Sermon audio here.
This past Friday, the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. Unless you’re under the illusion that America is a Christian nation, this decision should come as no surprise. This isn’t the first time our country has ignored God’s will and legalized sin. 42 years ago, the Supreme Court granted women the right to murder their own children with immunity, so long as they do it when they’re most vulnerable.
Marriage has been under attack in this country for decades, and most of it has nothing to do with homosexuality. One of the reasons God created marriage in Eden was for the procreation of children. “Be fruitful and multiply” is not a divine suggestion, it’s a mandate (Genesis 1:28). There are many reasons for the decline of the Church today, but the single biggest reason is because Christian couples aren’t having children the way they used to.
What God has joined together—marriage, sex, and procreation—man has separated. When we treat sex as though it had nothing to do with marriage and procreation, you can have it whenever you want (married or not), with whomever you want, without regard for gender—and perhaps eventually, even age or species. The unwanted pregnancy is handled the same way you would treat a nagging cold. Take a few pills, and if symptoms persist, you might need to go in for a more elaborate procedure.
God also created marriage to give us a place to practice self-giving love and forgiveness. We turn this on its head and regard marriage as a means to selfish personal fulfillment. When you finally realize that perfect man or woman is actually a really bad sinner just like you, no problem! Just get a divorce and remarry as many times as it takes until you finally really mean it when you say “until death do us part.” Unless the rest of the country catches up to Utah, we’ll just have to settle for serial polygamy.
So before we get too worked up about gay marriage, let’s be clear: heterosexuals have been doing a fine job destroying marriage all by themselves. It’s not like the less than 2% of gay Americans have come in overthrown the government. In a democracy, the majority rules, and the masses have spoken. The Supreme Court has only affirmed the inevitable. As a friend of mine recently observed, the people who are supportive of this decision are not radicals; many are members in good standing of Lutheran congregations.
The fact that Christians support something so contrary to God’s will goes to show the depth of our corruption. However loving it may seem, it is never loving to condone what God calls sin—and despite what the Queen James Bible says, homosexuality is sin. But the homosexuality of others is just a speck when compared with your own sin. As our Lord says,
“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye,” (Luke 6:42).
So what should the Church do in response to the Supreme Court’s decision? The same thing She always does: repent. Repent of your own sexual sin, whether it’s heterosexual or homosexual. You’ll never be able to help your neighbor with the speck in his eye while ignoring the log in your own. Repent of your failure to love your neighbors enough to be compassionate and warn them about the dangers of their own sin. Be steadfast and continue to confess the truth of God’s Word as it pertains to marriage and human sexuality, no matter how unpopular it may be. Jesus forgives the penitent, both gay and straight. What He cannot forgive are those who reject His Word outright and stubbornly persist in their sin.
We’d much rather opt for the “live and let live” approach, which sounds a little like something Jesus said in today’s Holy Gospel when He said, “judge not, and you will not be judged.” Telling someone what they’re doing is wrong is no fun, so the “live and let live” approach helps us avoid any uncomfortable confrontations. Better yet, if we avoid judging the behavior of others, then they have no right to judge ours either, and we can live however we please, judgment-free.
The problem with this is that Jesus didn’t mean “live and let live.” Scripture repeatedly warns us about the danger of sin and the coming judgment of God. Christians are not free to live however they please and to decide for themselves what’s right and wrong.
Nor would Jesus have you turn a blind eye to the sin of those around you, even if that sin is legal in our country. Instead, He urges you to help your neighbor avoid falling into a pit, which is exactly what happens when someone becomes trapped in sin. Sin is nothing to celebrate. Jesus likens it to having a splinter in your eye. Turning a blind eye to something like that is the opposite of compassion.
There are really only two options: you either live by God’s standards or self-chosen ones. As popular as it is to live by “your own truth” these days, to do this is a crass rejection of Christ as King. It’s the same mistake Israel made during the time of the Judges: “In those days there was no King in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” (Judges 21:25).
To do what is right in your own eyes is to set yourself up on God’s throne. It’s idolatry. The standards of living we set up for ourselves always appear good at first, but autonomy is a ruthless tyrant. Samuel warned the Israelites. He told them they would be better off with the Lord as their King. He said,
“These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sonsand appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day,” (1 Samuel 8:11–18).
But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel (1 Samuel 8:19). They thought they knew best. They were wrong. It’s never a good idea to disagree with God.
That’s what the Supreme Court did on Friday, but there is an important aspect in which their ruling agrees with what Scripture teaches. It affirmed what St. Paul said in today’s Epistle about this creation being in bondage to corruption. It affirms the world’s hatred of Jesus and His Word (John 15:18).
The world’s hatred of Jesus will undoubtedly affect His Church. The Church may face legal action in the days to come. Our Synod president has admitted the possibility of churches being fined and pastors being thrown in jail for refusing to perform same-sex weddings. The late Cardinal George said,
“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”
The nations will continue to rage and plot in vain against God and His Word (Psalm 2:1), but we remain faithful. Even if the United States were to pass laws making Christianity illegal, our citizenship remains in heaven (Philippians 3:20). We stand fast, knowing that Christ will never forsake His Bride, the Church. We trust His promise that this creation will one day be set free from its bondage to decay (Romans 8:21), a promise which is as certain as Jesus’ victory over the grave.
The sufferings of this present time may be profound, but Christ has borne all of your suffering to the cross and has overcome. Because of this, the sufferings of this present time are both temporary and not even worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed (John 16:21–22; Romans 8:18). The worst day in heaven is infinitely better than the best day on earth. As David says, a day in God’s courts is better than a thousand anywhere else (Psalm 84:10).
In the meantime, remain faithful and don’t lose heart. Only after many tribulations do we enter into the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). As James writes,
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him,” (James 1:12).
Or, as David put it in today’s psalm:
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom | shall I fear?*
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I | be afraid?
Soli Deo Gloria
+Rev. Eric Andersen
St. Luke 6:36–42; Romans 8:18–23
The Fourth Sunday after Trinity, 2015: Responding to Legalized Sin
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