urgent. With marriage having been redefined by our government, our nation is changing in profound and ominous ways. With marriage under attack and the gospel threatened, religious liberty also is in peril! Even before the Obergefell ruling, Princeton Professor Dr. Robert George predicted how redefining marriage would affect religious liberty in America.

The church must speak now, lest it be forced to forever hold its peace.


The church must speak now, lest it be forced to forever hold its peace.


Are you willing to speak up? I know of no more worthy causes than marriage and the gospel!

To recap:

The Church Must Defend Marriage with Greater

1. sincerity
2. authenticity
3. awareness
4. frequency
5. clarity
6. urgency
7. understanding and depth
8. wisdom
9. humility
10. reverence and awe
11. resolve and authority
12. confidence

 

Copyright © 2017 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.

The passage marked NIV was taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Note:

1Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet, Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014), 95.

2Alan Shlemon of Stand to Reason (STR) cited these three clichés and discouraged their use at STR’s ReTHINK conference in Birmingham, Alabama on April 21-22, 2017.

Upholding God-Ordained Marriage Is One of the Greatest Ways to Advance the Gospel, Part 6

We have an absolute duty to start training our children in biblical worldview when they are just beyond the toddler years. They’ve got to start understanding that there are some basic truths in life, and that if we abandon them, the whole scheme of living unravels. And marriage is a great example, because very, very few evangelicals, at least that I talk to, have ever heard of marriage talked about this way. They see it as a covenant with one another and with God—the most devout see it that way—but very few people see it as part of the structure of life built into the fact that God has created us and given to us, in His Word, an understanding of man and woman as one, and why that is so, and the purpose of it.
—Charles Colson1

 

  • Part 5 is available here.
  • View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Key point: It’s not just important that the church and Christians uphold natural marriage, but how they do so.

Part 5 is available here.
View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

In March of 2013, former US Senator Jim DeMint, then President-elect of the Heritage Foundation, made a video in which he encouraged people everywhere to defend and uphold the millennia-old understanding of marriage—one man and one woman committed to each other for life. This definition rightly is called natural marriage because it harmonizes with what nature teaches about human relationships. Here is a portion of what Senator DeMint said.

The institution of marriage existed long before government to provide children with mothers and fathers. Marriage strengthens civil society and limits government. As our marriage culture weakens, big government grows. Just look at how the welfare state got bigger and bigger as the unwed childbearing rate skyrocketed from single digits in the 1960’s to over 40% off all births today.

Ryan Anderson, also of the Heritage Foundation, elaborated.

Redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage; it rejects these truths. Marriage is society’s least rest rictive means of ensuring the well-being of children. By encouraging the norms of marriage—monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and permanence—the state strengthens civil society and reduces its own role. The future of this country depends on the future of marriage. The future of marriage depends on citizens understanding what it is and why it matters and demanding that government policies support, not undermine, true marriage.


The future of this country depends on the future of marriage. The future of marriage depends on citizens understanding what it is and why it matters and demanding that government policies support, not undermine, true marriage.
—Ryan Anderson—


Anderson, a Catholic millennial, gets it! I’m pleased that he does, and as a protestant evangelical baby boomer, I am more than glad to partner with him to defend marriage. I point to his statements as informative and instructive, not just for Christians of all denominations, but also for all citizens concerned about morality and social stability in America.

The church, however, is the most natural place for Christians to come to understand what really is at stake in the debate over the meaning of marriage. With marriage at risk, freedom and societal stability also are at risk, just as Ryan Anderson has said. Moreover, the gospel also is at risk. The stakes couldn’t be higher!

Toward the end that the number of effective advocates for natural marriage might increase, we have been describing items that should characterize the church’s defense of man-woman marriage. Thought not exhaustive, our list contains 12 items. This article carried our discussions of the first two, and last week’s article our insights on items three through six. Ready or not, we now move to items seven through twelve. 

Stand with Understanding

Seventh, Christians, both individually and corporately, must uphold God-ordained marriage with greater understanding and depth. Among other things, this means never using trite clichés like these.2

  • God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve! Never say this! It trivializes not only God’s creation of human beings as male and female, but also the challenges many young people face as they grapple with sexual feelings, cultural messages about gender identity, and what it means in practical terms to be male or female. Beyond this, it comes off as extremely arrogant in a situation where humility is essential. More on this in a moment.
  • I love the sinner, but I hate the sin! While from a biblical perspective homosexuality is a sinful behavior, a gay or lesbian individual sees it as his or her identity. To that person, to “hate the sin” is to hate the individual!
  • Homosexuality is a choice. Certainly choices are involved in being homosexual, but this does not mean the gay or lesbian individual chose to have same-sex attraction. In fact, it’s almost certain he or she did not! What does a young person do with these deep feelings he or she doesn’t understand? The individual becomes vulnerable to cultural messages that make homosexuality seem extremely attractive and normal.

The church has a need to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the nature of homosexuality from a theological perspective as well. It is misleading to say things like, Homosexuality is no worse than any other sin if we don’t sufficiently clarify what this means. This statement certainly is true in the sense that every sin is an affront to God’s character and authority. Even one sin, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem, makes us deserving of hell. On other levels, though, all sins are not equal. Furthermore, among sexual sins, homosexuality is unique in that it defies what nature teaches about human sexuality. Note the phrases “natural use” and “against nature” in Romans 1:26-27.

There’s more. Referring to those who refuse to acknowledge God, Paul wrote in verse 24, “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.” In verse 26 the apostle added, “God gave them up to vile passions” (emphasis added). James Montgomery Boice notes

that people tend to think of God’s giving people up to their desires (see vv. 24, 26) as being akin to releasing a porcelain pitcher in outer space and letting it float harmlessly away. Not so. It really is like letting go of the pitcher on earth, where gravity causes it to drop to the ground and possibly shatter completely.

