Though I cannot say it was a shock to hear the SCOTUS ruling this past friday, I will admit that it did hurt. While for years I have been preaching the importance of adopting an exilic mindset, understanding that as Christians we are living in Babylon, it was none the less difficult coming to grips with how quickly and radically we had thrown off our Judeo-Christian heritage. Of course, as many sound minded analysts have noted, the issue is not only the legal redefinition of marriage, but the genuine threat to religious liberty that it poses. Along with them I fear that this has never been merely about the inclusion of homosexuals in the institution of marriage, but has been intended as a means of breaking the cultural influence of Christians in America. In an age of sloppy thinking and emotionally, rather than logically driven arguments, the gay marriage issue has provided a perfect opportunity to strike for those who resent the teaching of Christianity and the culturally formative power it has held. We were already seeing Christian business owners attacked when the debate was in full swing and now that the high court has spoken and essentially ended the political and legal debate, those attacks can be expected to increase with little hope of a happy resolution for Christians. Discussion has already begun, for example, about the possibility of eliminating tax exempt status for religious institutions (churches and Christian Schools) that insist on the traditional or Biblical view of marriage (see here) “The first amendment cannot be a cloak for prejudice and hatred,” they say. I have little doubt that in the not so distant future we will see not only Christian business men and women in legal battles over these matters of conscience, but also Christian ministers. Tough times are on the horizon
So what do we do? How do we respond? While it is easy and in some ways cathartic to grumble about the culture, ultimately it is not very productive. Much more will be required of us now. There is no doubt a great need for rational, thoughtful, and winsome responses to the recent ruling, but victory in this battle (and make no mistake about it, this is a spiritual battle that we are in) will not be won by good arguments alone. Nor will it be won by electing the right politicians (Psalm 146:3) though that is important and would possibly reap some short term benefits. No, this battle requires a long term strategy and will ultimately be won by the seemingly unimpressive acts of raising our children in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord, sacrificially loving our neighbors, standing firm upon Biblical truth and suffering for the cause of the kingdom. First and foremost then, we must attend to our personal holiness and that of our families. Christians must gear up for the cultural surge that is coming against them and to do so they must recommit themselves to the truth of God and a life of faithful obedience. This will require sobering up spiritually. For we have long lived in this country with a certain measure of privilege as Christians, and have grown used to having our worldview be acceptable, if not praised. But those days are over and we must come to grips with it. Therefore we must stop flirting around with ungodliness and treating our faith as a mere hobby. Now is the time for intentional Christianity. Mediocrity will not do. We must strap on the full armor of God if we are to stand. And so I offer a call to action which is not by any means novel, but is none the less necessary:
1. Pray: These unsettling developments must not drive us to despair, but to our knees. We must pray for our nation which appears dangerously similar to those written about in Romans 1. We must pray for our leaders and authorities, that they might repent and lead with wisdom and righteousness as representatives of God almighty who will one day hold them accountable. We must pray for those struggling with same sex attraction that this ruling might not insulate them from getting to the bottom of their brokenness. We must pray for the church that it might have the courage to stand for the truth, the compassion to minister to sinners, and the wisdom to apply both. Ultimately we must pray kingdom prayers; “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.”
2. Consume the Bible: If we do not commit to ingesting the Bible we will not have the fortitude to stand against the wave of cultural pressure. This may mean making decisions to stop ingesting as much TV or internet or whatever else has been dominating our intellectual and spiritual diet. Paul commands us not to conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This will only happen as we saturate out minds and hearts with God’s word. We must be those for whom the Bible is the ultimate and final authority and as such who let the Bible stand as judge over the American culture while the culture demands it the other way around. We must read it personally and with our children for only with a Biblical worldview established will we find the strength to persevere. Only then will we understand the story we are in and keep from being easily shook when troubles arise rather we will understand that we are called to suffer along with our Lord and that by that suffering the kingdom will prevail.
3. Train up our children: We must not assume that because we are Christians and are committed to following him that our children will necessarily do the same. To take a hands off approach in this cultural moment is to set our children up for spiritual failure. The amount of time that they spend soaking in the secular world view of our age has a powerful and formative effect upon them and this culture is not there to help you. There was a time when the values we set at home were for the most part repeated in the cultural institutions around us, but again, those days are gone. Today our Christian values are instead assaulted by those same institutions. As Christian parents and grand parents we must be diligent in training up our children in the truth of the faith and demonstrate it for them by living it in public. Our children need to see courageous, joy filled, sacrificial, and conscientious Christian models. As someone once said, what is assumed in one generation is lost in the next. If we are to prepare our children for the challenges they will face we must be committed to teaching and training them in the faith. I would therefore, also urge parents to reconsider the importance of Christian education for their children, that is placing them in an environment which will compliment rather than tear down the worldview they are being taught at home. We must reconsider the wisdom of sending our children to the government schools in which it is actually illegal to teach the Christian worldview. Though it is a great sacrifice to do so, I believe that it is a great gift that reaps life long benefits to have our children in Christian education.
4. Root yourself in Christian community: These times will require support and encouragement. We must not try to go it alone. We must find good churches and commit to them. We must be faithful in attendance and service. Church attendance must not become an option that is good if we have time for it in our schedule. Rather, it must be considered a necessity in order to ground ourselves in ultimate reality as we begin our week so that we are able to discern the tempting lies of the Evil One embedded in our culture. Ours is an age that has had the unfortunate effect of minimizing the importance of the local church, but now is the time to rediscover that importance. Christian community provides accountability and encouragement; the sense that we are not alone in our stand for the truth. Besides Church attendance, we must surround ourselves with Christian friends and do the same for our children. It is so important for them to have men and women, friends, uncles and aunts as models that provide positive social pressure for them as they mature. This is not to say that we should cloister ourselves by any means, but only that we make a concerted effort to find and cultivate a strong Christian community.
So, let the arguments and debates continue. We need good Christian minds making a case for the truth. And let us be diligent as to who we elect for we need wise and preferably godly leaders. However, for long term victory in America what we ultimately need is Christians who are committed to the truth, persistent in love, rooted in wisdom, abounding in courage, surrounded by community, and girded in the armor of God. The victory may not be quick in coming, for the cultural rot that is at the root of what we are now experiencing will not be undone in an instant. But let us be of good cheer, victory is inevitable. Christ has promised as much.