“For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
1 Peter 4:17 (ESV)
I have borrowed the title of this writing from an incredibly powerful booklet by the late Dr. John R.W. Stott entitled, “Our Guilty Silence”. Dr. Stott’s theme is well summarized in the introduction: “The author is convinced that the Church when it is true to its calling cannot be a silent church. If the gospel is the good news it claims to be, and if it has been entrusted to us, we incur guilt if we do not pass it on.” My deep seated concern relates specifically to the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex unions.
I am not at all surprised that such a decision was rendered by the land’s highest court, though I am deeply saddened. As almost two months have transpired since this decision, I am equally saddened at the silence of the professing evangelical church. Again, John Stott is helpful here. Writing in 1967, Stott says, “In a day when the Church’s evangelistic mission was never been more urgent, it would seem that the church’s evangelistic enterprise was never more lacking or ineffective. One might almost say that the contemporary church is better equipped for every other task than for its primary responsibility of making known the gospel of Christ and win others to Him.”
The Purpose of Our Constitution
I want to comment on the judicial aspect of this ruling and then look at the church’s responsibility. I was immensely helped by listening to a panel discussion from Dr. R.C. Sproul’s Renewing Your Mind ministry. The following represents quotes or paraphrases of the discussion. It is important for all Americans, and especially born again believers, to understand one of the purposes of the Constitution—to provide the founding structure of the nation as a republic rather than a democracy. What is the difference? A republic is rule by law rather than rule by men.
Alexis De Tocqueville warned that the American experiment could result in the tyranny of the majority if it were not protected by universal principles which would protect the rights of individuals. This the founding fathers produced by virtue of the Bill of Rights. One of the basic principles and responsibilities of the Supreme Court was to make sure that individual state laws would be in conformity to protect the rights of individuals guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.
Like the Dred Scott decision and Roe v. Wade, this recent decision ranks among the worst in American judicial history. The majority opinion based its decision on contemporary community standards. It is easy to see how problematic this is. Whose community standards? How about the contemporary community standards of 1940 Nazi Germany? Absent a transcendent standard, the standards are utterly flexible and this opens the door to even more dire consequences. This is the fruit of the denial of any transcendent source of right and wrong.
Marriage Defined by God at Creation
There is so much more I could say about this, even probing the origin of marriage from the Bible, and the fact that it was not given just to Christians or Jews. It was not religious groups that were singled out to participate in this. But it was given in creation by God for man, for all human beings at all times and defined by God. The state never has the right to redefine a creation ordinance. Do we understand that in this decision we are not talking about a rejection of God as our Redeemer. We are talking about a rejection of God as our Maker. This is how we shake our fist at God. And this is what our culture is celebrating.
What does this decision mean for the church? In the words of R.C. Sproul, Jr., “This is a landmark decision and it is a sea change. When we make the natural law argument we will be told that homosexual behavior has been known for centuries. This is absolutely true. No one is disputing that. The difference is that this is not just people giving themselves over to this particular sin, this is them parading it in the streets and shouting that it is a positive good and celebrating the sin. And now this is the state saying the same thing.”
We are already seeing leaders in the professing evangelical church falling like dominoes, at best being silent on the issue, and at worst falling on the other side. This is a massive shift within the culture and a massive shift within the church. What is troubling is the response of many Christians. Some say that we all sin: we commit adultery, we make bad decisions for divorce. What is so heinous about this particular sin that we set it apart? According to God’s Word this is a gross and heinous sin (Leviticus18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:26, 27). We have now just legalized and celebrated one of these sins. It is not so much the legalization of this sin but the declaration that it is really not a sinful behavior. We need to understand that in this period of time, we are not living in a Christian era. The civil government does not define our ethic as a Christian.
Some Christians say that we believe in grace and tolerance, so what is the problem? How do we communicate the truth of the Bible with grace regarding homosexuality? We communicate it with grace to those who are looking for grace. Grace is not permission. There is a very real difference between the angry homosexual lobby demanding acceptance and the struggling person who is looking for help. Both need to be called to repentance. One needs gentleness and the other needs the stern message of the gospel in the manner of John the Baptist. The defining quality of the Christian is not the lack of sin, but the struggle against sin. When we give ourselves over to sin we lose the right to gentle treatment.
How should we respond? Borrowing from Dr. Sproul, “It is not the role of the church to call the state to be the church. It is the role of the church to call the state to be the state. We do expect the state—because it is ordained by God (Romans 13:1)—to be the state. We expect the state to protect the sanctity of life, the rights of the unborn, and to protect the sanctity of marriage. These are not uniquely religious concepts. They are humanitarian and humane, built into the fabric of nature by God. When we protest against same sex marriage we are saying that the state has got it wrong. And that the state has not just declared a separation of church and state, but it has declared a separation of the state from God. The Supreme Court has declared its independence from God. We must understand this.”
But more importantly, those who name the name of Christ must go about the business of proclaiming the gospel to the lost. The world largely knows what we oppose. But does the world know for what we stand? Do we know what we believe and why we believe it? I am saddened to conclude that we must first evangelize the church. Christ for the world, for the world needs Christ!
Blessings in the Lord Jesus,