(This is the sixth in a series of eight readings and discussion questions, that make up “Leading Your Church to be as Gay-Friendly as the Bible Teaches.”)
With the legalization of same-sex marriage in June of 2015 by the Supreme Court, you might think this discussion is irrelevant. However, just because same-sex marriage is now the law of the land, that doesn’t change the reasons Christians should oppose it and be able to explain to our children why we do. Abortion was legalized almost half a century ago, but most Christians still oppose it on biblical grounds and try to discourage it whenever possible.
We’ve heard it asked many times, “Why do you Christians care what goes on behind closed doors between two consenting adults? Who cares? Why not let gay men and women marry?” In this discussion we’ll try to answer some of the most commonly asked questions by both non-Christians and affirming Christians, and suggest some alternatives to marriage.
But before we do, we need to remind ourselves that many of those who favor same-sex marriage, whether they are LGBTQ or heterosexual, Christians or non-Christians see it strictly as a civil right. They don’t understand that we believe our position to be God’s position as revealed through Scripture, not simply our opinion.
Q. The Bible doesn’t prohibit same-sex marriage, so why should Christians?
A. While it’s true that the Scriptures do not prohibit same-sex marriage outright, marriage is always described in the Bible as being between a man and a woman. The first chapter of the Bible says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Differentiation of the human race into two complementary sexes (“male and female”) is the first fact mentioned in connection with being made “in the image of God.”
Genesis 2 describes in more detail the process summarized in 1:27. Here, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). The word “helper” is ezer kenegdo, which means “helper” and “like and against me.” This implies someone who is like Adam (a human), but against or opposite him (a complementary female).
Genesis then applies the example of Adam and Eve to all marriages: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). This “one flesh” sexual union was thus established as the pattern for marriage generally, which Jesus himself reaffirmed when he cited Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 as the normative pattern that God expects all marriages to follow, as expressed in Matthew 19:5: “And [Jesus] said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’” Paul reiterates this teaching yet a third time in Ephesians 5:31.
From the Old Testament to the New Testament, the Bible assumes the logic of sexual intercourse implied in Genesis: a sexual bond between a man and a woman requires two (and only two) different sexual halves (“a man” and “his wife”) being brought together into a sexual whole (“one flesh”).
Finally, to justify same-sex marriage strictly because the Bible doesn’t specifically prohibit it is problematic because it gives equal weight to an argument from silence against hundreds of examples of married people in the Bible who were married only to a person of the opposite sex. It also ignores the fact that the Bible always speaks of same-sex intercourse in negative terms. And since sex and marriage go hand-in-hand, the prohibition of same-sex sex rules out marriage.
Q. But if gay men and women marry, doesn’t that solve the moral issue for Christians?
A. The idea behind this argument is that if the biblical objection to homosexual relationships is solely based on the biblical prohibition of sex outside of marriage, why don’t we solve it by allowing gay men and women to marry? If they do, the moral objection to same-sex sex goes away, just as it does when heterosexuals marry. Problem solved!
If having sex outside of marriage were the only biblical objection, then that would solve the problem. But it’s not. To endorse same-sex marriage is to endorse same-sex behavior. Sexual union is implicit and even honored in marriage. When we accept same-sex marriage, by implication and over time, the sin of homosexual sexual behavior will be legitimized by us, our children, and future generations.
Q. The Bible opposes divorce, and yet the church has accepted that as a fact of life. Why not accept gay marriage in the same way?
A. Divorce and same-sex sexual union share this in common: Both are forgivable sins for those who repent. However, neither in Scripture nor in the church has divorce ever been celebrated as a part of “the glorious diversity of the body of Christ,” as gay marriage is being touted. Divorce is and has always been viewed as an example of sin in a fallen world. This is why we don’t have divorce ceremonies in the church, in which we bless it. We recognize divorce as a sad tragedy and not the intention of God.
Q. But why should we get so worked up over what goes on behind closed doors or in same-sex marriages by people who are not Christians?
A. The legalization of same-sex marriage has repercussions way beyond what two adults do behind closed doors. Here are a few reasons:
- Same-sex couples always deny their children either a father or a mother. It’s both conventional and biblical wisdom that the optimal environment for raising a child is one in which the child’s mother and father are married and living with each other. However, if a gay couple adopts, their children will have the influence of only one gender living in that home.
- It is true, many children today are being raised in one-parent homes, but that’s by default not by design (divorce, unwanted pregnancies, death, etc). It’s not that gay married couples cannot be good parents, they just cannot provide what a traditional marriage was designed by God to do—provide both male and female role models.
