As this commentary is being written, an elected county clerk in Kentucky has been sentenced to jail due to the conflict she perceives between her duty as a public official and her personal religious convictions about same-sex “marriage.” This raises many vital, fundamental questions—and, for students of God’s word, it should bring to mind many dire prophecies.
The facts are clear; Rowan County clerk Kim Davis refuses to issue marriage licenses for her county, since she says performing this task for same-sex couples would violate her religious convictions. Consequently, U.S. District Judge David Bunting has convicted her of “contempt of court” and sentenced her to jail until she complies with the court order. Judge Bunting stated, concerning the clerk’s duty to her elected office, “Mrs. Davis took an oath [of office]. Oaths mean things.”
Depending on their side in the same-sex “marriage” debate, loud voices are painting Davis either as a righteous martyr or as a bigoted obstructionist. Yet—public grandstanding aside—there are important and fundamental questions that should be asked.
For those who believe God is their highest authority, is it even possible to vow sincerely to “faithfully execute” the laws of a secular state? Oaths do matter (Numbers 30:1–2).
Although Jesus Christ made it clear that Christians are not to swear oaths, He did so primarily to establish a higher standard that every agreement—every “yes” and every “no” (Matthew 5:33–37; James 5:12)—be considered a commitment of Christian conviction. But can Christians so commit themselves to a secular state, not knowing what direction that state’s laws will eventually take?
The words of the Apostles Paul and Peter make it clear that we must obey a government’s laws unless those laws require us to disobey God, in which case we obey God always over the requirements of man (Romans 13:1–7; Acts 5:29). With such conflicts possible—perhaps inevitable—how can Christians fully commit themselves to being instruments of the government?
And how can a government function in an environment of “religious freedom” if officeholders may choose what functions to perform based on their individual, personal religious convictions—especially considering the diversity of religions in the United States?
As we wrote immediately after the Supreme Court decision: “The Court’s decision on same-sex marriage is no small matter. It puts a legal stamp of approval—at the highest levels of secular power in the land—on a radical redefinition of society’s most fundamental unit of civilization. Those who still think it will not affect them will soon enough be surprised… And those who do not see how this will accelerate deep and profound rifts and transformations in our culture will soon have their illusions torn away.”
This is happening, and it will continue. Society cannot undergo such a seismic shift in its understanding of marriage—an institution so fundamental to society—and not expect aftershocks that will shake everyone, everywhere.
Furthermore, any Bible-believer watching this case should be mindful of at least two prophetic truths.
First, Davis’ imprisonment is a small picture of what prophecy warns will befall true Christians around the world in times to come. In fact, God warns not only of imprisonment, but even of execution (cf. Revelation 6:9–11).
Second, such global persecution will not come at the hands of militant secularists, as some are using this case to suggest. Rather, God warns that it will come from other professing Christians, who falsely bear the name of Christ while wielding the authority of a vast economic and military powerhouse (cf. Revelation 13:11–17).
What we see happening in Kentucky should press all of us to “seek the Lord while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:6). Because there is a time coming when God may be all a true Christian will have.
This is not the end of the matter. It is barely the beginning.