I’ve wrestled for weeks over whether or not I should write and publish this post. This is such an incredibly sensitive subject. I know a few people out there will appreciate what I write here, but I also know to expect that many, many people will feel offended and attacked and hated by what I write. I can’t emphasize enough that I am not writing from a place of hatred but from a place of love that is deeply concerned with the well-being of the people in my life who deal with this.
I feel it is time I speak out on what I believe about gay marriage within the church. I want to make very clear that this post has absolutely nothing to do with legislation, the legalization of same-sex marriage, or the cultural embrace of homosexuality at large. While I do believe God’s Word speaks very clearly on the issue, and God’s Word is always relevant to everyone because Truth is always true, I also know that I cannot reasonably expect those who do not profess faith in Christ to submit themselves to the authority and teaching of Scripture. Professing Christians, however, are another matter entirely. “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you’” (1 Corinthians 5:12-12).
I will not pretend to have all of (or even most of) the answers. I know that this is a real issue that affects real individual people. I know this isn’t just some political platitude. This is very personal. I know this isn’t just some nebulous issue for “those gay people out there.” This is vitally important for your brother, your daughter, your best friend, you. I get that. I really do. I know what it’s like to want desperately for them to be happy. I know you dread the idea that they may face bullying and depression. These things are profound.
For someone who professes faith in Christ, however, the ramifications of gay marriage are so much more profound than any of these sociological issues.
I’m not going to Bible thump. But I do have to briefly point out that the Bible does teach that homosexuality is sinful in Romans 1. (Yes, I understand that in today’s culture, this statement is on par with saying something like, “I believe white people are superior to black people.” The difference is that the Bible upholds the dignity of all nations, tribes, races, and tongues while it speaks clearly against the immorality of homosexuality.) This passage cannot be explained away as only relevant to the ancient culture, as it is a passage that describes not only specific sinful acts, but the deeper current of the sin nature and the fate of those who suppress the truth of God – even to the point of God giving them up to their sin in judgment. This is a passage that must either be believed or ignored. A choice must be made here. Either God’s Word is truly inerrant and relevant, or this passage is in error and the Bible as a whole cannot be trusted. It is either/or. You cannot have both.
“But,” you may respond, “God made me this way.” I’m very familiar with the “born this way” argument. While I have not yet seen any compelling genetic evidence that a person is born gay, I am willing to concede that this could theoretically be the case. This is irrelevant. The stark reality of the world we live in is the harsh reality of the curse of the Fall. It is a curse that has impacted every corner of creation, which is why the Bible describes all of creation groaning under its weight, awaiting the return of Christ when all things will be made new. In this fallen world, people are born with all kinds of unfortunate circumstances. Some of these are genetic diseases that wreak havoc within the body. Some of these are predispositions to mental illness and sociopathy. Some of these are genetic tendencies toward alcoholism and addiction. And some of these may be oriented to homosexuality even early in life. (Again, I approach this last point only hypothetically.)
I am not insensitive enough to brow-beat you with the word “choice.” I do understand that most LGBT people feel “different” from a very young age and must face a terrifying personal moment of “coming out” and admitting to it at some point, fearing hateful responses and judgmental slurs. I know that I cannot truly imagine what that is like for them.
I do, however, find it curious that we don’t treat alcoholics this way. We don’t laud them as courageous for declaring who they are as alcoholics unless they stand in front of an AA meeting with the purpose of ending their alcoholism and giving up the booze. We don’t march for their right to drink themselves silly. Why don’t we? They were, after all, born that way. It’s not like they chose to be addicts.
“Yes, but alcoholism and addiction are harmful,” you may be thinking. Yes, they are. But why are we so convinced that homosexuality is not? The LGBT community often points out the higher attempted suicide rates among LGBT youth. Moreover, 63% of all new HIV cases are reported by men having sex with men. This does not even include the rest of the LGBT community or the rates of all the other STDs within the LGBT community.
