Same-sex Marriage: Living With the New Normal
Prediction: Same-sex marriage will be the law of the land in all 50 states within the next two to three years.
As evangelical Christians, we live within the tension of the way we would prefer the culture to be and the way that it actually is.
As we pray the way that Jesus told us to pray, that His Kingdom would come and that His will would be done on earth, as it is in Heaven, we also understand that the building of this Kingdom is in process. When Jesus returns, in His glory, He will establish His new world order in all its perfection. Until then, we live and raise our families, and work to build the Kingdom in the midst of a world that is in open rebellion to all things holy. Sin set his ugly foot in the crack of the door opened by Adam and Eve and he has been wedging himself into all things ever since.
With that said, it is important that the church prepare itself for a new “normal” as it relates to the civil definition of marriage. Some may accuse me of being fatalistic, of “giving up the fight.”
My response would be twofold: 1) I am not being fatalistic – in fact, I am more hopeful than ever that light will shine in the midst of darkness. I believe Jesus is truly the only answer to all that plagues mankind, and 2) I am not giving up the fight – in fact, I am doubling down. I just don’t think that my fight as a Christian is primarily cultural.
The culture is what it is.
Christians since Jesus have been born into “good” systems of government and “evil” systems of government. Ours is not to whine and complain about our lot, but to take what we have and fight for the souls of our fellow human brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus Christ. To this fight, I am more committed than ever.
On the issue of same-sex marriage, I would suggest that this new normal will have certain “fallout” that the church in general and each Christian specifically will need to consider:
- The new law will be tested on a religious liberty level. By this I mean that a same-sex couple will intentionally seek to have their wedding performed in a church that they know does not allow for such practices. This will then create a civil case and possibly, in some communities, even a criminal case. I would not speculate here on the outcome of such cases, but only point out that such challenges are coming. Should churches be forced to open their doors to same-sex weddings regardless of religious conviction or face punitive action is yet to be seen but certainly not outside the realm of possibility – recall recent cases involving cake bakers and wedding photographers.
- The church may need to consider the issuance of it’s own ‘marriage license.’ For over 200 years, the church in the United States has had the luxury of coopting the civil marriage license as a formal document to recognize Christian marriage. When the civil document and all it represents no longer is sufficient for Christian expression of Holy Matrimony (consider in Arkansas that the terms ‘bride’ and ‘groom’ are being removed in favor of gender neutral terms as an example), then it is time for the church to consider issuing its own documents. So what this would mean practically for a young Christian couple that wants to be married is that they would seek a civil marriage license from their local country court house, just so their marriage can be recognized by the state, but that when their wedding is performed in their church, the church would issue its own separate marriage document signifying this marriage as a Christian marriage defined by Holy Matrimony.
- Clergy may face civil-rights violations for not performing same-sex weddings. In the same way that the new law will be tested when it comes to church facility usage, even local pastors may face the scrutiny of a civil rights violation for failing to perform a wedding for a same-sex couple. I know that in Arkansas that it is against the law to perform a wedding unless the credentials of the minister are on file in a county courthouse somewhere in the state. For example, my credentials are on file in the Washington County Courthouse in book H, page 345. Every time I perform a wedding and sign the marriage license I must record the county, book, and page number of my credentials. So does this, on some level, make me an officer of the state? Am I now obligated to perform any legal wedding because of this standing? I don’t know and I am sure no one else does either, but once again, this will be tested.
Why would any same=sex couple want a pastor opposed to same-sex marriage to perform their wedding in the first place? Good question. Why would a couple want a wedding photographer who opposes same-sex marriage to take pictures of their wedding, along with the more intimate pre-wedding photos of the couple embracing, kissing, etc.? As stated, it’s all about testing the new law and about coercion of all those not on board with the new normal.
- We will have family who are in same-sex marriages. And this is really, in a large measure, the crux of this post. I am asked all too frequently from fellow believers about how they should deal with gay family members. I doubt there are many believers today who do not personally know someone closely, friend or family, who is gay. For many, it is an intense struggle between their love for God’s standard of morality and their love for the individual. So allow me to frame the discussion in another way…
The book of 1 Corinthians implores believers to “not be deceived” and lists various sinful behavior, among which is homosexuality. The list also includes adultery. So let me ask: How would you process and deal with a family member who cheats on his wife? Some who read this may have actually been in this situation. Some who are reading may even BE former adulterers! The list also includes thieves and drunkards. Have you ever had a family member who was/is an alcoholic? Or ever shoplifted something, maybe even habitually? How did you deal with that in your family? The point? Homosexuality, whether expressed through a same-sex marriage or not, is nothing new to any culture and it is but one perversion of God’s moral code. Perhaps we are equally guilty of down playing some sins while over playing others. Sin is sin. And all people sin.
As Christians, we process theologically and practically those who sin in one of two ways depending on who they are in Christ.
If someone in our family is a non-believer, we love them unconditionally and pray for them. We share the love of Christ and His plan for their lives. We call them to repentance of all their sin. In short, lost people act like lost people. We should expect nothing less and treat them as Christ would, family or not.
If someone in our family is a believer and falls into a lifestyle of habitual sin (regardless of the sin), we proclaim God’s judgment for unrepentant sin. God disciplines those who are His. We pray intensely and intentionally for them as we follow the principles of Matthew 18 for confrontation and even exercise church discipline if repentance does not occur. In all of this, we love our family, just like Christ loves even us.
Truth and grace, in perfect balance, filtered through the mind of Christ is what is called for in such a time as this. The stakes are too great. And people, all people, are too precious for anything less.