(Washington, D.C.) — What are the implications of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision on Friday to make same-sex marriage a Constitutionally-protected civil right? Is the Court’s decision to change the definition of marriage really such a big deal, or are Christians hyperventilating over the issue for nothing?
Unfortunately, yes, this is a very big deal, and it puts America on a perilous path. Unless we change course soon, this could accelerate the nation’s judgment and implosion.
Let me walk through four key things Christians ought consider at this critical time.
First, the Supreme Court is overreaching its Constitutional authority, and is thus undermining its own legitimacy and pouring gasoline on a highly-politicized issue that will deeply divide Americans for years to come.
If the Constitution even mentioned the word “marriage,” the Court might theoretically have the right to address the subject. But the word is never mentioned in the text. Thus, the Framers of the Constitution never intended the federal government to define or regulate marriage. The 10th Amendment plainly states that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” So the issue must be left to the people and the States.
The 14th Amendment does not provide the Court the authority to redefine marriage and cannot be used to create a Constitutional right to a same-sex marriage. “In 1972, in a moment of lucidity, the Supreme Court rejected a 14th Amendment-based appeal on gay marriage,” notes a legal scholar at George Mason University. “The case sprang to life when a gay man attempted to obtain a marriage license in Minnesota. The Supreme Court of Minnesota rejected all of the Constitutional arguments made by the Plaintiff. The U.S. Supreme Court found a ‘want of federal jurisdiction’ in rejecting the appeal.”
Tragically, by overreaching its Constitutional authority, the current Court is undermining its own legitimacy. It is also taking an already-incendiary cultural issue and throwing gasoline on a growing political fire.
Second, the Court’s ruling forces 320 million Americans to embrace overnight a radical reengineering of the entire social compact of marriage that even some of the nation’s most liberal political leaders strongly opposed just a few years ago.
For more than 5,000 years, Judeo-Christian civilization has been built on the definition of marriage as one man and one woman in a sacred compact before God, creating a family that can bear children and raise them with the loving care of a father and a mother. Now, five unelected Justices of the Court are undermining the fundamental building block of healthy, stable Western civilization with no idea what the down-stream implications and ramifications will be.
Until recently, even some of America’s most liberal political leaders were opposed to this radical social experiment. “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage,” then-Senator Barack Obama said on MTV during the 2008 presidential campaign. “Marriage has historic, religious and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and a woman,” said Hillary Clinton in 1999, explaining why she supported the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (with a one-man-one-woman definition of marriage) that was signed into law by her husband, President Bill Clinton. Obviously, both President Obama and Mrs. Clinton have since changed their positions. In doing so, they and the five Supreme Court Justices who back their position are now putting people who still hold the position they once professed to hold in the position of being attacked as “bigots” and “haters” and “civil rights violators.”
Third, the Court’s ruling opens the door for a frontal and massive assault on religious liberty. Christians all over the country who hold to the Biblical definition of marriage are beginning to be taken to court and fined — some are even in danger of losing their businesses and their homes — if they do not agree to bake cakes for same-sex weddings, or cater such weddings, or take photographs at such weddings, and so forth. Other Americans are being subjected to government-mandated “sensitivity training” for not helping homosexuals celebrate their lifestyle. Still other Americans are being fired from their jobs for holding and teaching the Biblical principles of marriage.
For example, “the owners of an Oregon bakery learned [in April] that there is a severe price to pay for following their Christian faith,” reported the New York Post. “A judge for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) recommended a lesbian couple should receive $135,000 in damages for their emotional suffering after Sweet Cakes by Melissa refused to make them a wedding cake. As a result – Aaron and Melissa Klein could lose everything they own — including their home.” (For some other examples, see here, here, here, here and here.)
The assaults on religious freedoms that are happening with growing frequency at the local and state level could now explode at the national level. The First Amendment to the Constitution plainly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” But the Court’s ruling seems to put the un-enumerated “civil right” of a same-sex marriage above the enumerated right of religious freedom. Thus, the ruling now appears to give the federal government the power to force Christians, Jews and other religious people to embrace, sanction, support and serve same-sex marriage ceremonies — and embrace and support, or at least not oppose, homosexual marriage and lifestyles — or risk being sued or prosecuted for federal civil rights violations.
The Obama administration’s top lawyer, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., was asked directly by Justice Samuel Alito during oral arguments in the latest same-sex marriage case whether Christian colleges and universities and other religious institutions who oppose gay marriage could lose their federal tax exempt status by continuing to teach Biblical marriage. Verrilli’s answer was as troubling as it was revealing. “You know, I don’t think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it’s certainly going to be an issue,” said Verrilli. “I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is – it is going to be an issue.” This suggests the federal government could soon try to force religious schools, churches and other institutions to actively support homosexual marriage or risk severe civil and possibly criminal sanctions.
