[NOTE: This item expresses the views of the individual to whom the item is ascribed and does not necessarily reflect the position of the WRF as a whole.
On June 26, 2013, in a highly contested ruling upheld by a narrow majority of justices, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially ruled against the constitutionality of enforcing heterosexuality as inherent to legally-protected marriage rights. In other words, states are now legally allowed to recognize same-sex marriages (though the decisions Wednesday stopped short of demanding states to recognize same-sex marriages).
Faithful Christians will doubtless be wrestling with what to do with this decision both for the short-term and long-term. Here are some initial observations and points of counsel for missional leaders seeking to be biblically faithful and culturally astute in our new context.
In the short term:
1. Recognize that the ground has indeed now shifted and the culture’s assumptions on what constitutes faithful, legitimate, life-long loving relationships and families have changed. The Supreme Court’s ruling is indicative of this (not the cause of it).
2. Resist the temptation to rail against this legal ruling as indicative of our culture’s rebellion against God. Some good, Bible-believing Christians will want to embrace an us-versus-them mentality and use this Supreme Court ruling to portray a narrative of us pure, God-loving/God-loved Christians and our values being trampled by wanton, wicked, worldly pagans. This is not the way forward. If you choose to address this issue with your congregation this Sunday, emphasize the ministry challenge of reaching out and bringing God and His transforming, loving power to broken people.
3. Take a breath. Meditate on Phil 4:5-8. Perhaps the better part of wisdom is to ensure that our hearts are right with the Lord and that we are engaging others with “gentleness.”
For the long term:
Let us seek to develop in ourselves and in our communities of faith these qualities:
1. Recognize and regularly communicate that we are all “on the way” (none of us has arrived). We are all broken, including in our sexuality.
2. Value chastity and sexual purity and rebuke sexual promiscuity outside of marriage. Affirm those who are single, and commend those who are not married and are seeking to live faithful to God in sexual purity.
3. Uphold the family, and affirm faithfulness and fidelity to those who are covenantally committed in marriage. Recognize that what families look like from now on will likely be different. With Jesus as our Guide, let us prepare ourselves and our congregations for welcoming families that represent a “new diversity.”
4. It may be helpful to recall how men having multiple wives in the Ancient Near Eastern context must have broken God’s heart. Yet He was still willing to work within these cultures to uphold what was good and best in those ancient cultures.
5. Especially with our young people, address same-sex attraction as one element regularly, commonly, and normally confronted as an aspect of our brokenness. Let us make our communities of faith a safe place for all who are challenged or harmed or continue to be tempted in areas of sexual brokenness.
6. Remind our congregations that our primary identity lies in our being a follower of Christ, a child of God. Our primary LOVE is for God and for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ (none of which is sexualized love or sexually-expressed love).
We are in new territory here. That’s my short list of initial thoughts. I’m interested in yours.
This blog was written and submitted by WRF member Dr. Todd Mangum, who may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, PA. He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Conventionand he is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians.