Note: I apologize for the unusual length of this post. I tried to divide it into two or three parts, but I found that the key concepts work closely together and cannot be easily separated. I hope that you find the content and conclusions worth the read.
We are in a constant battle with secularists who proclaim that neither God’s rules for living nor His provision for our redemption is important or relevant for modern life.
This spiritual war continues, and the recent Supreme Court ruling on marriage has focused believers on one aspect of the war that is raging. In this post I want to focus on where and how we should engage those who are blinded by the enemy and therefore are attacking God’s truth.
And let me be clear that I am the Chief of Sinners. I would not want to compare my righteousness to any others, because I have none. Save for Christ’s righteousness that he gave me when I finally gave up believing that I could be my own savior. So when I mention God’s intentions for us, it is not something that I have made up, or that I hold up to others as a badge that I have attained. Just the opposite. I am simply repeating the truths that I find in His Word, and asking you to consider them as His Owner’s Manual recommendations for us to be the best that we can be, while also causing the least pain to ourselves and to others.
From Genesis to Revelation God reveals His redemptive purpose for His Creation. Everyone and everything He created has a purpose, and so in considering marriage we would do well to start by discerning what is His purpose for marriage.
Happily, this is not difficult. My theologian friend Ken Boa puts it this way:
“According to Scripture, marriage was not invented by man, but instituted by God. It was divinely designed not only to be the basic building block of society, but also to provide an earthly analogy of spiritual truth. Marriage is a lifetime covenant of mutual commitment between a man and a woman which leads to oneness on every level: spirit, soul, and body. This communion and intimacy between marriage partners is designed to reflect the image of God and provide the context for a lasting relationship of love and respect. This relationship in turn is the foundation for the privilege of reproduction and the God-given responsibility of physical, psychological, and spiritual nurturing of children.
This is a high calling, and it is unattainable apart from conscious dependence upon the grace and power of God. It may seem safer to settle for less, but in doing so, we will miss out on the fulfillment God intended for us and end up in mediocrity.”
I want to focus on one key aspect of His purpose: children. In the last book of the Old Testament, God speaks through Malachi in Chapter 2:
13 Another thing you do: You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. 15 Has not [the LORD] made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. 16 “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel.
And the very last words of the Old Testament, also in Malachi, just before four hundred years of silence, are:
4“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. 5 “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
In case the reader missed the importance of those words, in the first chapter of Luke, the Angel Gabriel virtually repeats Malachi in describing why John the Baptist is to be born, and describes the positive result of fathers turning their hearts to their children.
17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
So it is clear that one of God’s primary purposes for marriage is to raise and instruct the next Godly generation. That is, marriage exists so that a father and a mother can protect, train and teach their children God’s Word, His rules for behavior, and His grace when we fall short.
As an aside to this conversation, does anyone notice the “curse” on our own land today because so many fathers are absent from so many children? Given that many large segments of our society are now matriarchies, with little fatherly involvement, I don’t believe that our society is sustainable. And scholarly secularists say the same. See Ray Williams and Dr. Edward Kruk, who writes, “Given the fact that these and other social problems correlate more strongly with fatherlessness than with any other factor, surpassing race, social class and poverty, father absence may well be the most critical social issue of our time.”
When was the last time you heard this Biblical explanation for the purpose of marriage? Probably not recently, yet many of our nation’s “old” laws on adultery, divorce, and alimony were shaped by this understanding.
But then came the birth control pill, the sexual revolution, the Joy of Sex, and the far easier belief that sex, and therefore marriage, exist primarily for individual pleasure and fun. While it is obvious from the way God made sex that it is intentionally enjoyable when entered into lovingly by a husband and wife, in the 60’s this anticipated joy from sex became not the wonderful bi-product of a loving relationship, but instead the very purpose for that relationship.
It was then a short step to the concept that if I am not having fun with sex, or with any other aspect of marriage, then I should leave and find someone else who will do a better job of satisfying my individual needs and desires. And at that same moment the federal government poured gasoline on the fire consuming marriage by paying a mother more money to care for her children if she did not have a husband.
