Dear Louisiana Pastors and Leaders,
In the days since June 26, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, I have read and heard numerous commentaries on the subject and have mulled over what I should write to the Louisiana Baptist family. There is more to think about than can be conveyed in one letter (I hope you are availing yourself of resources being provided by respected Christian leaders) but I offer a few observations about how we should respond:
1. We should grieve. My initial feeling upon hearing the ruling was a profound sense of sadness. I was not surprised by the ruling. It was expected, and was consistent with the rapid acceptance of homosexual behavior in our culture. But it grieves me greatly that America would ratify as a preferred way of life that which is so contradictory to Christ, His Word, and His Church. It is not as though there was a lack of abundant evidence of a growing anti-Christian sentiment in our country before June 26. But the Supreme Court decision felt to me like an official public pronouncement against God. I think I understand how Ezekiel felt when the Spirit showed him the religious leaders of Judah worshipping the sun from within the sacred Temple of God. Would they really go this far? Did they not realize that God’s next step was to abandon them? And so I grieve. I grieve for the rebellion against our patient God who has blessed this nation beyond measure. I grieve for the judgment that will surely come. I grieve for my grandchildren. I grieve for the harm (temporal and eternal) to countless souls. I do not disagree with the many wise Christians who have counseled us in recent days not to despair. I, too, believe God is on his throne and will bring his kingdom to pass. I, too, believe he will bring some good things even out of this bad circumstance. But it is okay to grieve even as we pledge to stand firm and fight the good fight.
2. We should not change our views and practices on marriage. I am thankful that the Southern Baptist Convention leaders spoke definitively on this matter a few days ago. Because we take our marching orders from the Bible and not the Supreme Court, and because the Bible is clear on marriage being only between a man and a woman, we will not participate in same-sex marriage in any fashion. The jury is out on complications that may arise because of our refusal to go along with this cultural shift. We are making legal information available to our churches so we may be prepared as best we know how. We will assert that any attempt by the government to force us to participate in same-sex marriages is a violation of our religious liberty. However events unfold, we encourage every Louisiana Baptist to maintain the posture of not affirming, approving, or endorsing homosexual behavior in any form.
3. We should prepare to become more unpopular. We need to understand that any disapproval of homosexual behavior will be considered by many as an act of hatred or bigotry. We will be labeled as “homophobes.” Homophobia is a made-up word that is regularly applied in a pejorative way to anyone who believes homosexual behavior is a sin. You don’t have to engage in violence or mockery against homosexuals to get the label. Just suggest that it is wrong. Justice Kennedy, in the majority opinion, identified the disapproval of homosexual behavior as “injustice” per se. I hope the church will be kind and respectful toward those with whom it disagrees on this subject. I hope we will be as winsome and congenial as we can be. But do not expect a response in kind. Unless we are willing to say same-sex marriage in particular and homosexual behavior in general is a good thing, we will be vilified. But we are in good company. Jesus said, “(The world) hates me because I testify of it that its deeds are evil.” (John 7:7).
4. We should preach the Gospel. The truth is, our views on homosexuality are not our most unpopular beliefs. The most offensive (and most important) of our Christian doctrines is that Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life and those who do not believe in Him will not experience God’s love, but instead will experience God’s wrath for eternity. The world really doesn’t like to hear that. But don’t stop preaching and teaching it, or the truth about homosexuality, or the whole counsel of God. (II Tim. 4:2). I pray the Holy Spirit will give you discernment on how much to address critical cultural concerns while not neglecting the myriad of every day sins and struggles those under your influence are experiencing. I pray He will guide you to a proper balance between the prophetic word and the personal touch. And I pray He will use both to bring sinners, regardless of their offenses, to redemption.
These are challenging days, but also days of opportunity. The need for us, the body of Christ, to be “salt” and “light” has never been greater. Hear the Apostles’ admonition:
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life.” (Phil. 2:14-16a).
David E. Hankins
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