(This message was originally published in October 2014)
I was one of the 57% of Virginia voters that supported the referendum that resulted in the Marriage Amendment to Virginia’s constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman – November 7, 2006.
On February 13, 2014, a U.S. District Court in Norfolk ruled that the amendment was unconstitutional, though the Judge stayed the ruling pending appeal. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling. State officials declined to defend the constitutional amendment. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the case, letting the lower court decision stand.
The church must and should always stand upon biblical ethics. This is not the first time, but the issue of marriage is one of the most profound cases in my lifetime, when biblical ethics seems to now conflict with legal and governmental policy. As churches and pastors, more than ever we must articulate a clear and sound biblical ethic of marriage to our congregations and communities.
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the statement of faith that the Southern Baptist Convention adopted (as did the SBC of Virginia), reflects the biblical ethic of marriage and family:
XVIII. The Family
God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.
Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God's unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.
The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.
Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. Parents are to demonstrate to their children God's pattern for marriage.
Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth. Children are to honor and obey their parents.
Churches should clearly state their position on biblical marriage. Your governing documents and statement of faith should reflect this understanding. In the past, it may have been assumed. It seems clear that we must no longer assume – but clearly teach and uphold biblical marriage. SBC of Virginia is available to consult and to connect you with other churches and professionals who can assist churches as needed.
Each church can be a lighthouse in the midst of lostness, confusion, and darkness. The Gospel of Jesus Christ must be proclaimed. Repentance, redemption, and restoration remain our message. Dr. Russell Moore, in his blog on October 6, 2014, offers helpful and thoughtful words to consider. You can find his statement at: http://www.russellmoore.com/2014/10/06/same-sex-marriage-and-the-supreme-court-what-now-for-the-church/
We must each endeavor to celebrate and communicate marriage and family life as God has ordained. We all know of examples where Christ has not been honored and represented well in marriage and family life by those claiming Christ as Lord. The 1st Century follower of Christ lived in an age of lostness, confusion, and darkness. These first followers of Christ impacted an empire with their words and deeds. May the Holy Spirit empower us to live out the biblical ethic of marriage and family life in the 21st Century. The lost world must see the church shine the light of healthy, redemptive, biblical marriage and family life.
Pray for one another and encourage one another. SBC of Virginia churches are not alone in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. We are not alone in holding to the biblical ethic and teaching on marriage and family. Personally, I am thankful for the continuing work of partners like the Family Foundation of Virginia, the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and others like them giving much of their energies to helping churches be salt and light.
Finally, I am not intending to give a political commentary or legal opinion, but hope to simply be an encouragement spiritually and practically as we seek to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ as SBC of Virginia churches – and more importantly I pray that my marriage and family will honor the name of the Lord Jesus. By His grace and for His glory, I make this my prayer. Thankfully and respectfully, I do not require Supreme Court justices to take up a case to make this my prayer. I regret wholeheartedly that certain authorities in America do not uphold the biblical ethic of marriage. But I know this for sure: Almighty God, who created man and woman, has made it clear throughout the ages that He has taken up the case for marriage and family. In God We Trust.