So before we pick up too many stones to aim at those currently trying to redefine marriage, it was my generation, focused on “me” and “if it feels good, do it”, that pushed to make divorce both legally easy and economically advantageous, so that more families started breaking up. Remember that God said, “I hate divorce”, for the reasons given above. But we were focused on ourselves, and there were also “studies” that supported divorce in those days because it was supposed to be “better for the children”. Not exactly what God told us in His Word. And, of course, later, larger studies proved that this “convenient truth” about the children of divorce was a lie in almost every area of a child’s development. But the bond between marriage and children had been broken, and so, it is certainly possible to ask, if marriage is just about individual pleasure, why do we care who participates? Doesn’t everyone have the equal right to be happy?
So my primary point thus far is that God’s purpose for marriage is that one man and one woman will thrive in a marital covenant and, whatever else they do, and how they feel, they will focus on raising Godly children. And as Christ states about seeking the Kingdom of God, I think that if we seek His will in marriage, the rest will usually and abundantly be added.
But now it is important to take this God-ordained purpose for marriage and compare it to how marriage has been defined by society.
We have always recognized both religious and civil weddings and marriages. In the United States you do not have to believe or subscribe to anything written above to be legally married. The ceremony itself, and the marriage that follows, can be deeply religious, or completely secular.
People of faith have not demanded that in order to be married, couples must submit to some set of religious beliefs; and secularists have not demanded that church weddings disqualify the participants for the government’s marital recognition. In each case, both groups have recognized that from a legal point of view, marriage is a very personal covenant or contract; if a man and a woman obtain a license, are not married to someone else, and do almost anything by way of a ceremony, then they are in fact married.
But the secularists have now changed the law of the land to state that marriage, for the first time that I know of in human history, can be between two men or two women. Does that change what I and most believers think about marriage? And much more importantly, does that change what God thinks about marriage? I am sure that it does not.
So now there is a type of legally sanctioned marriage that does not conform to the Judeo-Christian belief system on which our nation’s laws were founded.
Although I wish the law had not been changed, does that mean that as a follower of Christ I should spend most of my time trying to change the law back again, or that I should instead explain to anyone and everyone why this form of marriage does not conform to God’s plan for us, and therefore, inevitably, will lead to bad outcomes?
As a believing conservative libertarian, I hate that some people have affairs, engage in pre-marital sex, get divorced, do drugs, binge on alcohol, live for pornography, lose everything by gambling, and have homosexual affairs (and marriages)—these will all have negative consequences on those who participate, and on their families, because they are not God’s plan for the best life.
But if someone is determined to participate, has erecting a law against any of these behaviors ever prevented anyone from doing so?
Aren’t these behaviors really only transformed by the One who transformed me over thirty years ago?
In other words, is this latest event an opportunity to protest secular laws or to witness to God’s truths?
We are called to be salt and light, not policemen. As I have noted many times, D ’Tocqueville was taken by how Christian faith was woven into all aspects of early American life, not that we had “Christian laws”. If you think about it, such laws, like Prohibition and the current War on Drugs, give the pious an opportunity to pat themselves on the back, while most of the country either ignores or finds some way to subvert them. They are worse than a waste of time, because they give us a false sense of security when, in fact, the enemy never rests at ruining lives, whatever statutes are on the books.
My only exception to the above reliance on God’s truths over man’s laws in this area of belief-driven behavior is abortion, because it is impossible to undo an abortion if the mother later decides that it was a mistake. She can stop having an affair, but she cannot bring back her baby.
So my first distinction that is important for this war is that we should choose our battles. God is a transformer of people, and that is the mission to which I believe we are called as believers. So we should use every opportunity not to pass laws directly but to explain why an affair, or homosexual behavior, or gay marriage is detrimental to a joyful and fulfilled life, and to the proper raising of the next generation. Perhaps changed laws will follow, but perhaps not. Our mission is the same.
By the way, a first harbinger of what psychologists will someday be telling us about the children of gay parents, similar to the studies on the children of divorce, is this revealing personal report by Robert Oscar Lopez: Growing Up With Two Moms (with thanks to Bill Worth for sharing this story with me).
Now just because I choose not to try to pass new laws, it does not mean that I have withdrawn from the war, or that I do not expect to be attacked by the enemy and those whom he has enlisted.
