FIRST-PERSON: Chutzpah and the Supreme Court
EDITOR'S NOTE: Paige Patterson is president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- "He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall have them in derision. Then He will speak to them in His wrath and distress them in His deep displeasure" (Psalm 2:4-5).
A 5-4 decision of the nation's highest court to redefine the nature of marriage plays with far more than a definition of terms. Homosexual sin, like my sin and your sin, has a long history. But seldom has anyone had the chutzpah to assume such authority as to deny the authority of the God of all law, trash the Genesis creation order, and plunge a country into a dark abyss.
New Testament Christianity has never sought to invade the private domains of individuals with a series of legal mandates. Ours is to love all women and men and faithfully disseminate the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to all who will hear. We grieve when some do not hear, but we grant them the right inherent in their humanity to chart a course far from that revealed by the Lord.
But this is a decision of five people in a country of millions to call something right that God has already called wrong. Isaiah noted: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil; who put darkness for light and light for darkness…" (Isaiah 5:20). A dark day overtakes us when the Supreme Court of our land empties the meaning from a concept that God has given. The mischief that will emerge from this ruling across the years to come will know little respite and trigger enormous suffering for believers and unbelievers alike.
What, then, are Christians to do in light of this ruling?
First, knowing the inevitability of the judgment of God on those who flaunt His laws, we must love and earnestly pray for all who stand ripe for the judgment of God. This includes the justices who ruled so crassly. Many prayed for us when we were confronted with our rebellion against God; we must not do less for them.
Second, anything that resembles gay-bashing must be foreign to our behavior and speech. Every sin has its deep consequences, some more than others. Breach of God's ethic for marriage is especially odious to believers attempting to rear children in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord, but this does not alter the obligation we carry to meet human needs wherever we encounter them and share the saving Gospel of Jesus with all.
Third, we must cultivate understanding for weaker brethren who will succumb to the enormous pressures that will inevitably come upon all who resist the Supreme Court mandate. This does not mean that we agree with them, but it does suggest that we comprehend human frailty and know that God is able to forgive that also.
Fourth, we must not bend on the issues. God says that adultery is wrong and that divorce is wrong. To abuse a child is clearly contrary to God's will and purpose. Homosexual behavior is no different and is called sin in Scripture. Nor can evangelicals perform weddings for same-sex couples, and the church must be prepared to proceed with an ordered and loving church discipline for those who refuse to correct any lifestyle violating the clear teachings of God's Word. All sinners will continue to be welcome in our services and will be the objects of our kindness and grace. But under no circumstances will we alter our preaching or practice to conform to the dictates of a human court.
The critical issue that many recognize is the future of religious liberty. This nation's founding fathers fought to guarantee that liberty, and we are prepared to suffer in order to preserve that most precious of all freedoms. In fact, without religious liberty, people are not really free at all.
The struggle to maintain that which our forefathers fought to provide now begins. Whatever the cost, stay true to God's Word. With heaviness of heart we acknowledge that we are now facing such exigencies. With gratitude to God, we accept the opportunity, when necessary, to suffer for Him.