The issue that led to the persecution of the early church by Roman authorities was not that they worshipped Jesus Christ. It was that they worshipped him alone. It was their refusal to say “Caesar is Lord” that got them in trouble.
This is not just a first century phenomenon. There are still those who insist that Caesar is Lord, who insist that government is the highest authority in the land. This week at the “LGBTQ Town Hall,” Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke declared that churches who do not support so-called same-sex marriage should lose their tax-exempt status. He said:
“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone … that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us…And so as president, we are going to make that a priority, and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”
This was not an unpopular or unique position as it generated enthusiastic applause from the audience and no disagreement from any of the other Democratic candidates.
Civil government is a common grace institution ordained by God to administer temporal justice. But government’s authority is limited. They have no authority to dictate theology to the church nor do they have authority to redefine marriage, an institution created by God at the beginning of time.
It’s one thing for government to refuse to grant tax breaks for any churches or religious organizations, it’s quite another to use tax law to punish those churches who refuse to teach what the government demands they teach. That takes us into the realm of state-sanctioned churches and state-sanctioned theology, something believers in Communist China are already dealing with. Therefore, Christians should oppose this ungodly insertion of civil government into the affairs of the church with all legal means at our disposal.
But what if it comes to pass anyway?
As far as Grace Fellowship is concerned, our teaching on marriage, sexuality and the family will not change. A few years back, anticipating events like these, the elders added a statement on human sexuality and marriage to our statement of faith:
The Bible teaches that sexual relations are to be exercised solely within marriage (Exodus 20:14, Hebrews 13:4). Grace Fellowship seeks to promote healthy marriages by, among other things, opposing all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. Marriage is an institution established by God as clearly described in the Bible. Grace Fellowship recognizes that marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime (Matthew 19:4-6, Ephesians 5:31-32). Accordingly, Grace Fellowship, its pastors, staff and members will not facilitate same-sex unions or same-sex marriages, nor shall church property or resources be used for such purposes. We subscribe to the Nashville Statement on human sexuality and gender.
So, should those who agree with Beto O’Rourke prevail, Grace Fellowship will say with the Apostles: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), knowing there will be consequences associated with that decision. But knowing as well that those consequences will be ordained by God for our good and his glory.