Stand Wisely

These realities, along with Christians’ love for their homosexual friends and neighbors, compel believers to speak out. Warnings certainly can be issued in an unloving manner, but failing to issue a warning in a perilous or a potentially perilous situation is undeniably unloving. This brings us to the eighth point: the church must exercise greater wisdom. In Proverbs 25:11-12, Solomon, guided by God, offered these keen insights:

11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold
In settings of silver.
12 Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold
Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.

As we make the effort to learn what we need to know to become effective defenders of marriage, we also need to pray God will give us the right insights and the right words. We know that our message is difficult to deliver and difficult to hear. Jesus didn’t sugarcoat the task, either. He told His disciples in Matthew 10:16, ““Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” This eighth item emphasizes the first portion of Jesus’ admonition—the need to be “wise as serpents.”

Let us not forget that ultimately, we have good news for our country and for the individuals in it. The words Isaiah the prophet wrote centuries ago still have application today.

Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon (Isa. 55:6-7).

18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool” (1:18).

Stand with Humility

Thankfully, God is ready and willing to forgive. We need Him to be, because we are in need of His grace just as desperately as is everyone else. As we are “wise as serpents,” therefore, we also must be as “harmless as doves.” This includes having the ninth item on our list—greater humility!


Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom (James 3:13, NIV).


We must never convey an attitude that we are better than anyone else because we aren’t guilty of this sin or that sin—whatever the sin might be. Whatever we have been spared, it is God who has spared us, and only by His grace! We’re not better than anyone else, but because of God’s grace, we are better off! God gets the credit for that—not us, even though we had to receive his offer of grace by exercising repentance and faith (active trust in Jesus Christ).


As Christians, we’re not better than anyone else. Rather, we’re better off because of God’s grace, something He freely makes available to all who are willing to come to Him in repentance and faith.


Stand with the Right Perspective

Tenth, we must make our case with greater reverence and awe. The inspired writer of Hebrews declared, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (NIV). What a privilege we have to be guardians of marriage as God designed it, and consequently the gospel!

Eleventh, we must make our case for marriage with greater resolve. Closely connected with this is making it with greater authority. We always must be gracious, but we need not be on the defensive on this issue! We know we are right, not because our wisdom is superior to anyone else’s, but because of what we have learned as observers of nature and students of Scripture. God did not make a mistake when He designed marriage to be between one man and one woman for life. In fact, this divine action was one of the Lord’s richest blessings to humanity. Accordingly, marriage reflects His richest blessing to humanity, the good news—the gospel—of Jesus Christ.

Against this backdrop, we should never be thrown off by statements like “Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality” or “Scripture condemns homosexual acts only in certain contexts.” The Bible is consistent in all that it teaches about human sexuality, marriage, and human relationships.

Jesus attended a wedding at Cana and thus celebrated marriage (see John 2:1-11).
painting by Maerten de Vos, c. 1596

Having greater resolve and speaking lovingly, yet with authority, we acknowledge a twelfth and final quality that must characterize the church’s case for natural marriage. We must speak with confidence. Again, we need not be put on the defensive with regard to this issue. Let’s learn from the advocates of same-sex marriage. They now have what they sought for so long—government recognition of same-sex unions as marriage—because for decades they contended for this recognition without shame and with great confidence. They didn’t care what people thought of them. Why are we ashamed? Why are we hesitant? History and the truth are on our side!


Homosexual activists didn’t care what people thought of them when they relentlessly and repeatedly contended for same-sex marriage. Why should we be ashamed? History and the truth are on our side!


In his book titled Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel, pastor and theologian Ray Ortlund writes, “Everyone who revers the gospel has compelling reasons to champion biblical ethics.…The fact that we too are sinners does not exempt us from taking this stand. Our own sinfulness simply means that we take our stand with humility and honesty. But we must not be silent. What is at stake in our sexuality is nothing less than the gospel itself.”3

Are you willing to speak up? I know of no more worthy causes than marriage and the gospel!

Next time, we will review our discussion of the 12-item list to make sure we get the big picture.

  • Part 7 is available here.
  • An article showcasing all 12 qualities that must characterize the church’s case for marriage is available here.

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Notes:

1Charles Colson with Anne Morse, My Final Word, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 144.

2Alan Shlemon of Stand to Reason (STR) cited these three clichés and discouraged their use at STR’s ReTHINK conference in Birmingham, Alabama on April 21-22, 2017.

3Ray Ortlund, Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 115.

 

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.

Two passages were taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

image credit: bride’s and groom’s hands on Bible, www.lightstock.com

 

 

 

Upholding God-Ordained Marriage Is One of the Greatest Ways to Advance the Gospel, Part 5

If the church doesn’t speak now, it may be forced to forever hold its peace.

The foundation upon which society is constructed—the central unit linking people to a social structure—is the family. And the most important component of the family is the husband-wife relationship. Any changes in that relationship will produce far-reaching effects upon the community as a whole. As long as the husband-wife tie is intact, an emotional cornerstone will be created upon which the happiness and satisfaction of everyone can be constructed. But when the tie is weakened, every other bond in society also will weaken.
—W. Peter Biltchington, PhD, in 19801

 

Key point: In the debate over the meaning of marriage, the gospel itself is at risk.

  • Part 4 is available here.
  • View summaries of all the articles in this series here.
  • This post focuses on four qualities that should characterize the church’s defense of marriage. A shorter version that hones in on just one of them—urgency—is available  here.

