The Church in a Nation with Gay Marriage

Francis Schaeffer famously asked, “How should we then live?”

It’s a question the Church in the United States is faced with now that the Supreme Court has decreed gay marriage to be the law of the land. The ruling itself is no surprise, really, as the our culture already affirms it as normative.

So, how should we respond?How should Christians respond to gay marriage

What’s Next?

What will the fallout of gay marriage be? There’s some debate about that.

But it seems to me that activism is never really satisfied. Having won this war, there will soon be another cause, another battle to wage. And that may well involve applying pressure on churches and religious institutions to get on the gay marriage bandwagon. It’s not difficult to imagine organizations paying a price for not participating in same sex marriages by losing their tax exempt status. Can’t you envision somebody suing a church or a pastor for refusing the use of their building for a ceremony or refusing to preside over such a ceremony?

Is it Time for the Church to Change its Approach to Marriage?

Church flipped optimizedThe Bible is clear on marriage, so I’m not suggesting a modified theology. But maybe it’s time for churches to get out of the civil marriage business. 

Now, I’m not a pastor/elder and so this idea is purely theoretical, but let’s play it out.

A church could simply say we don’t perform state-recognized marriage ceremonies, and our pastors are not licensed to do so. We gladly have Christian covenant marriage ceremonies for believers who want to be joined in Christian marriage, but these ceremonies have no connection to any legal change in their life status. It is strictly a religious ceremony (like a baptism or even a bar mitzvah).

These Christian couples could (and probably would) choose to go have a civil marriage ceremony with a judge before or after their covenant ceremony with the church, but these would be two separate, unconnected events.

Would such an approach work legally? That’s beyond my expertise. But I think it’s an idea worth considering at some point in the near future. After all, it seems to gel with the much-cited separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution.

What do you think?

How Should Christians Respond to the Supreme Court Decision?

Let’s bring this back to a personal level today. It’s vital that Christians respond to these developments carefully and graciously. There will be a temptation for many to lash out or make sarcastic comments. Others may be cynical or morose. The world will be watching.

We would do well – especially on social media! – to heed the counsel of James 1:19-20:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Take a deep breath. God is still on His throne and Jesus is still risen and seated at His right hand. There’s nothing here that has caught Him off guard. The world won’t deconstruct or implode tomorrow morning.

Let’s consider how we are called to respond to others – even those who disagree with us or revile us. We are called to respond with love – not the worldly view of love that demands complete agreement and acquiescence – but a biblical love characterized by kindness, humility, and a desire to serve. We should demonstrate the gospel in word and in our attitudes and actions.

People will not be won by our angry shouting. After all, it really is true that #LoveWins.

The Counter-Cultural Church

Gay marriage is not the end of the world. It’s an opportunity for us to reconsider how we relate to the world, and to embrace the counter-cultural nature of the Church. Throughout history, in various times and places, the Church has flourished and grown in the face of cultures that were hostile to its teaching.

Same sex marriage has arrived. Let’s respond with uncompromising grace.

For further reading, start with this excellent op-ed by Russell Moore and this reminder.