After Obergefell – A Pastoral Letter

Dear Congregation,

Social media is awash with rants for and against the ruling from the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) yesterday regarding homosexual marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges). My contribution on Facebook was simply to quote relevant sections of the dissents written by the four judges in the minority. Even though there are some legal technicalities in these dissents regarding due process, the 14th amendment, and more, I would nevertheless strongly encourage you to sit down and read through the opinions of the minority. There are a great many cogent, logical arguments against the majority decision that are well worth pondering.

Look, this decision is huge. Massive. Unless something unforeseen happens, our future as a country has been decided. And for thoughtful Christians contemplating the implications of this, it doesn’t look good.

Many Christian pastors, theologians, and churches have already put out statements about the implications of this decision. I’ll refer to a few of them in this note. I’m sure there will be many more that are published as the weeks go on. But in this note to you all, I’d like to highlight eight reflections for us Christians to consider. This is not going to be an exhaustive list. It will be as “balanced” as I can make it. I simply want to help you assess your responsibility in this new American culture.

First, as Christians, we are committed to the Law of God as revealed in the Scriptures. God has told us plainly what is right and what is wrong—not just for “religious” Christians but for all men and women created in his image. Homosexual sex is sinful, a violation of God’s commandments. It is a perversion of God’s intention for human sexuality, a terrible distortion of what we were made for.

God has given the gift of sexual intimacy to male and female married couples. In that context sex is healthy, enjoyable, fun, and is the way in which God renews humanity through procreation. God made us male and female, with physiological and psychological differences that are nevertheless meant to “fit” with one another. Again, this is true for all people, not just for Christians. No declaration, human law, academic paper, political speech, or SCOTUS ruling can overturn what God has created and ordained. As one of my friends has said, “The Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being.”

Given the reality of our created nature, Christians should not lose heart. Our culture has been on this trajectory for many decades. They are not just warring against God, but against their own nature (see Romans 1). What did we really expect would happen? Even so, remember the truth of God’s Word stands firm. This is His world.  He rules it. He knows what is best for us.

We will continue to proclaim his life-giving prescription for human happiness and freedom. That is part of our calling: to let the world know that true human fulfillment and joy comes in keeping his commandments. They are not burdensome, but life-giving! Living in rebellion against God’s law does not bring happiness, freedom, or human flourishing. Quite the opposite.

Second, as I have been saying for many years, everything we cherish and love about American culture (freedom, stability, peace, unity in diversity, the rule of law, limited government, economic productivity, social order, etc.) has been the cumulative result of the influence of the Christian faith and the Christian church in the West. The laws we take for granted—the one’s we tend to think are just “natural” for humans living anywhere—are all rooted in centuries of wise, Christian reflection on the Bible and God’s law.

For all of our real faults as a culture, the Christian vision of the family, school, government, and society that has flourished in the West is far superior to others. What’s my point? Only that what we have taken for granted for so long is in the process of being pulled out from under us. Without the Christian foundation there is nothing to build on but the will of the majority or the will of the powerful.

And we know where that leads.  Just remember the French Revolution, the Third Reich, and the Bolshevik Revolution.  Two decades ago, in his book Whatever Happened to the Human Race Francis Shaeffer wrote these prophetic words: “First, the whole concept of law has changed. When a Christian consensus existed, it gave a base for law. Instead of this, we now live under arbitrary, or sociological, law. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes took a big step in the change toward sociological law. Holmes said, ‘Truth is the majority vote of that nation that could lick all others.’ In other words, law is only what most of the people think at that moment of history, and there is no higher law. It follows, of course, that the law can be changed at any moment to reflect what the majority currently thinks.

“More accurately, the law becomes what a few people in some branch of the government think will promote the present sociological and economic good. In reality the will and moral judgments of the majority are now influenced by or even overruled by the opinions of a small group of men and women. This means that vast changes can be made in the whole concept of what should and what should not be done. Values can be altered overnight and at almost unbelievable speed.”

Yes, indeed, values have been altered overnight; our culture is changing at an unbelievable speed.

Third, what SCOTUS has done is normalized and institutionalized the sin of homosexual behavior. John Piper’s remarks are to the point: “The Bible is not silent about such decisions. Alongside its clearest explanation of the sin of homosexual intercourse (Romans 1:24–27) stands the indictment of the approval and institutionalization of it. Though people know intuitively that homosexual acts (along with gossip, slander, insolence, haughtiness, boasting, faithlessness, heartlessness, ruthlessness) are sin, ‘they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them’ (Romans 1:29–32). ‘I tell you even with tears, that many turn glory in their shame’ (Philippians 3:18–19).

“What’s new is not even the celebration and approval of homosexual sin. Homosexual behavior has been exploited, and reveled in, and celebrated in art, for millennia. What’s new is normalization and institutionalization. This is the new calamity.

“It’s not the only sin mentioned, but it is different from all the rest, at least right now. At this moment in history, contrary to the other sins listed here, homosexuality is celebrated by our larger society with pioneering excitement. It’s seen as a good thing, as the new hallmark of progress.”

This is what is so difficult for us as Christians. When we say homosexual behavior is a sin we are not intending to make this sin the chief sin. It is certainly not an unforgivable sin (see 1 Corinthians 6:11 for biblical evidence that some had repented of homosexual behavior and left it behind as a way of life).

