And to think I didn’t know what to write today! The US Supreme Court has relieved me of this…and little else by striking down DOMA and upholding the lower courts’ rejection of California’s Proposition 8. Normally, I try not to allow current events to determine my preaching and writing, but this is significant. Sort of.
It’s significant because of what it means for religious liberty in America, even though we’re not entirely sure what that will be. Public policy is being defined, and there will be consequences for those who speak out against it. By recognizing civilly-joined homosexual partners under the same legal status as a married man and woman, the Court has decreed equality between two things that the Bible describes very differently. From now on, those of us who simply agree with God’s Word may be found to to oppose the Constitution of the USA, and if the Court’s dealings with Prop 8 are any indication, there may be very little that we can do about it.
On the other hand, relatively little has changed. Jesus is still Lord and Savior, and his church still answers to him. He is the designer and director of marriage, and Christian husbands and wives still have the task of their lives to love one another sacrificially. He sends and empowers his people to spread his Gospel around the world, and that mission is yet uncompleted. What’s more, he remains sovereign, and every one of the SCOTUS Justices is but a tool in his hand to accomplish his purposes. Like you, I’m not privy to everything he’s up to, but I think he has opened a door if we’re only bold enough to walk through it…
For many years now, Christians have been speaking out against homosexuality, homosexual marriage, and (at times) homosexuals themselves. We’ve been making claims and issuing demands, and all the while telling the world what marriage isn’t. We even think that we’ve told them what marriage is. I’m not so sure that we have.
Russel Moore has written a brilliant article of Christian self-critique. In it, he clearly describes the path that the American church has taken to arrive at this place today. (See also this article.) While we attempted to wage a war with the weapons of petitions and politicians, we neglected the actual practice of marriage itself and dishonored it by pretending we knew what it was.
“One man, one woman” is not the definition of marriage, biblical or otherwise. True, it’s basic, but biblical marriage is so much more than that because God intended far more in marriage than peaceful co-habitation. Now, I could wax eloquent about possible definitions, tell a joke about a fox and some chickens, or give you a detailed exposition of all the relevant Scripture texts to tell you what marriage is, but I won’t. I’ll give it simply. Marriage is a picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In marriage, the husband is called to sacrifice himself in love for the good of his wife, and the wife is called to submit to the leadership of her husband. And where one or both of them fall short of this ideal, they are called to repentance and faith in Christ who lovingly sacrificed himself for the eternal joy of his people. This is our model. This is what marriage should look like.
Unfortunately, we’ve done a much better job of telling than we have of showing. Maybe now is the time for change. Our rhetoric is exhausted, but the grace of God in Christ is not. As long as Christ continues to woo sinners to himself and build his church, the model for marriage stands impervious. Perhaps it’s time, then, to stop yelling so loudly about the characters in a marriage and start conforming to the character of marriage.
Our world needs this. Homosexuals and heterosexuals alike need to see the grace of our Savior embodied in our marital relationships. Our neighbors’ homes – perhaps concealing things like divorce and adultery and domestic abuse – need to see that Christ really can make a difference. Our children need to see that there is hope for them in the future.
I won’t pretend that I think today’s rulings are a good thing, though I have some friends who almost certainly do. But I do believe some good can come out it. If the church can realize that the defense of marriage begins in the home, then our world will be able to see Christ more clearly, and marriage itself will be stronger than ever.