It’s been almost a month since SCOTUS “ruled” on Obergefell v. Hodges and gave us their majority opinion in regards to states’ rights to determine who can and can’t marry. The reversal essentially, according to FOTF, “has the net effect of legalizing same-sex marriage at the federal and state levels across the entire country.” Biblically speaking, our culture continues to spiral downward morally. It’s an astonishingly lamentable time in which we live.
Yet, we shouldn’t be surprised in one sense. Romans 1 predicted this very type of course as a result of our “exchanges,” and Paul described our culture well when he described his own in 2 Timothy 3. After all, we’re still in the “last days.”
In the middle of this decadent free fall by our society, I find myself ironically and oddly content, even counter-intuitively joyful. In fact, I recall when the not-so-surprising decision was announced—even though the tsunami of sin was overwhelmingly evident and nearing the shore, there was this quiet confidence deep in my soul that I couldn’t explain and didn’t expect.
You see, the typical outcry I’ve been hearing, both before the ruling and even after it, goes something like this: “If God doesn’t step in and do something, well…” This frustration-born “prayer” is usually finished with something about divine judgment or spiritual punishment, and “until that happens, well, good luck!” The face-value impression of these words is that God is not doing something currently; that’s it’s hopeless; that our Lord is obviously not working yet to bring about the return to righteousness so desperately needed. If that were our only alternative in the middle of mankind’s sinfulness, then yes, we should despair.
But is it? I think not.
My question is this—What if the court’s corrupt verdict is actually the very thing God is doing? Could it be that God is using the evil that exists to eventually bring about the righteousness he intends? What if he actually is “stepping in and doing something,” just not in the way we had thought or hoped?
Before you answer, consider a couple of instances where God did precisely this:
- God used the Chaldeans, a sinful nation with a wicked king, as a primary means in his work with his people (Judah). This is what disturbed Habakkuk so greatly, and why he wrestled with God. (By the way, his name means “to embrace,” as in to hold on to and struggle.) In fact, this is the main message of his self-titled prophecy. That God would use the regime of the “New Babylonians” to militarily, politically, and culturally overthrow his people in order to bring about his ultimate purpose of spiritual and physical restoration was mind-boggling to Habakkuk. He may have thought God should “step and do something.” In reality, God was. No wonder he penned, “The righteous shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4).
- God used the “hands of lawless men to crucify and kill” Jesus, both Jews and Romans, yet this was according to his “definite plan and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23-24). Jesus’ death wasn’t an accident, and God didn’t have to scramble to figure out a plan B when Judas betrayed the Master. God actually ordained that violent men would kill his Son as the means by which sinners would receive forgiveness and life eternal. And make no mistake—this was a truth quite difficult for the disciples to grasp initially. They probably felt as though the Father should have “stepped in and done something.” Ironically, he actually was.
It is this bedrock truth of God’s sovereignty in all things and at all times that fuels such a counter-intuitive joy for God’s people in the middle of man’s seemingly out-of-control sinfulness. Because sovereignty means God is in control of not just us, but them as well—everything—God’s people can know he is “stepping in and doing something,” even if that step isn’t what we expected. Remember, there is no partial sovereignty. God is in full and complete control.
Personally, I believe what we see happening in society’s culture, both nationally and globally, is precisely the hand of God moving in subtle but sovereign ways. He is not silent, even though man’s sinfulness is seemingly all we hear right now. So I am strangely satisfied. Counter-intuitvely Content. Even oddly joyful. Thus, the title of this post— The Sinfulness of Man, the Sovereignty of God, and Joyful Satisfaction in the Middle of Both.
How do we live in this tension? How do we walk this tight rope of faith? A few quick observations that I have found helpful in my own experience.
- Be saddened by sin, but not by God. Our joy isn’t a type of “vindictive” joy that stems from the pain sin brings. Not at all! But neither is our joy only as deep as our circumstances. It is possible and okay to be weighed down by sin without being bowled over by its power. How? The indwelling Holy Spirit of God. Read Romans 8 a lot.
- Develop long-distance eyes. God’s kingdom will come on the earth, but not without a battle. Keep your eyes on the finish line. Read Revelation 19-21 a lot.
- Express gratitude for such glaring opportunities to express clarity with your life and lips. God’s people continue to have increasingly clear opportunities to showcase their commitment and love for God and others. It may come in the form of marginalization and persecution, but these kinds of moments are often what God will use to highlight the exclusive distinctiveness of biblical Christianity. Read 1 Peter 2 a lot.
- Expect holiness from the church, not the world. Quite honestly, approving immorality is exactly what I expect from the world; the same-sex opinion of SCOTUS, though unfortunate, was predictable. But immorality of any sort should not characterize the church. Let the body of Christ be as committed as ever to biblical purity and holiness in all aspects of morality and sexuality (divorce, fornication, adultery, lust, homosexuality, etc.). Frankly, I’ve been more shocked at the response of professing Christians than at the decision of the court, people who suddenly agree with the supreme court and have forsaken God’s truth. It’s like their convictions are formed by culture, not Scripture. Returning to God begins when the church first holds ourselves to God’s standard. Read 1 Corinthians 5 a lot. [For an insightful article about this very topic, read Kevin DeYoung’s recent post here.]
More could be said. But let this be known—nothing and no one is out of the reach of God’s use or control. He will accomplish what he wills, in ways we may or may not understand. That’s precisely why, in the middle of a hurricane of evil, we can experience an uncanny sense of joy because of the eye of God’s sovereignty.