By: Bruce Riley Ashford
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that every state is required both to license same-sex marriage and to recognize licensing from other states. In one respect, this case—Obergefell v. Hodges—created a new normal as it posited a new Constitutional “right” and legally redefined a millennia-old institution. But in another respect, this case is only one more iteration of the new normal that has been dawning since the Sexual Revolution.
How should Christians respond to the new normal? Here are six guidelines:
- Christians should dissent from the court’s ruling. Obergefell attempts to recreate an institution that it did not create in the first place. God created marriage (Gen 2:21-25; Mt 19:4-6) and intends for it to be a reflection of the gospel (Eph 5:32), so he alone can define it.
- We must be faithful even when we are encouraged to acquiesce. Faithfulness entails respecting the governing authorities who have been appointed by God (Rom 13:1-7), even as we protest a court decision that flouts God’s creation design and is legally incoherent. Living as we do in a democratic republic, the power of the Supreme Court is derived from the populace. We the citizens have the right and responsibility to examine, debate, and protest the decisions made by its President, its legislators, and the SCOTUS nominated by the President and approved by the Senate. Given such a polity, for Christians simply to be quiet or acquiesce is to disrespect the governing authorities.
- Our response must be characterized by grace and joy rather than anger and fear. We can give witness to biblical truth about sex and marriage, but do so in a way that gives the LGBT community the dignity and respect it deserves, having been created in the image and likeness of God. In other words, we can speak the truth while at the same time genuinely loving our neighbor.
- We should not become discouraged by the “losing side of history” argument. Many proponents of same-sex marriage argue that evangelical Christians are on the losing side of history on this issue. And indeed, if “history” is the short-term future of the United States, and if “losing” means being in the minority, then yes we are. But the reality is that evangelicals aren’t in this to “win.” We are in this to bear witness to Christ, love our neighbors, and seek the public interest. If we do those things, we “win.”
- We should build strong marriages and families. As Christians, and as dissenters from the new normal, we should build strong marriages and families as a way of loving the world, of showing the world a more excellent way.
- We must be vigilant to give a gospel-informed response to same-sex marriage, rather than ceding interpretation of it to the lunatic fringe to the right of the Christian right. There is a small but loud contingent of self-professed Christians whose reaction to the SCOTUS decision will be hateful. These are folks in whose hearts the milk of human kindness has curdled, whose ignorance of Christianity is encyclopedic and whose account of it is richly preposterous. If we do not respond with biblical truth, and if our demeanors are not characterized by grace and joy, we will de facto concede the “Christian” response to these persons who will misrepresent the faith.
It was the great Dutch theologian and politician who once said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine!” Kuyper was right, and we should remind ourselves that marriage is included in those square inches. Marriage remains Christ’s. It was designed by him and it remains even today a gospel-imaging union between one man and one woman. No Supreme Court decision can keep us from bearing witness to this reality, with grace and joy, as a way of glorifying Christ and promoting the common good.