PRAYING FOR AMERICA

My heart is burdened for my homeland today. With the rest of the nation we await the Supreme Court decision on gay marriages—do gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry and can state bans against same-sex marriage remain in place? Thus far 37 states in our nation have legal provision for same sex marriage, with the other 13 states banning gay marriage (although in 8 of these states [including Michigan] gay marriage bans have been overturned and appeals are in process). What will the Supreme Court decide? While most prognosticators are predicting that the Court will rule in favor of same sex marriage, past reality is that the nine justices have shown the capacity to surprise the nation.

And so we as Adventists, as American Christians, intercede before God on behalf of our homeland. Does the course of this nation matter to God? Someone gave me a recent book by the Messianic rabbi Jonathan Cahn, The Harbinger, in which he builds a startling case (through a fascinating narrative), claiming Isaiah 9:10 predicts God’s judgment on this nation. And while I don’t subscribe to his premise that America today (like Israel of old) is God’s chosen nation and thus the inheritor of the ancient divine promises for Israel, I do concur with the thoughtful notion that America is morally accountable as a recipient of Heaven’s unprecedented blessing. Jesus declared, “Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given” (Luke 12:48 NLT). Ellen White herself once observed, “The Lord has done more for the United States than for any other country upon which the sun shines” (Maranatha 193). In God’s judgment much will be required of this nation abundantly blessed—that is clear enough.

And while we are not a constitutionally-defined Christian nation, I came across this observation while reading the Great Controversy on this day of special prayer for our nation and the Supreme Court. In the chapter, “The Pilgrim Fathers,” our early history reveals: “The Bible was held as the foundation of faith, the source of wisdom, and the charter of liberty. Its principles were diligently taught in the home, in the school, and in the church, and its fruits were manifest in thrift, intelligence, purity, and temperance. . . . It was demonstrated that the principles of the Bible are the surest safeguards of national greatness. The feeble and isolated colonies grew to a confederation of powerful states, and the world marked with wonder the peace and prosperity of ‘a church without a pope, and a state without a king’” (296 emphasis supplied). The point isn’t that America must be declared a Christian nation—too many well-meaning but mistaken evangelicals have resorted to that sort of revisionist history. But Ellen White is clear that the principles of the Bible—its foundational ethics and morality—were the catalyst for “national greatness.”

But I fear that those Bible principles are now being abandoned across this nation. Yes, we must continue to stand for the constitutional principle of minority protection and thus defend the personal rights of the LGBT community to enjoy every constitutional provision possible. But does that require our faith community to reject the biblical definition of marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman?

On October 17, 2012, the Executive Committee of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists voted the document, “Same Sex Unions,” that included this statement: “We reaffirm, without hesitation, our long-standing position as expressed in the Church's Fundamental Beliefs: ‘Marriage was divinely established in Eden and affirmed by Jesus to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman in loving companionship.’ Though ‘sin has perverted God's ideals for marriage and family,’ ‘the family tie is the closest, the most tender and sacred of any human relationship,’ and thus ‘families need to experience renewal and reformation in their relationships’ (An Affirmation of Family, 1990).  God instituted ‘marriage, a covenant-based union of two genders [male and female] physically, emotionally, and spiritually, spoken of in Scripture as “one flesh.”’ ‘The monogamous union in marriage of a man and a woman is . . . the only morally appropriate locus of genital or related intimate sexual expression.’ ‘Any lowering of this high view is to that extent a lowering of the heavenly ideal’ (An Affirmation of Marriage, 1996).”

Interestingly enough, yesterday in Columbus, Ohio, the Southern Baptist Convention voted: “What the Bible says about marriage is clear, definitive and unchanging. We affirm biblical, traditional, natural marriage as the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. The Scriptures’ teaching on marriage is not negotiable. We stake our lives upon the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Consequently, we will not accept, nor adhere to, any legal redefinition of marriage issued by any political or judicial body including the United States Supreme Court. We will not recognize same-sex ‘marriages’, our churches will not host same-sex ceremonies, and we will not perform such ceremonies. . . . We also believe religious freedom is at stake within this critical issue – that our first duty is to love and obey God, not man.” (http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/southern-baptists-statement-opposing-gay-marriage/nmfLH/).

Neither statement abandons the church’s commitment to be a loving, healing community for all, irrespective of sexual orientation. But both statements clearly define the church’s stand on the biblical foundation and precedent for marriage. As we await the decision of the nation’s highest court, let us all “watch and pray.” For hasn’t God promised: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14)?

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