On June 26, 2013, in a highly contested ruling upheld by a narrow majority of justices, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially ruled against the constitutionality of enforcing heterosexuality as inherent to legally-protected marriage rights. In other words, states are now legally allowed to recognize same-sex marriages (though the decisions Wednesday stopped short of demanding states to recognize same-sex marriages).

Faithful Christians will doubtless be wrestling with what to do with this decision both for the short-term and long-term. Here are some initial observations and points of counsel for missional leaders seeking to be biblically faithful and culturally astute in our new context.

In the short-term:

  1. Recognize that the ground has indeed now shifted and the culture’s assumptions on what constitutes faithful, legitimate, life-long loving relationships and families have changed. The Supreme Court’s ruling is indicative of this (not the cause of it).
  2. Resist the temptation to rail against this legal ruling as indicative of our culture’s rebellion against God. Some good, Bible-believing Christians will want to embrace an us-versus-them mentality and use this Supreme Court ruling to portray a narrative of us pure, God-loving/God-loved Christians and our values being trampled by wanton, wicked, worldly pagans. This is not the way forward. If you choose to address this issue with your congregation this Sunday, emphasize the ministry challenge of reaching out and bringing God and His transforming, loving power to broken people.
  3. Take a breath. Meditate on Phil 4:5-8. Perhaps the better part of wisdom is to ensure that our hearts are right with the Lord and that we are engaging others with “gentleness.”

For the long-term:

Let us seek to develop in ourselves and in our communities of faith these qualities:

  1. Recognize and regularly communicate that we are all “on the way” (none of us has arrived). We are all broken, including in our sexuality.
  2. Value chastity and sexual purity and rebuke sexual promiscuity outside of marriage. Affirm those who are single, and commend those who are not married and are seeking to live faithful to God in sexual purity.
  3. Uphold the family, and affirm faithfulness and fidelity to those who are covenantally committed in marriage. Recognize that what families look like from now on will likely be different. With Jesus as our Guide, let us prepare ourselves and our congregations for welcoming families that represent a “new diversity.”
  4. It may be helpful to recall how men having multiple wives in the Ancient Near Eastern context must have broken God’s heart. Yet He was still willing to work within these cultures to uphold what was good and best in those ancient cultures.
  5. Especially with our young people, address same-sex attraction as one element regularly, commonly, and normally confronted as an aspect of our brokenness. Let us make our communities of faith a safe place for all who are challenged or harmed or continue to be tempted in areas of sexual brokenness. 
  6. Remind our congregations that our primary identity lies in our being a follower of Christ, a child of God. Our primary LOVE is for God and for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ (none of which is sexualized love or sexually-expressed love).

We are in new territory here.  That’s my short list of initial thoughts.  I’m interested in yours. 

Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum.

Other articles from our blog that might be of interest:


+1 # Phil DiLernia 2013-06-28 05:16
Hey Todd!

I have just a few comments. Please allow me if I may.

Short Term:
1. agree totally. But be aware that their ruling on Prop 8 in California has basically made homosexual marriage a de-facto Constitutional right.

2. I believe that this movement IS a rebellion against God. I believe Paul called it the same thing in Romans 1. So I'm not sure why communicators of the Gospel would want to downplay that key truth?

Yes it is important for us to be transparent about our lack of purity. It is key in allowing us to claim all sin as rebellion against God.

3. agreed

Long Term:
1. agreed

2. agreed

3. Do you want pastors to affirm those who are "faithful" in a homosexual marriage? I don't see how I can do that and be faithful to God?

I have no qualm about ministering to our new reality concerning families and do so every day. But their sin is never affirmed but rather we love them through it. There is a big difference. We will do the same with the homosexual.

4. Great point ... well said. A great "new" angle to look at and see how that played itself out in Scripture. Thanks!

5. YES YES YES!! I would add that it would be profitable to "enlighten" them how these attractions are being encouraged by an intentional effort of the media and the homosexual advocates who put pressure on the media. The homosexual is WAY OVER-REPRESENTED in the media and the politicians when compared to their real number. Kids need to know that they're being "manipulated" by Satan through the "world/cosmos".


"We are in new territory" ... maybe for us but God's Word gives us all we need to know when considering how to be His Ambassadors in the midst of all of this.

God bless you my brother and friend!

God's peace,

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0 # R. Todd Mangum 2013-06-28 10:14
Point 4 (under long term considerations) may be pretty significant in this, pastorally, Phil. God apparently has more categories than just black and white, sin or not sin (end of discussion). For instance, God's response in Gen. 29:31 is, I admit, surprising to me. But that's God; presumably He knows what He's doing and what's really most important. Right? :-) But how God responds to that totally less-than-optimal context in Gen 29 gives us a winddow, perhaps, into what is the proper, faithful-to-Him response in our context. There are grays and a wide spectrum of hues of color beyond black and white in Gen 29 to the question, "So . . . isn't polygamy sin? Shouldn't the sinfulness of polygamy not be downplayed?" . . .

I raise this more as an added consideration; not a rebuttal. This really is new territory for us all -- which I think defies easy answers to the right or to the left. . . .
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0 # Phil DiLernia 2013-06-29 05:57
Hi Todd:

I'm not sure why you picked this example as informative of our current context? Please explain more fully for my benefit.

I see God giving grace to a girl who was put in an awful situation not of her own doing ... it was her dad's doing. So God sees that she is not loved and provides an gleaming example of His love for her.

Their marriage was "normative" in that it was between a man-woman, God could allow them kids and still promote His program of beginning a nation designed to reflect their worship of Him, the family could still be promoted, etc etc.

