It’s no longer news that the Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage nationwide last week. Since that happened, I have received numerous messages asking me what I think about this and what we as Christians should do, so I thought I’d address those two questions in a blog post.
First of all, the Supreme Court’s decision shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Our culture and, therefore, our court system have been moving toward this decision for a long time. States have been legalizing same sex marriage one by one, with our own state legalizing it last year.
With that said, let’s take a look, not at what the Supreme Court said in their decision, but at what they didn’t say. Because what they didn’t say is important.
1. The Supreme Court didn’t tell us what we must believe.
The court’s ruling said that, civilly and socially, same sex couples have a right to marry in the same way heterosexual couples do. The court did not tell us what we as individuals must believe, and they did not say churches must change their stated beliefs about marriage. In other words, the Supreme Court did not nullify the separation of church and state, which, by the way, some Christians are happy about when it serves their purposes but complain about when it doesn’t. But we can’t have our cake and eat it, too. The truth is that our rights to believe what we want in regard to same sex marriage are still intact.
While the Supreme Court did not tell us what to believe regarding their decision, the Bible does. You may think I’m going to bring up Romans 1:21-27 or 1 Corinthians 6:9, but those passages are already being offered all over the internet, and there are godly Christians I know and respect on both sides of the issue attempting to justify their views scripturally. So, while our church believes it is God’s intention for sex to take place between a man and a woman within the context of marriage, I do not intend to join the current verse-for-verse battle about the issue of homosexuality; instead, I want to offer Paul’s perspective on what we should believe in regard to its practice in secular society.
In the midst of a discussion on sin—the same one in which he addresses homosexuality—Paul says this:
“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” –1 Corinthians 5:12-13
Paul’s point is that, as Christians, we are called to offer Christ’s love to the outside world, not His judgment (John 3:17). God will take care of that judgment. We are called to handle the problems inside the church, and we have our hands full with those, especially those regarding sexuality and marriage.
Within the church, we currently have a divorce rate that is out of control. I’m not judging people who have been divorced, but I’ve had Christian people look me squarely in the eye and justify their divorces for non-biblical reasons. We also have a problem with dead-beat dads and with children being born outside of marriage. And even with intact marriages, there are problems. I’ve counseled people in their 30s and 40s who live together without intimacy or sex because one spouse doesn’t want it, even though the Bible says we need to be loving toward our spouse.
So we have a lot of marital and sexual problems to confront within the church before we go looking outside of it. And according to Paul, who lived in a Greco-Roman culture filled with sexual immorality that was often endorsed by the government, we have no business judging those outside the church anyway. Our job is to be sure we are holding one another accountable inside the body of Christ.
2. The Supreme Court didn’t tell us what we must practice.
The Supreme Court did not tell pastors whom they can and cannot perform marriage ceremonies for. They did not order churches to change any of their practices. Again, this would violate the separation of church and state. And, again, Scripture should be our guide in how to respond in practice, and Scripture calls for love, not judgment. Faith expressing itself in love is what is ultimately most important (Galatians 5:6).
While Paul tells us that it is God’s job to judge those outside the church, Jesus tells us it is our job to love them. He teaches us to love one another so that we are known as His disciples (John 13:34-35), to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39), and to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44). That pretty much covers everyone—even those we don’t agree with.
So, what do we do in response to last week’s court ruling? We love. That doesn’t mean we change our beliefs. It means we welcome and love people where they are. We reflect the light of God’s love and grace to everyone. The Lord is the one who changes hearts and minds, and He doesn’t just change the hearts and minds of others…He changes us as well.
As Christians, we should always be looking inward as part of our spiritual journeys. While we may be frustrated by what is going on in the outside world, we must remain attentive to what God is doing in our own hearts—how He is transforming us to be more like Christ. So when we start to complain about what is happening “out there,” we need to look at the state of our hearts, remembering that judgment begins with us and that our call is to love while leaving the judging to God. For, in the end, legalizing or prohibiting behavior does not ultimately change that behavior or the beliefs behind it—court orders do not change hearts, and that is where change needs to happen. And that change begins with us in the way we live out our beliefs by loving God and others as Christ does.