Five unelected judges with no ability to be fired lifted themselves up to the place of gods. Anthony Kennedy. Sonia Sotomayor. Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Stephen G. Bryer. Elena Kagan. On June 26, 2015, these five individuals decided they had the right and power to define marriage for almost 320 million Americans. Five individual people. In what is no doubt one of the greatest travesties to the American Constitution, these five individuals enforced their will, not as judges, but in this new day and age of judicial injustice, as creators of law and ethics. In one swoop, the five individuals decided they knew better than their Creator. They decided they knew better than every other individual to ever live. They somehow decided that in their heads and hearts, that they had the power to give marriage a more proper and right definition. Defining what you do not own is nothing more than an opinion about what you do not control. On this day, five opinions were made mandatory law of the land without any representation or voice of the majority of American people. In what is a billboard of hypocrisy and temerity against God, the decision was summarized as "Love Wins." The man masquerading in the office of President of the United States, who calls himself Christian, championed this slogan and lit the White House up in the adopted rainbow logo of the LGBT movement. In one day, five individuals and a president decided for all Americans what marriage is and what family is. In one day, the trifecta of American disobedience, American rebellion, and American idolatry combined into one abomination aimed squarely at God and was lit up for the world to see.
So how did we get here and where do we go from here?
In the Beginning . . .
The opening statement of history leads to the story of creation; a story of how the world was made from the earth's surface and beneath to the plants and animals that cover it. And of course in the midst of all creation, God decided to make a man. But this man would not just be any man. He would be a man after the Creator's own image. A son made to fellowship with his Father. But as the new man fellowshiped with the Father and this new Garden which he was placed in flourished, an emptiness emerged. The foreknowledge of God certainly knew Adam's plight before he did. God knew Adam needed a helpmate. God wanted Adam to know he needed a helpmate. Adam needed to feel the need for another human being. He needed to want for another human being. To simply give something, someone, so precious without understanding the need would be lost in translation. God seeing Adam's need; Adam recognizing his own need, God made Eve. The friendship of a man to a man or a woman to a woman is fulfilling without a doubt. Two men can become friends to the point of creating a bond of brotherhood. It is said that you can't pick your family, and it's true. For those who choose to become your family, the bond is immense. Two women can create a friendship that begins to resemble sisterhood. And yet as strong as these bonds are and can be, God didn't give Adam another man. He gave him a helpmate; He gave him a woman and she was named Eve.
We do not have a wedding ceremony recorded at the moment Eve was created and met Adam, but they became one by God's design. Adam immediately recognized the difference. He named her different than himself. She was different. She was "flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bone." This declaration is followed in scripture with the means of marriage, "therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and be joined (or cleave) to his wife." This was clearly God's intention for all society. Adam and Eve had no mother and father, and yet the intention of marriage was clear from the beginning. They themselves would become mother and father, and the cycle of marriage, joy, and recreation would continue.
Physically, Eve was made to complete Adam. The male and female bodies are perfectly crafted in every sense for one another. Biology and nature agree with the Creator. Combined, something beautiful would take place. The Bible states that they "knew" one another. It's a beautiful alliteration for sure, for sex has never been about satisfying mere animalistic desires of pleasure. Adam and Eve "knew" each other, and in the knowing, everlasting, not momentary or temporary, pleasure was found. When consummation began, intimacy began. Souls and spirits collided, connected, and brought forth life. Adam and Eve came to know each other in a way that only God could design. It was beautiful. It was fulfilling. It was heavenly. Emotionally, the two were connected. From the beginning, they each had their roles, and with no sin in play, each was comfortable with them. They found security in God, in one another, and who they were. There was no question as to who they were. Sin had not come into being yet. The first marriage story began in this way. There was a creation. There was a meeting. There was a declaration. There was a knowing. There was life. There was love.
The Problem of Marriage and the Church
We can claim that was just the culture of the day as an excuse for why marriage looked that way in most of the Old Testament, but a cultural argument is one that sits in shifting sand. It is a cultural argument that is trumpeting the expected acceptance of gay marriage. As Christians, we're clueless mostly as to how to respond to gay marriage and homosexuality. We know some verses, and we know it's wrong, but we're lost as to how to defend our faith and beliefs, and we're intimidated and inundated by false modesty to the point of silence on marital issues.
