DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s Supreme Court legalized gay marriage Friday in a unanimous and emphatic decision that makes Iowa the third state — and first in the nation’s heartland — to allow same-sex couples to wed.
Just a few hours ago, Iowa overturned a law that had been passed in the state restricting marriage to one man and one woman, on the grounds that it is unconstitutional to exclude homosexuals the right to civil marriage. This decision was made on the basis that the court was charged with upholding ‘equal protection under the law’ for all citizens of the state of Iowa. This brings to the surface an ongoing struggle that has been addressed often and misunderstood even more.
The question that should plague us as Christians is: “how are we as the church supposed to respond to judges and politicians and kings who pass (or overturn) laws that go directly against what God has revealed in His word?” What is the burden of the Christian when the governing entity allows or restricts liberty that is in contradiction to God’s revealed will?
Paul wrestles with this very tension in the first few verses of Romans 13:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.
The challenge with his logic here is that he seems to be glossing over the fact that governing authorities very often go against the authority of God. He seems to miss that there are times when supreme court justices declare something lawful when God has declared it sin. Paul’s audience would have known that he was not making such an unforgivable gloss; he had been systematically persecuted, beaten, thrown into prison, and was facing certain death from the very institutions that he argues are appointed by God. He knew that governing authorities lose step with the God who has given them their authority. It was no mistake that he was being persecuted; it is no mistake that Iowa has declared gay marriage an inalienable right.
To the church in a pagan city Paul encourages submission for the sake of the gospel. His burden was not to create the city of God on earth by means of the authority and rule of the Caesar. His burden was to see the gospel of Jesus Christ go out to the ends of the earth reforming, regenerating, and enlivening the hearts of those who in their sin suppress the righteousness of God. The implication for the church in the wake of a secularizing government can not be overemphasized!
There will be men who battle over the legality of such a decision, and others who refute the content and the logic of the ruling itself; however, these attempts are doomed to failure if the church is not at work in the world retelling and reliving the beauty of the gospel.
God, would this decision break our hearts all the more for those who are seeking satisfaction outside of the God for whom they were created. Give us a deeper love for your gospel and a deeper passion to see you worshipped throughout our world. Amen.