What’s your church’s stance on same-sex marriage? It’s a question I’ve heard often, and even more recently as my daughters and I were out on a Saturday helping spread the word about a new church plant soon to launch. What do you say to this? Have you helped your members understand how to interact and think about this question? Or how to answer it?
There are some truths that need to be wrestled with before and while thinking this through toward a right response. It’s also safe to assume, in my limited time in ministry and church planting, that I don’t have all the answers and in some cases may have less than helpful answer. It’s also important to realize that neither this blog nor any other should be designed for you to answer the question by sending the questioner this blog alone. Discipleship is the tension of real life on real life toward real life in Christ.
Answers to this question will rarely offer immediate satisfaction to the questioner. The questioner seems to want a simple “we affirm” or “we condemn”. It isn’t that simple, and you must not give in to the pressure for quick unhealthy answers to this question. If it’s worth believing, it’s worth spending time thinking through.
First, there is much more going on than a simple conversation or two can adequately tend to, and at the core of this question is a defense of the same-sex community. The Christian has to understand that while it may appear to others as if we aren’t acting in defense of the same-sex community, we actually are. In speaking and living out truth in love to this and any other community or person not cherishing Christ, His truth and the fruit flowing from that, we are saying we love you too much not to see you experience true life in its fullness. Honestly, some of my dearest friends are a same-sex couple that have shown my family nothing but love, kindness, and acceptance. We all care for them deeply, and I’d like to think that if they ever came across these words that they would forgive me for any apparent insensitivities and misunderstandings while respecting the thoughtful and biblical logic and convictions of the Christian worldview to love them well because I certainly do.
Second, it’s important to recognize that this question generally comes from two different categories of a similar mindset. Remember, the question at hand is “Where does your church stand on same-sex marriage.”
Mindset: So what’s the mindset? It’s a mind that isn’t ruled by the word of God or doesn’t understand that it should be. If the questioner claims to be Christian, then the primary tenant of understood truth is that God has spoken truth to the world and the Christian is called to trust and obey. That needs to be made clear at the outset, to the professing Christian so they can reflect on their own understanding and stance on how they see God’s word and to the non-Christian so that they can have a categorical understanding of the foundational truth of the Christian worldview. Even if they aren’t Christian they still have a standard of truth, it’s simply faulty. If they are atheist, agnostic, or anti-theist, their standard of truth is faulty to the level of absurdity because they themselves are their own standard of truth. In a nutshell, they believe that it’s true that truth doesn’t exist, or they believe it is objectively true for all that objective truth doesn’t exist. They call it Subjective truth, and it’s logically absurd. In fact, there going to attempt to argue from a logical platform, and their very own worldview doesn’t support logic and order. The rules and order of logic make no sense if we come from stardust. In my very limited experience with same-sex issues, I’ve found the greatest majority of proponents to be either atheist, agnostic, anti-theists, so-called liberal Christians, young Christians and those whose faith is built on a “subjective truth” understanding like Unitarian’s, Buddhists, Wiccans, etc. I’m sure there are others, but this is what I find as the majority. This helps you understand how they’re processing truths in general.
Categories: What are the primary categories of thought from the questioner? Hostile, docile, and infantile. The infantile thinker simply hasn’t thought it through well enough, but they’ll listen to reason. The docile thinker just doesn’t care. They’re primarily concerned with their kid’s lacrosse practice and whether their Audi is double parked. The hostile thinker is violently opposed to truth in general and in its specifics. They’re going to argue everything from how the penguins got back to Antarctica from off the Ark to how a “good” God, in their thinking, would allow evil. These are the “God wants you to be happy” children of the enlightenment who could not imagine a God who would either let people go to hell or not let them have sex with whomever, whenever or whatever they like.
Third, be prepared to have many uncomfortable conversations while genuinely loving a person that may be reluctant, hateful, unkind, hostile, and indifferent or even some of the kindest people you have ever encountered. Remember, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”, so we display that character of God to the world. Challenging the faulty thought processes of the world takes time, patience, love, and investment.
Fourth, the world is broken and it really hurts. We are a people acquainted with grief. There is so much wrong with the world that the church cannot afford to offer it an artificial hope. There is so much deep pain, anxiety, wounds and affliction in this world that we owe it to the world to offer it the only comfort it has, and that is Jesus Christ. We’re all sexual deviants at heart, but redefining sex, intimacy, or marriage offers no lasting hope or peace. When all else fails the word of God does not, and so that is what we will rely on when answering what God’s design for marriage and sex is.
