It is a popular thing these days to paint Christians who oppose same sex marriage as somehow bigoted, unfair and unthinking. And yes, there are those who call themselves Christians who are some or all of those things. Unfortunately, just like everyone else, Christians are sinners. (Although it is absolutely never an excuse for unchristian behavior and attitudes, the whole point of the Bible is this: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NKJV))
But please know that Christians can oppose same sex marriage without being bigoted, unfair, or unthinking. Even non-Christians have argued from a secular standpoint that the state has interests in maintaining the heterosexual definition of marriage. Although ultimately Christians continue to advocate for the historic definition of marriage because we are convinced that it is best for society as a whole – regardless of one’s religion – the arguments become much more convincing when one possesses a Biblical/Christian world view.
We recognize that the issue of same sex marriage is tangled with an immense amount of baggage. The church has not treated the homosexual community in the past as Jesus would have. (But the tough question is ascertaining what he would have said and done. Perhaps a clue can be found as Jesus ministered to the adulterous woman in John chapter 8.) As a result there is a lot of resentment toward the church which is probably deserved. And then there is the fact that we are dealing with the feelings of real – and often hurting – people. Anytime feelings are being dealt with – calm reason and truth are so easily jettisoned.
The following are some important points which perhaps will help folks understand why it is perfectly “reasonable” for devoted and loving Christians to oppose same sex marriage.
- Fundamentally marriage is an institution of God and not invented by Man. It is an order of creation and cannot be subject to the changing definitions of man. God did create Adam and Eve as male and female to be married. Male and female fit together and complement each other. And the results of that union are children and the propagation of humankind as well as a safe and beautiful place for those children to be nurtured into adulthood. There is glory, reason and order in the creation and we would be wise to honor it. Obviously we are very prone to destroy what God has given us (i.e. divorce, etc.) and we suffer greatly because of it. But the unintended failure to attain God’s design as husband and wife cannot be reason or excuse for the purposeful twisting, diluting or further corrupting of that same design. On the contrary, we should be doing everything we can to encourage, bless, uphold and enable that beautiful intent of God.
- The slippery slope of redefining marriage. If we decide that marriage is not a fundamental order of creation and the foundation of our society, we, as a people, can decide to change it’s definition. But as we do this, we must recognize where we are going. IF we choose to be our own God and decide that marriage is malleable to whatever we would like, then we are most certainly opening a Pandora’s box to polygamy and/or WHATEVER our whims might fancy at any given moment. Let us be forewarned!
- Same sex marriage is not an issue of civil rights or unfairness. The current laws are not depriving homosexuals of any privileges heterosexuals have. A homosexual has every right under the law to marry. But as with almost everything else in life – there are strictures and contexts. Everyone has the right to be the president of the United States – as long as they are a citizen and are elected by the people. Everyone has the right to drive – as long as he or she has a license and is able. Everyone can marry – a person of the opposite sex. Same sex marriage is fundamentally different than, for instance, the issue of interracial marriages. In that case, based on the color of skin, SOME were not allowed to marry the opposite sex. To be more clear: If the definition of marriage included same sex unions and then laws were made against such marriages, at that point it would constitute an injustice. However, as we have already discussed, the definition of marriage is from God and not from man. It cannot be changed at our whim.
- The confusion surrounding the scriptural injunctions against homosexuality. Although the New Testament is quite clear about the sin of the homosexual lifestyle, many people especially enjoy ridiculing the Old Testament and its seemingly insane (to our ears) injunctions and laws. They discount any reference to God’s judgment against homosexuality on the claim that nothing in the Old Testament applies today. However, this reveals a profound lack understanding of the scripture and how it needs to be interpreted. Importantly, the distinction needs to be made between civil law in the Old Testament, and the moral principles that law was based on. The Levitical Code of the Old Testament was set down by God for the Hebrew people as they wandered in the wilderness and even as they came into the Promised Land. It was a “Theocracy” where the Lord God was the government. For us today much of the Levitical code seems more than a little crude. But we forget that it was a very crude time and people that God was governing. What is important to remember is that although the specific formulas of laws and punishments themselves do not apply today (because God has given us our own governments that set these down) the moral principles that lie behind them still do apply. These moral principles are based on the character of God and do not change with the times!
- So what is the Christian understanding of homosexuality? Although Christians today must compassionately love the homosexual even as the Lord loves him, that does not mean consenting to or affirming the homosexual way of life and same sex marriage. We all know that the best and most loving friend is the one who is able to humbly tell the truth – even if it hurts. This is the truth: All our lives are burdened with sin – and unfortunately some are burdened with unnatural sexual desires. There is usually no pat answer as to why anyone is saddled with any particular problem in life. But it isn’t the problems or sin that we have in life that ultimately define us as God’s people. What defines us is how God forgives and renews and blesses us. It is plain from God’s Word that the homosexual tendency is an aberration – and any capitulation to the temptations of that aberration is sin. Although some claim that God has actually cured them of their homosexual desires through intense spiritual discipline, the one promise that can be made from scripture is the forgiveness of our sins through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. God also promises that he will give us the power to resist the temptations of our sinful nature as we trust and rely on Him.
- Forcing a particular morality on everyone. It is argued that opponents of same sex marriage are forcing a particular morality on everyone. And for once the accusation is true! However the insinuation is that allowing same sex unions is freeing everyone from morality. But of course it is not! It is simply replacing one morality with another! It is a battle of moralities.
- Judging others. It is somehow viewed as unseemly to judge others. But of course it is preposterous to think that we should not. And even if we think we should not judge – we always do anyway! If nothing else we judge the ones who judge. Jesus does speak to the self-righteous and warns them not to judge without seeing their own sin (the log in their own eye), but over and over again the scripture states that the Church and all Christians are to be courageous and wise in their judgments of right and wrong. We do this firstly that the world might be blessed with a healthy and well ordered society, but we do it also that repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ might be proclaimed. The key is that Christians are not to judge themselves, the nations, and others on the basis of their own understanding, but only according to God’s revealed righteousness (contained in the scripture).
In conclusion: Obviously none of this is easy. But the issues are worthy of humble, intense and reasoned study. The differences ultimately boil down to the first item above and the presupposition that we are created in a specific way and for a particular purpose. Although not everyone agrees with this, perhaps this exposition might help the one who is not a Christian, or the uninformed Christian, to appreciate why the individual with a biblical/Christian world view cannot reasonably support same sex marriage.