By Adriane Heins
In a landmark 5-4 ruling June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a right to marry in any state in America, even in states where same-sex marriage currently is not recognized.
“Today was a tragedy in the history of Western and world civilization,” LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison said soon after the ruling. “Five justices cannot rewrite all of history, much less can they redefine what God has defined.”
Speaking to the future, he said, “We will continue to be faithful to the institution of marriage as conceived by our founders. If those who wrote the Fourteenth Amendment could have known that it would be misused for this purpose, they would be absolutely shocked and horrified. Truth does not change. God’s Word does not change.”
As for the LCMS, Harrison noted, “We will continue to be faithful to God’s institution of marriage and natural law, and we will also be compassionate to people who are damaged by this misdirection.”
Harrison also released a letter to the church today, noting that “We respect the divinely given dignity of all people, no matter their sexual preference. We recognize that, under the exacting and demanding laws of God, we are indeed sinners in thought, word and deed, just as are all (Rom. 3:9ff.). We confess that the ‘blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all our sins’ (1 John 1:7).”
In his letter, Harrison also encouraged LCMS Lutherans to “continue to reach out to those who continue to be harmed by the ethic of radical sexual freedom, detached from God’s blessing of marriage.”
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:1–7).
A one-person majority of the U.S. Supreme Court got it wrong – again. Some 40 years ago, a similarly activist court legalized the killing of children in the womb. That decision has to date left a wake of some 55 million Americans dead. Today, the Court has imposed same-sex marriage upon the whole nation in a similar fashion. Five justices cannot determine natural or divine law. Now shall come the time of testing for Christians faithful to the Scriptures and the divine institution of marriage (Matthew 19:3–6), and indeed, a time of testing much more intense than what followed Roe v. Wade.
Like Roe v. Wade, this decision will be followed by a rash of lawsuits. Through coercive litigation, governments and popular culture continue to make the central post-modern value of sexual freedom override “the free exercise of religion” enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
The ramifications of this decision are seismic. Proponents will seek to drive Christians and Christian institutions out of education at all levels; they will press laws to force faithful Christian institutions and individuals to violate consciences in work practices and myriad other ways. We will have much more to say about this.
During some of the darkest days of Germany, a faithful Lutheran presciently described how governments lose their claim to legitimate authority according to Romans 13.
The Caesar cult in its manifold forms, the deification of the state, is one great form of the defection from the [true] idea of the state. There are also other possibilities of such defection. The government can forget and neglect its tasks. When it no longer distinguishes between right and wrong, when its courts are no longer governed by the strict desire for justice, but by special interests, when government no longer has the courage to exercise its law, fails to exercise its duties, undermines its own legal order, when it weakens through its family law parental authority and the estate of marriage, then it ceases to be governing authority.
Raising such a question can lead to heavy conflicts of conscience. But it is fundamentally conceivable, and it has time and again become reality in history, that a governing authority has ceased to be governing authority. In such a case there may indeed exist a submission to a superior power. But the duty of obedience against this power no longer exists. [Hermann Sasse, “What Is the State?”(1932)]
As faithful Christians, we shall continue to be obedient to just laws. We affirm the human rights of all individuals and the inherent and equal value of all people. We respect the divinely given dignity of all people, no matter their sexual preference. We recognize that, under the exacting and demanding laws of God, we are indeed sinners in thought, word and deed, just as are all (Romans 3:9ff.). We confess that the “blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all our sins” (1 John 1:7). We confess that God’s divine law of marriage and the entire Ten Commandments apply to all, and that so also the life-giving sacrifice of Christ on the cross is for all. It is a “righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:22).
However, even as we struggle as a church to come to a unified response to this blatant rejection of the entire history of humankind and its practice of marriage, “We shall obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). Christians will now begin to learn what it means to be in a state of solemn conscientious objection against the state. We will resist its imposition of falsehood upon us, even as we continue to reach out to those who continue to be harmed by the ethic of radical sexual freedom, detached from God’s blessing of marriage. And we will stand shoulder to shoulder with Christians, churches and people of good will who are resolute on this issue.
God help us. Amen.
Pastor Matthew C. Harrison
- Marriage Policy — Sample marriage policy for LCMS congregations and sample provisions limiting the use of church property to marriages that are consistent with LCMS beliefs.
- “Why Marriage Matters” — A Bible Study by the Rev. Timothy Pauls
- Biblical Understanding — Resources that provide a biblical understanding of God’s gift of marriage between a man and a woman
- Case for Marriage — Help for making the case for marriage when talking with those who disagree
- Know a College Student? — Share a letter of encouragement regarding marriage from the Rev. Marcus Zill, director of LCMS U
- Concordia Publishing House — Resources on marriage
- Doxology Conference — Sex, Marriage and the Christian Vision | Aug. 12-13 in St. Louis
- Supreme Court opinion