FIRST-PERSON: One pastor's response
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) -- When major events unfold in the culture such as the Supreme Court's rulings on same-sex marriage, we as pastors are called to help our people assess the events biblically and help them answer the question the late Francis Schaeffer put so well, "How should we then live?"
I have attempted to answer that question for the congregation which God has given me the profound privilege to shepherd:
-- As followers of Christ, we must realize that America is not our ultimate home. While we are thankful for all that the United States has stood for (and still stands for in many places), this country is not ultimate for believers; the Kingdom of God is ultimate. As fourth-century church father Augustine put it in his work "City of God," the Christian is simultaneously a citizen of two cities -- the city of man and the City of God. Bottom line: we are not home yet.
-- The Gospel, not courts or legislation, is the ultimate agent of change. Our deepest need is not the right legislation or different legislators, helpful though those can be to a country. Our deepest need is for the power of God to work in sinful human hearts to transform them.
-- We must prepare to be persecuted for our convictions to the glory of God. Once "same-sex marriage" is legalized, I suspect preaching the Bible's view that homosexuality is a sin will be deemed a crime through the passage of additional "hate speech" laws. Yet, we will not be daunted. Marriage is a Gospel issue and we will stand firm on God's truth and continue to proclaim it boldly and winsomely. They may arrest us, but we will only preach it in the jailhouse. Evil people have been trying to silence the Gospel for 2000 years without success and they will not muzzle the truth of God's Word on our watch. Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness' sake...." It may please God to shake His church but we must count it a privilege to suffer for the sake of righteousness. Our posture should be that of the apostles who, after being jailed for their Gospel faithfulness, Acts 5:41 tells us, "rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name."
-- We must pledge to live out our own marriages in faithfulness and obedience to God in accord with Ephesians 5:25-33. I want the world to see the Gospel portrayed in our own marriages so that they might be lighthouses from which God's glory shines forth into the dark and tumultuous sea that is our fallen culture.
-- We must see the tremendous opportunity that exists for us to share the light of the Gospel of Christ to the untold millions who are walking in sin's dark night. We must resist the temptation to wring our hands and stand about decrying the downgrade of America. Instead, we must see that a heightened opportunity for Gospel conversations and personal evangelism has arisen on an unprecedented level. We must arm ourselves with the Gospel and the love of Christ to be ready to give a defense for the hope that lies within us, but do so with humility and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
-- We must resist the impulse toward self-righteousness. It is only by God's grace that we have been rescued from sin through the power of the cross. Homosexuals, like all sinners, stand in need of this same grace we have received. The apostle Paul said it best in 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 and by the Spirit of our God." If we are saved, it is by God's grace alone. Homosexuals likewise need God's saving grace to open their eyes to the reality of their sinful lifestyles and they need repentance that will lead to life.
-- We must resist compromising the truth. In 1 Corinthians 13, the greatest love passage in all of Scripture, Paul makes it clear that "love rejoices with the truth." That is to say, love does not compromise truth. We must not give in to the ever-present temptation to compromise the truth of God's Word which clearly and repeatedly calls homosexual behavior an abomination and an overturning of the created order (See especially Romans 1). To make ourselves friends with the world on this point is to put ourselves at enmity with God and His truth. Our politically-correct culture is putting on a full-court press to push the church into compromise, but if we compromise the truth then we only doom our homosexual friends to a godless eternity because we have given away the only truth -- God' redeeming love in Christ -- that will rescue them.
-- We must love our homosexual neighbors. We must never compromise the truth of Scripture that homosexuality is a serious sin condemned by a holy God, but we must love the sinners and pray that God will change their hearts.
Jeff Robinson is elder of preaching and pastoral vision at Philadelphia Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).