On our family vacation to St. Augustine, my daughter, Laura, and I mustered up the courage to climb 219 steps—about fourteen stories—to the precipice of the historic city's lighthouse. That, of course, was after we had drunk from the famed Fountain of Youth, and I was feeling young at heart. I apparently was mistaken. Nonetheless, the beautiful vista was worth the arduous ascent, and I descended with some timely reflections.
On our trek up the spiraling staircase, we saw a heavy oil bucket that lighthouse keepers once used to keep the powerful lamp atop shining. Later, in the caretaker's house, we saw cleaning supplies that were toted up those many steps to polish the lamp's lens so the bright beam would travel far out to sea to warn approaching ships. Inspectors came regularly, so the tedious chore had to be done frequently.
As we sat on a beach shore adjacent to St. Augustine on the eve of July 4, the city's streetlights were shut off for a fireworks display. The lighthouse's beam gleamed more brilliantly against the backdrop of the night sky. Its mission remained, but now seemed all the more urgent in the sudden darkness.
Addressing the Supreme Court's recent rulings favoring gay marriage, Tennessee Baptist editor Lonnie Wilkey observed, "Today, we are living in a world that is growing darker with each passing day." He implored readers to "be beacons of light."
Likewise, columnist David Roach, of Shelbyville, Kentucky, encourages us to take heart: "Though sexual perversion may increase, God has a history of making His Gospel shine brightest where culture is darkest."
A bevy of Baptist voices have echoed this counsel:
The words of Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research, bear repeating: "Regardless of the Supreme Court rulings, your church—as well as mine—has the same mission it did last week: We are to love people and share the Good News of Christ with them." He spoke of the need to show grace and friendship to those who struggle with homosexuality while holding fast to what Scriptures teach. "Without hiding our beliefs," he said, "we need to look for opportunities to have conversations, build relationships, and demonstrate grace."
Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Seminary, observed that though the Supreme Court's ruling was a "dark day" in American history, "it's time to accept the reality and move on to discussing how to minister in a new context." He focused on another ministry challenge: "Christians work in companies, hospitals, schools, and governmental agencies which must now legally provide services to gay married couples. Churches will be challenged to help their members think theologically about and behave ethically in these situations."
LifeWay editor Trevin Wax saw a good news/bad news scenario. "The bad news: Being a convictional Christian, especially in matters related to sexuality, morality, and marriage, likely will mean the loss of cultural clout and respectability. We will pay a personal and social cost for our beliefs," he warned. The good news, however, is, "knowing you are the minority and may be ostracized for your views increases the level of commitment and participation of those who follow Christ." He foresees a potential upside of our Christian witness becoming more potent in our society.
Meanwhile, David Platt, a Birmingham pastor and author of the best-selling book Radical, cautioned, "Be careful not to be guilty of selective moral outrage" regarding homosexuality. Everyone is bent toward sexual sin, he noted. "If we roll our eyes and shake our heads when we see the Supreme Court ruling . . . , yet we turn the channels on our TVs to watch the trivialization of sex on shows and advertisements, to surf the Internet to find images in order to satisfy our lusts, to go to movies that glamorize sex, . . . and entertain sexual thoughts and desires outside of our own marriage, then we have missed the entire point," he said. The church, he urged, must declare war on every sexual sin that plagues Christians and model sexual purity and godly marriage.
Finally, Jeff Robinson, also of Birmingham, employed the imagery of a lighthouse, too. Calling Christians to see "the tremendous opportunity that exists for us to share the light of the Gospel of Christ to the untold millions who are walking in sin’s dark night," Robinson challenged: "I want the world to see the Gospel portrayed in our own marriages so that they might be lighthouses from which God's glory shines forth into the dark and tumultuous sea that is our fallen culture."
The takeaway? Faithfully polish the lens of your Christian life, so the brilliant beam of God's Word shines far out into a surrounding sea of darkness.