“But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of self…unholy… without self control…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…”
(2 Timothy 3:1-2)
The central institution of human civilisation suffered a direct hit last week in San Francisco. In a carefully aimed shot, Judge Walker of the Federal District Court fired a judicial salvo straight into the mid-ships of the Christian understanding of marriage. In his judgment of over 100 pages, he declared, “Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage: marriage under law is a union of equals.” Whatever you think of the decision, it is certainly a line in the sand. The editorial board of the New York Times declared the verdict, “An instant landmark in American legal history.” Few would disagree with this assessment, although many would think that this is simply further evidence that the West is slouching irresistibly towards Gomorrah.
The matter under appeal in the court was a law that had been passed by a majority of Californians in November, 2008, called Proposition 8. Proposition 8 was an amendment to the California Constitution which added a new section, 7:5, to the Declaration of Rights. It stated: “Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognised in California.”
Naturally, the homosexual lobby was disappointed with this result and decided to appeal the decision. California’s refusal to redefine marriage to allow for unions between homosexuals was a major block to their ambition of achieving national recognition for homosexual marriage.
Actually, Judge Walker’s decision was not surprising. He had already intimated over the preceding months the likely outcome of the appeal. Despite the fact that the majority of Californians had voted in favour of retaining the traditional definition of marriage, he said that he struck down the law on the grounds that they had done so out of religious opposition. How the judge would have known the basis on which each voter had made his or her decision is a mystery yet to be explained. Perhaps the judge has amazing powers of mental telepathy? Nevertheless, his decision effectively gives homosexuals the right to define marriage for everyone else.
The question for Christians is: how should we respond? First, we should not be surprised that we are facing morally troubled times. The last days will be “terrible times”. Paul warns Timothy that in the last days the church will be confronted with challenging moral issues that arise from man-centred and sensual philosophies. Previous generations of Christians have had to face a variety of counterfeits to marriage such as cohabitation and polygamy. However, never before has a political movement proposed elevating homosexual cohabitation to marriage.
Finally, we should not be downcast. The Psalmist reminds us that it is a mark of life in this fallen world that kings and rulers rail against God and his law: “Let us throw off their fetters,” they say (Psalm 2:3). However, despite this opposition, the Psalmist is unfazed: “The One enthroned in heaven laughs… the Lord has them in derision” (2:4). In God’s world He always has the last laugh. Judge Walker and those who are seeking to overturn the Biblical understanding of marriage will discover this in God’s good time.