By Eric Schumacher, Baptist Press
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (BP) --- Last June, a "500-year flood" ushered millions of gallons of water through eastern Iowa. In Cedar Rapids alone, more than 25,000 individuals were displaced in one day. Hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage was done.
The Flood of 2008 is arguably the most destructive disaster that the state of Iowa has seen -- at least, that is, until last Friday.
On April 3, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a state law limiting marriage to one man and one woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution. Licenses will be issued to homosexual couples April 27.
It is not hyperbole to say that this ruling has the potential to be the worst disaster to strike the state of Iowa. Flood waters destroy houses, ruin offices buildings and displace families. Yet, recovery happens. Houses are rebuilt. Businesses relocate. Families eventually find housing.
Legalized "homosexual marriage," on the other hand, does far more pervasive and irrecoverable damage. Civilization itself is eroded as marriage, the central building block of culture and society, is redefined. Soon, our sons and daughters are confused about what it means to be male and female, as "homosexual marriage" gains both legal status and visibility in neighborhoods and the classroom.
Far worse, the Gospel message is confused. Marriage is established by God to be a living picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the husband representing Christ and the wife representing his church. "Homosexual marriage" presents a distorted picture, a false Gospel, promoting a blasphemous message.
Flood waters erode the soil. "Gay marriage" erodes the soul. A flood impacts for a decade. "Same-sex marriage" destroys generations. A flood draws a community together. "Homosexual marriage" tears the family apart. Communities recover from floods. The promotion of un-natural unions has an eternal consequence.
As a native Iowan and as a pastor, I cannot remain silent. In light of this, I would exhort the church in Iowa to do three things:
-- First, we must honor biblical marriage in the church and in the home.
God commands that marriage be honored (Hebrews 13:4). He is not pleased when it is attacked (Malachi 2:16).
Legalized "homosexual marriage" is not the only way that marriage is attacked and dishonored.
Marriage is attacked when church members go undisciplined for fornication and adultery. Marriage is dishonored through abusive husbands and disrespectful wives, through the use of Internet pornography and the reading of smutty novels.
Marriage is honored when biblical roles for husbands and wives are humbly and joyfully taught, modeled and encouraged. Marriage is protected when pastors ask tough questions of potential and current members about the divorce they are pursuing and the children they have abandoned. Marriage is honored when pastors follow biblical standards when considering which ceremonies to officiate.
-- Second, we must speak through the humility of repentance.
Let's be honest. Much of the church's knee-jerk response to legalized "homosexual marriage" smacks of hypocrisy.
For decades, local churches in America have winked at, ignored, tolerated and even approved of fornication, adultery and unbiblical divorce among its membership. The unrepentant have not been lovingly rebuked and disciplined. Rather, we have allowed marriage to be dishonored by our members, our leaders, our benefactors and our children -- so long as that dishonoring comes in a manner acceptable to our broader culture.
We are uncomfortable with practicing homosexuals in ways that we are not uncomfortable with practicing fornicators, adulterers and covenant-renders. And so, not out of a love for the Gospel, but out of a love for social comfort, we balk at "gay marriage."
So long as we allow marriage to be dishonored by those on our church rolls, we have no credible voice with which to speak against the dishonoring of marriage by those in our state.
The humility of repentance will grant our outcry the ring of truth.
-- Third, we must patiently and kindly preach the Gospel.
The heart of legalized "homosexual marriage" is not bucking against societal norms perceived to be antiquated. The heart of homosexual sin -- like all sin -- is hatred of the glory of God, especially as it is revealed in the good news of Jesus Christ.
The antidote to our situation, therefore, is not solely a marriage amendment. Government is established by God to approve of what is good. I do hope and pray that our state's constitution is amended to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. I've encouraged my legislators to pursue it.
Nevertheless, we know that changing a state's constitution does not change a man's constitution. The kingdom of God does not come through the steel sword of the state, but through the sword of Spirit. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).
Therefore, we must proclaim the saving reign of God through His Son Jesus Christ. We must speak of the eternal Son of God who became man and lived a sinless life. We must proclaim His crucifixion, in which He bore the wrath of God to take away the sin of the world. We must herald His resurrection from the dead and His reign at the right hand of God, from whence He will come again as judge.
It is through the proclamation of this message that God washes, sanctifies, and justifies homosexuals, adulterers, drunkards and idolaters -- as some of us once were (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
We do this not with shouting, arrogant quarreling and picket-signs proclaiming hateful messages. Rather, we must be kind, patient and gentle, praying that "God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will" (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
Eric Schumacher is pastor of Northbrook Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.