Q. What about the separation of church and state?
A. Those who favor the separation between church and state believe Christians are attempting to impose their views on everyone by opposing same-sex marriage. Ironically, however, they have no reservations about imposing their worldview on Christians and others. Here are just a few examples:
- “GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Sex Education Network) is a national organization advocating that public schools teach the normalization of diverse expressions of sexuality. “GLSEN calls upon public policy makers to remove any prohibitive laws that forbid or discourage in-school discussions of sexual orientation or gender/expression.” We are already seeing rapid changes in school policies regarding transgenderism and bathroom use by either sex.
- Sex education in Massachusetts’ schools, as well as school districts in other states, have already been expanded to include classroom discussions on masturbation and oral and anal sex in an effort to end taboos on gay and straight sexual behaviors.
- Students in many states are being taught that a homosexual family is normal. Recommended reading in many states are books like Heather has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate.
- Christian teachers in public schools are often required to teach that homosexual relationships are normal—even if it violates their own religious beliefs.
The point is that there are serious mandatory efforts underway to teach your children and grandchildren things that are antithetical to a biblical worldview and to the values of their parents or the church. Unfortunately, many of the sex education classes normalizing heterosexual sex outside of marriage in the 80s and 90s laid the groundwork for reducing sex to a health issue rather than a moral or spiritual one.
Freedom of religion?
- Many Christians in the country know what happened to the photographer in New Mexico who refused to photograph a gay wedding. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that it was a violation of one’s civil rights to deny anyone services based on their sexual orientation. LGBTQ activists are not content with allowing committed Christians to behave privately as they wish. They will not rest until everyone accepts all same-sex behavior as normal and acceptable.
Q. Do you really expect gay men and women to be lonely and celibate all their life?
A. It can be incredibly lonely to live alone your entire life. Many heterosexual people are already doing that simply because they choose it, or haven’t found ‘the one.’ Most people want to be married and have children and grandchildren. But it’s also true that many people find marriage to be difficult—hence the high divorce rate. Married people must balance their personal freedom and time with the responsibilities of caring for their spouse and children. Marriage is both a blessing and a sacrifice.
Yes, same-sex attracted men and women should remain celibate if they are not married to someone of the opposite gender or have no desire to marry someone of the opposite gender. God expects all unmarried believers to remain celibate all their life—both same-sex attracted and straight. This isn’t an exclusive requirement for LGBTQ men and women alone.
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul goes out of his way to make the case for all Christians to remain unmarried if they are able. Almost the whole chapter is devoted to the advantages of being single. He begins with this statement, “Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.” And then goes on to say, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.” In verses 32 and 33 he says, “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife.”
For two thousand years, unmarried Christians have lived productive, spiritual, and fulfilled lives without marriage or sex. Not only can it be done, it has been done, and done well!
Henri Nouwen, a deeply devoted Christian, philosopher, and author struggled with same-sex attraction all of his life, yet was committed to celibacy. This enabled him to devote the last decade of his life to living in community at L’Arche Daybreak, in Toronto, caring for mentally disabled adults. Nouwen once wrote, “The way out of our loss and hurt is in and through. When Jesus said, “For I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13), He affirmed that only those who can face their wounded condition can be available for healing and enter a new way of living.” 
Q. Does the Bible allow any options to address the loneliness of celibacy?
A. The following are some unconventional ideas put forward by Christians to resolve the pain of loneliness. If you are like many Christians, your initial reaction to these ideas may be shocking. While your church may not necessarily endorse all these ideas, there does not appear to be any biblical prohibition against them.
1. A same-sex attracted Christian could marry a heterosexual person of the opposite sex and have a family
I, Laurie, one of the authors, am one such person. I exclusively experience same-sex attractions, but am growing in love and attraction for my husband. I am not in love with all men; I am in love with my husband, Matt. As I run more toward Jesus to fill the core needs of my heart, and fall more in love with Him, I find my same-sex attractions decrease, and wanting to live my life with greater connection to Matt.
The authors know of another celibate, same-sex attracted person who felt called to be a pastor. This man graduated from a conservative seminary and began a friendship with a heterosexual woman. As the friendship deepened, the man admitted to this woman that he was same-sex attracted, but said his desire was to marry, have a family, and serve the church. He admitted that their sex life would undoubtedly never be what either might desire, but he loved her and was committed to live as her faithful loving husband all of his life. After much prayer and in consultation with her pastor, she agreed to marry him. They now have children, and he is still a pastor of his church.
We find no biblical reasons to prohibit a marriage like this and find it to be an elegant solution to the problem of loneliness, even though, sadly, mixed-orientation marriages often fail for a variety of reasons. They are clearly not a “cure” for homosexuality. Same-sex attraction might always be a temptation in these marriages. However, sexual temptation and fulfillment are problematic in many straight marriages as well.