For many churches, sex is taboo. It's the thing you know everyone is doing, but no one wants to talk about. Yet marriage counselors state that problems in our sexual lives are usually the identifiers and precipice of deep seeded issues. We don't preach about it as being anything but youthful, lustful, and wrong. We tell our youth to wait till they're married without telling them about unrealistic expectations. We've allowed our schools to teach sex education, and now with this new ruling which somehow, against the Constitution, became law overnight, public school's sex education, psychology, sociology, and even home economics classes will now blast this new "modern" definition of family, marriage, and sexuality irregardless of community.
Where has the church been? Anywhere but where we should be. We're putting band-aids on paper cuts instead of tourniquets on open wounds. We keep having our same services, praying for the same needs, doing our same rotations, and what's changed? If our mighty moves of God are not moving anyone but the same people week in and week out, something is missing. Did God give us His power to operate inside a four-walled incubator called a sanctuary? If we're truly the New Testament church, shouldn't the manifestations of power cause additions to the church? Isn't that what happened in Acts?
In the Pentecostal church, we can't fight the enemy because we'd rather fight each other on the movement of the Spirit. Some say He moves too much. Some say He doesn't move enough. We've trivialized the Holy Ghost into a kid we control and a feeling to be felt rather than the third person of the Godhead trinity, the Sanctifier of our souls, the Seal of our salvation, the Spirit of Jesus Christ. We fight over the anointing, style of song, style of sermon, decor of the church, and title and positions. We've lost our mission in the muck of mediocrity and the selfishness of sanctimonious ritual. We've become more superstitious than spiritual. Other denominations aren't immune. Our churches are fighting the theological wars of man-made doctrines while the world goes to hell around us. Whether someone is Calvinist or Arminian has become more important to many instead of whether we're saved or lost. We want gifts, but no fruits. We want power, but no responsibility. We want feeling, but no teaching. We want what we want and nothing less. Sin has caused us to turn the mission of Christ on a dime and make it about us instead of the glory of God. We hold faith as a chip to be played in a spiritual game of chess with God. And in all this, we are losing and have lost many things with true Biblical marriage being at the top of the list.
Most of us stood in front of a preacher and vowed before God to be with our spouse forever. Somehow "forever" has been redefined as "until I decide not to." No wonder the world thinks they can redefine marriage. We've been redefining the vow of our Biblical marriages for years. The divorce rate in the church has at times been even higher than the world. I know there are skewed numbers in those figures due to many in the world choosing to sinfully live together instead of doing so under the bonds of marriage, but those skewed numbers don't paint the complete picture. Our Biblical marriages last about as long as the "non-Biblical" marriages. This shouldn't be. And from this molehill, we've tried to cry out against the cultural mountain seeking to redefine marriage.
I know we're imperfect. Thank God for grace. I know we're going to fall and make mistakes. I'm the chiefest of sinners myself. I would never for a moment attempt to overlook this reality. But the story of salvation is a story of redemption, not perfection. Our spirit is made perfect in Christ, but our flesh remains fallen. Redemption is our story. The falling down is expected. Salvation, that is Christianity, is about getting back up again. It's showing love. All men will know we belong to Christ by the way we love according to Jesus Himself (John 13:35). When we fail to love one another in the church; when we fail to love our spouses in the church, we speak loudly to a lost world that what we're doing isn't real. It doesn't work. It doesn't make a difference. It screams, "You're just as likely to be successful doing it your way as you are doing it God's way."
We've preached against the world so much that we have forgotten that scripture says judgment begins in the house of God. Why? Because our message is toothless due to the way we live. So you can fight to have your church your way and win your war, but at what cost? This is where we've been for years now, and thus because we've not made marriage and sexuality a focus of the church, the world has. Because we've not made our salvation complete with the reality of redemption, we've lived with a set of rules that has left us wanting in the end. The problem with marriage has been an ongoing issue since sin entered the world, and in our own ways, we've contributed to it.
How do we respond?
