Amid a shifting moral landscape, Christ followers must stand firmly on unchanging truth. And with evangelistic hearts, they should weep over national sin even as others celebrate it. That advice, from pastors and church leaders with whom Decision spoke following the Supreme Court’s June 26 gay marriage ruling, also came with a warning: Trials await those who take the Bible seriously.
“We will face the pressure to conform,” said Ronnie Floyd, president of the 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. “When we do not conform, the price may become high to stay true to God’s Word. We need to prepare our laypeople and ministers to stand strongly and unashamedly, but always compassionately.”
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Floyd joined Jack Graham, a former SBC president and pastor of Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church and 15 other former SBC presidents in drafting a statement affirming biblical marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.” If ever forced to choose between obeying God or man, the pastors said they would obey God.
Floyd said in his own statement after the ruling that the next Great Awakening is “a desperate need.”
Calling the high court’s action a cultural “tipping point,” Graham emphasized that the fiercest enemy of marriage is Satan himself. Believers, he said, must gird themselves with spiritual weapons in a battle that ultimately is spiritual. They must also plead with God “to move on our behalf, even though our government, and in this case the Supreme Court, has made decisions that fly in the face of God Himself.”
Noting that the early church thrived amid trials, Graham said: “This is a wake-up call. Let’s rise to the challenge in front of us. And let’s do whatever it takes in our generation to fulfill the Great Commission. Our stand may include some civil disobedience if it’s required because we must obey God and not man. We are going to do so humbly and with grace, but we will stand, and we will do so boldly.”
Also, Graham said churches must return to a robust teaching of Scripture and doctrine so that a new generation of believers can withstand the tremendous pressure to scuttle biblical doctrines. Christian churches must nurture and model biblical marriages as never before, he added.
John Piper, popular author and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, wrote on his blog at desiringGod.org that the “new calamity” is the “normalization and institutionalization” of homosexuality by the nation’s highest court.
Citing the description in Romans 1:24-32 of the approval and practice of sexual immorality among a list of other grievous sins, Piper wrote that his objective was not a “political counter-assault,” but rather “to help the church feel the sorrow of these days. And the magnitude of the assault on God and His image in man.”
The difference between Christians and the larger culture, Piper wrote, is: “We weep over our sins. We don’t celebrate them. We don’t institutionalize them. We turn to Jesus for forgiveness and help. We cry to Jesus, ‘who delivers us from the wrath to come’” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
Piper added: “This is what I am writing for … love for the name of God and compassion for the city of destruction. ‘My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law’” (Psalm 119:136).
Thomas Schreiner, professor of theology and New Testament interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said that persecution awaiting American Christians would include harassment and slander.
Also writing at desiringGod.org, Schreiner cited Peter’s first letter describing how the pagan Gentiles maligned the believers for not joining in their debauchery. Schreiner said their suffering wasn’t physical, yet “they were genuinely suffering.”
Physical suffering might come, he said, but likely following other forms of persecution.
Schreiner said the Christian response to the cultural winds “will lead to tensions with our families and our friends, who simply cannot understand us.”
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“Those teaching in public schools may face unique pressures to conform in the coming years,” Schreiner added. “As a result, unkind words may be said behind our backs or to our faces. And it may lead to discrimination in our jobs and the loss of religious liberties in society.”
Prestonwood’s Graham said he had already received several emails from church members who were feeling pressure in their management jobs to celebrate the latest definitions of “diversity” at their companies.
But Graham said believers must remember that the Christian message is uniquely hopeful.
“Ultimately, the way we are going to reach this culture is to out-love them, out-pray them, out-serve them and out-give them in order that people will see in us the power of Christ to change lives.”
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.