Associate Editor’s note: with this post we welcome Pastor Bruce Timm to our usual writing crew. After he gave me the smackdown on my own radio show (multiple times), I knew we had to get him writing for us. Plus, he’s written some really fantastic stuff for us on the liturgy.
June is here. Weddings are being planned and held. Many of us celebrate anniversaries over the summer months. Taking my cue from Pastor Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, I’ve been thinking about the upcoming Supreme Court decision on marriage and what it means for us.
It is likely that the Supreme Court will decide that marriage between two people of the same gender is a constitutional right. Such a decision not only goes against nature, reason, and biology, it also goes against God’s Word and order for society. That decision might also mean great challenges for our churches and congregations since we confess from Scripture that marriage is (and only is) the union of a man and a woman.
The Challenge to Religious Freedom
The First Amendment reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Congress is not supposed to prohibit the free exercise of religion. However, what will happen when the state makes a “right” out of what the church considers sinful? Will a sermon that preaches against the sin of homosexuality be considered “hate speech” or antagonistic toward “human rights”? Will a pastor be able to refuse a “same sex” wedding for conscience sake? How will “rights” affect the free exercise of religion?
Let me be clear. No speech that encourages or incites harm against a homosexual is Godly or acceptable. That is a clear violation of the fifth commandment. However, to call a homosexual to repentance is no different than calling a gossip to repentance. It is loving to call the erring brother or sister to repentance and faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.
The Challenge to Faith
Ever since the fall into sin, the world has been sliding into ever greater evil and wickedness. We should not be surprised at what we are witnessing in our nation. Over three thousand babies are aborted every day in the United States. Abortion is an acceptable and approved method of birth control which most health insurance covers. Homosexuality is now considered equal to heterosexuality, even though homosexuals cannot have sexual intercourse and cannot procreate. The youngest Christians among us are being taught that these sins are normal because they are celebrated, recognized, and taught by the state.
All of us face ever greater challenges to our faith. What we see everyday as “normal” stands contrary to God’s Word. Even the mildest confession of our faith (not baking a wedding cake) can result in personal and economic attack. We may soon feel like Elijah in the wilderness—that he was the only one left and everyone else had bowed the knee to the false god Baal.
What is to be done?
Hear the Word! God’s Word tells us we should not be surprised at what we see or experience in the world. Already in Romans 1:21-32, Saint Paul tells us that people exchanged the truth of God for lies and gave themselves over to all sorts of vile and wicked behavior. God’s Word also tells us that this world is passing away—it is devolving toward its destruction. But God’s Word also tells us that He came Himself into this world to save us from our sins and the wickedness within us and around us. Christ Jesus died—for you, for the pornographer and the prostitute, and the gossip and the hypocrite, and the divorced couple and the woman who had an abortion, for the cowardly pastor and the coveting teenager.
When Jesus rose from the dead, having secured forgiveness for our sins, He appeared to His disciples. He then commissioned 11 of these men to be His Apostles. By the forgiveness of their sins and their eyewitness of His resurrection, these men became bold confessors of the faith to a pagan world. The Roman empire of the first century wasn’t that much different than today. In that time of great evil and wickedness, when the State outlawed Christianity, the church spread and grew like no other time in history. The apostles confessed Christ even when that confession cost them their lives, but the blood of the Martyrs served as seed for more and more people to come to faith. Perhaps the troubles of this present age will make our confession bolder and bring even more souls into the church. Perhaps it will teach us that this fallen world is not our hope and future. Christ is our hope and future. In the resurrection we will finally be set free from sin, and we will dwell on the new earth where Satan will have no rule and sin will have no place.
While we live and wait for the Lord’s return, we need to live as baptized Christians who have died to sin and been raised in Christ. Unmarried Christians need to remain chaste and avoid premarital sex and living together. Married men need to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Married women need to submit to and honor their husbands as head of the household. Christian parents need to teach their children about marriage and its blessings and must do all in their power to keep their children humble and chaste. Christian men need to flee from pornography because it teaches that sex is for pleasure, and it separates sexual intercourse from love and commitment and faithfulness between one man and one woman. Christians who are struggling in their marriages need to seek every means possible to avoid divorce. If we are going to confess the truth with our lips, we also need to confess the truth with our lives and sadly, we Christians do not have a very good confession when it comes to marriage.
Finally, and most importantly, we cling to Christ. We have never been taught that our hope is here on earth. Our hope is not a righteous and moral society. Our hope is not a certain political party or persuasion in power in the United States. Our hope is not the perfect family or the perfect marriage or perfect children. Our hope is Christ. He sits in heaven, having disarmed all powers and authorities. Sin is forgiven. Death is undone. Satan is silenced. You cannot see that yet, but you will. We live by faith in Jesus and look forward to that day when we will see our bridegroom face to face and enjoy the marriage feast that lasts forever.