Well that’s it then. The people have spoken and 61% of Australians have said that they are in favour of legalising so-called “Same-sex marriage”*. I don’t know about you but I was disappointed (we do believe in the God of miracles after all!) and saddened (this is not what is best for the people of Australia) but not surprised (why should I expect that people who do not believe God’s word would always vote for what God desires?).
However, the question now turns to what next? Here are a few thoughts for what they are worth.
1) Christians should surprise people by our grace. The people have spoken, we have had our say and the result did not go our way. Christians should not get in the way of it now becoming law in our land. Instead, we should show grace in our acceptance of the result while continuing to encourage the Parliament to pursue appropriate protections for freedom of speech and religion as things that are good for our nation.
2) Christians should get on with the main game. In the end, what the people of Australia need more than good marriage laws is the life-giving news of the Gospel. Whatever the laws of the land, we should be praying for all people that they would have opportunities to hear about Jesus and find salvation in him. That’s our main game and that did not change before or after 10am Wednesday.
3) Continue to hold to and teach the truth of God’s word (on this and every topic) even if it does go against the law of the land. It will need real courage over the next few years to continue to say that homosexual practice is sinful and unacceptable to God. Increasingly, Christians will be under pressure to agree that homosexual activity is good or at the very least, keep silent. We need to pray that Christians will not bend on this issue. Part of loving our neighbours and preaching the Gospel is calling sin “sin” so that people know that they need salvation in Christ.
4) Be ready to stand firm as Christians even if it costs us. The concerns of the “No” campaign with regard to religious freedom were not simply rhetoric. Protections for people to say what they think on these issues going forward are far from guaranteed. Indeed, implicit (and often explicit) in many of the arguments of the “Yes” campaign was the view that religious freedom does not extend to the right of an individual lay person to say what they think on this issue. (Don’t worry about me though because ordained people will be protected in the short term at least). This issue is really just the beginning of that battle. Hard times are ahead for Christians. More and more we will be tempted to keep our heads down and, frankly, be ashamed of our Lord and his words (Mark 8:38).
Sadly, for some this will sort out the reality of their faith in Jesus. Some who call themselves Christians (even in our own church) will be found to be not truly converted and will walk away from the faith rather than face ridicule from friends and family. For others this will show them that they do not accept God’s word as the final authority and so they will search for an unfaithful “church” that bends on this issue. Sadly, some people have left or drifted away from the faith already over this issue. This should not surprise us given that Jesus and Paul both said that these things would happen whenever the going gets tough (Mark 4:16-17, 2 Timothy 4:3).
However, this is not all a bad thing. Perhaps we have had it too easy for too long? Such times have historically led to a great strengthening of the church. So, now is the time to remind yourself of why you are a Christian, which I hope is because you “consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
5) Christians should begin to think through the difficult ethical decisions that this will raise before we face them. Once “same sex marriage” becomes law it will then become illegal to ‘discriminate’ against same-sex couples. This raises all sorts of questions for Christians:
• How should a Christian teacher react when required to teach a positive view of homosexual practice if that is part of the curriculum?
• Should a Christian attend a ‘wedding’ of a friend or family member, or should we not attend to show that we do not agree?
These are the sort of ethical decisions we will need to make and we will need to be careful not to base them on emotional responses (either way) but instead on trusting in the authority of Scripture.
These are a few preliminary thoughts that I hope you find helpful, but more than anything I want to remind us that Jesus is still Lord whatever people think on these issues. God still causes the sun to rise on the righteous and the unrighteous whatever parliaments do or decide. God is good, Jesus is Lord, our job is to trust him and live for him, in season and out.
*Interestingly, the local electorates of Barton and Banks were 2 of only 13 electorates to have a majority voting ‘No’.