“Pastor Hagen, how do you feel about the Supreme Court ruling in favor of nationwide homosexual marriage?”
That’s the funny thing about being a pastor: People ask what you think. (Doesn’t mean they’ll agree with what I say, or listen to what God’s Word says . . . but it’s a starting point.)
And without fail, my answer has been the same: “I feel relieved.”
Relieved and optimistic. Not happy – but relieved, and optimistic.
It’s never exciting when the laws of our land move further & further away from the revealed Word of God – but in this case, I’m relieved. I’m not happy that our courts have decided to leave naturally-born children out of the definition of marriage; but amid all the apparent storm clouds, I spy a silver lining. And I’m optimistic.
Hopefully, Christians will finally realize that our government (and its Constitution) are not, never have been, and never will be Christian. Even though every government is established by God (Romans 13), our government is not and never will be Christian; and our government ought not be entrusted with the task of changing hearts, reforming society, or ushering in a Christian era.
Turning the government into a Christian institution is not the task of the Christian church. Enacting laws that reflect Christian belief is not the task of the Christian church, either; reforming society is not the task of the Christian church.
The uniquely Christian task is to proclaim law and gospel: our need for holiness from God, and the perfection freely given through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit will re-shape and re-direct the hearts that laws cannot reach.
One author put it this way: “What would a city look like if it were run entirely by Satan?” We’d expect graffiti, rampant crime, illegal and illicit drug use, and a red-light district encompassing the city.
But the opposite would also be true: a city that was well-kept, where the children said “ma’am” and “sir,” where the churches were full…and Christ was not preached.
Satan could use both scenarios to lead people away from Christ and straight to hell. And I’m relieved, even optimistic, that maybe - just maybe - Christians are waking up to our sole duty and unique task: proclaiming Jesus.
Of course, your Christianity will still influence your citizenship; throughout history, Christians have spoken and voted to protect life. Christians started hospitals and ministered to the poor, even when the government had overlooked those segments of society. You don’t leave your Christianity outside of the voting booth as you consider the platforms of those who will write our society’s laws.
But we cannot expect the government to do what only the Christian church can do.
I’m relieved (but not elated) that the Supreme Court voted as it did; not because their vote reflects what God says (because it doesn’t), and not because the vote fits with the intended purpose of the judicial branch (which is debatable).
I’m relieved and optimistic because generations of Christians have identified their Christian faith with a particular set of political principles; and once those principles were in place, the Christians seemed to be content. God’s Word was downplayed, and Bill O’Reilly (or Jon Stewart, or Arianna Huffington) filled the void. Those political pundits assumed a national pulpit; they were admired, watched, read, quoted far more often - and far more easily - than Scripture.
And hopefully, with such a landmark ruling – that idolatry has been revealed, and we can get back to the real work.
The above appeared in the Fairmont Sentinel on 10 July 2015 & was originally written on July 1. Thankfully, a number of other Christian commentators have picked up on this same idea - notably the popular blog Steadfast Lutherans.
Similar thoughts were drawn from Ephesians 3 for our June 30 sermon.