Responding to the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Decision

As you’ve probably heard, last Friday the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges recognized same-sex marriage as a right protected by the United States Constitution. For those Christians who ascribe to a biblical understanding of marriage—that it involves a unique union between one man and one woman—the ruling is a cause to think carefully about how to respond. No doubt that answer deserves much more than a single blog post, but here are at least a few broad points to consider:

1. We need to love those who disagree with us.

This is true whether we find ourselves in majority or minority of our culture’s views on sex and marriage, or anything else for that matter. Faithfully following Christ will mean not just that we tolerate those with whom we earnestly disagree, but that we love them as well. In doing so, not only will we be obeying Jesus’ commands (see, e.g., Mat. 5:43-48 and  Luke 10:25-37), but we’ll also be providing those around us with a picture of the gospel. It was God, after all, who first loved us when we were in diametric opposition to him (see Eph. 2:1-10).

2. We need to live out our beliefs faithfully in area of sex and marriage.

The broad cultural consensus that Christians once benefited from in this area had crumbled long before last Friday’s ruling. One consequence of this steady cultural shift is most people believe that a biblical understanding of sex and marriage is little more than a prescription for repression and unhappiness, if not outright bigoted to boot. It is imperative that we demonstrate—not just articulate—the reality: that God’s commands lead to more freedom and a deeper joy than we could otherwise know. The world is constantly watching to see if there’s any substance, power, and beauty in the Christian faith. Will we show them that there is?

3. We should not expect to be understood or accepted.

It’s tempting to believe that simply following the above prescriptions will convince all those with different views to, if not embrace, at least accept us. And it’s true that reflecting Christ, however imperfectly, can and regularly does give pause to or even help to win over those of different viewpoints. In fact, just as many Christians have been challenged to abandon uncharitable beliefs through their relationships with gay and lesbian friends and neighbors, we should hope for and work toward something similar happening in the opposite direction. But we should not by any means be surprised when our attempts toward that end are met by some with dismissal, derision, and even persecution. If Jesus himself experienced all these things, so will we (John 15:20).

4. We should expect religious freedom to be the next contested issue in the cultural debate.

Many predicted that the Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage will directly lead to challenging longstanding notions of religious freedom. And already there are indications that this is so. Notably, while Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion mentioned that religious adherents should be free to “advocate” and “teach” their views, he failed to explicitly endorse their ability to “exercise” them (to use the language of the First Amendment), a fact that Chief Justice Roberts pointed out in his dissent (read the opinions here). Similarly, I read an article this morning that included this representative paragraph:

We have religious freedom in this country, and any religious organization is entirely free to espouse whatever crazy views it likes. But when those views are fanatical and hurtful, they come into conflict with the views of any honorable legislator who believes in freedom and equality. And at that point, it makes perfect sense for our elected representatives to register their disapproval by abolishing the tax exemption for organizations who cling to narrow-minded and anachronistic views.

If a biblical understanding of marriage is considered by many as synonymous with views that are “crazy,” “fanatical,” “hurtful,” “narrow-minded,” and “anachronistic,” I doubt very much that the challenges will be limited to questions of tax exemption (even if our jurisprudence has long acknowledged that “the power to tax involves the power to destroy”).

5. We need to engage.

Given the potential stakes, Christians must engage in the cultural debate in a manner that aims to be respectful, winsome, and persuasive. This will mean both personal conversations and participation in the public square, including but not limited to the political process. Again, this will not guarantee success. But if the alternative is to “take our ball and go home,” we’re likely to find out that there soon will be no home left to us.

6. We need to persevere.

For reasons already alluded to, it will not be easy to hold faithfully to the biblical view of sex and marriage. The cost of failing to conform—measured socially, economically, and legally—will likely grow far larger than it is now. It’s therefore crucial that Christians remember the promises and faithfulness of God in order to stand firm. Space won’t allow me to list all the texts that are relevant here, but suffice it to say that, in the end, no one will ever regret losing something for the sake of following Christ (Mark 10: 28-31, see also 2 Cor. 4:17-18).

7. We need to be patiently hopeful.

One of the fundamental truths that shines through the overarching story of the Bible is that God is always in charge. Far from ever being surprised by historical events, God is faithfully and sometimes mysteriously using them to accomplish his good purposes. That these purposes are often only realized over long periods of time—years, lifetimes, even millennia—should encourage us to add patience to the sure hope that God remains work in our own time and place, both for our good and his glory.

8. We need to pray.

Of everything that makes up this list, this is perhaps the most important. Absent the grace of God, all else is a moot point. So we need to pray that he’ll draw many to understand and accept his good design for sex and marriage. We need to pray that he’ll grant wisdom to those who influence and guide our cultural and governing institutions in order to create space that allows for both disagreement and respect. We need to pray that he’ll protect, mature, and add to his church in light of the Court’s decision and its implications. And toward that end, we need to pray for ourselves, that we would remain hopeful and reflect Christ in whatever way we’re called to do so in the days ahead.

5 Comments

  1. Janet Welch said:

    Can you state clearly what The Crossing staff will do when approached to perform a same sex marriage ceremony?

  2. craig dishman said:

    thank you…very helpful as “we” go forward

  3. Mona Pargee said:

    Praying God will continue to bless all The Crossing staff with compassion, wisdom and, faithfulness to His Word. May He give each of us the faith and courage to stand on His Word while reflecting the love of Jesus to those for whom He died.

  4. Linda Lademann said:

    Well said, Nathan, and thank you. And Mona, Amen. Your prayer is one that we all need to pray for our pastors and staff and for ourselves, every day and in every situation.

  5. Anna Gross said:

    Thank you, Nathan, very well said. And I agree with Mona’s statement. Her statement is a reflection of my heart.

Leave a Reply