Marriage is, and always has been, about more than individuals alone. It’s about the larger community. It’s also about children and their upbringing, including the kinds of adults they eventually will become. Consequently, it’s about the future of civilization, too. We make a big mistake if we fail to see marriage in terms of the big picture. As Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet declare, “Marriage must be both taught and portrayed as an institution that is bigger than our desires, whims, feelings, and affections.”2

Yet, the critical role of marriage in society—as important as it is—is only a part of the big picture to which we point today. Christians know that God designed marriage—one man and one woman committed to each other for life—first to foreshadow, then to represent, Christ’s relationship to His church.


Marriage is about the gospel.


Therefore, marriage is about the gospel. Manipulating it will have a detrimental effect on people and society on a multitude of levels, not the least of which will be spiritual. With God-ordained marriage being threatened, the gospel is at risk as well. Recognizing this, the church must uphold and defend marriage as God designed it. We can call His design “natural marriage” because nature echoes what the Bible says about what marriage is and what it is supposed to be.

Today, Christians have forgotten, or they may never really have understood, the true meaning of marriage. Contributing to Christians’ ignorance, the church has failed to convey to its people the rich ways in which marriage showcases the gospel. We have been exploring this important topic in this series of articles, and now we move to issue a challenge to the church to passionately uphold God-ordained marriage both within and outside its walls.

If Christians are to be spokesmen for the gospel, they must be spokesmen for marriage as well, especially since marriage is under relentless attack. Championing natural marriage will help us advance the gospel—and failing to do so will hurt the cause of Christ in immeasurable ways.

Practice What You Preach, and Speak with Passion

Last time we named the first two items on a 12-item list of qualities that should characterize the church’s defense of marriage. We said the church must defend marriage

  1. with greater sincerity and
  2. with greater authenticity.

Originally I had planned to discuss the remaining ten qualities here, but space limitations make it necessary to use next week’s post as well. This time we’ll cover items 3 through 6 on the list. As we resume our list, we’re reminded that as important as good marriages are, defending marriage isn’t just about improving marriages, but about upholding marriage.


As important as good marriages are, defending marriage isn’t just about improving marriages, but about upholding marriage.


Be Aware, Speak Up Often, and Never Misrepresent God’s Truth

Third, God’s people, both individually and corporately, must speak with greater awareness. This includes an awareness of

  • the hurt and pain associated with homosexuality (go here, here, and here),
  • the longings of children to have both a mother and a father, and
  • the benefits of natural marriage on individual and societal levels (go here and here).

With an awareness of these things, we become gravely concerned for our homosexual neighbors, family members, coworkers, and friends—and we become more determined than ever to expose the lie that limiting marriage to one man and one woman robs them of fulfillment and happiness.

There’s more. Awareness also includes a recognition of the importance of defending marriage because of its underlying meaning in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Losing marriage means losing a picture that helps everyone, whether he or she attends church or not, understand why Christ came to earth and died. If we aren’t ashamed of the gospel, then how can we be ashamed of marriage as God designed it, for in it we see the gospel? This doesn’t mean we pick fights with those who disagree with us, but it does mean we are willing to engage with people on this important issue.

Fourth, we must uphold marriage with greater frequency. When was the last time you heard a sermon, not on improving your marriage, but on God’s design for marriage and the importance of revering it and upholding it as an institution? Pastors, where are you?


Pastors, where are you?


When did you last participate in a Bible study on protecting and preserving marriage as an institution? Again, it’s important to try to help people have good marriages, but if we don’t defend the institution of marriage, we’ve failed to fully defend the gospel.

Here is an article with links to Bible studies that will help Christians uphold marriage. These can be used as Bible studies or easily adapted as sermons.

Fifth, we must speak with greater clarity. There’s a great deal of misleading information about homosexuality out there cloaked in compelling, theological jargon. The Bible, however, is unambiguous about the fact that homosexuality is a sin (also go here).

In addition, symbols God established to have specific meanings are being grossly and horrifically distorted. If the church does not seek to clarify this misinformation, who will? The need for clarity was the theme of one of my earliest posts at Word Foundations.

The Situation Is Desperate

Sixth, we must uphold marriage with greater urgency. A new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center “found that two years after Obergefell, the Supreme Court decision that required states to recognized [sic] same-sex marriages nationwide, support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally is at its highest point in more than 20 years.” Among Republicans and those leaning Republican, support was essentially tied, with 48 percent opposing same-sex marriage and 47 percent favoring it. We need only go back to 2013 to find a large gap among Republicans. At that time they opposed the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples 61 to 33 percent!

The survey also found that while white Protestants in the evangelical tradition oppose same-sex marriage 59 to 35 percent,

younger white evangelicals have grown more supportive: 47 percent of white evangelical Millennials and Gen Xers—age cohorts born after 1964—favor same-sex marriage, up from 29 percent in March 2016.

Additionally, while African-Americans have generally been less supportive than whites of redefining marriage, since 2015 support among blacks has increased 12 points—from 39 percent to a majority—51 percent.

Overall, 62 versus 32 percent of Americans favor same-sex marriage. Contrast that to findings in 2010, when Americans opposed the idea 48 to 42 percent.

Without question, the pro-LGBT media have had an impact on societal opinion. Even so, one survey found that the number one factor compelling people to open their minds to idea that same-sex rights are needed “is knowing somebody who is gay.” Recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel changed her position on same-sex marriage because she had “met a lesbian couple who cared for eight foster children.” Political and cultural pressure surely were factors in her change of mind, just as they are with a great many worldwide, even ordinary citizens not in politics.

