After hearing the decision of the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) regarding same sex marriage, Mac, my 14 year old son, asked me, “Dad, what do you think will happen next?” I gave him my opinion regarding what I thought we would see in the United States. While I am neither “a prophet or the son of a prophet,” I have some predictions regarding evangelical Christianity in the United States in light of SCOTUS historic yet disappointing decision.
1. Dissent or disobedience within the judiciary.
I fully expect Christian judges in local courts who hold the responsibility to issue marriage licenses and perform civil marriages to either refuse or resign. We have already seen the resignation of some local court judges in states where same sex marriage has been upheld by state supreme courts. I suspect we will see this on a wider scale than before. Some Christians judges would rather resign and face joblessness than violate God’s Word.
The church should be ready to support these men and women with our prayers, counsel and financial resources if necessary.
2. The continual death of “cultural Christianity.”
This in itself is not a bad thing. Cultural Christians are people within a society who identify themselves with the tenets of biblical Christianity, but who do not have a biblical, saving faith relationship with Jesus Christ. However, they would consider themselves Christians if confronted.
This decision by SCOTUS will make it more difficult for evangelical Christians to stand for biblical truth and many people will fall to the wayside who were like the seed sown in the thorns that was eventually choked out due to the cares of this world (Matthew 13:22).
3. More clearly defined theological lines.
I have sensed for several years that homosexuality was the new litmus test within evangelicalism. One speaker was even “uninvited” from speaking at a conference because he stood for biblical marriage. Many so-called evangelicals want to hold on to basic tenets of Christianity without taking a position on homosexuality and biblical marriage. Their mantra has been “We do not want to talk about homosexuality, let us just love Jesus and preach the gospel.”
This decision by SCOTUS will indirectly cause preachers and pastors to articulate a position on same sex marriage. To not officiate at a same sex wedding is to stand for biblical marriage and to officiate at a same sex marriage is to side with the post-modern culture. It will be even more difficult for pastors to be coy about their position on homosexuality.
4. The continual decline of younger evangelicals within political activism.
Younger evangelicals are not interested in being a part of what is left of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority or picketing Walt Disney World because they sponsor “Gay Days.” This kind of political activism that has been a part of evangelicalism since at least the 1980’s has not prevented the slide of the society into godless decay. A Republican President, Senate, and House have not been able to hold back the tide of sin in our country. Only the gospel can do that.
I suspect we will see less and less younger leaders within evangelicalism involved in political activism. Christians need to vote for men and women that best uphold biblical values, but we need to trust the government less and less. More laws are not needed; hearts that have been changed by the gospel are what is needed.
5. A mission field more like the first century than ever before.
Why do the letters in the Bible that we refer to as “epistles” deal with the same issues that we are now facing in America? Marriage, divorce, remarriage, and homosexuality are mentioned directly or indirectly in all four gospels and most of the Pauline epistles.
Why? Because the first century world that was dominated by the Roman Empire is more like our country that we may care to admit. One author has remarked that Christians must now learn to live as exiles within our country. The issues the first century church faced are now becoming the same issues faced by the church of the 21st century.
The answer is not screaming, yelling, picketing or withdrawal. The answer is to engage the biblical text in order to inform today’s Christians of their hope and responsibility.
6. The growing influence of post-modernism.
Post-modernism is the belief that there is no such thing as absolute truth. The post-modernist believes that everyone gets to decide what is true for themselves. Everyone should be able to decide on or create their own truth. “My truth is not your truth” is their mantra. Christians will be tempted to say, “I do not support gay marriage, but if that is what they want to do it does not affect me.” This is the encroachment of post-modernity within the church.
The Bible is God’s revealed truth (John 17:17). There is no other. God’s Word tells us that absolute truth does exist, it is not to be debated or changed. It is to be preached, taught and lived. The decision by SCOTUS pushes the boundaries of post-modernism in our country. Christians must know God’s truth and live it now more than ever before. Personal opinion, moralism, family values, and the positions of your favorite political party will no longer suffice.
7. Continual cooperation of Christians across denominational and ethnic lines.
It is not just Anglo evangelicals who are suffering for their stance on biblical marriage. Recently, I was honored to have the former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran to speak in my church. Chief Cochran was unduly fired because of his beliefs regarding marriage and biblical sexuality as expressed in his book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” His firing has awakened a sleeping giant within the African-American church.
The Coalition of African American Pastors exists to defend the unborn and defend biblical marriage among other initiatives. Christians who support biblical marriage and biblical sexuality are going to be forced to support one another across racial, political and denominational lines. This is no longer a white Republican versus African-American Democrat issue. It is a biblical issue. The church in America needs to look like the gathering of saints worshipping the Lamb in Revelation 5.
8. A clearer defining of the gospel.
Evangelicals have a tendency to put sins into categories such as “respectable sins” or “unrespectable sins.” We somehow think it is not as bad to gossip as it is to be a homosexual. It is okay to “fudge” on our tax return, have a short temper, or be judgmental. Furthermore, we do not want our kids to have anything to do with the boy in our neighborhood who has two mommies.
The SCOTUS decision may cause Christians to understand that the sin of homosexuality is no worse than others in that they all put Christ on the cross. Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 6 that fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, those who covet, drunkards, revilers or extortioners would not get to heaven.
However, he also declared that the Corinthians were once such people (1 Corinthians 6:11). Paul’s catalog of sins is on level ground. The drunk is the same kind of sinner as the homosexual, and the covetous person is just as ungodly as both of them are. Sex outside of marriage between our teenage children is just as abhorrent to God as sex between two women. I pray Christians, me included, will learn that there are no big or little sins.
I do not have a crystal ball that will give me the ability to see the future. Only God Himself possesses perfect knowledge of all things. However, I do know that our country will never be the same after this historic ruling concerning same sex marriage. Now is the time for God’s people to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ and realize that He is faithful, He is our shield and protector. God never changes.