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Obey King Jesus, Honor Everyone (a pastor’s thoughts on the same-sex marriage ruling)

This morning news broke that is not surprising when given the direction our culture in the United States combined with previous Supreme Court rulings: same-sex marriage is now a right that must be legally recognized in every state.

Here are some opening truths for us to remember: Jesus is still King, God is not surprised or caught off guard, Jesus will continue to build his church until his return, and he has tasked his church to be a continuing witness of his love and grace. With these in mind, here are a few of my thoughts:

First, this does not change how the church should view marriage. On the one hand, Christians have always (if imperfectly) held up marriage as a great societal good. In Genesis 2 it became the first pillar of society given by God. Yes, Genesis 3 tainted it as with everything else, but in Jesus there is a redemptive element to marriage.

The church should not simply be about trying to produce a bunch of heterosexual monogamous relationships under the banner of “marriage.” Instead, under this banner our goal should be to produce such relationships that provide a clear gospel witness. With Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Peter 3, and Matthew 22 in mind, we see several truths: (1) marriage between a man and a woman is a temporary, earth-bound relationship; (2) though we are to hold it in high honor, the greatest focus is to always be living for Jesus; (3) Christian marriage is to be a sanctifying relationship where the husband grows to mimic Jesus more and the wife grows in a greater love and relationship with Jesus; (4) so marriage is pointing us to a greater eternal reality of the relationship between Jesus and his church; and (5)we can never view Christian marriage as separate from discipleship.

Our one man, one woman understanding of marriage is not important simply because God created them male and female in the beginning (though that is part of it). It is vastly important because it stands as a gospel witness of Jesus and his church and is to bring us to greater holiness and Christ-likeness.

The nations of the world will define marriage however they desire. Always have and always will. Some cultures throughout the ages have and do view marriage as a sense of property ownership or as part of a political treaty. These are also not Christian and God-defined views of marriages even if between a man and woman. Regardless, we as the church are called to practice what the Holy Spirit gave us in scripture. This is our duty: we obey King Jesus and we hold marriage as a sacred relationship that helps us grow in Christ-likeness.

Second, we must keep looking at the world through gospel-influenced eyes. First Peter 2:17 says, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” And 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”

Yes, biblically speaking, we are to see ourselves in the midst of a war but we are not to see any person or group of people as our enemy. Politicians, the Supreme Court, members of the LGBT community, our neighbors, our family, people spread out across the world—no person is our enemy.

What they are is the same as we were before we followed Jesus. What they are is how we are all born into this world.

They are people created in the image of God, meant to be significant, meant to reflect his glory to the world, but lost, broken, and held under the chains of sin. From the moment of our conception in our mother’s womb we are children of Adam. This means we are children of Genesis 1, 2, and 3.

The only thing that separates us and makes us different, no matter our gender, ethnicity, social class, or orientation is Jesus. If we are in Jesus then we have been redeemed, we have been reshaped, and we have been renewed. We are no longer bound by our birth identity in the flesh. We are no longer children of Genesis 3 but of Genesis 12: children of Abraham, children of promise, and children of God. We have been forgiven, adopted, and restored.

But none of that is because we were more righteous (Romans 3, anyone?). None of that because we were more special (1 Corinthians 1). None of it because of anything we did (Ephesians 2). It is only by the grace of God working in our hearts through the gospel that the Son, Jesus, has freed us (John 8, Ephesians 2). As God has lavished his grace upon us, so he has called us to take the good news of his wonderful grace to others, indiscriminately.

If they disagree with us on marriage, we are to go to them in grace and love and share the beauty of the gospel. If they disagree with us on the proper way to honor God, we are to go to them in grace and love and share the beauty of the gospel. If they disagree with us on ethics, we are to go to them in grace and love and share the beauty of the gospel. If they hold a gun or sword at us and say they will kill us, we are to go to them in grace and love and share the beauty of the gospel.

Yes, we are in a war, but not with people. And our weapons of warfare are not picket signs or bumper stickers about Adam and Steve or the power of legal force. Our belt is the truth of Jesus. Our breastplate is the righteousness of God covering our sin. Our shoes are the good news of peace in, through, and with Christ. Our shield is our faith rooted firmly in the finished work of Christ. Our helmet is the gracious salvation God has given us. Our sword is God’s word which is not to bludgeon but to declare the greatness, love, and righteousness of God in Christ. And it is all bound together with prayer.

Two final sub-thoughts with this: We must look for avenues of grace. Malachi 2:14 describes marriage as a covenant. At the core of the fight in favor of same-sex marriage is a remnant of a godly reality. Those of the LGBT community have fought for this because they desire to share in a greater bond; because at its core they still see something special about marriage.

This goes back to the fact that we are all created in the image of God. God is relational, he is eternally triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is also covenantal. We clearly see in scripture God making a covenant (a relationship built on promises, but something more solid than mere verbal promises) with Noah, Abraham, the people of Israel through Moses, and David, and then a new covenant through Jesus.

In our hearts we long for deep relationships, for covenant relationships because we have been formed in God’s image. Those in the LGBT community long for these things because they have been formed in God’s image.

I do not say this to diminish the reality and consequence of sin, ours or theirs. Rather, this gives us a point of contact. We all have the same longing, just expressed in different ways. We all have the same desire, just corrupted in different ways by sin. We must see the reality of this longing as an avenue to speak the truth of the gospel: no mere person in any relationship will make you feel complete and perfectly loved. Yes, relationships lived out in a God-honoring way can point us in the right direction, but it is only God himself through the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit dwelling within that will complete you and bask you in perfect love.

Anyone’s desire for marriage is an avenue to point to the truth of the gospel, and our need for Jesus and his righteousness.

We must be people of prayer. We often hear 2 Chronicles 7:14 quoted in response to events like this: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” The thing is, though, God is not talking about the United States. The States have never been, are not, and will never be “my people who are called by my name.” There is only one Christian nation and that is the faithful church itself (1 Peter 2:9-10).

We do need healing. We need healing from our oft divisions, whether over music or personality clashes or lack of grace and love towards God, each other, and neighbor. We do need to turn from our Sunday-Christian mentality that has devalued through its non-practice evangelism and discipleship. We need to reclaim a daily passion for God and love for others.

So we need to pray. We pray to be the people that Jesus has called us to be: missionaries of a wondrous light in a world of spiritual darkness. And we pray that we might walk in the holiness and righteousness of Jesus, not to browbeat those who don’t but to be an example of God’s transforming love and grace.

This is not a day for us to lament our nation. This is a day for us to renew our hope in Christ. Politics, laws, and courts will never change a person, make a nation godly, or win the world for the gospel. The people of Jesus living for Jesus and declaring the good news of Jesus as the Holy Spirit works through them will.

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