Perhaps it’s largely due to judicial activism. Perhaps it may be a short-lived reality with long-term inevitability, but our county in Indiana saw its first gay marriages solemnized at the courthouse this week. For some of GR’s readership, this has been a reality for some time, for others it is yet in the future. But the closeness to home has made me try to think clearly about how we are to respond. This is by no means the final word, but some pastoral thoughts.
[Note: this is written for the church with the assumption that gay marriages are not within the good plan of God. For those of you not in the church or wrestling with these issues, I realize this may not be as helpful for you. Perhaps other questions could be answered later; in the meantime, here is a great book from our church on the topic.]
In responding to gay marriages, I need to recommit myself to loving in deed and action. Love means speaking the truth. It means avoiding name-calling and yelling. It means welcoming, as Christ would, all people to our worship. These are harder done than said. The church’s reflex seems to be circling the wagons, attacking back perhaps out of fear. But it’s our love that testifies to Christ’s work in us. It’s love that supports harder words of truth. If others will be mad at us, let’s make sure it’s because of God’s truth and nothing else.
In responding to gay marriages, I need to recommit myself to the gospel as the ultimate answer to the deepest need. We can easily, rightly and accurately point to many parts of this problem: judicial activism, a softening of the church’s prophetic witness, the culture of licentiousness and permissiveness promoted constantly, and so on. But in the end, humanity’s need remains the same: the good news of salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Keeping the gospel as our main hope and main goal will keep us focused and in line with God’s purposes for this world.
In responding to gay marriages, I need to recommit myself to my own marriage. To testify to God’s standards, to seek to uphold the Scriptural standard on marriage requires me to look first inward. To ask hard questions about whether my marriage is living up to God’s standards, which go far beyond male-female heterogeneity. Before I pray against our society’s rebellion against God, I need to pray against my own. This isn’t to say our marriages must be perfect before we speak up, but they do need to be faithful, centered on the gospel’s grace and forgiveness.
In responding to gay marriages, I need to prayerfully train for persecution. As the last of legal dams is deconstructed, our world’s attitude toward faithful churches will not improve. Legally and culturally, we are on the way out of the cool kids’ party. This is not a reason to despair since Jesus already warned us about this and since history tells us that the church has usually been on the outside looking in anyway. So let’s train ourselves, mostly just by staying as close to Jesus as possible. By valuing His delight in us over the world’s.
Finally, in responding to gay marriages, I need to pray for and preach to civil leaders. I write this to my own shame as I am not usually politically minded or politically active. Honestly, I often have such little hope in our government. But here’s the problem: this really means I have little hope in Christ’s ability to steer the hearts of kings. Regardless of our effect, we need to be faithful ambassadors of the King, of His love and grace, of His wonderful standard for human flourishing. Part of our work as ambassadors is to speak to those in authority, promising them our prayers, warning them of what it means to disagree with God and encouraging them in their calling under Christ. When our civil leaders”hold the line” as much as possible, it makes the church’s mission easier. And who knows when the Spirit will bring revival to our lands and the hearts of our leaders!
Like I said, much is left to be said and written. But here’s a start.