Being Christian In The Era Of “Gay Marriage”

ZFsYJxdU

This post is not a rant about how the country is going to hell in a handbasket. It’s important for the church be aware of the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s recent invention of a constitutional right to gay marriage. These changes will affect how Christians live and engage our society and culture.

The Lord rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees because they could forecast the weather but not discern the signs of the times. I think it behooves us as Jesus’ disciples to be spiritually vigilant.  I hope you find this informative and helpful as you observe the trends in our culture.

Firstly, Christians should understand that the fight over “gay marriage” is over, at least legally. It’s not likely the Court will overturn this decision in the foreseeable future. As far as I can tell there is no desire even among marriage advocates to launch a campaign of resistance similar to abortion. That doesn’t mean, though, that everything is settled.

Christians must prepare to face a society that will become increasingly hostile towards the gospel and the church. We will continue to see efforts to push a biblical worldview and its adherents out of the public square. There may even come a day where churches are directly threatened if they don’t conform to the prevailing view on marriage. This may take the form of a regulation that requires clergy to officiate “gay weddings” or lose their tax-exempt status. The church’s faith and resolve will be tested.

I’ve seen many Christians I know on social media who have rainbows as their profile photo or twitter avatar. At first I was irritated but then I remembered Barna’s research showed that only 19% of born-again believers have a biblical worldview. Maybe this is just a confirmation of that finding. Christians should also be aware that our new moral categories of nice and mean have replaced good and evil. What’s worse than appearing to be offensive? We will be pressured to abandon biblical teachings so that cast a negative light on our family, friends, and colleagues.

As important as the spiritual challenges are I think Christians should also appreciate the constitutional, and legal, ramifications. A decision on marriage is controversial and will grab headlines, I get that. But what’s also disturbing is the Court’s abuse of its own power, which has been a problem for decades. The Supreme Court has long since abandoned the notion that the Constitution’s words mean what say in favor of interpreting the document in light of their own personal beliefs. Well, that puts all of our rights in jeopardy. As Justice Scalia wrote:

Those civil consequences—and the public approval that conferring the name of marriage evidences—can perhaps have adverse social effects, but no more adverse than the effects of many other controversial laws. So it is not of special importance to me what the law says about mar­riage. It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact—and the furthest extension one can even imagine—of the Court’s claimed power to create “liberties” that the Consti­tution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extrav­agant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most im­portant liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.  

This overreach for power on this issue can be repeated on other issues. Being aware of that is the difference between a mature Christian and one who simply gets agitated over “culture wars” issues. It’s about understanding that the courts are one of many fronts in this spiritual war we fight. We contend with spiritual powers and forces as we seek to transform our society with power of the gospel.

Where do we go from here? In one scenario I see the launch of a new culture war that will last for decades. Another possibility is that this all blows over as we discover that there’s no groundswell of gay couples signing up to get married. We will have learned that the notion of gay families as an alternative lifestyle was just good storytelling for a campaign. It’ll probably some combination of the two.

We must ever be vigilant, prayerful, and hopeful. This isn’t the first time in church history that things have gotten worse and we know that our Lord will be victorious in the end.

Advertisements

If I Had To Preach At A Wedding…

women_bride_291098

Weddings are like graduation ceremonies in that your expectations for the sermon/speech are pretty low. The speaker has the impossible task of captivating an audience that is impatiently waiting to get to the fun part of the event. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case with my brother’s sermon at a friend’s wedding last week.

He highlighted the couple’s admirable commitment to their relationship by guarding their purity before the wedding. They did what seems to be rarer these days by not hooking up and shacking up. They trusted God with each other and their relationship and they’ll be blessed for it.

It got me to thinking: what would I say if I had to give a message at a wedding? What should a wedding sermon sound like?

