I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. —Jesus
So the U.S. Supreme Court did what Supreme Courts do. They handed down a decision that a lot of Americans don’t like. Every time they do that, they provide a podium for an awful lot of people to weigh in, using their decision as a platform for various political perspecitives. This one, of course, provided more than typical conversation. Those of us in the Evangelical community have been trying to find ways to respond with both truth and grace, wanting more than anything to bring light to an increasingly bleak landscape.
But let’s try to remember that this was a political decision, made by political appointees who were appointed by politicians. That’s important to remember because God’s opinion about marriage has nothing to do with politics. Or government. Paul the Apostle’s arguments regarding human sexuality are presented in neither a cultural nor a political context—his views are based solely on the act of creation and nothing predates creation. So let’s be careful to separate the conversation about what is legal from the conversation about what is right. We hope those two conversations dovetail as often as possible (which is why we vote), but they are still two different conversations.
The Supreme Court has an important role in this democracy, but that role does not include being the moral compass for our country. Those nine men and women are empowered to decide what is legal, not get to decide what is right. And they get to decide what is legal in only one of the 196 countries in the world. So, I don’t want to diminish the import of any of their decisions, but their scope of authority is relatively limited. Yes, even the word Supreme can be relative.
2,000 years ago, Jesus gave His church (you and me) not a legal court the mission to provide a moral compass for every culture.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) A lot of us like to quote that verse as if it had been given to America, but it was given to Israel, a nation that was not originally designed to be a democracy. Israel was originally and uniquely designed as a theocracy, where God was the King and the Jewish people were His subjects. But Israel herself said, “Nope, we don’t like that arrangement, we want a human King like everyone else.” So God honored that request, the King became the government and the prophet of God (who was allowed living quarters in or near the palace) became the voice of God to help lead the King on moral issues.
The American government presides over a democracy, but the United States have never been God’s people—it’s just that a lot of God’s people live here. That’s not to say that God hasn’t used the American government in the past or won’t use it to fulfill His purpose in the future. But God accesses every government, every nation to fulfill His purpose in history. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1) The point there is that God does not require a certain form of human government to fulfill His purposes.
Who held political power back when Paul wrote that to the Roman church? A Roman Emperor named Nero, who is described by historians as a psychopathic murderer. And yet Jesus built His church anyway. A couple of years ago, I read a book where the author tried to account for the “rapid and remarkable Christianization of the world,” when the Church was birthed in one of the most hostile political environments you could imagine.
When the church began, there were 120 believers in the world, or one for every 1.67 million people. Today, there is one believer for every 9 to 12 people in the world (depending on which report you read). And that “rapid and remarkable” reality is not the result of godly nations. It’s the result of godly people, regardless of the nation they live in.
Have you ever met a person who gave their heart to Jesus because of a speech made by a US President? Neither have I.
How about because of a particular Supreme Court ruling? Nope?
Because of the result of a national election? Still no?
Yet how many of you came to Jesus primarily because of the influence of someone in your oikos? 95%. Clarifying.
A lot of God’s people founded this country and, 240 years later, many of God’s people live here, but that’s the point. The church (you and I) are now the prophetic voices who declare God’s council and demonstrate His grace to this country. It was never the President’s job. It is not the Supreme Court’s job. We are responsible to provide spiritual direction, regardless of who happens to be King.
So let us neither surrender to the culture in congratulatory tones nor react with a knee-jerk judgmental attitude. Let us do what the church was designed to do—lead the world with equal doses of truth and grace. Just like Someone else we know.