The Church is responsible for Obergefell v. Hodges, and now we must get it right...

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With our Clearnote Fellowship Conference a few hours away, I won't have much time the next few days to engage with this issue, but I've had some nagging thoughts as I've read the debates going on among church officers in the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges.

Any stand Christians take in opposition to the enforcement of Obergefell v. Hodges across the nation must be in light of God's Creation Order in its entirety. If we single out sodomy as the place we draw the line of civil disobedience concerning sexuality, we must ask ourselves why there? Is it really because sodomy has taken our culture to a whole new level of rebellion against God? Yes, but also no...

Watch this response of our Lord to the Pharisees' challenge concerning divorce:

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”

And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?”

He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:3-9)

On the one hand, yes. Our society has reached a new level of rebellion and decadence, and our protests and talk of civil disobedience in the post-Obergefell world seem justified in light of Jesus' statement, "He who created them from the beginning made them male and female." Standing on the Order of Creation in Genesis 1 and 2 and Jesus' reiteration of it here, we'd say "Can't do it. My conscience is bound by nature and nature's God. In the beginning God made them male and female, so I draw the line at sodomite marriage. I will no longer serve as a surrogate for the state when I officiate at marriage ceremonies."

Seems like a good application of Jesus' statement that "He Who created them from the beginning made them male and female," doesn't it? "Adam and Eve are not Adam and Steve"—stuff like that.

But notice Jesus' recapitulation of Genesis 2 is not for the purpose of opposing sodomy, but divorce and remarriage. This is the rub.

We Christians have refused to discipline fornication, divorce, and adultery inside the Church, the Household of Faith, the Pillar and Foundation of the Truth. In our consistory, church council, and elders meetings we fled in abject terror from any action that could lay us open to the charge of being an "abusive church," of being "authoritarian," or of "meddling" in other people's lives. Except in a few cases where we were forced to do something, we left the souls under our care alone, and thus each man and woman did that which was right in his or her own eyes. And even in those cases where we were forced (or shamed) into doing something, we were relieved when those we had to discipline left for another church and were welcomed there. So, by hook and by crook, the Protestant Church has long ago ceased warning day and night with tears, handing over to Satan for the discipline of the flesh, and binding on earth what has been bound in Heaven.

We've left the binding to God in Heaven and acted like our abdication is a principle, saying ridiculous things like "it's the Holy Spirit's job to convict—not ours!" And "love always expects the best." And "judge not lest you be judged—yeah!"

The civil magistrate heard us loud and clear. He took note of the Church's abdication of responsibility and authority and, having a voracious appetite for the very parts of our job description we were repudiating, he stepped in and claimed sovereignty over marriage and family life.

Following his inner lights of darkness, He made contraception legal. He made fornication legal. He made divorce legal, then gave us no-fault divorce. He made pornography legal. He made sodomy legal. He made it illegal for any Jew, Moslem, or Christian to refuse to rent our apartments and houses to fornicators, adulterers, and sodomites.

And now, he has made sodomite marriage legal and we are...

We are what? Up in arms? Not gonna rent our apartments to sodomites that are married? Not gonna bake a cake for sodomite weddings? Not gonna do flower arrangements for them? Not gonna drive them in our taxis—sodomites and lesbians who are married, that is, who are on their way to getting married. Or on their way to the airport for their honeymoon?

Yup. Absolutely. We're not gonna take it anymore!

But honestly, why not? We've taken it for the past sixty years, so why stop now?

I think the reason we aren't gonna take it any more is that we don't love sodomites and so we don't feel the internal pressures to turn a blind eye to their sin the way we feel it in connection with those we know and love who are fornicators, adulterers, and pornographers. Otherwise how do we explain the disparity of our having taken a chill pill for sixty years of rebellion against God's Creation Order in every other area, and our taking a habanero just now in the area of homosexual marriage?

So what am I saying? Is the solution that we learn to take a chill pill about homosexual marriage, also? Should we learn to see the struggles against same-sex attraction all around us in our families, out on the mission field, among our church members and children, and thus become a little more understanding of gays and a little less judgmental? Should we learn to love gays, too, opening our eyes to this temptation faced by our fellow Christians and their children so we can come to extend the same grace to them that we've already extended to fornicators, the lifestyle-sterile, pornographers, and adulterers?

Well, in fact, we haven't loved any of these sinners at all if we have not taught, warned, admonished, rebuked, and suspended them from the Lord's Table. If we have not spent years admonishing them, and finally excommunicated them from the Church accompanied by tears of sorrow and many many prayers for repentance.

