This past weekend the city of San Diego celebrated Gay Pride Day, supported by tax-funded civil agencies announcing their support. It seems like a good time to think again about one of the central symbols adopted by the Gay Rights movement, the rainbow.
This last Friday is already designated as one of the most historic victories in our nation’s history as a divided Supreme Court on Friday ruled that same-sex couples can now marry nationwide. This landmark opinion, as it’s being described, now opens the door for all gay and lesbian couples to have legally recognized marriages in all fifty states. As soon as the announcement was made, gay and lesbian couples swarmed the streets with victory cries. In short order, President Obama unequivocally spoke of the decision as a victory for America. Within just a few hours, America itself seemed to be enveloped with the symbol of gay pride: the rainbow.
Within the last twenty four hours, the rainbow has appeared everywhere. I’ve seen pictures of the White House painted with the colors of a rainbow. Silicon Valley companies are implementing all sorts of creative ways to use the rainbow as a sign of victory for the decision. Facebook has declared a celebration allowing members to add a rainbow filter to their profile picture to make clear those who support the decision. Twitter has added a rainbow heart icon with the hash tag: Love wins. From Google to Starbucks to At&T, the rainbow has become the new flag for America, from sea to shining sea, America is now draped with the rainbow.
The rainbow was popularized as an official symbol of the gay community in the early 1970s. The accepted designation for each color of the rainbow is believed to have originated when a San Francisco artist, Gilbert Baker designed the gay pride flag as having six stripes, each one having its own meaning: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for art, and violet for the human spirit.
As I watch people adopt the rainbow as a sign of victory for the gay rights movement, I find myself, as a Christian, deeply concerned over what these people are doing with the rainbow. Do they know the greater history of the rainbow? Do people understand why God gave this beautiful bow in the sky? Do they have any idea what they are saying to the God who dwells “somewhere over” that rainbow?
The True History of the Rainbow
The story of the rainbow takes us back to the early days of Genesis. Biblical writers, when describing world history, typically designate the span of time into two epochs: the world that then was, and the world that now is (see 2 Peter 3). The line of demarcation is the flood event of Genesis 6–8. According to the Biblical writers, these two worlds parallel in their stories. A similar course of events transpire leading each one to its respective judgment. In this way, the first world was designed to be a didactic tool for the world that now is that we might not do the same things.
Jesus himself compared these two worlds by saying “as it was in the days of the Noah,” so it will be when the Son of Man returns (Matt 24:37). There were certain behaviors and practices that became so godless, namely eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, that Jesus says the behaviors accompanying these practices will precipitate the final judgment. For our purposes, it’s important to stress that Jesus specifically addresses the issue of marriage as having become so corrupt, that, just as these abuses ushered in the flood on the wicked of Noah’s day, so too, this same problem will usher forth the judgment on the world that now is.
When looking at the Biblical flood narrative we find that the issue of marriage becomes the defining moment of God’s revelation to Noah that he has determined to destroy the first world. In Genesis 6 we read, “Now it came to pass when men began to multiply on the face of the earth and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.” Genesis 6 is describing the last 120 years before the destruction of the first world.
Commentators have for some time wrestled with the precise nature of the marital problem that Moses is describing in the days before the flood. What is important to observe is that these men are looking at the beauty of the women and they are taking wives any of whom they chose. A rough translation may go something like this: “whatever they liked the best, whatever suited their fancy, they took them.” Without any distinction and without any discretion, and all restraint being removed in the arena of marriage, they took whatever they pleased in marriage and giving in marriage. The wickedness became so great in the earth, and so contrary to the original creation design as God had defined the marriage order, God’s assessment of the human race was that the thoughts and intents of the human heart were only evil continually. God then rendered in his supreme court a declaration of final judgment to the world than then was:
And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.
That he did. Chapter 7 of Genesis describes the flood waters of judgment that covered the world than then was and destroyed every living thing. Only believing Noah and his household and the animals sheltered in the ark escaped and were saved by faith.
What is of great interest to us is God’s recreative actions after the flood. In Genesis 9, we have the beginning of the world that now is, the world as we know it. God started over. As Noah exited the ark we read of him making a sacrifice to the LORD. In response to this, the LORD does something marvelous.