Those Christians who say, “Let’s live and let live — just let homosexuals marry whomever they want and don’t make such a big deal of this issue,” are, unfortunately, being naïve. Many in the homosexual community — certainly the gay political activists — are not content with the mere legalization of same-sex marriage. They want to force the rest of the country to embrace and support them. Thus, they and their supporters in Washington will likely move aggressively to criminalize the Biblical definition of marriage and to severely penalize those who teach and follow it.
Fourth and most troubling, the Court has acted in direct and brazen defiance of the Word of God — and as painful as it is for me to say it, this will likely accelerate us towards judgment if America does not soon change course.
God, not government, created marriage. Indeed, God defined marriage in the very first book of the Bible (Genesis 2:23-24) as a sacred union between one man and one woman. In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ reaffirmed this Biblical definition of marriage. Jesus said, “‘Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.’” (Matthew 19:4-6)
Nevertheless, five unelected Justices have willfully moved to redefine what the Lord God Almighty Himself ordained. At the same time, nearly 60% of Americans tell pollsters that they support the legalization of same-sex marriage, up from about 12% in 1988 (and up sharply just in the past few years). Thus, while these five Justices bear much responsibility, they are acting in the will of nearly six-out-of-ten Americans.
Tragically, this is not the first time the Court has gotten a major policy issue wrong, or the first time it has acted in defiance of the Word of God. In 1973, the Court ruled in the Roe v. Wade abortion case that Americans had a Constitutionally-protected right to murder their unborn children. This was a morally unconscionably decision which has led directly to the death of more than 57 million children as well as terrible emotional and spiritual pain and suffering for millions of women. The Court’s decision to undermine Biblical marriage and attack religious liberty will also lead to great sadness and suffering, not freedom and joy as its supporters contend.
The members of the Supreme Court have forgotten they are not truly the highest or “supreme” court in the land. There is a higher authority, and there is a grave cost to defying the Supreme Judge of the universe.
In Romans 1:18-32, the Apostle Paul warns societies that turn away from God and His Word. Three times in this passage, the Apostle warns that God will allow societies that rebellious against Him to slide deep into heterosexual and homosexual sin, along with many other sinful practices. Indeed, God vows to turn such societies over to debauchery if they will not repent, and He warns that such societies will, in time, face judgment and the “wrath of God.”
These are some of the reasons I wrote the non-fiction book, Implosion, in 2012, because I’m deeply concerned that we are on a fast-track towards judgment unless we repent and radically change course. And as I wrote in the book, it is the responsibility of those who love God and follow the Bible to lovingly and clearly explain to individuals, societies and entire nations what God says in the Bible, what He offers mankind, and what He requires of us, and the grave consequences of refusing to listen to or obey the Lord and His Word. It is not our job to force people to obey Christ, or to be unkind or angry towards those who deny Him. Rather, it is our job to “hold fast the faithful Word,” even to a society that won’t listen.
How then should Christians respond to the latest developments?
The Court’s latest decision must not lead Christians to anger or hatred or violence.
Let us be moved to brokenness before God, to deep repentance and to ceaseless prayer — many Americans don’t take God and His Word seriously because they don’t see Christians taking God and His Word seriously; for this and much else we need to repent and ask God to show mercy us and forgive us.
Let us plead with our Father in heaven to pour out His Holy Spirit and grant us a massive spiritual revival within the Church that will draw us back to a close walk with Christ and faithful obedience to the Word of God.
Let us keep become far more faithful to teach and preach the Word of God, the “whole counsel of God,” and clearly and lovingly explain to all people the Gospel — the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness for all who will turn to Christ — and not be intimidated into silence.
Let us plead with the Lord to grant a Great Awakening to America at large — as we preach (and live) the Gospel, let us pray that God chooses to move so powerfully that millions of lost, unsaved people repent and turn to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and Redeemer of their lives, marriages and families.
Let us always be gracious and kind to those who disagree with us (on the marriage issue and/or other Biblical issues), constantly seeking to obey Christ’s command to “love your neighbor” and to “pray for those who persecute you.”
Here are some other excellent resources and suggestions as we enter this dark period in our nation’s history:
Russell Moore, a Southern Baptist leader, has published an excellent op-ed in the Washington Post discussing how Christians should respond. I hope you will read it and share it with others. “Why the church should neither cave nor panic about the decision on gay marriage,” by Russell Moore.
Pastor John MacArthur has also written an excellent article with suggestions for fellow pastors on how to address the latest developments. I hope you will read this, also, and share it with others. “An Open Letter” to pastors, by John MacArthur.
Dozens of evangelical Christian pastors and leaders have published “An Evangelical Declaration On Marriage” that I would further commend to your attention.