How can an evangelical pastor address current issues that affect his congregation? Reverend Bill Shuler, lead pastor of Capital Life Church in Arlington, Virginia, led by example in a recent sermon – addressing the cultural shift on the definition of marriage.
His sermon on May 10, entitled "Scattered Seeds," centered on how God can redeem His people in seasons of struggle. In an aside about how the next generation faces a barrage of influences hostile to faith, Rev. Shuler spoke on tolerance, God's heart of love... and why believers cannot ignore how changing views on marriage policy can affect their religious freedom.
"Why does it matter what the Supreme Court has to say in a matter of days in regards to marriage?" he begins, then proceeds to answer the question – starting at the personal level.
"The Bible speaks way beyond tolerance," he says. "The Bible commands us to love people, no matter their decisions. I've counseled people for what is, this year, now 30 years of full-time ministry. I'm commanded to love unconditionally, no matter who comes into my office."
"Jesus is truth and love," Rev. Shuler preaches. "We are commanded to love. But I want you to know, we are commanded to walk by standards that are found in the scriptures and we must stand upon those."
"So the Supreme Court will make a decision," notes Rev. Shuler, turning to national policy and its potential effect on believers nationwide. "In the days ahead, it is very possible that the government may become all the more intrusive when it comes to churches."
Following a brief historical account of the often-misunderstood separation of church and state, Rev. Shuler gives a few real-life examples of intrusions beginning to happen. "Now the concern is, the government can demand of the church that you hire people who may not abide by the standards of the scriptures."
"Or, [the government can demand] that you must marry a couple even if the couple does not line up with the definition of marriage in the scriptures."
"What will the response be if we don't do that?" Rev. Shuler considers. "We love people, but we cannot make that compromise. This is where we don't know for certain yet what will happen."
He presents one scenario: "Tax-exempt status could be taken away. Are you ready to support the church and the Gospel even if we're not tax-exempt, because we stood on our convictions?" Another possible result, he says, could be "churches lose their buildings."
"I'm not here to stir up something where we're getting scared," he says. "But we need to take this seriously. I believe that in this generation, if you don't take it seriously, your children and grandchildren will look at you and say: Why didn't you do something when it all was turning?"
"We need to know where we stand," he concludes the brief discussion. "We love everybody. We should treat everybody with respect and love. There should not be a sense of treating people with some sort of unique disdain solely to those people because of their decisions."
"We still stand for holiness and righteousness," he says, pointing to his Bible. "And we believe this to be the authoritative Word of God, and this is where we stand."
In regards to the court case, Rev. Shuler leaves his congregation with a point of action. "We will see what happens on this, but we need to pray."
Josh M. Shepherd serves in communications at the Justice House of Prayer DC, an evangelical missions organization serving Washington, DC and the nation through ongoing prayer and strategic activism. He and his wife Terri are also Capital Life Church members.