You see why I say we are drawing a line in the sand here because we don't love homosexuals? If our past commitment to not rebuke and discipline fornication, divorce, fruitlessness, and adultery was not love, but indifference and hatred, isn't it a repentance for that past indifference and hatred toward sinners rebelling against other parts of God's Creation Order when we finally speak up against homosexual marriage? Isn't it better to say "no" to something than to say "yes" to everything?

Sure, I guess so. If only I were convinced that our newfound tone of "no" comes from our concern for those tempted by same-sex intimacy. But I'm not. Rather, I think our new desire to say "no" is because we don't realize we live in and among homosexually-tempted men and women the way we do realize we live among fornicators, the intentionally childless, adulterers, and pornographers. (That, and the yuck factor, but let's not go into that here.)

So we make bold to speak up and take a stand here where it is "them," "those people" that we are saying "no" to.

Sadly, I don't believe we have yet repented of our failure to love fornicators, the unbiblically divorced, and adulterers of the past sixty years, so I have no confidence in our tough stand against homosexuals, now.

This selective exercise of authority and discipline is not attributable to revival or reform, but preferential treatment. The care for sinners involving admonition, rebuke, and censure should wear a blindfold protecting against singling out some for discipline while avoiding the discipline of others. This is why Lady Justice holds the scales of justice while blindfolded.

We have given over the elders meetings of our churches to unjust judgments and the only way back is to begin to confess the entire content of God's Created Order. All of it applying to all men because it was established by God prior to the Fall in the state of perfection. In other words, God's Creation Order of sexuality is no private Christian truth, but the Creator of the Universe's universal law over all men in all places across all time.

Start there.

Do you see how we have refused to give this testimony to the world for generations, now? Are we willing to start obeying our Lord's command to be salty and let our light shine in this matter of the universality of God's Creation Order? Can we see this is central to our fulfilling the Biblical duty of the Church to serve the world as the Pillar and Foundation of the Truth?

Start there.

Then move to the specifics of God's Creation Order. No more cherry-picking. No more speaking up against the sins we ignorantly (which is to say, lovelessly) think are not "our" sins while giving the sins obvious among us and our fellow church members and families a free pass. If we're going to deal in free passes from God's Creation Order, why shouldn't the sodomites get the same love and grace we all pride ourselves on giving the unbiblically divorced and unbiblically sterile, as well as fornicators and divorcers and adulterers?

If we actually loved those tempted by same-sex intimacy, rather than merely talking at them and about them, we'd see they are in our bedrooms and living rooms and church foyers and mens and women's restrooms and sleeping in the tent next to us on our church camping trips and teaching in our co-op and classical Christian schools. They are us. They are our children. They are our children's teachers and right next to them are child-abusers, fornicators, adulterers, gossips, and the greedy. Also the incestuous—this is the Church. We are sinners, all of us, and there is no sin which tempts anyone but which is common to mankind.

No, I'm not saying same-sex attraction is as prevalent as the homosexualists claim, but it is more prevalent among Christians than the Church wants to acknowledge, and it's becoming even more common. Incest was in King David's family as it was in the Corinthian church, and it's in your own church, too—although likely those committing it are hidden. Few today are as brash as the Corinthians were about it.

Violations of every part of God's Creation Order are everywhere within the most conservative Protestant Churches, but we don't see it because we don't know Scripture and we don't know God's love for sinners.

So where do we go from here? Should we just give in now, just as I'm saying we've given in for the past sixty years?

No. We should not and we must not. If the Lord has used Obergefell v. Hodges to wake up his people, this is a good time to take our stand. But the Devil is in the details.

I am not lying to you. I speak God's Truth. These are the universal laws He instituted:

  • God's Creation Order is patriarchal—that's the first thing: "Adam was created first, then Eve."
  • God's Creation Order is heterosexual—He made them "male and female."
  • God's Creation Order is monogamous—there is to be no divorce except in the cases of "porneia" and desertion by an unbeliever.
  • God's Creation Order is lifelong—"until death do us part."
  • God's Creation Order is fruitful—"be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth"

So fasten your seat belts. We can't choose one or two of the laws of God's Creation Order and neglect the rest. We can't claim any of these laws as a private Christian law or revelation, denying its universality over all mankind. We can't have a hissy-fit over homosexual marriage without having a hissy-fit over fornication and divorce. We can't call fruitfulness of the marriage bed a matter of personal judgment while arguing that homosexuality is against nature and nature's God. Nature, after all, is every bit as clear about fruitfulness as it is about heterosexuality.

And the big one we all really want to avoid: we can't sign on to confess and defend the Creation Order truths of sex only within heterosexual, monogamous, lifelong, and fruitful marriage without also confessing and defending the Creation Order truth of patriarchy. It's the first of the truths.

It's the one that flows out of the Fatherhood of God from Whom all Fatherhood gets its name.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!