It is an issue that has seemingly divided the nation—and one that is not going away any time soon. Should the Marriage Act (1961) be revised to include same-sex couples? In more recent times the debate has centred on whether a plebiscite (a national poll) should be held on the issue.
Some are opposed to a plebiscite because they claim the debate will engender hatred and abuse towards gay and lesbian Australians. Others say it will cost too much. Some, like former High Court Justice Michael Kirby, oppose a plebiscite simply on the grounds that national polls rarely come back in the affirmative. On the other hand, advocates for a plebiscite argue that such a momentous change to the definition of marriage should be put to the people, rather than being decided within Parliament.
In any case, whether the plebiscite goes ahead or not, one thing is for sure, the social, political, and cultural landscape of Australia has changed drastically in the last 10 years. In the words of Dorothy to her beloved dog Toto: “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” In fact, in the lead up to the 2007 and 2010 elections both the major political parties supported the definition of marriage as set out in the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004, namely: Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.
Today, that’s not the case.
Both leaders of the major political parties in Australia have come out in support of redefining the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Moreover, the issue of same-sex marriage has become so divisive and the rhetoric so polarising that any chance for measured, reasonable discourse seems to have passed. It is difficult to enter the fray these days without being immediately labelled and marginalised.
For these reasons and more, it seems—at least to my mind—more likely than not that the legislation to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia will eventually pass. You may deem such an attitude to be defeatist, but to be frank, you should not find it shocking. The Bible reminds us multiple times that people who do not know and love God will not be that interested in what God has to say (John 3:18–19; Rom. 1:18–32; 1 Cor. 5:12). This is true, and we see it happening all around us. Here in Australia we’ve been living on the currency of Judeo-Christian values for a long time now, but the account is starting to run dry.
And, friends, let me be clear: this is not a cause for despair. Why? Because our role as believers in the world is not to call people to embrace Christian values; it is to call them to embrace Jesus (1 Cor. 1:23). What the people in our universities, workplaces, and suburbs really need is not a new moral code, but rather a loving Saviour who can rescue them from their sin and folly.
Now, what this seismic culture shift will probably mean, however, is that life in Australia may become more uncomfortable for followers of Jesus in the years to come. But, again, that’s not cause for despair because following Jesus has never been about comfort but rather about picking up our cross (Matt. 16:24–26).
Besides, even if the legislation does eventually pass, our reaction will be indicative of what we believe about God’s sovereignty. Sure, we may grieve over a nation and a world that rejects its good Creator, but we should not despair as if God can be knocked off his throne by the Australian Government or the Australian people. As author and theologian Russell Moore said when the Supreme Court found same-sex marriage to be a constitutional right in the United States: “The Supreme Court can do many things, but the Supreme Court cannot get Jesus back into his cemetery plot.”
Friends, that is true; and that is good news. Jesus is alive and has defeated sin, Satan and death, which means no matter what laws may be passed in our land, God still reigns, Jesus still lives, the Holy Spirit still changes hearts, and our mission of reconciliation remains the same (2 Cor. 5:11–21).
Now, let me be clear: I’m not saying we shouldn’t advocate for, or hold to, a biblical view of marriage. We should not keep silent about what God has ordained for the flourishing of humanity, including marriage. For this reason, please take the time to read the recent ‘Public Statement on Marriage’ from the CRCA, which we adhere to at BPCC. We should certainly be able to articulate why marriage matters, especially in light of who we are as men and women and in light of its connection to Christ and the church (Eph. 5:22–33). I’m not saying the legal definition of marriage doesn’t matter, I’m just saying our faith doesn’t rise or fall on the laws of our land and whether they reflect a Christian viewpoint. Our faith stands upon the sovereignty of God and the empty tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:17). And those things remain true and vital, no matter the laws enacted by our government.
Brothers and sisters, we have good news to offer a broken and hurting world; so let’s give it and let’s live it; freely, courageously, and openly, for the glory of God.
Grace and peace,
If you’d like some further thoughts on the issue of the plebiscite and how we can and should respond to it, please read “SSM: Without A Pleb In Sight” by Western Australian pastor and blogger Stephen McAlpine.
If you’d like some help on talking with your children about same-sex marriage, please read “How Should you talk to your children about same-sex marriage?” by Russell Moore
If you’d like further reading still, please consider “50 Resources for Equipping the Church on Homosexuality and Same-Sex Marriage” by Joe Carter