On Friday, the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples in our country have the legal right to marry anywhere in our country. The ruling has sparked fear, sadness, anger, and concern among many Christians who hold to the biblical understanding that marriage is a lifetime commitment between a man and a woman. As the pastor of Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church in Dalton, GA writing to members of my own congregation who are disturbed by this rulling, I offer four points of advice as you respond to the court's decision:
1. Be at peace. Remember that God is in control. Despite our fears, which are fueled by heated news headlines and social media, God is still in control. Trust Him with all your fears, worries, anger, and sorrow. Philippians 4:6 (The Message),Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns." Christians are a praying people. Let us pray.
2. Keep things in perspective. The Supreme Court's ruling does not alter the stance of Pleasant Grove UMC, the United Methodist denomination (or any other denomination for that matter). The United Methodist Church prohibits UM clergy from performing weddings for same-gender couples and prohibits such weddings from being held in our churches. The court's decision has no control over the UMC's policy and I remain hopeful that the UMC will remain faithful to a biblical understanding of marriage between a man and a woman.
3. Speak the truth in love. Remember, you are an ambassador for Christ in everything you do and say. As you talk to your friends, family members, and neighbors--especially on social media--let your words be filled with God's love and grace. Pray for God to enable you to speak the truth in loving ways. Refuse to be sucked into the vortex of angry, rude, and hurtful arguments. Let the Spirit be your guide. Speak the truth clearly in a sincere and loving way. If you cannot speak the truth with love--being respectful even of those who disagree with you, who curse or revile you, who do not seem to respect you--then do not speak at all; turn those situations over to God and let Him handle them. Now more than ever, we need Christians who know the truth, live the truth, and who love their enemies and pray for those who curse them.
4. Live faithfully for Christ. Don't worry about what everyone else is doing wrong. Instead, focus on doing what is right yourself. You can't control what other people do and you aren't responsible for them anyway. You are responsible to God for your own actions. So do the best you can--with God's help--to live a holy life. Our best opportunity to change the world around us for the better comes when we live faithfully for Christ ourselves.
Please join with me in praying.
Almighty, Loving, Forgiving, Sovereign God,
I come to you with a heavy heart.
I grieve for a nation that seems to slip further and further from You every day.
I grieve also for people who lash out with hurtful words--
words fueled by fear, frustration, and anger--
aimed at those they believe are misleading our country.
Help us oh Lord!
Help us to trust You when the swirling storms of cultural change and chaos whirl around us,
as we fear the damage being done to a nation we love.
Help us to trust You to guide our Church to remain faithful to Your Word--
even if it costs us.
Help us to count as an honor
any loss or persecution or suffering we must endure for the sake of the Gospel.
Help us to understand the Truth of Your Word
so we can communicate it clearly whenever You give us an opportunity.
Help us to be humble, and to love, and to respect those with whom we disagree--
even if they do not do the same for us, even if they revile us, curse us, or persecute us.
Help us to live faithfully--living out the Truth we proclaim with our actions.
And please forgive us, for we know we fall short far too much.
We offer ourselves to You, trusting in Your mercy and grace,
through Christ Jesus our Lord.