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Genesis 1:27

We start at the beginning, creation. He made us male and female, equal in His eyes and yet distinct from each other in how we manifest the meaning of humanity. I think of a loose connection with the unity and diversity of the trinity, where we affirm that there is one divine essence and yet three distinct persons. Male and female are both humans and yet they bring something unique to the human experience.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Genesis 2:24

Or, to quote the theologian Wayne Fontana, “The purpose of a man is to love a woman and the purpose of a woman is to love a man. So come on baby, let’s start today, come on baby, let’s play the game of love, love, la la la la la love.”

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Genesis 1:28

We read in Malachi 2:15 that the Lord created marriage to establish a Godly seed in the earth. He wanted all men everywhere to call upon the name of the Lord. Your marriage has no higher purpose and it will primarily be fulfilled through the fruit of your union. This basic idea seems to be lost on almost everyone, including Christians. Marriage is not about living or financial arrangements. It’s about pursuing God’s purposes for our lives.

Young people who are single and establishing themselves often have big ambitions to be great or do amazing things in life. Or they may want to simply have the option to go in whatever direction they choose. It doesn’t occur to them that they can effect tremendous change in their own children. No celebrity or famous person will occupy the position you hold in your child’s life. We know the great men of history but we don’t know the parents who devoted themselves to care for their children. If you want to change the world then have children, and lots of them.

Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion.

Jeremiah 3:14

christ-and-his-bride

Most important in marriage is the symbol of our relationship with the Lord, who is the bridegroom of His people. Husbands are to their wives what Jesus is to His church. Wives are to their husbands what the church is to our Lord. Even the wedding ceremony reflects this as we watch the bride (the Church) coming down the aisle to be presented before her bridegroom (our Lord) whiter than snow.

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.

And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

Revelation 19:7-9

In this church age we are betrothed to Christ and we await His coming so that we may enter into the wedding ceremony. We will then be joined together in a holy and eternal union of peace and joy.

The Bible is permeated with language about marriage and weddings. Many of the lessons it gives use these examples to illustrate the things of God. In getting married you will come to have a greater understanding about the Lord and your relationship to Him. May your union be like the union of Christ and His bride. May this wedding revive our hope of our coming union with our Lord as a people.

Amen.

3 Ways The Church Undermines Marriage

22family-articleLarge

This is not a post about how Christians are to blame for gay marriage becoming legal. It’s also not a sanctimonious rant by a blogger sitting in an armchair. These observations come from personal experience.

1. Financial stability > Marriage

Many Christians undermine marriage by focusing on the financial obligations. The problem here is that Christians put financial security ahead of marriage. You don’t get married until you’re in a steady job, usually after you graduate from college. I’ve gotten the impression as I grew up that marriage wasn’t worth it if you had to struggle. They’re the ones that like to remind you that love doesn’t pay the bills.

2. Success > Marriage

This one is closely related to the first since financial stability can be seen as a prerequisite for success, if not a success itself. The focus here is on maintaining a certain standard of living that includes a house, car, spouse, two kids, and maybe a pool in the backyard. It’s a chasing after a lifestyle.

People often told me that I should complete my education before getting married. Why get married when you have so much on your plate already, nevermind having to support a family? Even sociologists will tell you that it’s better to graduate, get married, and have kids, in that order. But if you hold off on getting married until after you graduate then aren’t you making education a higher priority than marriage?

3. Fun > Marriage

The culture says that only after you’ve sucked all of the juice out of life should you settle down and get married. It’s where you go to die slowly, like a long-term hospice program. It’s a life full of responsibilities, stress, problems, etc. How dreadful!

What do these three problems have in common?

These perspectives on marriage focus on the short term. Rarely do people talk about the legacy they will leave to future generations. That’s probably because they don’t believe they will have one. Their focus is on this life.

In 1900 there were over 1,000 descendants of the famous preacher, Jonathan Edwards, who lived in the early 18th century. Among them were doctors, lawyers, university presidents, medical school deans, law school deans, senators, and a vice president. The impact they had on this country and the world was possible because Edwards and his wife were faithful. They hoped in that which they could not see and they bore much fruit.

I think it’s inspiring to know that I will be remembered by my descendants hundreds of years from now. It makes me ask myself: what do I want to be said of me and my life?

What Does It Mean To Be God’s Wife?

Altar wedding

Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.

For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

Isaiah 54:4,5

One thing that we can always count on in life is that people will let us down whether they mean it or not. We are just not capable of keeping our promises. Fortunately, we cannot say this about God but yet we need to be reminded.

The Devil is extremely effective in convincing us that we have no hope of reconciling with God but the Lord graciously shows us that He is merciful and eager to receive us. This passage reminds me of Hosea 2:16:

And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali.

The Hebrew meanings behind ishi and baali are interesting for what they illuminate. Baali is the word for lord, or sir, and refers to the order within the marriage wherein the husband is the head and the wife is placed under his headship and authority. Ishi (my man, my husband) is related to the word, isha (my woman, my wife), which Adam used of Eve and it connotes a relationship that is much more intimate. God is condescending to our level and seeking an intimate relationship with His people in which they are face to face.

Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

Romans 7:4

Jesus fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy by showing us that He is the bridegroom for the church, His bride. We also are one with Him, even as He is one with the Father. The relationship will then reach its ultimate stage when He comes back to get His bride for the wedding banquet that will never end.

 

 

Around The Web

Is it good news that cohabitation rates are falling?

There is good news here though, I think. The good news is that this is one more indicator that the sexual revolution is, ultimately, boring. Marriage and family can be discarded, but, in time, their proposed replacements become the new norm, and it’s time for the revolutionaries to rebel again. That can only go on for so long before a broken and bored people begin to wonder what else is there out there?

Growing trend in pastors working for free

That’s changing, however, as churches face declining numbers and look to new ministry models to make ends meet. Thumma sees more mainliners cutting back to halftime or one-quarter-time packages for clergy, who increasingly work second jobs. The unpaid cleric model is gaining traction among Episcopalians. In the mid-1990s, for example, the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming had few if any unpaid clergy serving its 49 congregations. Now, 20 priests in Wyoming – more than one-third – are unpaid.

Russian Orthodox Church on the rise

Orthodox academics have also been contributing to the insurrection against the church hierarchy. In the Soviet period, scholarship had to be couched in crudely Marxist terms, and the Orthodox Church was mostly excluded from any scrutiny. But since 1990, sophisticated scholarship on contemporary religiosity has been a growth industry. Conferences on, and studies of, religion abound. And, as with the religious mass media, the striking thing is the Orthodox academia’s refusal to commit to the party line. A growing number of scholarly publications emphasize the diversity among Russian spiritual beliefs — what the religious life of believers actually looks like (many Russians claim spiritual rewards from buying organic produce from Orthodox farmers), as opposed to what sociologists or clerics think they ought to look like (say, praying or going to church). Sociologist Nikolai Mitrokhin, who has studied the contemporary Orthodox Church in the greatest detail, goes furthest in criticizing the church-state alliance — including what he calls the “gay mafia” in the church hierarchy. But even those scholars who do not support an explicit political agenda have helped to undermine the church’s claims about a single “true” Orthodoxy.

Thomas Aquinas on property

This seems straightforward enough, but things become complicated when the question is asked: How is property obtained? First, Aquinas refutes the idea that man individually or corporately gives and takes away property: “God has the chief dominion over all things. And he in his providence has ordained some things for the material sustenance of human beings.” Property is a gift from God. All things belong to the Creator who graciously gives man material goods.

Millenials’ changing priorities on marriage

Now, after several semesters of discussing marriage with my introductory ethics classes, I’ve heard these concerns expressed enough times to conclude that, for all their righteous zeal concerning sexual freedom, undergraduates do actually know that they are confused about marriage. This is interesting, particularly since the young people in question are not particularly religious or conservative. My students represent a fairly standard cross-section of middle-class American 20-year-olds. They can talk all day about the evils of global warming and homophobia, but the decline of marriage is, for most of them, a fairly new subject. Nevertheless, they are easily convinced that our society has a marriage problem, because they know that they have a marriage problem, which their teachers and parents have done little to help them resolve.

