Without most of us knowing it, the culture in America had a sizematic shift last week. In a decision that will have far-reaching implications, President Obama and the Justice Department determined that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and they will no longer defend the law in the courts or pursue people who break the law. Without a long diatribe about this, in effect, this decision clears the path for homosexual marriage to be the law of the land in a short time. This decision is actually a reversal of the stated beliefs that Obama holds, but it mirrors that which is happening in our culture. Over the past fifteen years the percentage of Americans who support gay marriage as a fundamental right has increased by fifteen percent, with current statistics showing that just under half of Americans oppose gay marriage while 42% support the idea. This is opposed to responses in 1996 where 65% opposed to just 27% support. During those years our culture has pretty much had an all out assault on this issue from those in pop-culture often ostracizing anyone who believe marriage was reserved for one man and one woman. Just two weeks ago, in his interview with Lady Gaga, Jay Leno declared that virtually no young American held beliefs against gay marriage.
OK, so to this point you are probably thinking that I am writing a blog that calls us to defend traditional marriage, and stand for what is right in a culture that has beliefs that are contrary to the Bible. While I do think we need to declare the truth of God in love, I am actually writing this blog to speak to Genesis and others who read this about the New Testament model for living in a culture that on a growing level sees the ideals and beliefs of Christianity as archaic and evil. This is happening here. The battle on gay marriage is effectively coming to an end, and I do believe it will just be a matter of years before marriage is defined as a loving relationship between any people. Not far behind this will be arguments for polygamy and other practices that we don’t even want to think about. Beyond that, I believe that in increasing ways over the coming years those who live the lifestyle of a follower of Jesus and hold the truths of Biblical Christianity will increasingly be marginalized in American culture. So what are we to do?
So to my main point. The real defense of marriage is not our arguments, it is our marriages and our own values about marriage. In other words, the greatest proof of the Gospel is not how we articulate our message but how we live our lives as transformed people. The real tragedy in our country is not the legalization of gay marriage, it is the reality that those who claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior have no differing values or actions in real life regarding marriage and sexuality. Research in the last few years has shown that Christians are just as likely to divorce as non-believers, and one in four people who are considered born-again Christians have lived with a sexual partner with whom they are not married. This means that as we shout at the TV when we hear people opposing the Biblical view of marriage, in reality the practice of marriage among those who call themselves believers is virtually no different from those who do not know God and have not experienced the Gospel.
As a culture, we are moving closer and closer to the cultural situation that existed in first century Rome at the time of the New Testament. They were a pluralistic society that was very open to all kinds of sexual freedom and public views. Christianity was attacked and persecuted in many ways, and the views of Christians were seen as weird and intolerable. But it was the lives of early Christians that drew people to the Gospel. 1 Peter is a book written to people who are experiencing this struggle, and Peter’s admonition to them is that they will demonstrate the beauty of the Gospel through the holiness in their lives not the power of their arguments. In 1 Peter 2:12 he says, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Later Peter tells these early Christians to endure suffering and persecution, and to have holy marriages as a picture of the Gospel in the culture. “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” Did you hear what he said. First, we are to honor Christ the Lord as holy, to determine that Jesus is my God, He is perfect, I will serve him with my life. Then as we live that way, the manner of our lives will glow so that people will wonder how we can live hope-filled lives in a world that offers little hope. When we are asked, we answer with truth, but with gentleness and respect. The people who hear our defense of this hope will slander us, but as they do our good behavior, not our wonderful arguments will put them to shame.
This happened in the early church. When infanticide was a common practice and the Roman embraced the discarding of infants in their laws, early Christians began to find the babies on the streets and adopt them as their own. Many of the discarded babies were deformed or mentally disabled, but Christians demonstrated the Gospel by their actions, not their arguments. In a pornographic culture where marriage was nothing more than a social contract and married men often visited brothels as acts of worship to their gods, Christians lived monogamous lives in loving marital relationships. As the Roman world rejected the poor and hurting, Christians cared for them. Julian the Apostate, who was the last pagan emperor of Rome saw that the humble and holy lives of Christians was winning the culture, wrote, “These impious Galileans (Christians) not only feed their own, but ours also; welcoming them with their agape, they attract them, as children are attracted with cakes… Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity, and by a display of false compassion have established and given effect to their pernicious errors. Such practice is common among them, and causes contempt for our gods (Epistle to Pagan High Priests).” You see, the values of the Roman culture was that they freely shared their beds, but not their pocketbooks. Into this world Christians came and they freely shared their pocketbooks but not their beds. Their lives of joy and grace became the best defense of marriage, and defense of the Gospel.
So let me close this lengthy blog by being practical. What should we do when we see evidences of the cultural shift. How do we as Christians respond when our President makes this decision, or the number one pop-icon of the day is openly homosexual and influences the world that she was “born this way,” or when those who hold Biblical views are criticized and ridiculed? I believe the answer is that we ought to get up out of our chairs and kiss our wives. Men ought to see this as a commission to love their wives as Christ loved the church. It ought to be a deep reminder to date each other, to have free and wonderful sex lives, and to find great joy in the marriage God has given. Whenever we see marriage attacked, it should be a deep reminder that the true defense of marriage will not come through a law, it will come through Gospel-centered people who resolve to stay married and to have great marriages! It means we should find the Gospel deep in our lives and apply it to our marriages, being quick to forgive, and constantly loving in a way that we seek the good of our spouse. It means that single people should live for God’s ideals, remaining pure until marriage even though they know the culture around them will see that as an archaic view. And we do all this with gentleness and respect. Then, while the world is shouting at us declaring that the Biblical view of these issues is evil and wrong, they will come to a point where they see our joy and hope, and they will wonder why we are the only ones who are happy? It will be the beauty of our marriages and lives and not the quality of our arguments that win them over to the truth of the Gospel To God be the glory!