Where was God yesterday? The same place He always is. He's omnipresent. He lives in us and around us. Why didn't He stop it? Because He gave humans free will to choose what we do with this gift of life that He gave us back in the Garden when He breathed into the clay-man who became Adam. Why else didn't He stop it? I truly believe judgment is coming. The sifting is upon us. The wheat is about to be separated from the tares. Our Christianity has been so cozy compared to the creeds of our spiritual ancestors of the faith. It's so safe compared to that of many others overseas in other countries. We're being infected by cultural Christianity, that is, a belief that states people are Christians because they go to church, said a prayer, got dunked in water, and are a relatively good person. Good doesn't get you to Heaven. Jesus does. Our faith is about to be put to the test. The trying is about to begin. With this new ruling, it won't be long before churches and pastors are faced with the decision of how to respond. This wasn't the end yesterday. It was only the beginning. In the coming days, you'll begin hearing rhetoric about civil rights issues. This is more than a marriage issue truthfully. This is mankind shaking their fist at the sovereign God. Sin won't stop until its had its day. It won't stop until it has dominion, and it's been given the grandest stage of them all to sound its message. We do not defeat sin with good services. We defeat sin with new converts. In any war, one side wins when they inflict enough losses on the other side. We're in a spiritual war between good an evil, right and wrong, sin and God's Word. We win when we take the enemy's territory. So we've got to first respond by looking inward. We've got to discern what we're made of. We've got to take a good look at our commitment to Christ. Are we abusing grace? Are we stumbling blocks? Are we committed? Are we sincere?
Next, we respond in love. I had an interesting conversation with an individual I do not know on the Twitterverse yesterday in response to a tweet I made about the Supreme Court's ruling. The individual accused me of cherrypicking scripture and then suggested I was homophobic while calling me a "pastor." We continued in conversation however. I made my points. He asked his questions. And the stalemate ended with an apology from him if he had come across rude or disrespectful. I didn't change his mind about his position, but I do hope I challenged his mind to reconsider some things, especially Christians. We've got to recognize that people are still people. Regardless of what sin they're in, they are loved by God. We champion John 3:16, but forget that God loves the "world." That's everyone. Sinner and saint alike. Paul said God loved us while we were yet sinners. He loved you and me WHILE we were doing what we were doing. He still loves us WHILE we still do what we do. He expects us to show the same love. Is it challenging? Yes. But such is the power of the Holy Spirit inside of us. We don't wrestle against flesh and blood. That individual on twitter isn't my enemy. We respond in love. Love conquers hate. Love conquers all. In the end, true love does indeed win.
Last, and I'm really going to get blasted for this, we've got to learn some New Testament. We need discipleship. I preached on being equipped for the battle a few weeks ago. We're all in a battle whether we realize it or not, but if we're not equipped, we won't survive. From my experience, I see a lack of understanding and knowledge in our churches. We don't know the Word like we think we do. We've memorized the scriptures that promise us things, but we don't know the scriptures that define our relationship with God. We sing about grace but don't know how to define it. We speak about the Holy Spirit but confine Him to gifts and occurrences in a service. We don't know how to rightly divide the Word. And here it is . . . we're too entirely dependent upon an Old Testament theology. Yes. You can get your stones ready. As a preacher, the Old Testament is easy to preach. It's a movie in action. It's story after story after story. Some have easy to see crescendos that make for powerful preaching points. And in the church culture that exists today, we'll lose people to the church down the street if we don't preach some shouting points in every message. I digress. But we've lost the purpose of the Old Testament and forgot that the New Testament is the rule of government for the church today. We don't understand how to apply this principle. If we follow the words of Jesus, then what do we make of the Old Testament? And if we do disqualify some scriptures in the Old Testament, then how do we decide which one's to enforce and which one's to ignore? Many don't know how to answer this, and so when we delve into the Old Testament as our means by which to prove our point, we set ourselves up for failure many times.
Let me be clear, I'm not discrediting the Old Testament. It's the Word of God as much as the New Testament is. I believe that. But did God change His mind between the two testaments? And if He did, how is it that He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever if He changed? Wait, the Bible says, "He changes not" (Malachi 3:6). So what do we do with the Old Testament? What do we do with verses that say don't trim your beard and in the very next breath tells us that homosexuality is a sin? I completely see why many are confused, and you should as well. Why do we eat shrimp and pork when the Bible says we shouldn't? Why do we wear mixed garments (cotton and polyester) when the Bible says we shouldn't? How come we don't make people stay at home isolated from all humanity if they have a white hair pop up in a mole? Why don't we require a woman to marry her dead husband's brother like Leviticus says they used to do? Do you have a good answer for these questions?