Now, I want to be crystal clear about what I’m going to say next. I write with animosity toward no one, but with grave concern for all. The survey that found support for same-sex marriage among young white evangelicals at 47 percent was a different poll than the one that found knowing a homosexual to be the biggest factor pulling respondents toward supporting gay rights. Still, there is no question that knowing a homosexual is indeed pulling evangelicals, especially younger ones, in this direction. On the one hand, we can understand this, because this kind of experience personalizes the issue. It “puts a face” on the case for redefining marriage.

On the other hand, this pull proves that the church has failed completely to equip its people to think biblically about homosexuality and other related issues—the top hot-button issues of our time. As Christians, we must use our heads, not simply follow our hearts on this matter. Is this unloving? Not at all! Authentic love never ignores the truth!


In the debate over the meaning of marriage, we as Christians must use our heads, not simply follow our hearts. Authentic love never ignores the truth!


If Christians really believe the Bible, then they recognize all sexual activity outside of natural marriage as sinful and wrong, whether it is illegal or not. This includes homosexuality. Why then would they not respond as they would in other situations involving activities they know to be sinful and wrong? Does knowing a drug addict compel us to support that person’s “right” to abuse drugs? What about knowing an alcoholic, or a thief? Do we support his or her “right” to keep behaving the way he or she is behaving just because knowing that person puts a face on it for us? Of course not!


Do we support a drug addict’s “right” to abuse drugs because knowing that person “puts a face on the issue” for us? Do we support the habits of an alcoholic or a thief just because we know him or her? Of course not. Instead, for the benefit of these individuals, we seek to help them find a better path. The same ought to be true of us with regard to the homosexuals with whom we are acquainted.


Homosexual activists have succeeded in making homosexuality an identity in people’s minds, but in reality it is linked inseparably to behavior, and destructive behavior, at that! (Also go here). If we really care about someone, we will not shy away from telling him or her the truth, even though hearing the truth might be difficult at first.

What About the Children?

Moreover, we must remember that children adopted by same-sex parents are being denied a mother or a father by virtue of the design of the “marriages” of their parents. These parents may be loving and may do a great job meeting many of their children’s needs. The children may appear to be happy, and all may seem to be well. None of this changes the fact the parents’ “marriage” is denying their children an extremely critical need—that of a mom or a dad. Children need both, argues social researcher Glenn Stanton in this short but excellent piece. He is absolutely right! (Also go here.) These children are real people—every bit as real as their adopted parents. Can we please acknowledge their existence and their needs? Let’s let these children, whether we know them by name or not, personalize this issue for us!


Read “Why Children Need a Male and Female Parent” by Glenn Stanton


Jesus cared a great deal about children and warned against influencing them to sin or stumble. If we who claim to believe the Bible really believe it, we will acknowledge that children living in homes with same-sex parents are extremely vulnerable to being so influenced. Here I’m not trying to point a finger of accusation at gay or lesbian parents. Like so much of the rest of society, they have been blinded. My point here is what Christians believe about the various scenarios that have become inevitable in the aftermath of Obergefell. Today’s culture is misleading children and adults alike with the idea that homosexuality is on par with heterosexuality. But I’m not misleading anyone! you might say. Maybe you aren’t directly, but if you remain silent while the relentless attacks against natural marriage continue, you are complicit!

Speak Now!

As we have said, the situation is urgent. With marriage having been redefined by our government, our nation is changing in profound and ominous ways. With marriage under attack and the gospel threatened, religious liberty is at risk as well! Even before the Obergefell ruling, Princeton Professor Dr. Robert George predicted, among other things, how redefining marriage would affect religious liberty in America.

The church must speak now, lest it be forced to forever hold its peace.


The church must speak now, lest it be forced to forever hold its peace.


I know these are hard words, but they appear to be necessary. Next time, we’ll cover several more items on our 12-item list—and we might even reach the last one.

In the meantime, pray for the church to understand the need and rise to the occasion. With God, all things are possible!

  • Part six is available here.
  • An article showcasing all 12 qualities that must characterize the church’s case for marriage is available here.

Copyright © 2017 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.

Notes:

1W. Peter Blitchington, Sex Roles & The Christian Family, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1980), 49. Of this book, Dr. James Dobson wrote, “Never before have I volunteered a statement of endorsement for a book, but this one deserves that distinction. These issues are crucial to the survival of the family, and I wish every Christian in America would read it.” Dr. Dobson’s endorsement appears on the cover of the book.

2Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet, Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014), 95.

image credits: all images with exception of the neighborhood street and the picture of Professor George: www.lightstock.com

Outlawed!

It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.
—Patrick Henry1

We are living in a day far beyond those when we heard the initial pleas for “tolerance” and “openness” with regard to sexual freedom. These voices have morphed. They now issue shrill and oppressive demands that, unfortunately, seem to be carrying the day. One such voice belongs to New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni, who recently wrote of “Bigotry, the Bible and Lessons of Indiana.” The conflict between homosexuality and Christianity is still alive in many churches today, says Bruni, but these elements “don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere.” The tradition of deeming homosexuality as a sin, he says, has solidified in the thinking of many Christians, hardening their perspectives and attitudes on the issue. According to Bruni, their outdated viewpoint is a “choice” that elevates Scripture—“scattered passages of ancient texts”—over the enlightened understanding society has acquired on the subject of homosexuality. The Christian perspective also fails to see gays and lesbians as people who, though flawed like everyone else, have dignity like everyone else.2 Bruni then moves to make his primary point: Our conversations about religious liberty need to highlight the need to liberate “religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can indeed jettison, much as they’ve jettisoned other aspects of their faith’s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.”3 The word “bowing” says it all! Mr. Bruni is speaking of using the government to force compliance among those he sees as unenlightened.

