On June 26, 2013, the highest authority in the land declared the constitutionality of homosexuality as a value to be defended and promoted in modern day America. For the first time, the Supreme Court declared that the federal government may not discriminate against same-sex couples whose marriage is recognized by a state. In the case of Prop 8, which banned same sex marriage, the Federal Supreme Court refused to hear the case seeking to reverse the California state supreme court that earlier had declared the wish of the people of California unconstitutional. This issue can still be litigated, so we should not give up the fight.
The Constitution, the laws deriving from it, and the vast network of state institutions like education, health care, or the internal revenue service will ineluctably be made to conform to this judgment. In the public square, some time in the future, opposition could well be subject to penal sanctions.
Doubtless, it will be permissible (for a certain time, at least) for pastors publicly to read and preach on Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-28in the private sphere of the church. Eventually, however, free speech will be trumped by condemnation of “hate speech.” Public lectures or debates on the college campus will be ruled out of order. The tax-exempt status of ministries who speak out on this issue could eventually be revoked for being too “political.”
In two areas Christian witness will be affected.
1. Christian living:
The obligation for Christians to be “salt and light” in the culture outside the church will be severely compromised. Since our culture is imploding, especially in the area of both hetero- and homo-sexuality and marriage, a clearly-lived expression of the blessing of heterosexual monogamy is essential for divinely-created human life. Obviously living out this reality is essential but so also, as Scripture indicates, is a verbal explanation of its importance.
2. Preaching the Gospel:
Feeling the intimidation factor, which since yesterday has quadrupled, many in Evangelicalism have already turned to the “safe” solution of “deeds not creeds,” in order to avoid the moniker of “judgmentalism.” Francis of Assisi’s “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words,” becomes for many the justification for the elimination altogether of words. We can never eliminate words. Paul speaks of “the word of faith that we proclaim…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”(Rom 10:8-9).
But it gets more complicated. It is not just any words. In Romans 1, Paul shows how to preach the Gospel. It includes the notion of the Fall and a full recognition of human sin. Certainly, we must avoid “personal judgmentalism” but we may not avoid God as judge, without whom there is no God as Savior. If the Gospel is “the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16) it is because no other power can change this fallen world—not our deeds, not the message of human flourishing nor the this-worldly utopia of diversity. Our message is that sin needs a solution from the outside. As Luther discovered from this text, “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). Paul is still developing the gospel theme when he goes on to say: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…” (Rom 1:18). The external solution is God’s righteousness, which, against sinners, is revealed as “wrath” (1:18) but because of Jesus’s righteousness, “by faith,” becomes an amazing gift of grace.
Paul’s argument is that we must understand our sinful state. His teaching on homosexuality is part of this Gospel teaching because that sinful state includes the practice and approval of homosexuality (Romans 1:26–28 and 32), which was everywhere practiced in Rome. This is not homophobia but must be understood in the context of his full development of the implications of the Gospel.
Since this is true, the Supreme Court yesterday, in once “Christian America,” just indicated that the clear public preaching of the Gospel may one day be ruled unconstitutional!
This action by the Supreme Court will create major divisions with the Body of Christ. The cracks have appeared but now they will becomes canyons. Some churches will be silent on the whole issue of sexual sin. Some will even justify homosexuality as a “good” thing. Others will seek to follow the clear teaching of Scripture and say what Paul said as he wrote to gay Rome:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed…” (Rom 1:16–17)