Here We Stand

How does Christ Community Church respond to the Supreme Court ruling on June 26, 2015? I thought it would be important to make a few comments regarding where we stand as a church family. Most of these sentiments originally came in the form of an exhortation to worship at the outset of our Lord's Day gathering yesterday (Sunday June 28, 2015). These thoughts summarize the trajectory we are on with regard to our views on marriage as Christ-followers, as a local church, and as human beings who are accountable first to the supreme ruling of God our Father. I echo the sentiments of Collin Hansen, editorial director for The Gospel Coalition, when he writes that the Supreme Court's ruling may cause us distress "But it does not fall outside God's good and wise plan."

Two obvious concerns arise from Friday's rulings: one moral and the other political. On the moral level our concern is that the Supreme court has attempted to redefine something it did not invent in the first place. Marriage is God's invention (Genesis 2:20-24, Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:7-8; Ephesians 5:31) and it is a picture of the Gospel message - Christ's sacrificial love for his people, the church (Ephesians 5:25-32). In this sense marriage is the same as it was before Friday and will always be: the union of one man and one woman for life. What God has created, no human institution can reinvent. Morally speaking, the ruling of the slim majority of Supreme Court justices on June 26 was an act of grave presumption and pride, a thumbing of the nose at God as Creator and Supreme Judge.

On a political level we share the concern raised by Chief Justice John Roberts (dissenting Friday's Supreme Court decision) who said: "The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to 'advocate' and 'teach' their views of marriage...The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to 'exercise' religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses." (see: http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2015/june/supreme-court-states-cant-ban-same-sex-marriage.html)  

Indeed it is an ominous sign when the majority of justices in the highest court in the land  makes rulings based upon "will" and not law or constitution and then attempts to placate the dissenting party with promises which fall far short of rights already guaranteed by the First Amendment. This is not democracy. It smacks of oligarchy and represents a short-circuiting of the legislative process. These five justices are not elected officials and yet they have made a ruling on our behalf which promises incalculable negative impact on our religious liberty at every level of our public society. In this way Friday's ruling was a miscarriage of our three-branch governmental system. Now that the highest court of the Judicial Branch has bypassed the Legislative Branch, on this religiously-charged issue, from now on, no individual or group of people representing faith-based institutions or faith-based values can trust that the justice system will function according to law and Constitution on our behalf. This is a frightening prospect.

However, we as Evangelical Christ-followers must remember that we stand on the shoulders of ordinary Spirit-filled men who conducted extraordinary exploits for the Kingdom of God in much worse times politically. Mary Dorinda Beale writes in a preface to her husband's book The Temple and the Church's Mission, 

Have you ever wondered about some of the people described in the Bible? Some of them frankly seem superhuman, not quite real. For example, it seems odd that Paul and Silas sang in prison. Would I sing if I were in prison? Would I have the attitude expressed in Hebrews 10:34, where it portrays Christians as accepting 'joyfully' the seizure of their property? Would I be joyful if the authorities came and seized my house? In Acts 5:40-41, it says they flogged the apostles and told them not to speak in the name of Jesus any more. Their response is not what I consider a 'normal' reaction. They went away rejoicing because 'they hand been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name'." (G.K. Beale, 2004, 15.)

In fact, the authorities had already "strictly charged" the apostles not to teach in Jesus name (Acts 5:28). Yet despite this ruling Peter and the apostles responded "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). And after being beaten they not only rejoiced but also "every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ" (Acts 5:42).  Greg and Dorinda Beale remind us that these, our forefathers in the faith, could see a true reality "that the natural eye cannot see," and that

When one becomes a Christian real truth is seen. True reality is the fact that humanity is drowning in a sea of sin with no way to save itself. The only hope is to cry out to God. Only Jesus, the Messiah, can save. If you cling to him as your Saviour, you will not be carried away in the sea of sin because he is the rock of our salvation (Acts 4:10-12). (Ibid.)

So, what do we say to the present crisis? First, to paraphrase John Piper, it looks like things are getting back to normal. On Friday, a friend of mine from Lebanon posted on Facebook, "Congratulations, America, you have become the new Roman Empire." True enough. But there is hope in this comparison. Do not forget the fact that the church was birthed and flourished and grew with unprecedented spontaneity and vitality in the midst of great adversity in the First Century Roman Empire. May she experience such renewal and vitality again in our context.

