The SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage is a long-awaited decision for many, including gay and straight Christians who have spent decades advocating for this. It is a day for thanksgiving.
But one of the lessons of history is that the hardest work comes after a high moment. We see it, for example, in the life of Jesus when after his baptism (including the descending dove and God speaking) he faced his most severe temptations. John Wesley used this passage as an example of the need to expect challenge after high moments and to engage ourselves for the long-haul.
We are at such a moment with respect to same-sex marriage in The United States. We must resist the notion that we can relax and rest, which is the natural feeling after any intense and prolonged struggle. Instead, like our wisest predecessors, we must recognize that our hardest work lies ahead. I believe such work includes the following things.
First, we must define the new normal with the finest examples of it. This means putting this new freedom on the top shelf of excellence and virtue. It means confirming that the need for it was valid. Nothing silences criticism more than showing that fear and opposition was unfounded and unnecessary.
Second, we must expect and not be dismayed by an immediate negative response by critics, including various “doomsday” scenarios. Efforts to regain control (e.g. local legislation) will occur. This is another reason why continued vigilance is necessary. Straight-line accomplishments will be turned to crooked lines by critics, but the line is still a road that can be traveled toward increasing progress.
Third, leaders must lead us into the new day. Freedom does not have inherent wisdom, it requires devoted and expert guidance. Leadership is more important than ever, because after a victory, people need pastors more than prophets. Sheep need shepherds who can lead them to green pastures and still waters. Visionaries must now become navigators.
Finally, the fruit of the Spirit must characterize life in the new day, just as in the days leading up to it. Christlikeness exhibited by the formerly vulnerable must not be abandoned, but rather increased. Outloving those who will still resist is the only way to glorify God in the new normal.
Without these kinds of actions, the ego seizes control, turning those formerly oppressed into a new class of oppressors. The deformative cycle continues, the only difference being that the cast of characters has changed position on the field.
Returning to Jesus, his journey from baptism (revelation) into temptation (his hardest work) was followed by his missional announcement in Nazareth that “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and has anointed me to…” This is the witness that will turn an initially-sown seed into a harvest that brings an increase of the Kingdom to pass.