The recent Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, while perhaps unsurprising, is shocking in light of its massive implications. Now questions arise of the possible forfeiture of church tax exemptions, future changes in the definition of marriage to include polygamous and other relationships, and the ramifications for thirty-nine judicially browbeaten states that never democratically accepted the Court’s definition. (That’s right, only eleven states ever elected to accept same-sex “marriage” via popular vote, referendum, or state legislature.)
The day after the decision broke, I gave my dad a call to discuss the case’s implications for the church. Being the wise and compassionate man that he is, he gave me a few bits of article-worthy advice that gave me hope for the future.
1) God’s truth conquers all.
My dad reminded me of the story of Gideon in which the Lord delivered Midian into the hands of the Israelites using only 300 men. Believers must remember during this challenging time that it is “not by might nor by power” but by God’s Spirit that we will overcome and stand firm against the cultural tide.
2) This decision will strengthen the Church’s resolve.
Those who have stayed out of the marriage ruling will now be forced to take a stand. As many have already predicted, this ruling will make a dichotomy in the church of (1) those who capitulate to culture and (2) those who strengthen their resolve to defend God’s truth.
3) The Church will be forced into needed self-evaluation, which will strengthen biblical marriages.
Much of our conversation centered on pastors’ options, whether they could continue issuing marriage licenses to monogamous, heterosexual couples and not to same-sex couples. (Justice Scalia fears―see pages 23-24 of the oral arguments―that ministers will be stripped of the power to issue civil marriages at all should they refuse to marry two people of the same sex.)
While it seems likely that many churches will stop performing marriages altogether, Christians should be hopeful that the Obergefell decision will lead to a strengthened premarital discernment process in the church. Churches can (and will begin to) require membership, counseling, and a number of other things of engaged couples prior to their marriage. Completing membership courses and Christian premarital counseling would, of course, require an adherence to certain biblical values pertaining to marriage. Not only would this process protect pastors from “marrying” those whom their religious values say cannot be married, but also it would strengthen couples who can be biblically married.
My dad says that he looks forward to churches marketing themselves as places virtually rid of divorce thanks to a strengthened understanding of godly marriage within the Body. As the only pastoral “counseling” he received was to “be financially stable,” he hopes for required premarital counseling sessions for those marrying in the church. These session, he hopes, will both chip away the culture’s painting of marriage as something to be entered into for personal happiness and help couples to understand the biblical roles of man and wife. Hopeful for the impact of this strengthened process, he goes so far as to predict individual church signs celebrating “twenty-five years divorce-free.” What an inspirational outlook!
The Church must now define with more clarity than ever what it means to speak the truth in love and to hold to convictions with compassion. As we look to the future, let us be filled with hope and excitement to see what God will bring about.