Fifth, this is not our answer to give, as much as it is our answer to disciple people into. God isn’t who you think He is, He is who He says He is. God has spoken to the world and as His pinnacle creation, we echo that to the world around us. These vibrations didn’t originate from us, they continue through us. It’s important to understand that this is what God has said, this is our call to trumpet and display truth and find joy in loving the world while cherishing the word.
As Christians, we are not calling people to start getting sex and marriage right, as much as we are calling them to adore Jesus Christ. We are calling the world to get its primary relationship right first, between us and God.
So, how would I answer this?
What’s your churches stance on same-sex marriage?
1- I’m a Christian – I’d start by reminding the questioner that I’m a Christian and as a Christian, I believe that God has spoken truth to the world. That being said, the answers to life’s flourishing are found in Jesus. Jesus has some pretty specific things to say about the scriptures (here), and based off of Christ’s own affirmation of scripture we hold the truth of scripture as foundational to all life and human flourishing.
From this platform, the question can be answered.
2- Sex is for Marriage. Or more specifically, the original covenant union God creates between Adam and Eve that would seed the world’s standard of faithful monogamous union. God is for one monogamous lifelong covenant relationships that we understand as marriage. God created man and woman to come together to bless the world with little men and women that would come together to bless the world by displaying His character throughout the whole world.
Our greatest act of subduing and having dominion over the world is in our reflecting that we ourselves are subdued and dominated by Christ.
You see where this is going. It’s a cycle, on purpose for a purpose. The world was to be filled with the pinnacle of His creation displaying His character and glory throughout the whole world. One of those characteristics was singular faithfulness. God had one wife, the people of God. God in the flesh, Jesus, has one wife, the people of God (Ez. 16:32, Eph. 5). Jesus, when asked about singular faithfulness, went back to humanities original design and intent as the foundation of God’s plan for humanity (Matthew 19:3-12). One man, one woman, for life. Whether you’ve been divorced 10 times or have had 200 same-sex partners, there is forgiveness, hope and redemption in Christ toward this faithful monogamy in Christ and then displayed outwardly in marital union.
3- Sex is for joy. You’ve probably noticed that sex is moderately pleasant. Sex, as God defines it, is the coming together of a man and women in covenantal intimacy to experience and cause the experience of a particular type of joy. It’s important to understand why I don’t say pleasure, and it’s primarily because sexual joy is so much more than pleasure. Pornography, Lust, masturbation, oral sex, and the like fall within the pleasurable category. Pleasure is certainly an element of joy, but artificial pleasure is an end to itself that does not lead to the full orb of Biblical joy. Thinking that pleasure alone equals joy is a simplistic and narrow understanding of joy in sex. If your sex life is largely about you being pleased, your current situation is going to get real old real fast. Jesus gave, or sacrificed, His life so we could experience true life. Just like in all of life, the best sex with your spouse is sacrificial. Sex isn’t all about you, and that adds a layer of joy you’ve not experienced. Some may even think they have experienced the joy they’ve been designed for, but you can only experience the joy of sex as defined by God’s boundaries. Not only does he call us to joy, he defines joy as well.
4- Sex is for life. Here’s where the issue dissolves into tribes for sure. Sex was God’s design to perpetuate society and to foreshadow how He would make that society reflect His glory, turning the temple Garden of Eden into a global temple through Adam and Eve’s posterity. Kids could have just popped out of the ground like cabbage patch kids, but God said life will come from two lives coming together creating something out of nothing. After creating these two wonderfully complimentary souls in the garden, God looked at all He had made and proclaimed it perfect in form and function (Gen. 1:31). Man and woman were perfectly formed for a number of realities, one of which being the function of sex and the life that it leads to. Same-sex intimacy can never lead to life, neither can masturbation, contraception, or oral sex. What’s difficult for many Christians to grasp is that at some level these are all in a similar category of being contrary to God’s plan for sex and life.
The Christian life is one that says what is important to God is important to me, and understanding that to be what leads to true life. A Christian as defined by God is one who believes and is transformed by what God has said to the point of joyful and submissive trust and obedience. One cannot simply walk away from what God has said about sex and marriage without forsaking their Christianity as God defines it. The moment you deviate from what Christ himself has said about and created sex and marriage to be you have no other platform to claim anything that Christ says to be true.
Now, this is all easy for me to say, in a sense. I have seen and experienced the pain, questioning, confusion, anger, and a myriad of emotional responses to what God has said. It’s hard, and I’m sure I only know that half of it, but it’s true, and that makes the question worth answering well and walking with the questioner for as long as it takes.
This all should pain us to prayer.
BY JOSHUA WHETSTINE – NORTH AMERICAN MISSION BOARD CITY MISSIONARY FOR MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL.