MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) — The U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on gay marriage in June summon a response to “the most significant change in American society since abortion on demand was legalized in 1973,” Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, said during the seminary’s fall convocation.
Iorg warned that legalizing gay marriage is “an alarming affirmation of the final step of rejecting God’s design for human sexuality and traditional marriage as the foundation of a stable society.”
The apostle Paul’s description of first-century Rome in Romans 1:32 is sobering and applicable to the current situation, Iorg said.
“Sexual sins are not the final step on this downward spiral,” Iorg said. “The last step of rejecting biblical morality is when people applaud or celebrate those who legitimize immoral practices. We have reached that point in America.”
Such a hearty approval is why the Supreme Court decisions and cultural celebrations of gay marriage are so troubling, Iorg said.
“Sexual immorality — of all types — has been part of the human experience throughout recorded history,” he said. “The troubling issue today isn’t so much the rise of immorality. That cycle ebbs and flows with changing generations. The troubling issue is the applause, from kissing in the streets to White House ceremonies celebrated through every media possible.”
Political, cultural and educational leaders are effusively congratulating themselves on their so-called progress, Iorg said.
“The final act of an unraveling society isn’t immoral behavior; it’s canonizing immoral behavior as a ‘new normal’ and celebrating it as a ‘moral victory.'”
This cultural shift “will produce many new ministry dilemmas, Iorg said, noting that Christians must continue to affirm distinct moral standards. Recounting the apostle Paul’s list of unbelievers’ behavior, he said Paul contrasts how believers formerly lived and how they are expected to live now.
“The clear implication is believers once behaved like unbelievers, and the time for such behavior is now past.” Christians must also restrain immoral impulses not because it’s easy, Iorg said, “but because we are trying to live up to a biblical moral standard.”
“As a Christian leader or leader in training, you are expected to model even higher standards,” Iorg said. “While this seems obvious to many of us, it’s getting harder to maintain distinctive Christian morality.”
Iorg cited 1 Peter 4:1-11 as a passage that makes clear Christian moral standards will be aggressively opposed by unbelievers.
“As a result of your unwillingness to affirm their choices, unbelievers will slander you,” Iorg told the seminary community during the Aug. 29 convocation. “I predict that today’s slander is a precursor to more serious social, legal and physical opposition coming in the next few years.”
Opposition to moral standards requires a Christian response, he said.
“We know that unbelievers who reject biblical morality are at risk of judgment, and this motivates us to tell people about deliverance available through Jesus Christ,” Iorg said. “Your most significant message to people in a culture marked by moral decay and immoral living is the Gospel.”
Believers cannot become preoccupied with opposing immoral behavior, Iorg said; instead, they must realize that moral choices come from a person’s spiritual condition.
“Unbelievers act like unbelievers. While we uphold our moral convictions, expecting unbelievers to model Christian behavior is a misplaced hope. Your first and best response to immorality in your community is to preach, teach, share, witness and live the Gospel,” Iorg said.
“The greatest need of every person in the world — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, adulterer, fornicator or straight-laced puritan is still the Gospel.”
Sharing the Gospel with the LGBT community means welcoming them into worship services and befriending them at work and in social settings, Iorg said.
“While holding to your moral convictions, you must keep your focus on the greatest need of every person — no matter their behavior — which is responding to the Gospel,” Iorg said.
Above all, he advised based on Peter’s words, maintain an intense love for them.
“When attacked, we need each other to withstand the pressure and become more unified with other believers,” Iorg said. “Yet there is also ample biblical mandate to love unbelievers. Tell the truth about immoral behavior, while treating people with respect.”
Iorg closed by affirming the distinct moral standards set forth in God’s Word.
“We expect opposition to those standards and will respond appropriately by communicating the Gospel to all people by every available means. We will love each other, standing stronger when we stand together. We will love unbelievers, loving them enough to tell them the truth about God and the Gospel,” Iorg said. “These foundations will serve us well as we fulfill our mission of shaping leaders who expand God’s Kingdom around the world.”
Phyllis Evans is director of communications for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, on the Web at www.ggbts.edu. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).