Hillary Clinton has expressed similar sentiments with regard to the issue of abortion. Speaking in New York City at the sixth annual Women in The World Summit, Clinton said “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” so women can have increased access to “reproductive health care.” One cannot dismiss the possibility she feels the same way about convictions that homosexuality is a sin, because she also said, “We move forward when gay and transgendered women are embraced as our colleagues and friends, not fired from their jobs because of who they love.”4

It’s important to understand that despite the façade of an early call to toleration and a live-and-let-live perspective, progressives didn’t begin talking this way only a few days ago. In 2009, Chai Feldblum was nominated by President Barak Obama to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC]. Obama appointed her to the position through a recess appointment in March of 2010, and she subsequently was confirmed by the U.S. Senate a number of months later. In 2013 the Senate confirmed her for a full five-year term. She is the first openly homosexual individual to serve on the commission.5 Her confirmations were controversial because of statements like this one, which Feldblum wrote in 2006: “Just as we do not tolerate private racial beliefs that adversely affect African-Americans in the commercial arena, even if such beliefs are based on religious views, we should similarly not tolerate beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity that adversely affect LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] people.”6 Also, “When questioned regarding a Christian employer’s right to hire an employee of his choice, Feldblum stated: ‘Gays win; Christians lose.’ Similarly, Feldblum, when questioned about how she would decide when religious liberty and homosexual ‘rights’ conflict, said she would have ‘a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.’”7

So we see that talk against religious liberty has been around for a number of years, yet recently the rhetoric has increased in both volume and intensity. It’s intensified because of the HHS Mandate in Obamacare as well as the debate over same-sex marriage—and these voices may soon gain additional legal weight. Writing for the Christian Post, Wallace Henley states that if the United States Supreme Court finds a constitutional right to same-sex marriage this June, Christians may be treated in the United States as the early Christians were treated in the Roman Empire during the 1st century.8

Rome was a society where worship of pagan gods was commonplace. In the empire, it was a widespread practice to offer libations to pay homage to various deities. For example, an individual might pour oil or wine on an object or an altar in honor of a designated god or goddess. Christians, who had affirmed Jesus as Lord, steadfastly refused to do this. They wouldn’t call Caesar Lord, either, so they were widely accused of being atheists. They were given many opportunities prove they were innocent of the charge—if they would disown Christ, that would bring honor to the gods of Rome and appease their accusers. Many believers resisted and were thrown in prison, tortured, and/or executed.9

Several other things about the Christians irritated the Romans as well. Although not perfect, followers of Christ lived morally pure lives. Their lives therefore stood in stark contrast to the accepted ways of life among the Romans. This included resisting institutionalized practices that had moral components unacceptable to Christians, and the Romans hated the believers for refusing to be involved. Here is how Minucius Felix, a Christian apologist at the time, summarized the Romans’ objections: “You do not attend our shows; you take no part in the processions; you are not present at our public banquets; you abhor the sacred [gladiatorial] games.”10 Moreover, Christians opposed these practices that were common in 1st century Rome: suicide; abortion; the killing of infants; abandonment of infants; homosexuality; the degrading of women; and patria potestas, which, simply put, made the father a dictator in the family.11,12

We can look to the early Christians for guidance and wisdom on how to live out our faith in an inhospitable world. Not only did they remain faithful to Christ as they lived among individuals who disagreed with them, opposed them, and hated them, but they also remained faithful as they endured the wrath of a hostile government. Still, the church grew!13

These lessons from history are important for us today as we await the upcoming ruling on marriage from the U.S. Supreme Court. Should the U.S. Supreme Court “find” in the U.S. Constitution a “right” for same-sex couples to marry, we should first understand that it will have overstepped its authority and will have issued an illegitimate ruling. Mario Diaz is a legal counsel for Concerned Women for America. Mr. Diaz explains that in Obergefell v. Hodges, the marriage case before the Court, the question the Court has to answer isn’t “Does the U.S. Constitution permit same-sex marriage in all 50 states?” but “Does the Constitution require it?”14 Diaz declares, “Anyone can read the Constitution and see it does not deal with the issue of same-sex marriage in the least and, therefore, the Court should leave it to the states to establish their marriage policy.”15 But there is more. Diaz goes on to warn that if, in the end, the Justices decide to impose same-sex marriage nationwide by judicial decree,

they should…consider the ramifications of such a reckless decision. They will be effectively opening the door to the criminalization of Christianity. At the very least, they will be kicking the door wide open to the persecution of Christians (and other religious groups) who believe marriage to be an institution created by God, which they cannot re-define of their own accord. Christians simply have no choice in the matter.16,17

We already cited Wallace Henley’s observation that Christians are on the verge of being treated as were the Christians in 1st century Rome. Henley sees this as yet another step in a process that began with “marginalization” and continued with “caricaturization” and “vilification.” American society is vilifying Christians and Christianity right now. The next steps are “criminalization,” and finally, “elimination.”18 A Supreme Court ruling adverse to natural marriage will bring America across the threshold of criminalizing the Faith that made America both strong and free.19 In other words, it will not be long before people and institutions with principled objections to same-sex marriage will clash head-on with the law. For example, churches that do not recognize the marital rights of same-sex couples should be prepared to lose their tax-exempt status. With justification, conservative journalist Ben Shapiro predicts,

Once non-profit status is revoked for churches on the basis of supposed discrimination against homosexuals, those churches become private institutions engaged in commerce. Which means that they are regulated as common businesses under anti-discrimination law. Which means they can be shut down or fined for failure to perform same-sex weddings. The left says this will never happen. Which means we are a few years away from it happening.20

It might happen sooner than that! Who would have dreamed even thirty years ago that we would face a day when Christianity would be outlawed? Yet this is a very real probability in the days ahead. The oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges established this. When asked by Justice Samuel Alito if Christian institutions that refused to recognize same-sex marriage would have their tax-exempt status revoked, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli responded, “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”21

This includes religious universities and schools, which also will be targeted22—and with the legal leverage given progressives by federal recognition of same-sex marriage, the liberal elites will have almost unlimited power to demand compliance from every entity that resists. We are seeing parallels to this already with state governments in cases like those of Elaine Huguenin and Robert and Cynthia Gifford, to name just two of many.23 Given this, we cannot expect even that homeschooling families will be exempt from a federal mandate to teach that gay and lesbian sex are normal expressions of human sexuality.

