The failure of the Supreme Court of the United States to hear the case regarding Virginia's marriage amendment has sent shock waves through nearly every sphere of life across the Commonwealth.
We all became immediately aware of the effect that this non-decision would have on clerks of court across Virginia. They would be forced to make a decision. Obey God and lose their job, or obey man and acquiesce to the demands of an out-of-control government. Some clerks have resigned. Others have determined that their conscience would allow them to hand out the marriage licenses, but not perform "marriage" ceremonies for homosexual couples. So they have kept their job as clerk, but have relinquished their status as a celebrant.
The struggle became evident in county that neighbors the one in which I live. The court's non-decision couldn't have come at a more opportune time for those who love a good political battle. It was election time. In a month, voters would go to the polls to elect a clerk of court.
Battle lines were drawn. Neither candidate could choose not to issue "marriage" licenses to homosexual couples and serve as clerk of court. One candidate was currently serving as clerk of court, had already issued at least one license to a homosexual couple, and also performed the ceremony for that couple. The other candidate stated that though he would be required to issue the licenses as a part of his job, he would not perform the ceremonies. This led many evangelicals to throw their support behind the candidate who was "taking a stand for marriage."
The argument on the other side is that if you don't issue the license and perform the ceremony someone else will. That, of course, is not the point. The point is that believers ought not to call good what God has called an abomination.
Long story short, the lady who was happy to issue the licenses and perform the ceremonies won the election.
Then yesterday I became aware of a situation where many who work for the Virginia Department of Social Services will soon be forced to sign off on adoptions to homosexual couples or lose their jobs. It is easy to look at the situation from the outside and think that the answer is obvious. How can a Christian sign their name to a paper that says this couple is fit to raise a child when everything we know about life and the natural order of things says otherwise?
On the other hand, one cannot help but think of all the good that a Christian can do for the sake of the kingdom working for DSS. Ministering to the least of these. Helping place other children in healthy family situations that give the child the best chance of succeeding in life. Being salt and light in a dark and saltless world as Jesus has called us to be.
What about the families of these social workers? Won't their own families suffer from them losing their jobs?
It is for these reasons that I want to be slow to say that someone is being a "bad Christian" when they make a decision that is different from the one I would make regarding these issues. But I do not speak to this as one looking from the outside in.
I think about my own situation. I don't think I am being an alarmist when I say that there may come a day in this country when pastors will be imprisoned for daring to say that homosexuality is unnatural and sinful. I don't really fear for myself. But I fear for my wife. I fear for my children. How will they be affected if daddy is in jail?
All of these thoughts came racing to the forefront of my mind recently when several pastors in Houston had their sermons subpoenaed. Some Christians were calling for all pastors to send in their sermons. That sounded like a noble thing to do until I thought about it. Do I really want the real intolerants on the front steps of my church, which is right outside my home, picketing the "bigots" inside?
I decided that it is one thing to face persecution head on when it comes looking for you, and another thing to go looking for it.
Of course I still feel silly using the word persecution to describe anything I may have experienced in the past or may experience in the future. I don't have any reason to fear having my head cut off as many of my brothers and sisters overseas. But Jesus' definition of persecution was not so narrow as only to include having your head cut off. He said, "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account."
The question comes down to whether Jesus calls us to do hard things. We can choose to justify stepping down in the face of persecution for the sake of the "greater good." What about the children? What about MY children? Or we can choose to obey God rather than man regardless of the cost.
I am convinced that the lost world around us does not take us seriously. Part of the reason for that is because we are bold and loud when we are a powerful majority, but silent and sheepish when we are an impotent minority. If anyone desires to follow Jesus he must first count the cost. Could it be that God is now calling us to bear our cross and follow Him? Could it be that God is now calling us to do hard things?
It is only a God whom we have created in our own image who never calls us to do hard things.