It’s been a week since the Supreme Court ruled that all states must issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples. The initial social media eruption has simmered down. Regardless of our opinion, we have each had time to digest what has happened and consider how to move forward.
As a Christian who looks to the Bible for my definition of marriage, I’ve spent the past week considering how I should respond. I could write that this latest action by the Supreme Court heralds the end of federalism. But then I’d be ignoring the many ways in which federalism has already died. I could write that this is an irrevocable turning point in the degradation of American culture. But then I’d be pretending that our culture wasn’t already degraded. I could write that God will judge America for this slight against his will. But then I’d be ignoring the biblical nature of God’s judgments, which don’t typically come as floods and hurricanes, but in the giving over of people to their desires.
No. I would rather take this moment to apologize to the gay community and encourage my Christian brethren to do the same.
Why? Because I realize now that our whole side of the marriage debate has been a waste. Christians got so caught up in the political argument, how to define the institution of marriage in law, that we neglected to address a far more important issue — sin.
The gay marriage debate has, in a unique way, cast a spotlight upon the sins of Christian culture. The fact is: we Christians haven’t been treating all sins alike. We’ve singled out homosexuality as uniquely abhorrent in the eyes of God. It’s this doctrinal inequality, rather than any legal one, which ought to command our attention.
It’s easy to see why homosexuality has been the red-headed step-child among more socially acceptable sins. You don’t have to be a glutton to understand hunger. You don’t have to be a drunk to understand the appeal of drink. In this way, gluttony and drunkenness are relatable, even to those not prone to either. By contrast, it’s much more difficult for heterosexuals to relate to being gay. Because homosexuality is not as relatable, it has been easier to demonize. So we have.
When Christians stop and think about this, it should occur to us that the real degradation of society has little to do with homosexuality and far more to do with our personal tolerance of sin in our lives. Indeed, whenever the sanctity of marriage has been evoked during the gay marriage debate, it has been answered with reference to the heterosexual divorce rate. How sanctified have our marriages truly been? How sacred have we treated anything in our day-to-day lives? In this way, the gay movement has a point. Why should we suddenly draw a line at homosexuality?
Instead of arguing against gay marriage as such, Christians should have seized upon this opportunity to present the Gospel. Homosexuality provides a unique perspective from which to understand the Gospel. We have come to accept “homosexual” as something people are rather than something people do. In the same way, we are all sinners, not just people who do sinful things. We can’t stop being sinners any more than a gay person can stop being gay. It’s who we are. It’s how we were born. That’s why we need a savior.
As a heterosexual male, I will never be able to relate to the urges of a homosexual male. But I can relate to the urges of a sinner, because I am one. In that way, I prove no different than a homosexual. I am equal to him in my wretchedness before a holy God. Without the saving work of Christ, we are each bound for the same hell.
I owe gays an apology for often regarding their sin as somehow worse than mine. It’s not. I owe gays an apology for focusing on the legal question of how marriage is defined rather than the eternal destination of our souls.
The Supreme Court didn’t throw a wrench into God’s plan. He is not taken aback. He is not staggered and wondering how to move forward. God is saving people this week, same as last. God invites us to turn from sin and accept Christ’s work on the cross. He died in our place and endured the wrath we earned. My share of that wrath isn’t less than any homosexual’s. It’s not easier for me to be saved than for a homosexual to be saved. In either case, salvation stands as a miraculous work of God.
In the years to come, new cultural struggles will present themselves. I pray that I won’t make the same mistake in future debates that I made during this one. The Christian focus should not be on the law of man, but on the heart of man. Hearts transformed by the Holy Spirit will endure under any law.