Well, its been almost two weeks since the marriage decision handed down by the Supreme Court I have done a lot of thinking about the implications and challenges that lie ahead for people who trust in Jesus. In all honesty, the decision and the culture shift that led to this actually signals the end of an era in our country, the era of cultural Christianity. For several decades the functional religious view of a significant number of Americans is that of cultural Christianity. In this era those claiming to be Christian maintained a dominant voice and the church for the most part found favor in the culture. While there were lots of people who disagreed with the core teachings of the Gospels, there was not many who would not identify themselves with some aspect of Christianity. Since it was pretty much the norm for almost everyone to label themselves as “Christian”, often to chose not to do so was to be ostracized politically and socially. In other words, twenty years ago, if someone labeled themselves as an Athiest, agnostic, or Hindu it would be very difficult for those people to find a voice in the culture.
The result was that the difference between those who are culturally Christian and those who had a genuine faith in Jesus was pretty muddy water. For many, the Christian faith was more of an identification with Rush Limbaugh than with Jesus. For others, being a “Christian” meant that they had been gone to church at some point, they believed in God and country, and for the most part lived moral lives. But the cultural revolution has flipped the story. First, there is no reason to claim Christianity for cultural reasons. In fact, if a person wants acceptance in this culture the fastest way to gain it is to throw off the so called bondage of religion and embrace the “real you”. Second, more and more people are growing up as children of culturally Christian parents, and they saw that the so-called faith of their parents had not real meaning and value. So they see no reason to embrace the religious ideals of their parents. So this generation has not had their ethics shaped by Scripture and for the most part are rejecting things that were givens in previous generations here.
OK, I know, if you are reading it sounds like doom and gloom. I just wanted to build the case that I know want to make. It is actually a really good day to be a follower of Jesus! The current culture is filled with opportunities for those of us who deeply love Jesus and find our lives centered on Him. The current day provides us to demonstrate the beauty of the Gospel and the wonder of life-change more than any other time. The purpose of this blog is to share a few of those opportunities and to encourage you to pursue these in light of the recent decision and cultural momentum.
1. The opportunity to live knowing that God is sovereign – There is a constant drumbeat throughout Scripture telling the story of God’s sovereign control over the nations, over kings, over rules, and yes over the Supreme Court. One of the reasons God has given us the Old Testament is to remind us of this. The rise and fall of multiple rulers, kingdoms, and dynasties in the story are there to show us that God’s purpose remained in spite of a king’s pursuits. For example, long before Nebuchadnezzar was born and the Babylonian Empire arose God had already spoken through His prophets predicting their ascent and conquest of Israel. God demonstrated His sovereignty over Babylon through these prophetic predictions. The theme continues as the story of the Babylonian Empire and captivity of the Hebrews is told through the pens of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. I would imagine the Hebrews who had been taken from their homes and homeland and forced to live in a distant country to serve a wicked king believed God had either lost a battle and was no longer sovereign or He had left them. Yet, God was orchestrating the events and even using the decisions of Nebuchadnezzar to accomplish his purpose. In the same way, God did not wake up on the morning of June 26 wondering what the decision would be and then start wringing His hands trying to figure out what to do next. God is sovereign. As followers of Jesus we must find great hope in this, knowing that God is bringing all of HIStory to its intended purpose and end. So how do we live in the sovereignty of God? I think Jeremiah’s words to the exiles in Jeremiah 29 tell us.
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
(Jeremiah 29:4-7 ESV)
Here is the point. If I know God is sovereign I can leave the judgment part on the culture to Him and I can live as a good citizen, praying for the welfare and peace of the culture. I build houses, get married, have kids. But I always remember that Nebuchadnezzar is not my true king, some day I will go home. So I live in the current situation as a citizen of a different kingdom. The Hebrews were called to live with grace in Babylon, love the Babylonians, but to never surrender their allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar. And just like Daniel, this will be so counter-cultural it will be like glow in the dark.
2. The opportunity to read and know Scripture – One of the things the current situation has exposed is the absolute biblical illiteracy of most people who claim to know Jesus and attend the average church (including Genesis, I fear). The reason I know this is because I see so many well-intentioned believers who have absolutely no ability to respond to the current cultural arguments. It is amazing how consistently clear the Bible is on the definition of marriage and God’s purpose for sexuality. But is is also amazing how consistently clear the Bible is on God’s mission for the church and His plan for us to live in culture Christians who do not read and learn their Bible will drift either to cultural accommodation or Christian snobbery. Some will cave quickly to the cultural arguments and give up the clear teachings of Scripture on marriage. But others resort to quoting a few verses and turning the situation into a cultural war, without hearing the clear command to love people and treat them as those created in the image of God. The current day presents us with a great opportunity, one to grow up in the Scriptures. To spend time reading, studying, and growing in the inerrant Word of God so that we can:
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.
(1 Peter 3:15-16 ESV)
3. The opportunity to love your wife or your husband deeply – It may be that the greatest argument for the Biblical definition of marriage will be gospel-centered marriages. Maybe rather than spending hours up at night wondering what will come of our country, we should spend hours up at night figuring out how to give ourselves away to our spouses. The truth is that too many of us want to argue with the culture while having crappy marriages at home. I think this is the greatest opportunity for us in the Christian church. We can re-evaluate our own ideals as it relates to marriage. We can remember for ourselves that God gave marriage as a deeply theological picture of the Trinity. As God performs the first marriage in Genesis 2, the beauty of it is that two distinctly different and complementary people are created in the image of God. Yet there is something that is not good when they do not have a side-by-side relationship where the differences come together so the two will be one flesh (Genesis 2). This is painting a picture of the One True God who eternally exists as three persons, distinct and different in ways, but one in essence. We can also be reminded that Christian marriage is an earthly picture of Christ and his church (Ephesians 5). So, I think the greatest call of the recent Supreme Court decision is the call to be more intentional in loving my wife Heidi as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. The only way this happens is intentionality. It means that rather than reading every blog on the culture, I might need to sit down with my wife every day and listen to her as she expresses her soul. It may mean that while I line my schedule up with important things to do, I need to be intentional about setting aside time to date my wife and be with my kids. It may mean that the best think I can do in response to the current culture is to put my phone down while I am with my kids and actually give them my attention and my soul, rather than “being with them” by sitting in a chair near where they play and keeping up with Twitter so I can see the latest statement from my favorite cultural commentators.
This is just a few reasons I believe this is a good season to be a follower of Jesus. That doesn’t mean it will be an easy season, but a good season. In the era of cultural Christianity there were lots of people speaking from a position of cultural privilege telling the culture how they were supposed to live. But in reality the lifestyles of those who claimed to be Christian was really no different from those who did not. But now we have the opportunity to actually demonstrate a deep difference in the character and resulting joy that comes from knowing Christ. May we double down our efforts on this, and may the beauty of Christ shine forth through His people who rest in His sovereignty, know His word, and love the wife or husband of their youth.