These and other repercussions of a Supreme Court decision adverse to traditional marriage underscore the importance of a united stand to defend it. Accordingly, a team of Christian leaders has forged and is promoting a statement of resolve that you can sign and share with others. The team includes Dr. James Dobson, founder and president of Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk; Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel Action; and Rick Scarborough of Vision America. The Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage notes that

marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of Creation. Marriage is ontologically between one man and one woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to children and formative of family. Family is the first vital cell of society, the first government, and the first mediating institution of our social order. The future of a free and healthy society passes through marriage and the family.24

The pledge goes on to affirm that government has an obligation to support and promote natural marriage and has no authority to redefine it. It states that on more than one occasion in the past, the U.S. Supreme Court overstepped its authority and issued illegitimate decisions. For example, in Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857, the Court ruled 7-2 that neither enslaved nor free African-Americans could be citizens of the United States, and that they therefore had no legal standing to sue in a U.S. federal court.25 Today, of course, we rightly view this ruling as illegitimate. It was just as illegitimate at the time it was issued. Why? Because the ruling violated a higher, timeless law that affirms the dignity of all human beings, regardless of race. If the Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to “marry,” it will have overstepped its authority once again, because it also will have violated a higher law. Marriage was designed and initiated by God (see Gen. 2:21-25). No human entity has the right to redefine it.

In conclusion, the pledge states:

Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we do not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with a higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line.

We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve. While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.26

The days ahead likely will be increasingly difficult for Christians and for the church. Even if the Supreme Court rules that states have the right to define marriage, the marriage debate isn’t over! The church, both individually and corporately, will have to contend for traditional marriage at the state level, where multiple battles must be waged. Neither is the debate over if the Court rules against traditional marriage.

Thus, either way, we must prepare for the probability that standing for the truth of marriage will be very costly. Advocates of same-sex marriage have many segments of society on their side—allies such as the media, business, and many government institutions.27 Moreover, many who personally oppose same-sex marriage are afraid to defend man-woman marriage because homosexual activists have bullied them into silence. Ultimately, it isn’t primarily institutions but individual hearts and minds that will need to be convinced of the truth about marriage. Wallace Henley writes that Christians and churches must begin to prepare now for what lies ahead: “Leaders should begin thinking about what will happen if non-profit status is lost. Christian institutions must embrace a Book of Acts strategy for corporate operation. Schools must train future church leaders in New Testament strategies.”28

How did the early church survive and even thrive in a hostile culture? Part of the answer is that these believers loved God above all else, and God blessed, sustained, and strengthened them. Alvin Schmidt observes, “The early Christians, during their first three hundred years of bloody persecutions, neither sought nor expected the government to support them in their religious activities. They only yearned for freedom to worship their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They differed remarkably from the pagan Romans for whom religion meant being linked to a particular city or state.”29

As the pressure to bow in compliance to government edicts regarding marriage and sexuality intensifies, may we as 21st century believers also stand out in our culture as different from those who acquiesce. As we remain faithful to the Lord, perhaps He will use us to transform America, just as he used the early Christians to transform the then-known world. Relying on Him for strength, resolve, and charity toward all, let us pray and work wholeheartedly toward this end.

A condensed version of this article is available here.

Notes

1http://www.davidstuff.com/usa/henry2.htm

2Actually, it is precisely because we as Christians believe homosexuals have inherent dignity as people made in God’s image that we are compelled to speak out against harmful behavior. See http://www.wordfoundations.com/2015/04/23/compassions-mandate/.

3http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-same-sex-sinners.html?_r=0

4http://www.christianpost.com/news/hillary-clinton-religious-beliefs-have-to-be-changed-about-abortion-138179/

5https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chai_Feldblum

6http://cnsnews.com/news/article/obama-s-eeoc-nominee-society-should-not-tolerate-private-beliefs-adversely-affect

7http://www.frc.org/issuebrief/obama-administration-curbs-religious-freedom

8http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

9Alvin J. Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 25.

10Quoted in Schmidt, 27.

11Schmidt.

12http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/446579/patria-potestas

13Schmidt, 33

14,15,16http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/04/27/will-the-supreme-court-open-the-door-to-the-criminalization-of-christianity/

17Note that the phrase “no choice in the matter” directly contradicts Frank Bruni’s contention (cited above) that opposition to homosexuality is an arbitrary “choice” made by Christians. Let us not miss the fact that these differing conclusions result from different assumptions made about God and whether or not He has revealed truth in His Word, the Bible.

