“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good…. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all…. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9, 17, 21)
Two events have occurred in the shadow of our nation’s 239th birthday that Christians must understand in connection with each other, or they will not be understood at all.
The first event occurred on June 17 in Charleston when a young white man with a twisted heart quietly invaded a prayer meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Nine of our African-American brothers and sisters were murdered.
This was a horrible act of violence. What profoundly marks Charleston and Emanuel AME Church, however, is not the violence but their response to it.
The response of this congregation, the families of these victims and Charleston’s Christian community was totally different from what we have seen elsewhere, and totally different from what the world expects. It was a response of love, grace, forgiveness, humility and the courageous resolve to keep both their hearts and their doors open. As a result, there were no reciprocal acts of anger, hatred or division. There was only inspiration.
Non-Christians marveled and admired. Other Christians also marveled, and had to ask themselves if their faith was that strong, and if it should become that strong.
What happened in Charleston was, very simply, a demonstration of the power of Romans 12:9-21. Our Charleston brothers and sisters continued to abhor evil. They knew, however, that they wrestled not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of darkness that use broken people to kill, steal and destroy (Ephesians 6:12; John 10:10). So they were not overcome by evil, and did not respond to evil with evil. Instead, they overcame evil with good, to the glory of God!
Our second event occurred on June 26. It also involved nine people and an act of violence, but the nine were not the victims. Marriage and the U.S Constitution were the victims.
In addressing the recent Supreme Court 5-4 ruling that homosexual marriage is a constitutional right, I am not seeking to condemn people who practice homosexuality. We all wrestle with sin, and God loves them as much as He loves me. I simply want us to better understand two documents: the Bible and the U.S. Constitution.
The Church was birthed before the New Testament was written, but once the New Testament was completed and joined with the Old Testament to become the Bible, the Bible became the “Constitution” of the Church. As God’s Word, the Bible has authority over Christians. We don’t change the Bible. It changes us.
The Bible is clear that marriage is a God-ordained institution between a man and a woman, and Romans 1:21-28 is just one of the biblical passages revealing the practice (not the desire) of homosexuality to be sin. However, it is important to note this passage does not describe the practice of homosexuality as a departure from God so much as it is a consequence for a society that has already departed from God.
Our American culture embraced heterosexual sin as acceptable – promiscuity, pornography and adultery – long before it began to call homosexual sin acceptable. Liberal Christian denominations accepted homosexuality and authorized homosexual clergy only after they had already chosen to abandon the Bible as full authority over their other doctrines. Thirty-six states then began to authorize homosexual marriage in response to both the culture shift and this partial Church “approval”. And all of that combined to cause five judges on the Supreme Court to follow the culture rather than the Constitution.
Just as the Church was birthed before the Bible, our nation was birthed before our Constitution. But once the Constitution was ratified in 1788, it became the “Bible” for our country. The Constitution creates and controls Congress (Article I), the office of the Presidency (Article II), and the Supreme Court (Article III), not the other way around. And the only permissible way to change the U.S. Constitution is by constitutional amendment ratified by three-fourths of the states (Article V).
The best way to understand the violence done to our Constitution on June 26 is to compare the so-called “freedom” of homosexual marriage to other freedoms we value. The Constitution was adopted to “secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity”. But despite that language, no Supreme Court has ever ruled that slavery was unconstitutional, or that denying people the right to vote based on their color was unconstitutional, or that denying women the right to vote was unconstitutional, or that denying people aged 18-20 the right to vote was unconstitutional even though they could be called to military service.
We know now that all of these freedoms are good, but they all had to come by constitutional amendment (13th, 15th, 19th and 26th) because every Supreme Court knew from history they were not part of the freedoms intended by the drafters of the Constitution. Constitutional amendment was the only lawful way to bring constitutional change.
How then can five Supreme Court justices in 2015 lawfully say, without constitutional amendment, that this same Constitution recognizes and protects homosexual marriage? They can’t. But they did. The question now is how Bible-believing Christians should respond.
My friends, we must respond like Charleston. We must trust and obey Romans 12:9-21. Please read the whole passage, which speaks of genuine love, Christian brotherhood, zeal, hope, perseverance, unceasing prayer, generosity, hospitality, blessing, empathy, humility, and not being “wise in your own eyes”.
If we respond with good, we shall overcome. Overcoming is our legacy in Christ (John 16:33; Romans 8:37; 1 John 4:4). “Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome someday.”
God bless you, and God bless our community.