Same Sex Marriage
At the time of this writing, homes, hallways, break rooms, news media, classrooms, and even churches are filled with discussions regarding the gay marriage issue. Sometimes "shrill rhetoric" is a better description. While most Christians agree that the Church should strive to preserve the sanctity of marriage, opinions differ on how to influence our culture to this end. Just how should the Church respond to this growing movement toward redefining marriage to include same sex couples that so obviously contradicts God’s definition of marriage.
At the outset we need to be clear that the homosexual lifestyle is not in accordance with God’s plan for mankind. The Scriptures clearly present a solid, biblical summary on the matter with Paul’s treatise in I Corinthians 6:9-10, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." 1
Paul’s comprehensive theology to the Romans in Romans 1:21-27 speaks to the issue as well and gives a clear picture of God’s view of homosexuality:
"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened, Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."
The language in Romans is strong and the descriptive terms, including sinful desire, degrading, shameful, indecent, and perversion, clearly show that homosexuality is unacceptable to God.
The Word of God, on the other hand, describes the basic sexual design for human beings as heterosexual and within the bounds of marriage. The original marriage at the dawn of human history testifies to this divine design as found in Genesis 2:20b-23, 24:
"But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."
So, the issue isn’t whether God is pleased with homosexuality. He isn’t. The issue isn’t whether God is pleased with homosexual marriages. He isn’t. Rather, for Christians the only issue is one of determining a correct biblical response to our society’s growing embrace of homosexual marriage. What exactly is the Church’s responsibility in a society that condones homosexuality and supports homosexual marriages?
In examining this question, let us first consider what the Church ought not to do in response to homosexual marriage. Two things come to mind quickly—participating in hateful speech or actions and offering a “gospel-minus-repentance-from sin” message. As we delve into these responses in the following paragraphs, I hope that we would all agree that these behaviors should not characterize the Church’s relationship with culture in general or with homosexual couples in particular.
First, as Christians we ought not to engage in any kind of hateful speech or actions toward homosexual couples themselves. There is no real love in that sort of behavior. To hold a sign that says, “You’re Gonna Burn In Hell,” and scream in anger at homosexuals does nothing to advance the Kingdom. Rather, it harms the cause of the gospel. If this is to be our modus operandi, then why stop with homosexuality? Why not walk into church each week with signs for fellow Christians—we who are selfish, lustful, prideful, angry, and gossips? Christ was much harsher with those within God’s community when it came to their sin than He ever was with those outside the community. To those outside the fold He displayed affection and a desire to draw them to Him despite their disobedience and brokenness. The hate speech of some within the Church toward homosexual couples simply doesn’t match the Lord’s example.
Second, we ought not to go to the other extreme and preach a “gospel-minus-repentance from-sin” message. Some within the Church have decided that the best way to handle homosexuality is either to ignore it totally or to accept it as a suitable lifestyle for a Christ-follower. We must remember that while Christ displayed genuine love to sinners and offered them forgiveness, He also clearly commanded them to “Go and sin no more.” Just as we should not participate in the rampant hatred toward homosexual couples themselves, we must also avoid the temptation to welcome them without a call to change their lifestyle—the same call that we would issue to anyone who is lost.
There is a third response that the Church must avoid, although it may not be quite as obvious as the first two. This response has to do with the relationship between the church and the government. Judging by the way some Christians function, it seems that they rely on the government to legislate true spiritual righteousness. These believers depend upon the White House to influence legislation and Congress to pass laws that reflect their view of morality as described in Scripture. In fact, many of these Christians live in a state of fear when the government entertains legislative possibilities outside the scope of acceptable Biblical morality.
The key words here are “rely” and “depend.” Christians are not worried, of course, when the government passes a law that is in harmony with the Bible. This is preferable, in fact. It would be noble and good if our society’s laws were in agreement with a morality and an ethic for human behavior that is pleasing to God. But such is not always the case. We could cite many examples of established policies—abortion and no-fault divorce, just to name two—that fall short of the glory of God. The point is that Christ will build His Church regardless of the moral or immoral culture within which Christians exist. The Church (defined as those whom God has set aside as a Bride for His Son in His sovereign grace) in America will not be weaker if homosexual marriage is legalized, nor will it be stronger if homosexual marriage remains illegal. It should also be said that the United State of America itself is neither “further from God” nor “closer to God” based on its response to the homosexual marriage issue. The knowledge that Christ will build His Church regardless of the moral tenor of our nation should foster hope and praise rather than anxiety or complaint.
We must acknowledge, however, that the laws of a society can have a positive or a negative bearing on the work of the visible church. Laws have the potential to enable persecution against Christians and make it difficult to minister effectively through local congregations and community ministries. But this does not mean that Christ’s work of saving the lost is rendered ineffective. He built His Church under intense Roman persecution in the first century. He built His Church in the Soviet Union. He is building His Church in communist China. And He will build His Church in the United States of America whether or not our nation’s laws are pleasing to Him.