18,19http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

20http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/03/30/whats-next-for-the-same-sex-marriage-advocates/

21http://www.redstate.com/2015/04/29/the-end-game-becomes-more-clear/

22http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/03/30/whats-next-for-the-same-sex-marriage-advocates/

23http://www.wnd.com/2015/04/courts-conclude-faith-loses-to-gay-demands/

24http://defendmarriage.org/pledge-in-solidarity-to-defend-marriage

25 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dred_Scott_v._Sandford

26http://defendmarriage.org/pledge-in-solidarity-to-defend-marriage

27,28http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

29Schmidt, 265

 

For Further Reading:

‘We will not obey’: Christian leaders threaten civil disobedience if Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage
http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/04/28/will-not-obey-christian-leaders-threaten-civil-disobedience-if-supreme-court/

Man on Admission: Verrilli Reveals Taxing Truth
http://www.frc.org/updatearticle/20150429/man-admission

Alito Asks the Right Questions Which The Left Doesn’t Want Asked
http://www.redstate.com/diary/lifeofgrace/2015/04/29/alito-asks-right-questions-left-doesnt-want-asked/

Don’t Silence the 50 Million Who Voted for One Man-One Woman Marriage
http://goo.gl/JJN1vy

 

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.

 

Outlawed!

It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.
—Patrick Henry1

We are living in a day far beyond those when we heard the initial pleas for “tolerance” and “openness” with regard to sexual freedom. These voices have morphed. They now issue shrill and oppressive demands that, unfortunately, seem to be carrying the day. One such voice belongs to New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni, who recently wrote of “Bigotry, the Bible and Lessons of Indiana.” The conflict between homosexuality and Christianity is still alive in many churches today, says Bruni, but these elements “don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere.” The tradition of deeming homosexuality as a sin, he says, has solidified in the thinking of many Christians, hardening their perspectives and attitudes on the issue. According to Bruni, their outdated viewpoint is a “choice” that elevates Scripture—“scattered passages of ancient texts”—over the enlightened understanding society has acquired on the subject of homosexuality. The Christian perspective also fails to see gays and lesbians as people who, though flawed like everyone else, have dignity like everyone else.2 Bruni then moves to make his primary point: Our conversations about religious liberty need to highlight the need to liberate “religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can indeed jettison, much as they’ve jettisoned other aspects of their faith’s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.”3 The word “bowing” says it all! Mr. Bruni is speaking of using the government to force compliance among those he sees as unenlightened.

Hillary Clinton has expressed similar sentiments with regard to the issue of abortion. Speaking in New York City at the sixth annual Women in The World Summit, Clinton said “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” so women can have increased access to “reproductive health care.” One cannot dismiss the possibility she feels the same way about convictions that homosexuality is a sin, because she also said, “We move forward when gay and transgendered women are embraced as our colleagues and friends, not fired from their jobs because of who they love.”4

While the talk against religious liberty has been around for a number of years (despite its initial façade of tolerance), the rhetoric recently has increased in both volume and intensity. It’s intensified because of the HHS Mandate in Obamacare as well as the debate over same-sex marriage—and these voices may soon gain additional legal weight. Writing for the Christian Post, Wallace Henley states that if the United States Supreme Court finds a constitutional right to same-sex marriage this June, Christians may be treated in the United States as the early Christians were treated in the Roman Empire during the 1st century.5

Rome was a society where worship of pagan gods was commonplace. In the empire, it was a widespread practice to offer libations to pay homage to various deities. For example, an individual might pour oil or wine on an object or an altar in honor of a designated god or goddess. Christians, who had affirmed Jesus as Lord, steadfastly refused to do this. They wouldn’t call Caesar Lord, either, so they were widely accused of being atheists. They were given many opportunities prove they were innocent of the charge—if they would disown Christ, that would bring honor to the gods of Rome and appease their accusers. Many believers resisted and were thrown in prison, tortured, and/or executed.6

Several other things about the Christians irritated the Romans as well. Although not perfect, followers of Christ lived morally pure lives. Their lives therefore stood in stark contrast to the accepted ways of life among the Romans. This included resisting institutionalized practices that had moral components unacceptable to Christians, and the Romans hated the believers for refusing to be involved. Here is how Minucius Felix, a Christian apologist at the time, summarized the Romans’ objections: “You do not attend our shows; you take no part in the processions; you are not present at our public banquets; you abhor the sacred [gladiatorial] games.”7 Moreover, Christians opposed these practices that were common in 1st century Rome: suicide; abortion; the killing of infants; abandonment of infants; homosexuality; the degrading of women; and patria potestas, which, simply put, made the father a dictator in the family.8,9

We can look to the early Christians for guidance and wisdom on how to live out our faith in an inhospitable world. Not only did they remain faithful to Christ as they lived among individuals who disagreed with them, opposed them, and hated them, but they also remained faithful as they endured the wrath of a hostile government. Still, the church grew!10

These lessons from history are important for us today as we await the upcoming ruling on marriage from the U.S. Supreme Court. Mario Diaz is a legal counsel for Concerned Women for America. Mr. Diaz warns that if the Justices decide to impose same-sex marriage nationwide by judicial decree,

they should…consider the ramifications of such a reckless decision. They will be effectively opening the door to the criminalization of Christianity. At the very least, they will be kicking the door wide open to the persecution of Christians (and other religious groups) who believe marriage to be an institution created by God, which they cannot re-define of their own accord. Christians simply have no choice in the matter.11,12

We already cited Wallace Henley’s observation that Christians are on the verge of being treated as were the Christians in 1st century Rome. Henley sees this as yet another step in a process that began with “marginalization” and continued with “caricaturization” and “vilification.” American society is vilifying Christians and Christianity right now. The next steps are “criminalization,” and finally, “elimination.”13 A Supreme Court ruling adverse to natural marriage will bring America across the threshold of criminalizing the Faith that made America both strong and free.14 In other words, it will not be long before people and institutions with principled objections to same-sex marriage will clash head-on with the law. For example, churches that do not recognize the marital rights of same-sex couples should be prepared to lose their tax-exempt status. With justification, conservative journalist Ben Shapiro predicts,