I'll be honest if no one else will. There's a lot about the Old Testament I struggle with. If God told me I had to wipe out a whole civilization, I don't know that I could. I hope I could because He told me to, but I don't know. Moses, Joshua, Saul, David, and many others were given orders to kill everyone when they went to a war. Everyone meant everyone, that is, women and children. I know. I know. Our scholars and theologians have said that God knew they would grow up to become this and that. I don't doubt that, but nobody reading this blog would even remotely think it was acceptable for the church to start invading homes and begin killing women and children because of what they may grow up to support. Seriously? I struggle with that in the Old Testament. I struggle with the Law of Moses. I understand the purpose. It was to sanctify Israel. It was to set them apart. It was a precursor symbol of New Testament sanctification, that is, the church becoming a peculiar people. I get that. I get that the Law was to prove to mankind that they couldn't be good enough for Heaven. Paul says in Romans that even if a man could keep all of the Law, he'd still fall short of Heaven. I get all that, but there were horrible atrocities committed under the Law. Men and women were stoned to death if caught in adultery. Children could be put to death for being disobedient. Plain and simple, there's a lot to not like about the Old Testament. It gives us some of the greatest stories of the faith, but it also gives us some of the stickiest points of conflict for Christianity.
If we're going to defend the position that Biblical marriage is between one man and one woman and homosexuality is sin, then we better have more than Leviticus. I know many have already turned my words off at this point, and if you haven't, you're presently crafting some Simon the Sorcerer, non-spiritual label tag for me. That's alright by me. But I'm a Christian, which means I follow the teachings, principles, and example of Jesus Christ. I live by what He taught. When He gave the Great Commission to His disciples, He told them to go spread the Gospel based on what He said, taught, and did. So for me, our response has got to begin and end with Jesus. What did Jesus say? What did the New Testament church teach? Jesus quoted Genesis 2 when talking about marriage. He said it was between one man and one woman and added that no one should seek to tear the two apart. So if Jesus is who He said He was and if we are Christians, we have a responsibility to believe what Jesus taught. Either what He said was right, or He was a lunatic liar masquerading as God.
In terms of homosexuality, no Jesus didn't specifically speak to the issue of homosexuality. However, in affirming marriage and the relationship between man and woman, Jesus absolutely speaks to the subject. He spoke about the sins of the heart in Matthew 15 listing sexual immorality and adultery as sins. The Biblical definition of sexual immorality and adultery are closely intertwined. They share a meaning in that both represent sexual acts engaged in outside of the bonds of marriage. The marriage bed is to be pure and undefiled according to scripture (Hebrews 13:4). The argument that we are allowed to do things as long as Jesus didn't specifically mention them is beyond a terrible train of thought. Jesus message wasn't about giving a list of rules, i.e. see the Law of Moses if you want that, but rather a doctrine of grace. Jesus never specifically said kidnapping was wrong, but I bet you think it is. (By the way, it IS!!) But Jesus' disciples and apostles did specifically speak to the issue. Paul of course speaks both in Romans 1 and in 1 Corinthians about it and specifically calls it sin.
How do we reconcile the Old Testament then without appearing like we're picking and choosing what to apply? We have to understand the Old Testament's purpose. Summarily, the Old Testament was to show that human beings could not save themselves, were filled with depravity, and in need of a Savior from the effects of sin. The Old Testament is to show us the need for Jesus and to provide us the promises of His coming. The Old Testament is a type and shadow of the new covenant ushered in by Jesus. When we try to preach or teach the Old Testament as anything but those things, we take the Word out of context.
Jesus said He fulfilled the Law of Moses and thus was qualified to give two "new" commandments which according to Him, "the whole crux of the Law hangs" (Matthew 22:36-40). Jesus didn't say He abolished the Law, but fulfilled it. This simply means that in Christ, I'm in right standing with God. How did Jesus fulfill the Law? There are more scholarly individuals who I know can give great teaching to these points, but for the purpose of knowing, the Law of Moses can be systematically distinguished in three categories. The Law of Moses held sacrificial laws, ceremonial laws, and moral laws. The sacrificial laws of course were those laws by which Israel would find atonement for their sins. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of goats, bulls, turtledoves, and lambs were slaughtered to cover the sins of the people. Paul would later say that the wages of sin is death. God said in the beginning that when sin entered, death would follow. To fix sin, something, or someone, has to die. For years, the sacrificial law dictated what had to die for each kind of sin. However, Jesus fulfilled that sacrificial law in that He, being the spotless, blameless Lamb of God, offered up Himself on the cross of Calvary, taking your place and my place, suspended between Heaven and earth. Paul stated that, "He who knew no sin, became sin, that we might become the sons and daughters of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). We don't sacrifice animals today, because Jesus fulfilled that law.