I see at least two immediate areas of fierce, hand-to-hand combat for righteous living in our nation, and for the souls of our children and grandchildren.
In the Church. Just as passionately as I do not want to tell those outside the Church that we are going to pass laws to force them to behave properly, I must criticize those within the Church who try to subvert and redefine what God has actually said on these subjects. Homosexual activity (and therefore gay marriage by definition), adultery, divorce, drunkenness, and debauchery are condemned by God’s Word and therefore are wrong. They all lead to some level of destruction for those who participate, and for those closest to them. You don’t have to have lived very long to see that truth play out in people’s lives. That is why God admonishes us not to participate. That is why Satan encourages us—because he wants to destroy us.
While I have some responsibility for pushing back against what the secularists want to pass as laws, I have great responsibility for what the Church believes and what the Church does.
As a member of the Body of Christ, I need to speak up when others, even the supposedly most learned among us, try to dumb-down and explain away what God has ordained as the best ways for us to live. Or sugarcoat the coming judgment for those who act against His will, and for those who encourage others to do so.
The Church cannot be the salt and light our society desperately needs if we do not defend what God’s Word says. The Church, and each believer, can weave His Truth into that societal fabric only if we consistently proclaim that Truth—in the family, in conversations, and in the public forum.
In the Public Square. Here, finally, is the real problem which is going to both bring persecution and require believers to act. As mentioned above, believers and secularists have for a long time not tried to enforce either group’s set of beliefs on the other when it comes to the details of what is marriage, because at least the foundation of one man and one woman was commonly accepted. As you can tell from the above, I am all for continuing that operational truce, while very much also continuing the war of words and the war of ideas which can transform individuals and cause them to reconsider their worldviews in light of God’s Truth.
What I see coming is not a continuation of the truce, but a strong engagement by progressive secularists to force their view of marriage on everyone, and to mercilessly silence all critics.
So that even if the Body of Christ speaks Truth with a unified voice, the progressives will do all in their power to discredit, threaten, intimidate and ultimately silence that voice.
The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” We must, as believing Americans, push back when those deluded by the enemy try to prohibit the exercise of our faith, or we will have no voice left to influence the culture, to do that weaving, to be salt and light. Exercising religion means more than what happens inside a church building on Sunday morning. Exercising your religion means letting it mold all of your actions, influence all of your decisions, and inform all of your speech.
The secularists denigrate all people of faith, and particularly Christians, and as we followers of Christ continue to exercise our right to speak and to act against Gay Marriage, secularists will think that they have a weapon which goes beyond this single issue, and which they can use to cripple the Church in general.
And why do they want to do that? I circle back to where we began: God’s purpose for marriage, only now I want to quote John MacArthur from his recent sermon, “We Will Not Bow.”
“Since marriage is vital to God’s design, for ordered society, sensible civilization—civilization able to enjoy common grace—since marriage is, by God’s design, His way to pass on order, to pass on peace, to pass on temporal blessing, and even to pass on righteousness from one generation to the next, family has always been under assault.
The objective is not simply to redefine gender. The objective is not simply to redefine marriage. The objective is to destroy what God has designed.
Families provide a small, sovereign unit that acts as a small barrier against the corruption that seeks to dominate. Shatter the family, destroy the family and the small sovereign barrier is disintegrated. And by the way, the goal in all of this—you need to be reading to see this—the goal in all of this is not homosexual, same-sex marriage. The goal is the total elimination of all marriage, which then means you don’t possess any privacy. You don’t have that small, sovereign unit, and your children are not yours. They’re public children and they belong to the education system; and they belong to the country; and they belong to the village—but not to you. And so, when they’re fifteen in the state of Oregon they can have a sex change without telling their parents—and the state will do it and pay for it.
This is not about same-sex marriage. This is about the total obliteration of the family. So that there will be no more family, no more covenants. No more private, sovereign units that stand up against the corruption.”
I wish my generation had not done so much to destroy marriage long before the current debate. I wish the Supreme Court—nine lawyers, all Catholics or Jews, all educated at Harvard or Yale—which means that they come from a tiny slice of the total American experience, but also means that they should have known better—had not decided to up-end God’s mandate and all civilizations’ practice on marriage. And the same on abortion.