While I know that there is a struggle and a stigma, as well as the cultural pressure to embrace, I have to humbly admit that I do not understand how a person who professes Christ can align himself or herself with and defend something that God speaks clearly against and that statistically is harmful to a large percentage of those who participate in it.
Gay marriage takes this one step farther. Here, we need to back up and ask the question: What is Christian marriage? And I don’t mean the pat answer of “a life-long commitment between one man and one woman.” I think that is an important aspect of Christian marriage, but that’s not what marriage is.
Put simply, Christian marriage is a human relationship through which God visibly and tangibly displays the gospel to the world. Christian marriage is a picture of the relationship Jesus Christ has with His bride, the church. Ephesians 5 explains this very well. It is not a passage about how a man can be a dictator in the home and a poor woman should submit while he walks all over her. This is a gross misunderstanding. It is a beautiful description of how a husband is to be a picture of Christ to the world as he loves his wife and raises his children in sacrificial love. It is a tangible illustration through the wife of how the church respects and honors Christ and submits willingly and lovingly to His rightful and good lordship. Paul ties it all together in verse 32: “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
Christian marriage, whatever else it may include, is at its core a picture of how God – who is altogether unlike us – is unified perfectly and intimately with us in the divine marriage of Jesus and the church for all eternity.
When someone who professes faith in Christ embraces homosexuality or makes vows in a same-sex marriage, they make a mockery of this gospel. They make unbiblical vows to commit themselves and their lives to something that grieves God. They are declaring to the world that God is all-together like us and that His primary concern is with our finite and foolish ideas about what we think will make us happy right now. Their entire life becomes a false gospel. I believe John is clear that this calls into question whether their profession of faith is credible, as one who keeps on sinning does not know Christ (1 John 3:6).
I’ve heard homosexuals who profess Christ describe themselves as a “paradox.” This cannot be the case. A paradox is something that seems contradictory but is actually true. (The example in my dictionary is, “The paradox of war is that you have to kill people in order to stop people from killing people.”) Rather, an unrepentant homosexual cannot also credibly profess to actually biblically follow Christ, who commanded the sexually immoral woman to sin no more.
You might be thinking, “Wow, that’s harsh! Be a little more sensitive to people’s feelings!” Yes. This is an issue that demands the utmost compassion. But it is also an issue that requires the truth spoken in love. God declares that this is harmful and deeply inappropriate; that continuing unrepentant in a life of immorality brings His judgment, and that a person within the body who continues in this sin must be cut off from the body until they come to repentance (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). The loving and kind thing to do is to warn a person of coming harm. It would be hateful of me not to speak out.
Honestly, this is where I lack answers. I have no idea what it looks like to wisely counsel someone struggling with same-sex attraction within the church. I believe the church has not handled this well and has even made some tragically bad decisions about how to speak to this issue.
What I do know is that Scripture calls us all to repentance – not only homosexuals, but also heterosexuals who give approval to them (Romans 1:32), heterosexuals who are promiscuous and sexually immoral in other ways, anyone who has looked with lust upon someone who was not their spouse, anyone who is consumed by narcissistic pride, alcoholics and addicts, meddlers and gossips, liars and cheaters, thieves and murderers, those consumed with rage and selfish indignation, those who are impure in their speech, those who disrespect and defy God-given authority. In a word – fallen humanity, of which I am also included in the fullest sense.
Yes, I do want you to be happy. But, despite the American ideal, happiness is really beside the point. For those of us rescued by Christ, God is primarily concerned with our holiness in His Son. Happiness is merely a by-product, and happiness derived from something that grieves God is not truly happiness. It will not fulfill. It can only ultimately empty and destroy.
Repentance is marked by godly grief over our sin, not defensiveness. The sin in our lives should drive us to the cross of Jesus Christ, because the only solution for any of it is His sacrifice, His righteousness, His justification. It is by His stripes we are healed.
As always, I welcome thoughtful and considerate comments from all points of view. However, I do reserve the right to moderate antagonistic comments.