Are You Thinking About Your Family Legacy?

duggar family altar

We live in a relatively affluent time compared to prior generations. One of the consequences of growing affluence, it seems, is the decline in birthrates and the size of a typical family. The industrialized countries of the West tend to have birthrates at or below replacement level, which is two children per mother. When we look at Third-World countries the birthrates are higher and the families are bigger.

For this reason economists think of children as an inferior good. There are normal and inferior goods. Normal goods are those things we buy more of as our income increases and inferior goods are those things we consume less of as our income rises.

There are various reasons why people have fewer children as they make more but one of the consequences of this trend is that people tend to think of children as a burden more than a blessing. Small families have become normative and big families are often seen as odd, if not disturbing.

I think there is an underlying set of expectations about maintaining a certain standard of living which is difficult to do when you have many children. The problem with this is that it encourages us to be selfish and short-sighted.

Over the last few months I have asked myself what it is in life that is worth my highest commitment and I keep coming back to the kingdom of heaven and family. I think of these because they are the only things I can invest in whose return will pay off for time and for eternity. I think that if the main reward is in this life then it will ultimately disappoint.

I find confirmation of this in the stories of people who have accomplished great things only to be left empty inside. George Foreman tells of the disappointment that overwhelmed him the night he won the heavyweight title. He worked so hard to climb that mountain only to be left wondering if there is anything more to life.

The biblical alternative is a multi-generational vision in which you are part of a continuum that traverses the generations. It is a vision in which your family is your kingdom and you are aware of the impact of your decisions in this life on your descendants several generations into the future. It is based on an understanding that your children are the only record that this world will have of your existence.

In his book, What He Must Be: …In Order To Marry My Daughter, Voddie Baucham shares a fascinating anecdote about Jonathan Edwards and his descendants:

Jonathan Edwards is perhaps the most influential American theologian of all times. Born in 1703, his books are still a mainstay in Christian colleges and seminaries. More importantly, his collected works are featured prominently in many pastors’ libraries. However, far too few people know the other side of Edwards’s story. Edwards was not only a remarkable preacher, professor, pastor, and prolific author. He was also a loving family man. He was devoted to his wife, Sarah, for thirty-one years until his death in 1758. He led in regular family worship and oversaw the education of his eleven children. Moreover, his was a multigenerational legacy seldom seen before or since.

‘In 1900, A. E. Winship studied what happened to 1,400 descendants of Jonathan and Sarah by the year 1900. He found they included 13 college presidents, 65 professors, 100 lawyers and a dean of a law school, 30 judges, 66 physicians and a dean of a medical school, and 80 holders of public office, including three US Senators, mayors of three large cities, governors of three states, a Vice-President of the United States, and a controller of the United States Treasury. They had written over 135 books and edited eighteen journals and periodicals. Many had entered the ministry. Over 100 were missionaries and others were on mission boards.’

Winship also wrote this concerning the legacy of Jonathan Edwards and his impact on America:

Many large banks, banking houses, and insurance companies have been directed by them. They have been owners or superintendents of large coal mines… of large iron plants and vast oil interests… and silver mines…. There is scarcely any great American industry that has not had one of this family among its chief promoters…

When I read this it makes me covet that kind of achievement, and I think it is the kind of thing God wants us to desire. We often appreciate the connection we have with our ancestors but we rarely think about the people who are yet to be born after us, especially after our death.

What if someone told you that 100 years after you die you will have over 1,000 descendants, people who are alive because of you? What if a similar story was told about your descendants being scientists, engineers, and political leaders? Edwards led the Great Awakening but I think he had a much bigger impact on the world after he died through his family.

It takes faith to see the appeal of a blessing that you won’t enjoy because you are not around to enjoy it but there is a joy in the hope that you will be reunited with tens of thousands of brothers and sisters in the Lord who were the fruit of your multiplication.