The recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage doesn’t create a new cultural situation for the church in America. However, it does bring our cultural situation into sharp focus. The court ruled that the federal government cannot refuse to recognize same-sex unions in cases where those unions are recognized by states. The court also declared—applying to marriage law a principle it first applied to discrimination law in 2003—that there can never be reasonable grounds for opposing same-sex marriage. American courts can now review marriage laws on the assumption that opposition to same-sex marriage is irrational hatred, in the same way they treat racist beliefs as presumptively invalid when weighing racial discrimination laws. As Justice Antonin Scalia observes in his dissenting opinion, the court has declared that opponents of same-sex marriage are “enemies of humanity.”

My fellow enemies of humanity, the challenges in our culture are daunting, but there is much hope. Obviously our ultimate hope is not in cultural change, but in the work of Christ. Yet we cannot be conformed to the image of Christ if we don’t wrestle with the complex challenges of faithful citizenship in our civilization and take action for the good of our neighbors here and now.

In our culture, sexual immorality is increasingly normative and moral restraint is labeled as deviant—bizarre, unhealthy, irrational, hateful. The laws of our country declare that we are public enemies. Christians are challenged to bear witness for righteousness as members of this culture. But what does that mean? Should the law impose a Christian view of marriage on everyone? Should we withdraw from public questions and focus on personal conversion?

If anything is certain, it’s that the path ahead is clear to God, but not to us. Our job is not to predict the ultimate outcome of the fight over marriage but to be good citizens. Here are six starting points.

1. Don’t panic—this is normal. Almost all societies in human history have formally recognized quasi-legitimate sexual arrangements and labeled those who oppose such arrangements as deviant. From concubinage to catamitage to common-law marriage, this is what human society usually looks like. For a time, we have been blessed to be one of the few exceptions: a culture that institutionalizes the natural family. Same-sex marriage supporters are effectively lobbying for a return to normal. Of course, what is “normal” for fallen humanity is miserable, degrading, and cruel—as we are unfortunately seeing every day as sexual morality disintegrates. But it’s not like Christ has been knocked off the heavenly throne. Compare this to what some of our brothers and sisters in Nigeria must suffer.

2. Resentment is from the Devil. This decision violates all civilized standards of the rule of law; it substitutes the will of the judges for the Constitution and undermines the democratic and republican foundations of the civil community. Moreover, it is a dagger at the heart of free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of association. It seeks to strip our standing as members of decent society simply because we hold the same view of marriage that every society in history (including those that welcomed homosexual sex in other forms) has always held.

Brothers and sisters, all feelings of resentment at this terrible act must be killed immediately. We must hate injustice, but we must not resent it. Unless we kill our resentment—really kill it, crucify it mercilessly—whatever we try to do in response will fail. We need to love our country even when it persecutes us. If we don’t, how dare we call ourselves followers of the one who wept over his country because it persecuted him (Matthew 23:37) and pronounced royal pardons upon it even as it was torturing him to death (Matthew 12:32; Luke 23:34)?

3. Don’t give up—we must fight for marriage. We are American citizens with a right and a duty to promote what we think is best for our country. Institutionalizing natural marriage in the law is not imposing Christianity on people by force, any more than institutionalizing respect for life and property in the law. Natural marriage is not a special invention of Christianity but the universal heritage of all humanity over all recorded history. Our neighbors desperately need it, just as much as they need the laws against murder and theft. Shame on us if we don’t love our neighbors enough to fight for marriage.

However, there are also specifically Christian reasons to should fight for marriage. As the court’s decision shows, the movement for same-sex marriage is seamlessly integrated with a cultural narrative that labels the gospel as evil. If that narrative becomes institutionalized, doors and hearts will close against the gospel across America. The Lord will build his church, of course, but part of how he builds his church is through our cultural engagement. In fact, the way we participate in these kinds of debates can itself be a magnificent witness for the gospel. Let’s not lose that opportunity.

Granted, the old methods of fighting for marriage are clearly failing. We need a new fight for marriage with new methods that reconcile natural marriage with dignity and freedom for all, including people who identify themselves as gay. The best professional activists for marriage are already working to take the movement in this direction. Check out the work of the John Jay Institute’s Nathan Hitchen on the dynamics of cultural “framing.” We should lead with religious freedom as a point where we can find common ground and keep our eyes open for workable compromises that would allow Americans of diverse beliefs to live together without radical changes to the marriage laws.

4. Deinstitutionalize enmity. The most monstrous aspect of this decision is how it promotes hatred between opposing sides of the marriage debate. The law is establishing as a matter of institutional fact that people who disagree over marriage are enemies who hate one another. By establishing the expectation that people who disagree about marriage hate one another, the court is helping produce more such hatred. Larger cultural trends have been doing the same thing outside the law for a long time; in American culture you are not allowed to love the people you disagree with. The possibility is simply assumed to be impossible and ruled out in advance.

We can fight against this trend as hard as we fight for natural marriage. We can defend marriage in a way that proves the courts and the culture wrong by deinstitutionalizing enmity. That is, we must go the extra mile to demonstrate that we assume we are not enemies with those who disagree. Obviously when people attack us relentlessly we will not be able to establish good relations with them, but we can at least demonstrate that we are not the ones who want to be enemies.

5. Oppose all disordered sexuality on the same terms.  Our critics are right about at least one thing: for two generations, American evangelicals have not invested nearly as much effort in fighting divorce, pornography, illegitimacy, and a host of other degrading sexual sins with the same vigor we have brought to abortion and gay marriage. This disproportion tends to confirm the assumption that we have a special animus against homosexuals. We should reorient our thinking to treat all disordered sexuality on the same terms. In the area of sexuality, people with homosexual desires have the same basic problem as everyone else. All of us have disordered sexual desires. Some men desire other men; some men desire women whose bodies have been grotesquely mutilated by plastic surgery. I see no reason to think the former sin is more evil than the latter sin, and I see much reason to think the latter is much more widespread than the former.

If we thought in these terms, we would change our priorities. For example, we would pay much more attention to the unspeakable wickedness of divorce. This is an issue where we can get out in front of the culture and join together with people who disagree with us in other areas to do a lot of real good.

6. Strengthen our own marriages.  Like all human beings, we are cultural creatures. We are formed by the assumptions, narratives, and institutions of our society. It is a critical job of the church to embrace all that is good in each human culture while challenging all that is bad. How we go about challenging what is bad is a complex subject, but everyone agrees we must not simply go with the flow. At the very least, our own lives must stand out as different from our neighbors’ because we are holy as God is holy. That is not enough by itself, but if we don’t start there, nothing else we do is going to matter much.

While there is a small minority of highly active Christians who have strong families, the large majority of the people affiliated with American evangelical churches are “going with the flow” of divorce and illegitimacy. We have to do better. We need to build a movement that helps local churches become places where marriages are strengthened. We will have succeeded only when Christians gain a reputation as people who have fantastic marriages. If marriage is a living picture of the gospel, strengthening our marriages is really strengthening our gospel life. Truly, the new fight for marriage begins at home.

Is there enough evidence for us to believe the Gospels?

In an age of faith deconstruction and skepticism about the Bible’s authority, it’s common to hear claims that the Gospels are unreliable propaganda. And if the Gospels are shown to be historically unreliable, the whole foundation of Christianity begins to crumble.
But the Gospels are historically reliable. And the evidence for this is vast.
To learn about the evidence for the historical reliability of the four Gospels, click below to access a FREE eBook of Can We Trust the Gospels? written by New Testament scholar Peter J. Williams.