With gay marriage now legal throughout the United States, it’s important that Christians understand how to navigate these waters in biblically loving and biblically true ways.
I think it’s important to start out by briefly explaining why the Bible is so important to Christians (or at least, is supposed to be). The Bible is where we learn specifically who God is, how to be saved, and how to follow God. It is from God and is about God. If you take the Bible away, all you are left with is a bunch of different people’s different opinions–and what authority does an opinion really have in the eternal scheme of things? So the problem for Christians when one piece of the Bible is called untrue is that it undermines the authoritative foundation of the entire thing. If God got the part wrong about homosexuality, then who’s to say he got the part right about Jesus’ resurrection or how to be saved? I wrote more about this specific conundrum a few months back when I was critiquing Rob Bell’s Love Wins book.
A Christian’s Guide to Gay Marriage:
1. The Bible says that homosexual practice/action is a sin, not homosexual attraction/orientation
A Christian can be gay, with the definition of “gay” being “attracted to the same sex,” and not be sinning. I would hire a gay pastor if they were single and celibate. Just as I am attracted to many women besides my wife, an attraction I cannot control…all women do not become ugly once I put on my wedding ring—but I can choose to not sin by not acting on these attractions and not actively dwelling on those thoughts. (Note: Attraction and lust are two different things) While all don’t choose to keep the label “gay” for various reasons (which is fine), read more about Why a Gay Celibate Christian Chooses to Keep the Label “Gay.” I’m only stating what’s in the Bible, which you’ll find in both the original Greek and most all of the modern English translations: the action of homosexuality is a sin, not the attraction or orientation. Yes, some choose this attraction/orientation, most do not. If you are a Christian who disagrees with this point, you are making “lust” and “attraction” mean the same thing, which is simply incorrect. It’s also an unfair double-standard that you aren’t applying to yourself. As a heterosexual, can you imagine if someone told you it was a sin every time you thought someone of the opposite sex was attractive (a.k.a. not ugly)?! Can you imagine the constant paralyzing shame this would put you under? And how sad and cruel (and evil) it would be for others to try to hold you to this unbiblical standard?
2. The Bible says that we are not to judge non-Christians’ behavior. Meaning: We are told by the Bible not to tell non-Christian LGBTQ people that what they’re doing is wrong.
It gets no plainer than 1 Corinthians 5:12-13, What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.
Why would we expect someone who doesn’t believe the Bible and never agreed to follow it to do what the Bible says? This applies to all areas of life, including sexuality for this conversation, as well as money, ethics, humility, forgiveness, and any number of other topics. This also sheds light on the fact that a Christian is supposed to be someone who does believe the Bible and who has agreed to do what it says, more on that later.
Non-Christians need to hear about Jesus and his grace and mercy, death and resurrection, not our judgment of any of the many non-biblical things they are doing. We don’t tell heterosexual non-Christians to stop having sex with their boyfriends or girlfriends, we tell them about Jesus. The same applies here. I’m reminded of the great line, “The gospel doesn’t make bad people good, it makes dead people alive.”
3. You can support gay marriage and still be against it morally/biblically
I recently wrote an article about how I believe the American institution of “marriage” (with all of its legal and civil rights that go along with it, e.g. tax and insurance benefits) is already a far cry from the Bible’s institution of marriage, and I sincerely question why I as a pastor have the legal authority to grant people legal and civil rights. In “A Solution to the Bible vs Gay Community gay marriage debate,” I write about how as a pastor I’d like to legally be unable to do anyone‘s legal marriage ceremony where they get their tax benefits and insurance perks. I’d like to only have the “power” to do spiritual marriage ceremonies, with no legal or civil strings attached. Everyone would have to go to some legal / governmental entity to get their tax breaks and insurance perks and they can come to the pastor if they also want a binding covenant of monogamy between them and God based on the Bible’s blueprint. And I’d be all for calling this biblical ceremony something other than the English word of “marriage” altogether (in my previous article, I propose using gameo, the New Testament Greek word for “marriage”), because the Bible’s idea of marriage and our culture’s view of marriage diverged paths a long time ago (see next point). It only creates problems to call them by the same word anymore.
As a quick aside: I do understand the Christian argument against gay marriage that the Bible’s blueprint for marriage and family is better for the overall societal framework of America. I think that a better and more redemptive solution than fighting fire with fire is to give gays and lesbians the civil and legal rights they are looking for and separate ourselves from a secular idea of marriage altogether. I know I am tired of people taking their marriage vows so lightly (as well as the complete disregard of the Bible’s prohibition of sex before marriage). Instead of shouting the same rally cries, we could completely rebuild the Christian concept of “marriage” (yes, even using a new word!) from the biblical ground up, which would put us in great position to be a macro-level light to the rest of our culture…“Huh, why is it that those types of marriages seem to work so well…?”
This scenario allows gays and lesbians to have their equal tax and insurance benefits, it gives Christians biblical marriage in a way where we can still be a light to the world with the truth of Scripture, and the current war between culture and church, which I believe only builds walls not bridges to the gospel, fades away.
4. The construct of marriage wasn’t ruined by gay marriage, it was already ruined by divorce and premarital sex.
Rather than being self-righteous and pointing our fingers at a sin that most of us will never struggle with, let’s own up to “The Real Reason Marriage and the American Family have Dissolved,” which Christians have played a major role in.
5. Christians who say the Bible is okay with gay marriage / with homosexual behavior are making a conclusion based on what they want the Bible to say, not what it actually says.
You will find numerous gay Christian advocates who attempt to argue exegetically and hermeneutically that the Bible says homosexual sexual behavior and/or gay marriage is okay. Matthew Vines’ book God and the Gay Christian and Justin Lee’s book Torn or two of the more popular ones. Both men have very compelling and sympathetic life stories, but at the end of the day it’s evident that they are measuring what the Bible says against their experience, rather than the other way around. We are supposed to go to the Bible, see what it says, then allow it to shape our experience. What Vines and Lee do is go to the Bible with their experience firmly in place, and bend the Bible to fit what they want it to say, while still claiming they believe in the authority of the Bible the same way I do.
Christopher Yuan, a gay celibate Christian who is also a professor at Moody Bible Institute, does a great job going into the details of both of these books and breaking down the subjective hermeneutical method that the authors use: Yuan on Vines, Yuan on Lee (see “texts in context” section).
The pro-gay approach is much more genuine that says, “I don’t believe this part of the Bible is true” than the approach Vines and Lee and others attempt to take. (more on that here)
I want to be careful to note that this doesn’t mean these Christians are going to hell, but it is likely going to determine where people are church members as it presents two very different ways of viewing the Bible. Practically, how could I be a member at the same church as someone who thought the Bible said it was okay to have premarital sex or okay for me to look at pornography? (These hermeneutical arguments are out there as well) I would go to them with my struggle, looking for help, support and accountability as one Bible-believing Christian to another, and they would just tell me that wasn’t actually what the Bible said and that I could go ahead and do these things no problem.
Like I led with in my first paragraph, this is about the Bible, not necessarily homosexuality. Homosexuality just happens to be the relevant issue of our times that is determining who still holds a high view of all of Scripture and who doesn’t.
- How Gay, Bible-Believing Christians are Breaking the Mold of the LGBT vs. Christian Debate by Noah Filipiak
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