To my Christian brethren who occupy positions of authority as magistrates in the Commonwealth of Virginia:
Grace to you and peace in the name of our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I praise God that He has providentially placed you in these positions of authority. You exist as salt and light in an environment which often resembles Babylon. Like Daniel, you are now placed in the difficult position of remaining faithful to God while at the same time fulfilling your duties as civil magistrates. For many of you, your duties include the issuance of marriage licenses. The Federal courts have decreed that Virginia must issue such licenses to homosexual couples, directly nullifying our State constitution. By extension, their decree is such that Virginia and all of her political subdivisions must celebrate that which God has called an abomination.
As a brother in Christ and fellow Virginian, I write to you in order to encourage and exhort you. Your consciences are about to be tested. You will be required to issue marriage licenses to those who will use them to mock God’s law and His created order (Rom 1:18-27). For the first time in the history of Virginia, our Commonwealth will officially endorse sexual sin and require everyone to recognize it as valid. Let these words sink in. This is the new reality. There is no neutral ground in this situation. Those who rule over us now demand the outright denial of Christ’s lordship over the area of marriage. What shall the righteous do?
Any Christian who is in a position to issue marriage licenses may take only one of two options. First, a Christian magistrate (for example, a clerk of the court) may choose to resign his office for the sake of conscience. By doing so, he will not give aid or assistance to the act of desecrating the institution of marriage. He may humbly remove himself from the situation while losing his job in the process.
Second, a Christian magistrate has the option of openly resisting this wicked decree. He may use his position of authority to affirm that marriage is only as God has revealed it to be (Matt. 19:4-6). What does this look like in practice? Brethren, let me be abundantly clear in what I mean by this. If a Christian chooses to stay in that position of magisterial authority, then it is his clear and unambiguous duty to deny marriage licenses to any homosexual couple seeking them. Admittedly, this second option requires much more courage and will result in huge targets painted on the backs of those who pursue it. By going this route, you will endure attacks of various sorts and you will undoubtedly lose your job in the process.
It is here that your faith will be tested. It is at this moment that the eyes of the world will see whether Christ is truly Lord over every aspect of your lives. I do not write these things in a cavalier manner, for I know that this will cost you your jobs and livelihoods. Yet there are many costs in the Christian life. Indeed, having Jesus as Lord means that we may suffer great loss–including the loss of our very lives! All that we have in this life belongs to God and we have it by His grace. We are obligated to give up what He would have us give up. We can trust that He will take care of us in our time of need (Matt 6:25-34). Do you trust Him?
The option you do not have is to capitulate to the demands of this decree. God’s law trumps the edicts of man every time. There is no middle ground upon which to rest. As Christians, our consciences are captive to the Word of God. If we side with the world against the clear teaching of Scripture, then we have turned our backs on the One who bought us with His own blood. We’re either on the side of the world or we’re on the side of our Lord. As James 4:4 communicates clearly, friendship with the world means enmity with God. As Christians, we are not permitted to bow down to idols or burn incense to Caesar. Neither are we permitted to endorse sexual immorality.
In the Book of Exodus, the Hebrew midwives were faithful to the Lord by disobeying the evil decree of Pharaoh (Ex. 1:17). When Peter and the other apostles were ordered to stop preaching the Gospel in Jerusalem, they responded by saying that they will obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). There are numerous other instances in Scripture as well as church history in which the people of God are forced to defy the civil state. Your situation is no exception. We are never to obey government when they require us to disobey God.
When Paul gives his teaching on civil government in Romans 13:1-7, he’s assuming that the authorities are operating in accordance with God’s ethical standards. After all, the magistrates are to be a check against those who do evil (vv. 3-4). They are to restrain wickedness, not promote it. The civil state did not create the institution of marriage, but rather it is given by God as part of His common grace. Only the Creator of the universe defines marriage. Therefore, let us not give unto Caesar that which rightly belongs to God alone.
Finally, brethren, let me exhort you to be strong and of good courage. Be faithful to God above all else. Humble yourselves before Him in prayer and ask Him to show you the way in which you should go. Spend time reading His word. Know that there are many of us praying for you. There will come a day when you will be held to account for how you have used your position of civil authority. As Christian magistrates in the Commonwealth, do all things to the glory of God. Whatever comes to pass, may the Holy Spirit equip you and sanctify you in the truth.Your brother in Christ, Joshua A. Dermer Reformed Virginian