Jesus also fulfilled the ceremonial law. The ceremonial law was designed to make the people separate. It called on the people to live certain lifestyles, to abstain from certain things/foods, and to create and observe certain ceremonies and celebrations. Simply put, it can be looked at as New Testament sanctification in many ways. The Bible tells us that the Israelites were being trained in this way so they would be different, look different, act different, and not be tempted by the ways of the people groups they would encounter on their way to the Promised Land. And when they were able to properly keep these ceremonial laws, the Bible speaks of great fear and wonder filling their enemies. In some cases, cities and armies would retreat even before a battle having already accepted the fact they would be steamrolled by Israel and "their God." God told them not to mark their bodies because the other nations were. He told them not to cut their beards because the other nations were. He gave them festivals of worship and atonement so that they would be reminded of who He was. However, Jesus stated that when He went away, He would send the Comforter who would guide us and teach us. He would lead us into the ways of the Kingdom. He would lead us away from sin. He would embolden us and give us power. He would make us different. The ceremonial law made the people different on the outside, but through Jesus Christ, we are made different on the inside. The world knows of the inward change in the way we love, act, speak, and follow the teachings of Christ. As Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). We don't have to keep the dietary portion of the law, (which could technically be a fourth category of the Law of Moses in which I am including in this category for brevity), because of Jesus. He stated it wasn't what went into a man that made Him unclean. He later told Peter in Acts 10 that all things were suitable and clean now. Why? Because Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial / dietary law and sanctifies us from the inside out, not the outside in.
What then of the moral law. In Jesus it is fulfilled in that He summed it up by saying, "Love God. Love others." If I love God, I'm going to refrain from sin. I'm going to honor His Word. I'm going to live according to His plans. Jesus said, "Why do you call me Lord and not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46). He went on to say, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). If I love God, I love what He loves. I hate what He hates. I love His church. I love His people. I love His precepts. I hate sin. I hate unrighteousness. I hate the effects it has on people. It spurred God into action by sending His only begotten Son. If I love God, it should spur me into action. If I "love others," I'll treat them differently. I won't want to lie against them. You don't lie about someone you love. You don't backbite someone you love. You don't think bad thoughts about someone you love. You don't steal from someone you love. You don't selfishly use someone for your own benefit physically or monetarily if you love someone. You don't kill someone you love. You don't kidnap someone you love. If I love you, I'll treat you differently. I won't seek to sin against you or lead you into sin, and if I love God, I won't seek to sin against Him. Thus the moral law is fulfilled in keeping the two "new" commands of Jesus Christ. So I'm not cherrypicking scripture when I do believe that Leviticus states homosexuality is wrong or that the moral laws of the Ten Commandments still apply (Jesus used them in a conversation with a rich young ruler. See Matthew 19). I understand them as moral laws that I won't break if I love God, thus loving what He loves, hating what He hates, and loving others enough to think of them before me, and to not lead them into something God says is wrong.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating that we lose the Old Testament. I'm simply stating, that we need not forget the New Testament. We need not forget that Jesus Christ is the basis of our relationship with God. We're under grace. We're not under the Law. Our flesh will always be a battle. It's the flesh versus the spirit, and Paul recognizes this war and admits defeat in his own fight according to scripture. The law of grace however secures us with Christ at the expense of His blood, and thus we live according to His standards.
The time for separation is upon us again. Without holiness, no man shall see God (Hebrews 12:14). We must become vigilant about what we allow in our homes through the television, computers, phones, and tablets. We must become vigilant about the mission of Christ and put aside our petty quarrels about titles, services, doctrines, and positions. The church must make a new, clearly defined, and poignant attempt to minister to families, children, teens, and marriages. We must set aside our pious rhetoric of superstitious expression and address the real issues of life from our pulpits and in our discipleship. There is a war for the soul of men, and we've been given power to fight it. It's time we do. We must recommit ourselves to marriage and to our homes. We must engage culture without embracing culture. We must be in the world, but not of the world. We must resist the patterns of this world and be transformed (Romans 12:1-2).
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.