And God said, This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh (Gen 9:12–13).
God showed kindness to the world that now is by putting a rainbow up in the sky and declaring that he would never in like fashion as before destroy the world with a flood. When one appreciates that the Bible often describes the storm as God coming in judgment, and that he flashes forth lightnings and thunderings to conqueor his enemies, it is a remarkable choice of God to use one of the symbols of judgment, a warbow, as a sign that he will not destroy with a flood in this manner ever again. The symbolism is probably much greater than we realize. Many scholars have understood that the rainbow is set in the heavens in relaxed horizontal position and not vertical. The sign should be read as a divine warrior setting aside for a time his weapons to favor us and not give us what we deserve.
This leads us to asses our current situation in the world that now is. With the redefining of the marriage institution and the rainbow as the adopted sign of accepted homosexuality, what we have are humans now turning the rainbow upward in rage against the Lord who intended this to be a sign of his goodness and forbearance in leading all men to repentance (see Romans 2). Think of the tragedy that has transpired before us. Humanity in attempting to justify homosexual behavior against God’s own creation design, turns the rainbow–the sign of God’s forbearance and patience—upward to shoot at him.
A Kind Plea to the Gay Community Who Attempts to Hold Up the Rainbow
In President Obama’s address yesterday he said: Love Wins. Without reservation, people are using the love of God to justify living directly contrary to his revealed will. From the beginning, God created man and woman to be one, calling them husband and wife. God defined plainly for us in creation who we are, what marriage is, and how we are to function in his world. To live outside of this design is willful disobedience and sin against God. God’s love should never be used to manipulate living contrary to his defined rule and law. To reject his law in such a way, and after such forbearance and kindness in setting his warbow in a horizontal relaxed position, is to invite the exercising of another all-important attribute: his justice.
God’s love and kindness is only understood in the cross of Jesus Christ. No one understands love apart from his sacrificial life and death to pay for our sins. Our rebellion against God has landed us in the misery and sorrow that we are experiencing in this life. This is the reason our society is overcome with rape, abortion, divorce, murder, hedonism, narcissism, and the love of death. Jesus Christ is the answer. It is Jesus himself who invites repentant sinners to come to him for forgiveness and life; those who see their misery, who understand their emptiness, who confess the guilt, and come with contriteness of heart to him, these and these only lay claim to his love. Anyone who lays claim to that love apart from repentance and faith has been deceived and can only expect the same fate as the people of Noah’s day.
So those who have adopted the sign of the rainbow as a sign of accepted homosexuality should understand what they are saying to the Lord. They have taken a sign that God gave in kindness and mercy to not flood the world again in judgment, and used it to turn that warbow back in judgment upon him and in hatred for who he is. Think of it, standing under the rainbow and using it to justify homosexual marriage, is to say to the LORD: “we will not have you to rule over us, instead will define our lives, how we will live, who we will be, and the outcome of our choices shall be ours.” In this way, they have used his sign of forbearance, favor, and kindness to hate him. Let it be clearly stated: Love has not won, but rather hatred of God has prevailed in the recent Supreme Court decision.
A true Christian weeps over such a position that people have taken against the Lord and against his anointed. We say: “Don’t do it.” We plead with you, we love you; turn to the Lord because we know the outcome of such a stance against him. “Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity, and the rod they wield in fury will be broken.” With Jesus there is forgiveness and peace.
But as Christians watch what is unfolding before us, we grieve in spirit knowing what God has said will be the end of all who do not obey the gospel. The apostle Peter says that at the end of the world that now is, people will mock the Lord, using his love to say that God will not judge. He then reminds us,
For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the Word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
This is the outcome for all who hold up that rainbow as a way to rebel against the Lord and his anointed, Jesus Christ. So with sincere concern, I plead with any who hold the rainbow in hand to accept this way of life, lay down your bow and hold it up no more above your heads aimed at Christ. He is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness, and will by no means cast out any who set down their rainbow of judgment against him.
This post first appeared on The Gordian Knot in 2016.