While thousands gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, nine Supreme Court justices gathered inside to hear oral arguments on the issue of same-sex marriage. It was a moment that had been brewing for months, if not years. While cameras were not allowed inside the court room, the advancements of technology have provided an opportunity for us to catch a glimpse of those proceedings. The arguments made were of no surprise. Instead, it was the questions asked by the justices themselves that were so captivating because they provided such a sweeping view of just how far people have pulled away from God.
Today, I want to take a moment and address some of those questions from a Christian worldview. For the sake of time, we simply cannot discuss them all, but as we will see, the majority of the questions can be grouped into just a few categories.
1) Is the right to marry fundamental?
This question by Justice Sotomayor proves to be an unanswerable question because it is built on a false premise. According to Genesis 2, God created marriage of His own will in order that man would not be alone, ultimately, so that it would glorify Him. Marriage is a beautiful gift of God that provides a wondrous picture of Christ’s relationship to His people (Revelation 19:7-9; cf. Ephesians 5:25-27).
As a gift from God then, it is not merely a right but it is a privilege to be enjoyed. If marriage is viewed simply as a right of mine, it becomes a contract in which both persons can have expectations to be met, and if they are not, then the contract is simply terminated. Yet, if marriage is a privilege, it becomes a covenant relationship in which the will of one is consumed by the will of the other. Marriage was not simply about meeting the needs of individuals, it is about revealing God.
2) Is the marriage definition changing?
This is not a surprise question. Yesterday, Justice Alito was very poignant in asking specifically what the essential elements of marriage are? While every person has various ideas of what marriage is, almost every person would take their definition back to love, and say it is the most essential part. They are quite right, love is the most essential piece.
However, there is a key point missing from their definition of love….1 John 4:8. It is there that we read that “God is love”. Therefore, the definition of love is completely wrapped up in the being and character of God. As a result, true love cannot exist in a relationship without God.
This naturally leads to the question as to whether or not allowing same-sex marriage would change that definition. Of course it would. “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). He cannot exist in the presence of sin, which is naturally where this debate takes us. If God is not part of the relationship, then love is not part of it either.
3) Is same-sex marriage harmful?
As Christians, this should be an easy question to answer. Yet, our nation’s top court spent time addressing this very topic without coming to any conclusions. What a revelation this is to the heart of people. We are discussing issues of sin, and the very fact that those making decisions about this nation’s future cannot understand that sin is harmful is quite alarming…..and yet, not surprising. 1 John 3:8 tells us that sin is from Satan, the very antagonist of God. Ultimately, we understand that sin leads to death (Romans 6:23; James 1:14-15). If we don’t understand this basic point, we don’t understand the need for salvation.
It is interesting to note that later on Justice Kagan asked the court if allowing same-sex marriage would indicate that there is no relationship between marriage and children. This question answers the justice’s previous question, “Is it harmful?” If we find ourselves having to define the detrimental effects the issue has on the family, then that tells us that indeed it must be harmful.
Ephesians 5 addresses the family according to God’s design, defining specific roles of father, mother, and child. These are God’s divisions for the family and it is not for man to set his own.
4) Who decides what marriage is? The States or the Federal Government?
Much of the issue being discussed yesterday was contained within these two questions. The question of authority was important to those presenting the arguments and those presiding over them. The answer is neither.
God is the one who instituted marriage, therefore God has the right to define marriage and He has clearly done so within His word. The Bible masterfully details what marriage is and how it functions. More than just what marriage is and is not, God has beautifully described the institution of marriage in such a way that compels us to recognize the wonderful institution it is, and the blessed privilege and responsibility it brings.
While some disagree that it was God who put this into place, even Justice Alito brings forth some valid points to this argument during the time of questioning. He notes that for centuries the definition of marriage never changed. In fact, he and others noted that it was not until the early 2000’s before any country or culture recognized same-sex marriage as legitimate.
The point in all of this? I can phrase it no better than Justice Alito’s very own question: “Can we infer that these societies all thought there was a rational reason for this and a practical reason for this?” Yes, yes we can. For centuries the definition was not even discussed, it was accepted. Why? Because it was an institution of God that even those who were lost in their sin recognized. The issue of authority for them (and for us) lay not with men, but with God.
5) Are religious reasons sufficient enough to limit marriage to one woman and one man?
Both Justice Kagan and Justice Berger questioned this point. God is sovereign and has all authority (Exodus 3:14; Psalm 115:3; Proverbs 16:9). It is He alone who has the right to decide what marriage is, as we just established. Since it is God who makes that decision, then we have to reason that religion is not only sufficient in guiding us towards a decision, is it the only basis for making that decision. Before us, we have the one true God who existed before creation (Genesis 1:1). He established how things are (Psalm 115:3) and because He does not change (Malachi 3:6) we can understand His ways and decrees do not change. Marriage must be based on God’s definition, not man’s!
A Christian Response
What is our Christian response to be? It must be one that defends and declares the truth (2 Timothy 4:1-4; 1 Peter 3:15). As believers, our words, actions, and activities towards those who engage in this behavior must also portray the love of God. This is the only true love because it is contained in the true God. Homosexuals are not bound for eternal separation from God because they are homosexuals. They are bound for eternal separation from God because they are sinners. And that statement can be made for everyone.
We talk about this issue because it dominates our society, but the reality is that none of us will ever earn our way into heaven because we are sinners. For that reason, we needed the love of God that was demonstrated through His Son, Jesus Christ. The message doesn’t change based on the type of sin, but the sin points us to our need of the message.