Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Pastoral Concern -- Same Sex Marriage

The Supreme Court of the United States is close to announcing a ruling on whether or not states have a constitutional right to ban same-sex marriages.  Based on the swell of American sentiments (or at least the sentiments that are getting the press's attention), I suspect that the Supreme Court will rule according to what seems to be the popular opinion and will declare same-sex marriage to be a constitutional right.

We can debate all day long about the definition of the word "marriage."  The sad reality is that definitions of words change.  Only at Christmas do we sing, "Don we now our gay apparel," and not think of anything immoral.  It is perhaps the only time we understand the word "gay" anymore by its original definition.  But the definition has been re-assigned.  Very few even attempt to use it according to its original definition.  We have conceded the argument there.  It seems that American culture is likely to accept the perverted (understand that however you wish) definition of "marriage" being a contractual relationship between two people regardless of gender as the new norm.  I doubt that hand-wringing and screaming in protest will stop it.

So what is the Church to do?  Some, actually many, have insisted that the Church needs to cease and desist calling homosexual behavior a sin.  Some take great pride in supporting and blessing same-sex marriages.  One sizable Lutheran denomination (ELCA) not only celebrates gay men and women, they even ordain them.  Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 have been declared antiquated, in other words, rejected.

Finally, this is the big problem: When churches read what God clearly says and then give reasons why God's plain word is misunderstood, outdated, embarrassing, or just plain wrong, that is an abandonment of the Christian faith.  Once God's word is put up for a vote or rejected (reasons for such rejection abound), the floodgates are open for all kinds of ungodly ideas and behaviors to sweep through.  Finally, the Holy Spirit must depart.  He who is holy cannot dwell where people insist on supporting and celebrating evil.  Why should he stay?  If churches insist on opposing his word, he must depart.  And sinners are no longer called to repent.  If we no longer call sin what God calls sin, what is there to be repent of?

Let's break it down with this simple exercise.  Consider the following verse and ask if it is true or false.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, no adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, ESV)

1)    T or F?  The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.
2)    T or F?  The sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God.
3)    T or F?  The idolaters will not inherit the kingdom of God.
4)    T or F?  The adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God.
5)    T or F?  Men who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God.
6)    T or F?  Thieves will not inherit the kingdom of God.
7)    T or F?  The greedy will not inherit the kingdom of God.
8)    T or F?  Drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God.
9)    T or F?  Revilers will not inherit the kingdom of God.
10)  T or F?  Swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Many churches and pastors are saying "false," and especially to #5.  

So the question must be asked: Is God's word on this true?  If the answer is "no," then we must wonder if God's word can be believed on anything.  How can you trust that you are really forgiven (assuming you still think you need it) or saved (assuming you ever thought you were lost or damned)?  Based on what?  The Bible, which many have already declared faulty?  If God's word is unreliable or untrue in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, then how can you believe 1 Corinthians 6:11: "And such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God"?

Is all of God's word true, or only the parts you like?  If you start to pick and choose, that makes YOU the judge over God, and that means God is no longer to be feared or taken seriously.  And if God is not to be taken seriously, how can we enforce any standards at all?  Who decides what is right or wrong?

You can see where this whole thing is headed.  What is amazing is how fast we are getting there.

The Church will continue to be the Church.  There will always be a remnant who believes, teaches, and confesses that every word of the Bible is true.  And there will always be churches which distort or reject God's word to the cheering and pleasure of many people.  God's word says that will happen (2 Timothy 4:3-4).  And such churches will be much more popular.  God's word says that will happen, too (2 Peter 2:1-3).

Specifically regarding same-sex marriage, what will the Church do?  It will speak and act as the Church of Christ.  It will bless only that which God calls blessed, and it will withhold its blessing on that which God calls evil.  As a pastor, I am privileged to preside over worship services, some of which include people who are getting married.  I am not obligated to marry anyone, not even members of Good Shepherd.  I AM obligated to speak and teach the word of God faithfully, and that also means calling people to repent of anything God calls sinful.  Those who thumb their noses at God's commandments and live together in open fornication and cohabitation will not find a blessing from God.  I will not suggest that God blesses such people by presiding over that wedding.  So, it is not strictly a same-sex issue; it is an issue of repentance and of believing the word of the Lord.  As was shown above, those who support same-sex marriage no longer believe the word of the Lord on this issue.  They encourage people to persist in their sinful rebellion.

If the Supreme Court declares same-sex marriages to be a constitutional right, gays and lesbians will get "married."  I can't stop that, just as I can't stop murder, prostitution, drug dealing, or shoplifting.  But when the opportunity presents itself to call one who is guilty of such things to repent, I must issue that call.  I must call evil what God says is evil.  While it is true that Jesus Christ loves sinners and has paid for all sins, we must, then, admit that we are sinners, that such sexual sins are indeed sins, and repent of them.  Jesus did not tell the prostitutes to go out and by godly prostitutes.  He called them to repent.  Note from 1 Corinthians 6:11 above: "And such some of you were."  In other words, they are not anymore.  They repented and fled form their sins.

If it comes to a point where I have to refer people to judges for their legal marriage certificate, I will do that.  The Church will still bless what God calls blessed, such as the man and woman whose marriage is in line with God's word.  We will pray for all people.  We will offer consolation and encouragement and absolution to those who are struggling against their various temptations.  We will point people again and again to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.  And we will emphasize that Jesus forgives sins; he does not excuse them.

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)  This is undeniable truth.  Therefore, it is also undeniably true that those who reject God's word on the issue of same-sex marriage are, at best, flirting with damnation.

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