And we are not always talking about homosexual sin. It’s not our hobbyhorse. In the past, I preached on this sin when we came across it in our sermon texts. It’s actually been a long time since I referred to it from the pulpit. Our associate pastor preached a sermon on this a few years back, but the thrust of that sermon was that we need to have compassion for and help believers that struggle to combat homosexual desires and temptation.

But Piper’s point ought to be digested. We will now have to talk a bit more about this sin because our government and culture are elevating and celebrating it as something beautiful, healthy, and good. Piper’s article called “Why Homosexuality is Not Like other Sins” is worth reading. We will need to be well versed in how to speak publicly and privately about this topic.

Fourth, we should be courageous in the face of threats and warnings to keep our religious “opinions” private. One of the travesties of modern progressivism is the reduction of “religion” to the realm of private opinions and individualistic convictions. This modern definition of religion is designed to silence Christian people.

The Christian faith/religion/worldview — use whatever term you want — is a vision about all of reality. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus died, rose again, and has been made King over all of life. His kingdom includes not just what happens between your ears or in your isolated heart, but also in your homes, neighborhoods, schools, cities, businesses, States, and even our national life. Jesus and John the Baptist call kings and rulers to repentance.

Christians have always understood that we have a prophetic vocation that compels us to speak the truth to our neighbor and fellow citizen. We do that because we love them. When a Christian culture is established and the law reflects the Law of God, then everyone benefits from the peace, prosperity, and freedom that results. Christian governments have always enacted legislation against homosexual behavior, not because we hate homosexuals or hate freedom, any more than we hate thieves or hate sex when we call for laws banning fornication and pornography. No, we believe that God’s law brings happiness and freedom and prosperity, etc. We love our neighbor as ourselves, so we want to guard and protect him from himself and from others.

Of course, we must exercise this prophetic calling lovingly, winsomely, and with humility. So if I admonish you to be courageous, that does not mean I want you to get on Facebook or Twitter and start screaming about this. Watch your language. Be careful how you phrase things. Our position alone is enough to enrage people. There’s no need to add to that offense the offense of being snarky, obnoxious, and caustic in our communication of the truth.

Remember Colossians 4:5, 6: “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Don’t let the accusation that we are intolerant bigots be true in your behavior and speech. We are not likely to sidestep those aspersions when it comes to the content of our position. Even so, let’s not aggravate things with childish rhetoric and arguments with friends, neighbors, and especially on social media. God comes to us with truth and love, and we must approach others with both as well.

Fifth, I’m in agreement with what many of my friends have written: “the best defense of marriage will always be marriage itself.” Not a week goes by without some Christian denigrating the name of God by his unfaithfulness, and this week was no exception.

Pastor Rich Lusk in Birmingham has an excellent summary: “If you are married, recommit yourself to keeping your vows. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church. Wives, respect your husbands as the church does Christ. Parents, disciple your children in the truth of God’s Word. Personal and familial holiness is the greatest need of the hour. The best witness we can give the world at this moment is the witness of happy and holy Christian families. Whatever our marital status, we should all recommit ourselves to sexual purity in mind and body because we cannot expect our witness to be effective if we are compromised in this area.”

Sixth, the pastor and elders of Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church are in the process of reviewing our constitution and by laws to make sure we are fully protected so we can continue to perform our Christian duties in a way that is most pleasing to God and beneficial to our community. Please pray for us as we think about how best to insure against legal and other forms of attack against our traditional ministry.

Seventh, don’t be too anxious about this. Surely this was not unexpected. God has not made any special promises to the USA. Our nation and culture can fall and be replaced just like so many before us. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). When Rome was sacked by the “barbarians” in the 5th century, Augustine wrote a big fat book called The City of God so that Christians could put everything in perspective. The world didn’t end. Human history and progress didn’t screech to a halt. In truth, it had only just begun.

The Roman Empire needed to be judged in order for something new and better to emerge. God is always judging old worlds in order to bring about new, better worlds. That may be what is happening here. I don’t know. But what I do know is that we Christians are called to “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life” (Phil. 2:14-16). Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20) and heaven is coming in triumph to the earth (Rev. 21)!

Lastly, do not doubt the power of God through the proclamation of the Gospel. The Lord is able to change hearts and minds. His Spirit is able to work in the lives of all kinds of sinners to bring them to repentance and into a new life. Every one of us has received and continues to receive the grace of forgiveness from our heavenly Father because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. That grace is available to everyone who turns to him in faith.  We are not ashamed of the Gospel, for as Paul says, “It is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

Take a moment and reflect on how Paul’s admonition to Pastor Titus applies to us in these challenging times: “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people” (Titus 3:1-8).

There’s much more that could and should be said. The magazine First Things has already put together a symposium of Christian pastors, theologians, and educators on the implications of the SCOTUS decision. There are a lot of thoughtful ideas shared in that symposium.

I hope that I have made myself sufficiently clear and not muddied the waters. There are places above that might be better phrased or more carefully qualified. I’m sorry. This is a quick response to help you process what has happened. I only pray that it will help.

May the Lord graciously give us the courage to fulfill our calling in these troubling times!

Pastor Jeff Meyers

Jeff Meyers is Pastor of Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, and Chairman of the Board of Theopolis.