Please understand that we are not proposing that Christians should avoid the political process. Rather, we caution Christians to avoid the belief that the government is the cure of all our ills. In the next section we will outline a Biblically appropriate perspective of the government, our citizenship, and the issue of homosexual marriage.
Let us now consider what the Church ought to do in response to the issue of homosexual marriage. Again, two things come to mind immediately—demonstrating true love and presenting the Gospel of salvation.
First, we should actively demonstrate love to the homosexual couples with whom we have contact. “Love” in this sense doesn’t refer to affection or emotion. Rather, it means that we work toward the well-being of another person through patience, kindness, and compassion. At the same time we offer protection from whatever threatens their well- being as individuals and offer assistance to meet their needs.
Second, we must realize that this kind of love finds its genesis in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As stated earlier, homosexuality is a sin, and God is far from pleased with those who live a homosexual lifestyle. God tells us, and history demonstrates. that He deals seriously with societies that condone this behavior. But the gospel helps us see that we demonstrate love most fully when we offer homosexuals the same mercy—forgiveness of sin and the opportunity to walk in the newness of eternal life—that God has offered to us in His Son. This gospel is free of condemnation. Christ Himself said the He didn’t come to condemn (John 3:17) but to save. And it is salvation, not sentence, which we must extend to all sinners, including homosexuals and homosexual couples.
As before, there is an important third consideration. What is the appropriate use of our citizenship when it comes to moral issues such as homosexual marriage? Some would say that we should abandon the political process altogether because, ultimately, the laws of a nation have nothing to do with the salvation of human souls. While it is true that the government and obedience to its laws have no bearing on the eternal destiny of a person, nonetheless we should not abandon our opportunity to influence our culture toward civil behavior that is in concurrence with God’s revelation.
We have a unique privilege in our country to let our voices be heard by our governing officials. There are many channels provided for us to that end—calling our congressmen, voting, or making use of the press/media. These channels are perfectly acceptable for Christians to use, and one could argue that responsible Christians who desire to influence society for the better will make full use of these methods.
We must also recognize, however, that while influencing public policy with God’s Word is beneficial for society in general, it is not redemptive, per se. It does not accomplish the salvation of God. It can remove stumbling blocks, and it can even ensure that some kinds of unbiblical, immoral, or undesirable behaviors will not be legalized. But we must keep in mind that this civic benefit is not the means that God will use to broaden the boundaries of His kingdom. Only the Gospel—not a moral society—is the righteousness of God to salvation for those who believe (Romans 1:16).
Let us take into account a few final thoughts. First, it shouldn’t surprise us when an earthly government progressively ignores or even rejects God’s standards of righteousness. Whatever we may think about America in general, we must at least admit to ourselves that many of our leaders are lost and in desperate need of a new life in Christ. Their minds have not been renewed by the Word of God, so we should not anticipate that they will behave as if they are in submission to Christ. America is a nation of sinful people led by sinful men.
Second, we need to remember that Jesus Christ has another plan for us. This plan is not about earthly citizenship or nation-building. His plan is for His Church, and He is building it. Nothing, not even death itself, can stand in the way of Christ’s successful construction project (Matthew 16:18). When a sinful nation makes a law that reflects its sinful nature—such as homosexual marriage—we may be heartbroken for our society and saddened for those who create and sustain such laws. But we must never feel helpless as Christ’s followers. We may be discouraged, but we must not lose heart. We may be perplexed, but we must not despair (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). His church will be built.
Third, as stated before, we should take advantage of the channels given to us by our government to influence policy as our conscience dictates. Not every Christian is going to agree about what must be done in response to homosexual marriage, but some will find it necessary to sign petitions, call representatives, write articles, or organize meetings. Participation in any and all of these methods of communication is perfectly acceptable. Yet it is never acceptable to make involvement in a Christian activist movement a litmus test for authentic faith.
Furthermore, we must be careful to constantly check our motives. We must ask the “Why?” questions of ourselves, our words, and our actions. Why are we so upset about the issue of homosexual marriage? Why does it make some so angry, others so worried, and many so afraid?
If the source of our frustration and fear is a righteous indignation at the moral decline of our society, that is understandable. But if Christians are angry with this issue because they feel that their own comfort is threatened, that’s another thing altogether. Instead of focusing on homosexuals who are in need of God, these Christians may be upset about the issue of homosexual marriage purely because they don’t want to have to look at it, hear about it, or have anything to do with it. Their activism is about preserving a comfortable way of life for themselves, and the issue of homosexual marriage poses a direct threat to that lifestyle.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. We are quick to get upset when we hear the news of progress for homosexual marriage. But are we as quick to get upset about the lost condition of the unrepentant homosexual apart from Christ? Do we see ourselves as political activists before we see ourselves as Jesus’ witnesses?
1 New International Version (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1978)
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2014. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.