Friday, July 3, 2015

Striking the Balance - A Loving, Compassionate, Merciful, and Faithful Response to Same-Sex Marriage

Everything has changed. Nothing has changed. This is most certainly true.

What has changed? Well, that’s fairly obvious. Marriage has been redefined. At least, the human concept of, and language for, marriage has changed, even if the institution of marriage as God created it has not, and can never change. Nevertheless, for Americans, “marriage” is no longer the union of one man and one woman, has absolutely nothing to do with the capacity for procreation, but has been reduced to a pledge of commitment between any two people regardless of sex or gender. Prior to Friday, June 26, 2015, each state had the freedom to decide on marriage. Now, every state in the union must acknowledge and permit same-sex marriage whether its citizens want to or not. While there have only been a few isolated instances thus far, it is quite likely that individuals, businesses, and institutions that uphold traditional marriage will increasingly be penalized or persecuted in some way. For example, an employee who expresses her Christian belief that marriage is exclusively the lifelong union of one man and one woman could be disciplined or fired for breaking the tolerance code of a business that supports same-sex unions. A private business owner, perhaps a baker, photographer, or florist who does not wish to participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony could be sued for discrimination. Even the preaching and teaching of Holy Scripture on marriage and sexuality may eventually be considered hate speech in the United States, as it already is in Canada. Churches will very likely lose their tax-exempt status, forcing many to forfeit their properties, and many more to close their doors. The result being that religious freedom and speech may soon be forced completely out of the public square and confined to only what happens within the walls of the church and your private home.

What hasn’t changed? Well, that’s fairly obvious too. Jesus Christ is still Lord and King over heaven and earth. Jesus still reigns victorious over the devil, the world, and the grave. Marriage is still the lifelong union of one man and one woman as God instituted it in Eden. The Church will continue to persevere through all trial and tribulation and will emerge victorious on the Last Day just as Christ has promised. Orthodox Christians will continue to trust in the Word of the Lord and to live their lives in accordance with it. Orthodox Christian pastors will continue to preach, teach, exhort, admonish, and absolve sinners who repent. And, the Church, with a revitalized sense of Her purpose and with a new urgency, will continue to reach out to broken people in this broken world with the love, grace, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. There have been, are, and will continue to be countless victims of our culture’s slide into relativism and licensed immorality. While the world may shake its fists and clench its teeth in anger and hatred against Christ and His Church, the fact that we are all broken and in need of healing, that we are all hurting and in need of comfort, and are all sinners in need of forgiveness hasn’t changed.

What should we do? Well, I would hope that this is fairly obvious as well. Nevertheless, many Christians are asking and wondering. What should we do? We should keep on being the Church of Christ. That is to say, we must keep on hearing His Word and receiving His gifts and allowing them to continue to reshape and remold us back into the image of Christ in which we were first created. We must continue to clearly articulate what the Scriptures teach about true marriage and about the true purpose and end of marriage, to reveal to us the marriage of Christ and His Bride the Church. We must strive to recover and to recommit ourselves to upholding the holiness and sacredness of marriage as God instituted it, which we have permitted to become corrupted and devalued by widespread divorce, premarital sex, pornography, and adultery.

Now is not a time to lash out in anger at a world that has immersed itself in a narrative of decline. Now is not a time to bury our heads in the sand and take a position of isolation. Now is not a time to mourn in despair and hopelessness. The Church of Christ has always been at odds with the world. Her Lord Jesus Himself promised us this. Now is the time to be the Church of Jesus Christ in the world, but not of the world. Now is the time to be the baptized children of God and to leaven, salt, and enlighten the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now is the time in which God has placed you to live and to love, to share and to serve. This is not an accident, but it is God’s purpose, place, and calling for you. Do not be afraid. You were baptized for this. Remain faithful unto death, and Christ has promised to give you the crown of life. But, each and every day you live, you are His. He has promised to be with you, and to never leave or forsake you, and that not even death can separate you from Him and His love. Therefore, what is there to fear? If even death has been defeated, what can any man or government take from you or do to you that really matters? Nothing. You are His, period, and always. The LORD bless you and keep you. The LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The LORD lift up His countenance upon you and grant you His Peace.

In the Peace that is Christ Jesus.

+ Pastor Ellingworth

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