If you’re a Christian, you’ve heard a discussion or two about same-sex marriage. You’ve probably been asked what you think about it. And, sure enough, you or someone you know has responded to the question, “What do you think about same-sex marriage?” With the words, “The Bible says…”
It’s understandable that Christians think this way. The Bible is the Word of God. For Christians, the Bible is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16) and designed for rebuke, correction, and “instruction in righteousness.” No Christian should be willing to make decisions without considering the weight of Scripture.
And yet, the tendency to consult the Bible so quickly on a legal question gives the impression that Christians don’t really understand how to apply Scripture in a secular society. We want to have zeal according to godliness, but to do that, our zeal must also be “according to knowledge.” I’ll take this up in an upcoming article where I address a landmark case pertaining to same-sex marriage. But that’s for later.
What I want to do in this post is discuss the Bible and the Constitution. I want us to understand these two sources of law, and then see how they differ from one another.
the law of god: What is the bible?
What is the Bible? The Bible is God’s Word, according to Christians. It contains 66 books of different genres (song, poetry, letter, narrative/plot, prayer, speech, vision, etc). It shows how God created the world and declared it good, but that mankind whom He made brought evil into it. Through one man, Adam, sin entered the world. God deals with sin in Christ and will someday return and rescue those who believe in Him. From beginning to end, we read of God’s love for the world He made and how Jesus is the fullest expression of God’s love. The same Jesus who comes down to die for mankind is the same Jesus that will return to bring believers back to glory where He is. He is the Bridegroom, the Church of believers is His Bride, and the soon-coming celebration is the Marriage Supper. At that supper, all who believe, including Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and many Gentiles, will sit down together in the Kingdom of God.
The Bible is God’s Word. It is sufficient, but not exhaustive. It tells us what we need to know, not all there is to know. It is the Law of God: that is, God’s Law to us, what God does and does not allow. It distinguishes between good works and sin.
the law of the land: what is the us constitution?
The United States Constitution refers to the political, legal document that governs all 50 states. Laws that are passed and added to the Constitution must grant everyone equal rights and opportunity. When votes are cast based on an upcoming law, the current rules and amendments in the Constitution must be considered. For example, a President cannot serve more than a total of 2 terms (8 years in office). When a political candidate is chosen from a party to run for President, he or she cannot serve beyond 8 years. And he or she must also be at least 35 years of age. If a candidate is found in violation of these rules, he or she cannot win the presidency no matter how great the campaign.
Other laws, for example, pertain to the legal age to drink intoxicating beverages (age 21, for those who need a reminder) and the age to legally smoke cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, and vaping products (moved from age 18 to now age 21 nationwide).
The US Constitution is “the law of the land.” Every American is granted the same rights as every other citizen because the law says so. When citizens sue because of infringement upon their rights, the US Constitution is the source of their rights. It is used in court.
the rub: where the law of the god and the law of the land conflict
There are two laws we’ve been discussing in the article so far: the Law of God, the Bible, and the Law of the Land (US Constitution).
The Law of God, the Bible, God’s Holy Word, is the “divine love letter” to His people, believers. But throughout this love story, we read of God’s Law and God’s commands: “Thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”. And so, with that said, we read of God making creation “male and female.” We read of Adam and Eve procreating with God’s blessing. We read of God’s prohibition to Levitical priests to not “lie with a man as with a woman” (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13). And we read of Paul’s words in Romans 1 about how men and women abandoned their marriages to go have homosexual sex with someone of the same gender outside the marriage (Romans 1:22-27). LGBT Christians would say that “Paul doesn’t mention same-sex marriage within Scripture.” I agree with them; yet, everything we read in Scripture says that Paul was certainly against same-sex sexual activity. Why would he approve of same-sex sexual relations within marriage when all of Scripture opposes homosexual sex in general?
Nowhere do we read Paul approving of homosexuality. Nowhere. God made them male and female. Homosexuality is a direct contradiction of heterosexuality. So with that said, God chose heterosexuality as the marriage design for humanity. Interestingly, enough, even the animal kingdom is organized according to male and female labels, too (Genesis 6:19; 7:3, 9, 16). “Every living thing…shall be male and female” God says to Noah (Genesis 6:19). So, when we see that humanity and the animal kingdom are organized according to male and female gender labels, the evidence stares us in the face: to say that God made creation anything other than male and female with heterosexuality in mind is to directly contradict Scripture.
The constitution doesn’t submit to scripture
And yet, there is the Law of the Land. The Law of the Land doesn’t abide by nor does it submit to Scripture. This is hard for a number of Christians to accept. Many Christians believe the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Some believe that the three branches of government (legislative, executive, judicial) pertain to the three persons of God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). And while this may be true, the rules of Scripture, the “dos” and “don’ts,” aren’t applied throughout the Constitution.
For example, take the commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” (Exodus 20:3). The US Constitution allows everyone to have freedom of religion, including the worship of gods other than the God of Israel (the God of the Bible). If someone wants to worship multiple gods (be it the sun, moon, and stars, which God forbade the Israelites to worship, see Deuteronomy 4:19 and 17:3), he or she can do so. But this goes against God’s Word, which says only the God of Israel is to be worshipped. Religious freedom is at odds with Scripture. If America lives according to the Bible, we would condemn religious freedom. We don’t.
What about the commandment to not “make for yourself a carved image” (Exodus 20:4)? We think that the images are forbidden if they will be worshipped, but God says to “not make a carved image,” even of “any likeness of anything…that is in the earth beneath.” This means that not only are we not to bow down and serve carved images (Exodus 20:5), but we aren’t to even make them. By this definition, all carved images of not only Confederate statues but also statues of Abraham Lincoln and even the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are contrary to Scripture.
There’s the guaranteed freedom of speech, which says that people have the right to express themselves and say things — even if the things they say offend you. For example, you may be a Christian working at a social media site. You’re in charge of moderating posts that are published as they come up in real time. And one day, you notice that a lot of posts come up that say, “There is no God,” “God is a myth,” “Jesus is fiction,” “God doesn’t exist,” or, as some have said, “God is nothing more than a flying spaghetti monster.” You may be a Christian who has Christian conviction, but you cannot take down these posts because atheists have a right to express themselves, too. You may believe with all your Christianity that these statements are downright lies and falsehood, but the Constitution protects atheists and their “false belief,” too.
We’ve taken the long route to get to the issue at hand, but we’ve gotten here. When someone responds to the issue of same-sex marriage with the words, “the Bible says,” he or she is using a faith-based argument, a Scriptural argument. As a Pastor who believes the Bible is God’s Word, I agree that Christians should have faith-based convictions.
And yet, at the same time, as a citizen not only of the Kingdom of God but also of the kingdom of this world, I must submit to the “powers that be” here because, as Scripture says, they are ordained of God (Romans 13:1-2). The Law of the land, the US Constitution, is not concerned with my personal religious conviction, your religious conviction, any denomination or church’s conviction. It isn’t even concerned with what the atheist’s personal thoughts on marriage are. What the Law of the land is concerned with is that everyone be treated equally, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, creed, or general religious belief.
So when the law permits same-sex marriage, and I’m a county clerk responsible for issuing a marriage license for example, I must abide by the law of the land, regardless of my faith conviction. Because, as we’ve examined above, the Law of the Land and the Law of God are two different laws. The Bible and the Constitution are two different documents: one spiritual, one legal.
We’ll get into more of this in another post. Stay tuned.