Once non-profit status is revoked for churches on the basis of supposed discrimination against homosexuals, those churches become private institutions engaged in commerce. Which means that they are regulated as common businesses under anti-discrimination law. Which means they can be shut down or fined for failure to perform same-sex weddings. The left says this will never happen. Which means we are a few years away from it happening.15

It might happen sooner than that! Who would have dreamed even thirty years ago that we would face a day when Christianity would be outlawed? Yet this is a very real probability in the days ahead. The oral arguments established this. When asked by Justice Samuel Alito if Christian institutions that refused to recognize same-sex marriage would have their tax-exempt status revoked, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli responded, “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”16

This includes religious universities and schools, which also will be targeted17—and with the legal leverage given progressives by federal recognition of same-sex marriage, the liberal elites will have almost unlimited power to demand compliance from every entity that resists. We are seeing parallels to this already with state governments in cases like those of Elaine Huguenin and Robert and Cynthia Gifford, to name just two of many.18 Given this, we cannot expect even that homeschooling families will be exempt from a federal mandate to teach that gay and lesbian sex are normal expressions of human sexuality.

These and other repercussions of a Supreme Court decision adverse to traditional marriage underscore the importance of a united stand to defend it. Accordingly, a team of Christian leaders has forged and is promoting a statement of resolve that you can sign and share with others. The team includes Dr. James Dobson, founder and president of Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk; Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel Action; and Rick Scarborough of Vision America. The Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage declares,

marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of Creation. Marriage is ontologically between one man and one woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to children and formative of family. Family is the first vital cell of society, the first government, and the first mediating institution of our social order. The future of a free and healthy society passes through marriage and the family.19

The pledge goes on to affirm that government has an obligation to support and promote natural marriage and has no authority to redefine it. If the Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to “marry,” it will have overstepped its authority because it will have violated a higher law. Marriage was designed and initiated by God (see Gen. 2:21-25). No human entity has the right to redefine it.

In conclusion, the pledge states:

Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we do not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with a higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line.

We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve. While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.20

Advocates of same-sex marriage have many segments of society on their side—allies such as the media, business, and many government institutions.21 Moreover, many who personally oppose same-sex marriage are afraid to defend man-woman marriage because homosexual activists have bullied them into silence. Ultimately, it isn’t primarily institutions but individual hearts and minds that will need to be convinced of the truth about marriage. Wallace Henley writes that Christians and churches must begin to prepare now for what lies ahead: “Leaders should begin thinking about what will happen if non-profit status is lost. Christian institutions must embrace a Book of Acts strategy for corporate operation. Schools must train future church leaders in New Testament strategies.”22

How did the early church survive and even thrive in a hostile culture? Part of the answer is that they loved God above all else, and God blessed, sustained, and strengthened them. Alvin Schmidt observes, “The early Christians, during their first three hundred years of bloody persecutions, neither sought nor expected the government to support them in their religious activities. They only yearned for freedom to worship their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They differed remarkably from the pagan Romans for whom religion meant being linked to a particular city or state.”23 As the pressure to bow in compliance to government edicts regarding marriage and sexuality intensifies, may we as 21st century believers also stand out in our culture as different from those who acquiesce. As we remain faithful to the Lord, perhaps He will use us to transform America, just as he used the early Christians to transform the then-known world. Relying on Him for strength, resolve, and charity toward all, let us pray and work wholeheartedly toward this end.

This is a condensed version of a longer article. The expanded article can be viewed here.

An even shorter version of this article is available here.

Notes

1http://www.davidstuff.com/usa/henry2.htm

2Actually, it is precisely because we as Christians believe homosexuals have inherent dignity as people made in God’s image that we are compelled to speak out against harmful behavior. See http://www.wordfoundations.com/2015/04/23/compassions-mandate/.

3http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-same-sex-sinners.html?_r=0

4http://www.christianpost.com/news/hillary-clinton-religious-beliefs-have-to-be-changed-about-abortion-138179/

5http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

6Alvin J. Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 25.

7Quoted in Schmidt, 27.

8Schmidt.

9http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/446579/patria-potestas

10Schmidt, 33

11http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/04/27/will-the-supreme-court-open-the-door-to-the-criminalization-of-christianity/

12Note that the phrase “no choice in the matter” directly contradicts Frank Bruni’s contention (cited above) that opposition to homosexuality is an arbitrary “choice” made by Christians. Let us not miss the fact that these differing conclusions result from different assumptions made about God andn whether or not He has revealed truth in His Word, the Bible.

13,14http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

15http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/03/30/whats-next-for-the-same-sex-marriage-advocates/

16http://www.redstate.com/2015/04/29/the-end-game-becomes-more-clear/

17http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/03/30/whats-next-for-the-same-sex-marriage-advocates/

18http://www.wnd.com/2015/04/courts-conclude-faith-loses-to-gay-demands/

19,20http://defendmarriage.org/pledge-in-solidarity-to-defend-marriage

21,22http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

23Schmidt, 265.

 

For Further Reading:

‘We will not obey’: Christian leaders threaten civil disobedience if Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage
http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/04/28/will-not-obey-christian-leaders-threaten-civil-disobedience-if-supreme-court/

Man on Admission: Verrilli Reveals Taxing Truth
http://www.frc.org/updatearticle/20150429/man-admission

Alito Asks the Right Questions Which The Left Doesn’t Want Asked
http://www.redstate.com/diary/lifeofgrace/2015/04/29/alito-asks-right-questions-left-doesnt-want-asked/

Don’t Silence the 50 Million Who Voted for One Man-One Woman Marriage
http://goo.gl/JJN1vy

 

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.