Second, although the majority of the Supreme Court justices would like to comfort us with promises that we may still "advocate" and "teach" our views on marriage, we, like the Apostles before us, will rather “exercise” our beliefs by only blessing marriages between one man to one woman,  as the Bible demands and our freedom of Religion already allows according to the First Amendment.

Third, yes, thank you, we will not only teach and advocate but also preach what is foremost, not politics, not even marriage, but "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 1:23) though it be a stumbling block to some and considered foolishness by others. The gospel message of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, his demonstration of love and grace to sinners, will continue to be the center of our message.

But fourth, as has been mentioned, Ephesians 5:25-32 tells us that marriage was designed by God to be a picture of Christ's sacrificial love for his people - the heart of the gospel message. So, we will continue to show and live out the gospel message of Christ by promoting and demonstrating biblical marriage to our country and the world.

Finally, knowing that a great and difficult trial promises to befall all who resist the June 26 ruling in the coming decades, like Peter and the apostles before us, we too will rejoice to be “counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” This will demand that we see and be convinced of "real truth" in the face of certain adversity. May we have eyes to see and ears to hear God's reality. And for the sake of our strength, fortitude, and perseverance may we see the reality of Jesus' promise: "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20b)

In light of these things, Christ Community Church embraces the following declaration. You can read the original and see the first 100 signatories by clicking on the button below. 

Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage

As evangelical Christians, we dissent from the court’s ruling that redefines marriage. The state did not create the family, and should not try to recreate the family in its own image. We will not capitulate on marriage because biblical authority requires that we cannot. The outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage represents what seems like the result of a half-century of witnessing marriage’s decline through divorce, cohabitation, and a worldview of almost limitless sexual freedom. The Supreme Court’s actions pose incalculable risks to an already volatile social fabric by alienating those whose beliefs about marriage are motivated by deep biblical convictions and concern for the common good.

The Bible clearly teaches the enduring truth that marriage consists of one man and one woman. From Genesis to Revelation, the authority of Scripture witnesses to the nature of biblical marriage as uniquely bound to the complementarity of man and woman. This truth is not negotiable. The Lord Jesus himself said that marriage is from the beginning (Matt. 19:4-6), so no human institution has the authority to redefine marriage any more than a human institution has the authority to redefine the gospel, which marriage mysteriously reflects (Eph. 5:32). The Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage demonstrates mistaken judgment by disregarding what history and countless civilizations have passed on to us, but it also represents an aftermath that evangelicals themselves, sadly, are not guiltless in contributing to. Too often, professing evangelicals have failed to model the ideals we so dearly cherish and believe are central to gospel proclamation.

Evangelical churches must be faithful to the biblical witness on marriage regardless of the cultural shift. Evangelical churches in America now find themselves in a new moral landscape that calls us to minister in a context growing more hostile to a biblical sexual ethic. This is not new in the history of the church. From its earliest beginnings, whether on the margins of society or in a place of influence, the church is defined by the gospel. We insist that the gospel brings good news to all people, regardless of whether the culture considers the news good or not.

The gospel must inform our approach to public witness. As evangelicals animated by the good news that God offers reconciliation through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, we commit to:

  • Respect and pray for our governing authorities even as we work through the democratic process to rebuild a culture of marriage (Rom. 13:1-7);
  • the truth about biblical marriage in a way that brings healing to a sexually broken culture;
  • affirm the biblical mandate that all persons, including LGBT persons, are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect;
  • love our neighbors regardless of whatever disagreements arise as a result of conflicting beliefs about marriage;
  • live respectfully and civilly alongside those who may disagree with us for the sake of the common good;
  • cultivate a common culture of religious liberty that allows the freedom to live and believe differently to prosper.

The redefinition of marriage should not entail the erosion of religious liberty. In the coming years, evangelical institutions could be pressed to sacrifice their sacred beliefs about marriage and sexuality in order to accommodate whatever demands the culture and law require. We do not have the option to meet those demands without violating our consciences and surrendering the gospel. We will not allow the government to coerce or infringe upon the rights of institutions to live by the sacred belief that only men and women can enter into marriage.

The gospel of Jesus Christ determines the shape and tone of our ministry. Christian theology considers its teachings about marriage both timeless and unchanging, and therefore we must stand firm in this belief. Outrage and panic are not the responses of those confident in the promises of a reigning Christ Jesus. While we believe the Supreme Court has erred in its ruling, we pledge to stand steadfastly, faithfully witnessing to the biblical teaching that marriage is the chief cornerstone of society, designed to unite men, women, and children. We promise to proclaim and live this truth at all costs, with convictions that are communicated with kindness and love.