As we fight back with God’s Truth, someday the laws in these areas may be changed again. But our focus today should be on changing hearts and minds, on being salt and light.
However, we cannot push back with words if our pastors are intimidated and silenced, our churches cannot obtain insurance, our schools are no longer accredited, our believing judges are forced to marry gays, and all our institutions are targeted through employment laws and increased taxes. And as individuals, our employers tell us that if we want to keep our jobs we cannot speak God’s Truth because it is “hate speech”, even if the words are spoken from love and from outside our work.
Well, I take that back—we can continue to push back, even under those conditions, but it will be from the midst of persecution for believers like we have not known in this country for two hundred years.
Please note that much of the recent social change on homosexual behavior has been because the LGBT Community has portrayed itself as “victims”, beset by hostile attitudes and pernicious laws. The result has been that for decades our society has not enforced sodomy laws, gays have been portrayed in only positive ways in movies and the media, military rules were changed, and in general there has been a “live and let live” attitude in the nation.
The final irony is that after these five judges handed gay marriage to this group of poor victims, many of the more strident ones, and their progressive heterosexual friends, are now poised to be the bullies, to use all of the laws of the land to badger and to silence believers in ways that believers would never have imagined to badger them.
It is even worse. Many young people today believe that they must be legally protected from ideas that might make them feel badly. The new land mine on college campuses is “micro-aggression”, and the new demand is for “trigger word” warnings. Even liberal educators are aghast. See “Coddling of the American Mind.”
Combine that attitude about ideas in general with the concept of “hate speech” as defined by the state, and then put new laws in the hands of outspoken LGBT enforcers, and you have the perfect storm for the coming repression of the free exercise of religion.
That is what I believe is coming, and in those battles I will do my best, with God’s help, sharpened by other believers, to push back against these attacks.
Here at the end I have an unexpected request. I have friends, family members, and former classmates who are gay. The bravest man I know alive today is gay. If you are one of those, and you have read this far, you presumably don’t agree with much of the above, and you could well be quite upset with me. Please understand that my statements are informed by my faith and by God’s Word–they did not spring up on their own. If we were in a room together I would say the same thing: gay behavior is not God’s design for a full life; it is an addiction outside of His will, and there will be negative consequences. That statement may anger you, or it may actually echo a small voice inside you. Either way, I ask you to respect my opinon as being biblically based, along with my right to express it.
And when you tell me that homosexual behavior is permanent and cannot be changed, I have three truly humble responses. The first is that I know men who have experienced significant, lasting healing and transformation. The power of Christ healed them from this addiction and sustains them in their sobriety. The second is that I take no joy in any of this. I would much rather not write this post. I don’t try to pick fights. But I have a burden to share what I believe to be God’s truth, to be salt and light, no matter how difficult.
And third, I have talked with people “trapped” in a marriage without love, with those addicted to drugs, with a son estranged from a father, and with someone who just had an abortion. All of those conditions appear to that person to be just as permanent and unchangeable as attraction to the same sex. Without the ever-present and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, healing, wholeness and holiness are impossible for any of us…whatever our sins may be. But with His power, all things are possible, even transforming something that to the human mind seems permanently fixed. That is my prayer for all of us, including me, who but for the grace of God would be eternally lost.
My specific request is to the many gay people of good will who are not the stident militants and who recognize that there is a huge gray area at the intersection of gay marriage and religious exercise. Please recognize that silencing and threatening those with a different view is not only un-American, but it will lead to unintended consequences that will eventually harm all of us, gay and straight. The state should not be running out of business and destroying every baker, attorney, private group, church and school which believes that gay behevior is wrong, and exercises its right not to even indirectly encourage or support that behavior.
Hopefully people of good will on both sides will continue the war of ideas, while turning away from all types of intimidation and coercion. But if they come, we must not be silent, and we must not be intimidated by bullies who want to take away our freedom and undermine our families in their ongoing attempt to prove to everyone that they are completely and totally equal.
If you are a believer, get ready. Read God’s Word on these subjects. Review your rights to free speech and to exercise your religion as an American. Pray for wisdom and guidance, and rest assured that, above all, His purposes are at work.