2. Create spiritual friendship communities
In his book entitled Spiritual Friendship, Wesley Hill, a man who experiences same-sex attractions, describes a number of ways he and others have addressed this issue. One idea is that men and women who are committed to celibacy could live in community in a large home, with one person per room, holding each other accountable to sexual purity—all the while enjoying the camaraderie of both male and female friends.
The bottom line is this: The church will have to stretch conventional thinking to assist a growing number of single adults—both heterosexual and homosexual—to live lives of purpose and purity. None of these ideas are easy. Marriage is not easy. All human relationships are potentially dangerous, difficult, and flawed. However, none of these ideas violate any teaching of Scripture, but in fact, actually capture the ideal of a caring, loving community.
Q. What if I’m invited to a same-sex wedding?
A. Option 1 (adapted from Joe Dallas’s book, When Homosexuality Hits Home):
I do not believe it’s right for a Christian to attend a same-sex wedding ceremony. I realize that there are Christ-centered, sincere believers, who also believe homosexuality to be wrong, who thoroughly disagree with me about attending a wedding.
A same-sex wedding is a ceremony and celebration solemnizing something that in God’s sight cannot and should not be called a marriage. Yes, the betrothed couple probably know you are a Bible-believing Christian who doesn’t condone homosexuality. But they invited you anyway, hoping that, in spite of what you believe, you’ll put that aside for the sake of their joy and celebrate with them. Thus, a “sorry, cannot attend” RSVP will almost certainly be hurtful, and may end the relationship. While I don’t recommend attending, I do recommend continuing the relationship.
Attendance at a same-sex wedding or any wedding cannot be seen as anything other than a silent endorsement. This violates Paul’s clear instruction in Ephesians 5:11 which says, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” He also advised Timothy to “neither be partaker of other men’s sins” (1 Timothy 5:22, KJV).
Broadening that principle to other behaviors, if my friend were an alcoholic, I’d still be a friend. But if he asked me to “partake” and to have a drink with him, I’d decline because I’d not want to send mixed messages that I approve of that decision by participating with him.
The question of attendance at a same-sex wedding boils down to this: Is it possible to attend and not signal, on some level, my approval by my attendance? I don’t think so. That’s my dilemma.
Option 2 (adapted from John Wesley Reid’s blog, “Should I attend my gay friend’s wedding?”):
Some may oppose attendance at a same-sex wedding because they believe it’s a declaration of the attendee’s approval. While I’m charitable to this position, I am not sold on the logic. I will attend my friend’s wedding because they invited me. If my friend considers me close enough to merit an invitation to their wedding, then they will already know my position on gay marriage. In one sense, it’s flattering that they would invite me, considering that my opposition is an offense to their lifestyle, yet they still love me enough to invite me.
I will attend because I love them. And by “love them” I don’t mean I’m willing only to criticize their lifestyle, and then pray for them. By “love them” I mean I desire to walk with them, do life with them, and grow with them while praying vigorously for them to understand their sin—as I would anyone.
My love for them does not compromise my hate for sin—indeed my hate for sin compels me to love them more just as Christ loved me despite my sin.
I’m not going to wear black and sit stone-faced.
And I’m not going to take every opportunity when meeting someone to explain away my decision with a, “Yes, I’m a friend of Joe’s, BUT I’m not at all in support of his decision.”
I’m going to sign the guest book.
I’m going to bring a gift.
I’m going to dance.
I’m going to love and pray for them.
Option 3 (from Preston Sprinkle’s book, Living in the Gray):
“Can I attend a gay wedding?” I get asked this question more than any other question related to homosexuality. You can probably see why it’s tough to answer, but let’s lay out the dilemma so that we’re all on the same page.
On the one hand, if you refuse to attend the wedding of your gay friend (or family member), this could come off as unloving, self-righteous, and judgmental. Perhaps you’re trying to lead your friend to Christ (assuming they’re not a Christian already). If you don’t attend, they may view this as a denial of the love you say you have for them.
On the other hand, if you attend the wedding, will your friend and others think that you now approve of homosexual relations? Aren’t you endorsing gay marriage by attending the wedding?
What do you think? There seems to be truth in both responses. While I don’t think there’s a clear right or wrong answer to the question, here are some things to consider.
The first thing to consider is whether the couple claims to be Christian. If they don’t then I don’t think it would be a problem to attend their wedding. Remember Paul’s words, “What have I to do with judging outsiders?” (1 Corinthians 5:12 ESV). Since we shouldn’t expect unbelievers to act like believers, I don’t think it would be wrong to attend a gay wedding if they are unbelievers. Or, if you refuse to attend, then you should be consistent and not attend any weddings between unbelievers.
But if they do claim to be Christians, then here are a few more things to consider.
Make sure you are consistent in which weddings you attend. If you don’t attend the gay wedding, then you also should not attend any Christian wedding that is unbiblical. For instance, marriages between a believer and an unbeliever. Scripture doesn’t allow believers to marry unbelievers. Or you shouldn’t attend a marriage when one of the partners has been through an unbiblical divorce.