I'm just not sure how this translates into affirming a homosexual marriage?


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0 # R. Todd Mangum 2013-06-29 09:47
I wouldn't want to try to convince you into "affirming" same sex marriage. Every congregation, every pastor, is going to have to wrestle with how to balance the competing goals and values of: 1) securing, insulating, and modeling stable two-parent families vs. the value of reaching and ministering to those with same sex orientation or GLBTQ values; 2) the value of staking out a righteous “stand” vs. the value of extending compassion towards those in most need of the healing and ministry that only walking with Jesus Christ alongside the company of fellow-followers of Christ can provide; and 3) the value of “meeting people where they are” vs. the value of prophetically calling people to repentance.

The reason I find the Gen 29 narrative valuable for considering all this is because in light of Gen 29 or many other OT examples, it could be difficult to answer the question, "So, does God 'affirm' polygamy? Does He 'condemn' polygamy?" (The answer to my reading is, "neither" -- He accommodates, and works towards better ideals all along the way -- eventually making polygamy virtually unheard of wherever Jewish or Christian communities thrive.)
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0 # Phil DiLernia 2013-07-01 09:18
thanks for giving me lots to think about and wrestle with as I continue to move forward towards a better nuanced ministry.

The reason I was interacting is because on July 21 my message (final one of a series about how Christians should impact culture in most of the controversial areas) is about sexuality ...

Have a great day brother!
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0 # newenglandsun 2013-07-07 13:05
I've always been an advocate for marriage privatization. :-x
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0 # R. Todd Mangum 2013-07-08 12:08
(to Phil Dilernia -- continued)

3) This Patheos piece, written autobiographically, by a young man who was bullied for his effeminate qualities -- and what that did to him (as someone seeking to be true to Christ and God's Word, too) -- see http://www.patheos.com/blogs/loveisanorientation/2013/07/what-being-bullied-taught-me-about-bridge-building/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Evangelical%207.4.13%20(1)&utm_content=&spMailingID=41961184&spUserID=NDEwMTQ5ODExNzgS1&spJobID=193628528&spReportId=MTkzNjI4NTI4S0 . Somewhere, part of the "Christian response" has to include compassionate understanding, extension of acceptance (as people made in God's image and in some cases brothers and sisters in Christ), and reaching out to those with same sex penchants. "Love the sinner, hate the sin," just is not sufficient; especially for people who sincerely understand themselves as their sexual attractions being part and parcel of "who they are," it's a distinction without a difference -- and they hear "hate them." Recovery from this -- in both reputation and in substance -- has to be as much of the "agenda" from here for Bible-believing Christians as any "opposition" we forward "against" practices or values we find biblically objectionable.

Hope this helps, Phil. And, I do invite you to post a manuscript or a youtube of your message once you've delivered it. I would find that helpful; and I think others would, too.


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0 # R. Todd Mangum 2013-07-08 12:11

You can imagine the amount of materials I've been sent (or otherwise come across) since posting this blog. Given that you've got a sermon on the topic you're preparing, here are three additional resources that I've found (for different reasons) particularly helpful, insightful, or informative:

1) Ravi Zacharias provides a pretty helpful framing of how (same-)sex issues are different and similar to issues of race -- see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIw6ngIqaD0#at=15. Now, three comments are worth making about this one:
a) Most of the time, we will not get 9 minutes to monologue without question or objection to such a volatile question and issue;
b) I wish a stronger, more consistence stance against racism could actually be cited and assumed as what Zacharias's answer (and the original question) assumes -- but, oh well; given that we SHOULD have (had) such a clear outspokenness against racisim now and historically, his answer argument assuming that probably sitll works; and
c); Zacharias's framing puts the issues (of race and sexual attraction) into the realm of what is "sacred" -- with sex then being regarded as a sacred gift of God (which is desacralized by engaging in it outside of biblically mandated parameters). It takes the answer to an unexpected realm, so is rhetorically effective. But . . . same-sex advocates given time to think about it and respond will counter that sexual expression of love is sacred (no matter whether it's same sex or opposite sex); so it may not be the "game-ender" that Zacharias projects it to be. Still, his framing is onto something, and is worth some further consideration.

2) This piece, written by a single woman, suggests that Christian evangelical culture has exaggerated the value or normativeness of marriage, period -- see http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/july-web-only/same-sex-marriage-and-single-christian.html?utm_source=ctdirect-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=9465271&utm_content=188808291&utm_campaign=2013&start=1 . Especially given: a) JESUS's singleness, and b) Paul's remarks in 1 Cor. 7:6-7 (which could be taken to suggest that marriage itself is something of a concession), her piece has gotten me thinking, too; and (continued next post . . . )
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0 # R. Todd Mangum 2013-07-08 12:42
@newenglandsun: I can't say I've "ALWAYS" been an advocate for marriage privatization -- but I have come to think that might be an option worth fresh consideration. Your comment is teasingly terse! :-) I'm interested in hearing more of your thoughts and rationale. . . .
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0 # Phil DiLernia 2013-07-08 23:22
I shall post the link after it is done Todd. I'm not sure that any message I give will open up new territory.

Referring to Ravi's statements about racism, one of the topics of the series titled: Race and Culture. It is available to anyone who wants to listen FREE OF CHARGE ... hahahaha


Under Media and Messages > Messages ... it is from 6/23/13. If you have the time I would appreciate an honest critique ... well maybe not TOO honest! lol

Have a great night ...
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