Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage
Three years ago I wrote of my fear that the new Conservative-led coalition government in the UK would lead to an erosion of religious freedom. This seemed odd at the time, but I saw that a failure to secure a majority would provide this oddly liberal Conservative leadership the opportunity to push forward legislation that would be contrary to fundamental Christian beliefs. Today, the House of Lords in the UK approved the government bill that gives marriage rights to same-sex couples - a significant piece of legislation that the Conservative Party did not include in its election manifesto. This is not the place to debate the merits of the legislation or the effects that the legislation may have (we are currently writing a position paper on homosexuality which we expect to have completed for Fall 2013). It does however warrant a few key observations:
First, the British government has earnestly sought a form of equality which has necessitated some groups being more equal than others. The government is pursuing a vision of tolerance, brilliantly understood by DA Carson in his book :"The Intolerance of Tolerance", where the truth claims of faith cannot be tolerated against the idol of new tolerance in which all ideas must be considered equal. Traditional Christian values are losing the equality battle in a terrible statement for western democracy and this trend is only likely to continue.
Second, a significant number of cases in which Christians have faced hostility are clearly linked to views on sexuality. The effects of this legislation must be monitored to see whether Christian freedom will be further eroded. I encourage you to occasionally visit "the Observatory" for an organization doing excellent work on monitoring religious freedom in Europe (http://www.intoleranceagainstchristians.eu/). As we seek to monitor trends in the US, the EU may provide a warning of what could occur in the US.
Third, this legislation, despite government promises, will likely lead to clear conflicts between faith and obedience to the law of the land, placing Christians in a position not encountered in the West for hundreds of years - in which we must choose whether to obey Caesar or Christ. Expect to see an increasing polarization of the church between those liberalizing their faith and those who continue to follow evangelical teaching (and a small side-note here: expect the latter to grow).
But let me close with a renewed call to the church. We are the light and salt of the world. We are called to bring Jesus to the lost. While we may disagree with this legislation, it does nothing to alter the call on our lives. This call may indeed become harder, but we find comfort that this often was the case for the church. And perhaps the church is better when its mission is harder. Paul wrote in Colossians 1:9b-14.
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
You represent the Kingdom of Light. So do good works, bear fruit for the Kingdom and rely on the Father for strength and power.