It’s pretty hypocritical to attend certain weddings that aren’t sanctioned by Scripture yet not attend other weddings that aren’t also sanctioned by Scripture.
We (the authors) lean towards options 1 and 3. Joe Dallas’s thoughts are true to the Bible, and Sprinkle’s encourage a biblical self-examination and consistency in whichever decision a person makes. Some issues in the Christian life are black and white—this is not one of them. A wedding day is an incredibly important day in anyone’s life, and the people who have invited you may be very dear to you. God grant you the courage to say yes or no to wedding attendance, whichever you deem appropriate, as you believe God is leading you.
- In your opinion, which of the arguments against same-sex marriage are the strongest? Why?
- In your opinion, which of the arguments against same-sex marriage are the weakest? Why?
- Was there any new information you learned which affirmed your convictions?
- If you have children, would they say you “celebrate singleness?” Or does your desire for grandchildren send conflicting messages—that singleness and celibacy are fine for those with SSA, but the ideal should be marriage with children?
- What do you think of the ideas regarding unconventional living arrangements for SSA Christians?
- Based on your own convictions, would you attend a same-sex marriage ceremony? Why or why not? What if the wedding was for a son or daughter?
- Do you think it’s possible to take a stand against same-sex marriage and not be labeled a homophobic, judgmental Christian? If not, can you live with that charge without holding onto anger or shame?
- Have you ever invited a celibate, SSA Christian into your home just because you care about them? Why or why not?
This is the end of the Small Group Edition of Leading Your Church to be as Gay-Friendly as the Bible Teaches. Although these are our final thoughts, this discussion is far from over. As a result of reading and talking through the discussions, our prayer is that you and your church will be better equipped to navigate grace, truth, and love better with your LGBT/SSA children, friends, and neighbors. As a last encouragement, we want to exhort you to be proactive. Take these ideas to your family and friends. Become the biblical, graceful thought leader on LGBT issues within your circles of influence. For further reading, we recommend the following resources as next steps:
People to be Loved: Why Homosexuality is not just an Issue by Preston Sprinkle, Zondervan, 2015
Same-Sex Attraction and the Church by Ed Shaw, InterVarsity Press Books, 2015
Other recommended books include:
Compassion Without Compromise by Adam Barr and Ron Citlau
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield
What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality by Kevin DeYoung
Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach
Homosexuality and the Christian by Mark Yarhouse
Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan
Recommended Web sites include:
Harvest USA at harvestusa.org
Hole in my Heart Ministries at himhministries.com
Lead them Home at leadthemhome.org
Living Out at livingout.org
The Gospel Coalition’s “50 Web sites for equipping the church on homosexuality and same sex marriage” at thegospelcoalition.org/article/50-resources-for-equipping-the-church-on-homosexuality-and-same-sex-marriage
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. Flanagan, Caitlin. “Is There Hope for the American Marriage?” Time Magazine, July 02, 2009.
. “Values Statements.” GLSEN. GLSEN, 2003-2016. www.glsen.org/values
. See Smith, Tovia. “NPR Interview.” NPR Interview. 2004. www.massresistance.org/docs/a8a/general/NPR_091304.htm. See also: Schoenberg, Shira. “Massachusetts Senate Passes ‘age Appropriate’ Sex Education Bill Pushed by Planned Parenthood.” Masslive.com. November 19, 2015. www.masslive
.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/11/massachusetts_senate_passes_ag.html. See also: Jan, Tracy. “Gay Rights Advocates and Health Educators to Push for More Inclusive Sex Education – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com. Boston Globe, 8 Sept. 2015. www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2015/09/08/gay-rights-advocates-and-health-educators-push-for-more-inclusive-sex-education/Z2gbYzVF2FonnHAdZrluXO/story.html
. Nouwen, Henri J. M., and Timothy K. Jones. Turn My Mourning into Dancing: Moving through Hard times with Hope. Nashville, TN: W Pub. Group,
2001. P. 7.
. To read more about Laurie and Matt’s journey, read their blog at himhministries.com.
. Edited from: Dallas, Joe. When Homosexuality Hits Home. Eugene, Or.: Harvest House Publishers, 2004.
. Edited from: Reid, John Wesley. “Should I Attend My Gay Friend’s Wedding? John Wesley Reid.” John Reid Blogs. 2015. johnreidblogs.com/2015/03/16/should-i-attend-my-gay-friends-wedding/
. Sprinkle, Preston M. Living in a Gray World: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Understanding Homosexuality. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015. P. 124-126. (Preston goes on to talk more about “What does this convey to those getting married?” We recommend reading the whole section.)
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