As I write this, I feel like I am standing in the in the middle of a frozen pond in east Texas. For those who may not know, ponds don’t often freeze here and when they do, only a bunch of crazy cousins, who shall remain nameless, would dare each other to walk across it.
I have seen a flood of opinions, protests, social media posts etc. on the subject I am addressing. Churches and pastors are divided on the subject, just like our nation is. The issue is same sex marriage. So why do some Christians make such a fuss? That is what I want to address.
A wedding ceremony, as performed currently, is a blend of the civil and the sacred. In a “church wedding”, God and the assembled church and guests are called upon to bear witness to vows being exchanged. The Bible says that God takes vows seriously. To break them in the time of the Old Testament, was to call down the wrath of God. At its heart, a wedding performed by a minister is a church service. To Christians, it is squarely a matter of religious belief and practice. The civil side is covered by laws in various ways depending on the state. The states have recognized a preacher’s sacred service as fulfilling the requirements of the civil laws, which essentially are both parties giving consent and the state official (pastor in this case) declaring them married. In many countries, the two services are separate and have always been, but here, they are together for those choosing a “church wedding”. One can still have just a civil service at the justice of the peace’s office.
When a church and pastor feel the Scripture speaks as to who are eligible to marry, they have always had the right to say no to the ceremony. I know of pastor’s who make their decision after counseling with couples. They will not participate in a service by witnessing vows which they sense are likely to be broken. Some will only perform ceremonies for 2 members of the church, or only for two Christians, etc.
The problem facing churches and pastors today with this merged civil and sacred service is that if the Supreme Court rules in June that same sex couples have an undeniable right to marriage, it may remove their right to the free expression of religion. When a state enacts a law, it can include exceptions from participating in services for religious reasons. The court could in one decision throw out all state laws which upheld traditional marriage and those which allowed religious exemptions. If push comes to shove, then lawsuits could be brought against any church or pastor who understands the Bible to say marriage is between one man and one woman and thus declines to participate in such a religious ceremony.
This issue has far reaching ramifications for freedom of religion. If SCOTUS redefines marriage, Christians will face a choice. Obey God or men. The only correct answer must be the same as the apostles in Acts 5:29 “But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men.” HCSB