4 Reasons The Recent SCOTUS Decision Is A Gift To The Church
A Liberating Opportunity?
Why the SCOTUS decision is a gift to the Church of Jesus
By Andy Searles
On the morning of Friday, June 26th, as our news feeds filled up with the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, I was sitting on my couch in a self-imposed time out. I’d recused myself from an event our church had facilitated because of a threat the city received from an atheist group. This group was afraid that I would violate the constitutional separation of church and state. I wasn’t going to violate any laws. I was only going to share my love of soccer with some children. Instead of kicking a soccer ball around, all I could do was to kick the court’s decision around in my mind.
It took a couple of days, but I began to experience a “what-the-enemy-intended-for-evil-God-intended-for-good-moment”. I am quickly coming to the conclusion that the ruling on this unnecessarily polarizing issue of gay marriage, is actually a gift to the church. This isn’t an article on the rights, wrongs, and responsibilities that come with human sexuality but an advocacy towards the great opportunity that now lies before the church. It is a call to the church to remember the “hope for which we are called”.
Here are four reasons why I think that the events of Friday, June 26th could well become a great gift to the church.
1) We can move from being a comfortable majority to a passionate minority.
For many years the church has been in the majority. Judeo Christian beliefs formed the foundation of our culture. Church attendees outnumbered those who don’t attend. Scirpture, for the most part, had been held in high esteem as a standard for morality. Professional clergy provided us with the guidance we thought we needed. We did our duty to God by showing up at church each week yet the depth of our discipleship hasn’t had to be very deep. For many Christians, this was a comfortable religious experience. We were able to slide by on faithfulness because we were part of a religious system. Now, much of the pseudo Christianity that we held onto is being challenged.
Christians are no longer part of the comfortable majority. This shift could be a good thing for us. Scripture, the history of civilizations and our own lives, serve as a reminder of the dangers of comfort. Comfort breeds complacency, complacency breeds apathy, and apathy renders us powerless to face the challenges of discipleship and mission that the church is commissioned for.
As our nation gradually rejects scriptural values, Christians now face a challenge to recapture our calling. My personal experience is that my faith and discipleship journey increases when I have to lovingly respond to the challenges of secular people and secular society. I grow more in my faith-based relationship with Jesus when I talk with those who don’t know him because it challenges me to see and know who He really is. I pray that the church will learn, grow, wrestle, and “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” like never before in this increasingly secular society.
This stirring out of our comfort zone must be followed by passionate action. This stirring should call us to love more, serve more, feed more, fight injustice more and do a thousand other things that Jesus tells us to do but we never got around to because we were comfortable. The church now has an opportunity to passionately embrace and express the passion of Christ in ways that our generation has only seen in small doses. The New Testament and Church History affirm that the church has been at her most beautiful and powerful when she is in the minority. We are the underdogs and God is always on the side of the truth-following underdog!
2) We can live as those called out from society, not those conformed to it.
The church, the Ecclesia, is by definition a group of people who have been called out of a broken, sinful lifestyle. The church is called to live instead in a new culture that Jesus called The Kingdom of God. Unfortunately, many within the church assimilate into the world’s culture. When the church resists assimilation it typically adopts one of two strategies to define its place in broken society. The first one is escapism, where we try to create a subculture distant from secular culture. This is where the church tries to withdraw from society even as we create our own Christian versions of things like book stores, music, and language. The second one is imperialism. This is where we try to create a theocracy by flooding our existing structures with believers. This including using secular structures for Christian purposes through Christian candidates and Christian policing of lifestyles. God has clearly rejected these strategies throughout history and advocates a third, a kingdom strategy.
The kingdom Christian lives as an ambassador for Christ. As a representative for Christ in a foreign land, the kingdom Christian is someone who is in, but not of the world, who serves rather than being served, who takes responsibility rather than demanding rights, and who gives selflessly rather than pursuing selfish ambitions. The kingdom strategy is to turn upside down the world’s structures of power and division by living with humility and unity.
The fundamental Christian principles that previously underpinned our society also kept us from really being “called out” from our culture. Now, as the laws of our land further separate themselves from scriptural teaching, we need to live as Jesus intended his church to live all along – as people called out. If we don’t live as people called out by God, we deserve to be called out by those who question the integrity of our gospel.
3) We can function with clarity about our real purpose.
When our country was formed there was a very clear line between the government’s responsibilities and the church’s. Over the years as a (pseudo) “Christian Nation” the line between what belongs to the church and what belongs to the government has blurred.
This may seem strange coming from an evangelical pastor, but I’m in favor of the separation of church and state in many areas of society. There are things that the government needs to do, that the church can’t and shouldn’t. There are also things that the church should do that the government can’t and shouldn’t. Many of the things we criticize the government for doing now are only being done because the church has fumbled the ball and in our comfort, delegated our responsibility to the government.
So now, the SCOTUS decision helps us to redraw the lines. It puts us on the side of needing to do what we were called to do when Jesus began His church.
I must confess that I have been fretting for a long time about what the impact of this decision would be. This was energy sapping and distracting for me. I came to realize that this ruling allows us to focus on the priorities that Jesus gave us to put our best efforts into loving, serving and, in Jesus name, redeeming a hurting world. We are liberated to clarity about our real purpose.
4) We have an opportunity to experience the deep blessings of the beatitudes, rather than the shallow satisfaction of being right.
I love the beatitudes of Jesus. I think we need to display these on our walls, greeting cards, and other Christian paraphernalia, perhaps more than we do the 10 Commandments. These beatitudes talk about the blessings that God has for us when we live as kingdom citizens in the midst of a broken world. Many of them speak directly as to how we should live in the midst of a secular culture and in the face of a real enemy to the gospel we proclaim.
Unfortunately, many of these blessings can only be experienced when we stand against the cultural tide. Jesus talks about meekness, peace making, and persecution as being actions we engage in to receive his deepest blessings and joy. For so long we have forfeited these traits because in our comfort we haven’t needed them. Now we get that opportunity. Because of the way that our society had previously embraced Christianity we were able to enjoy the shallow satisfaction of being right in accordance to the laws of the land. Now we get to trade that shallow satisfaction in order to experience the blessings of God. This is a great trade for us!
I am reading a book by Samuel Chand called “Leadership Pain”. Its premise is that a leader can only rise to the level of pain that they are willing to embrace. Our current struggles and the expected onslaught the church will face should challenge us to embrace more pain, which in turn, can only allow us to experience greater capacity as servant leaders within God’s kingdom. No pain, no gain – This is the way of the Gospel; this is the way of Jesus and His kingdom.
Has the Supreme Court, in its decision to redefine marriage, actually awakened the church to do what the church was supposed to do all along? Has it set the conditions for the church to flourish and followers of Jesus to faithfully pursue the great things that He has called and empowered us to be and do? I think so. It’s time to get off our collective couches, stand in the love and grace of Christ, and walk towards the great and glorious purpose that Jesus has for his church.
Andy Searles is the pastor of a new church start, called Church Together in Casselberry, FL.
He can be reached on Twitter @AndySearles
Feature photo credit: Ted Eytan (Flickr)