Homosexuality and same-sex marriage are topics that have moved front and center in our cultural and political conversation. Facilitated by generational shifts, this discussion has moved extremely fast. Even proponents of same-sex marriage admit that the attitude shift toward accepting and legalizing same-sex marriage over the last three decades has been rapid.
What’s more, from some perspectives, our country considers this discussion closed, as it moves on to talk about a gender spectrum and a diversity of gender-related identities and relationships that might exist.
Does Jesus love gay people?
Before we get into the details, let’s first disclose this important truth: as Christians we believe that Jesus is much more concerned with the state of our hearts than with our ability to do everything in life perfectly. In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus says to, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
With that in mind, we trust that God desires most that we know and love Him and go on to love others. Our life choices ought to be inspired by the Holy Spirit’s leading, not by society’s trends, guilt, or tradition. Only by truly internalizing God’s love for us, and by getting to know him by spending time in his Word, can we begin to transform our lives into Godly ones. In short, ‘right’ living follows right belief—not the other way around.
That being said, the Bible does lay out guidelines for life on earth. We can think of these as parameters laid out for us by our loving father. Our father loves us regardless of whether or not we follow these guidelines, but they are intended to protect us from harm: to protect our hearts, our bodies, and our minds; and to benefit society. The Christian view on same-sex marriage and homosexuality falls into this category. The Bible does not condone these behaviors just as it does not condone adultery, divorce, and other sexual sins. It’s not the best thing for individuals or society. However, those who deal with homosexuality and sexual sins are no less loved by God or welcomed into his Kingdom.
God’s love is bigger than any choices we can make in this life. So, yes. Of course, God loves all people, including those who choose a homosexual or non-traditional lifestyle.
So why do some Christians still oppose same-sex marriage?
Christians are not intentionally picking on same-sex marriage; every person has the right to get married—it’s just that our definition of marriage differs on several levels. For the majority of the last 2,000 years, the Christian perspective on marriage has been that:
- It’s between a man and a woman
- It’s a reflection of God’s relationship with humanity
- It’s a lifelong commitment
- It provides healthy boundaries for sex in a relationship
- It provides a sheltered place to have and raise kids
- It Involves a contract that provides a safety net for spouses and kids
- It’s a benefit to the community
The Christian view of marriage is anchored on it being a relationship between a male and a female. It’s part of the fabric of God’s original creation, it’s part of our belief system, and it defines some of our cultural boundaries.
So redefining marriage is not just about a civil ceremony or providing additional legal rights for those in long-term relationships; it’s a whole new way of thinking in opposition to our faith and our understanding of community.
In addition, the Bible is pretty clear about not condoning the act of homosexuality. Without going into significant detail, the New Testament section of the Bible (the part written by early Jesus-followers and in particular the apostle Paul), clarifies how the early Christians would have seen homosexuality: Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11.
Jesus himself never spoke specifically about homosexuality, but he grew up in a Jewish culture that had a similar mindset as Paul’s. If Jesus had differed from the other Jewish religious leaders on this topic, we certainly would have read about it in early Christian church history, as it would have been a major shift from Jewish theology and tradition at the time. That said, the practice of homosexuality was seen in the same way as adultery, divorce, and sex outside of marriage. It was a sexual sin; there was no difference.
Some Christians have provided a different lens, or interpretation, of the Bible’s view on homosexuality and same-sex marriage, but it requires some linguistic and contextual gymnastics to arrive at the conclusion that the Bible doesn’t condemn the practice of homosexuality—and therefore same-sex marriage. And here’s the central point of the discussion for a Christian: for centuries our faith has been secured to the belief that the Bible is written by men but inspired by God. Every word of the Bible is provided by God and therefore there aren’t mistakes or contradictions. For us to accept same-sex marriage, it requires us to reject the authority of the Bible.
Is same-sex marriage un-Biblical?
Christians believe that God, first and foremost, is LOVE, 1 John 4:8. In the Old Testament (the part of the Bible that Christians share with Jewish tradition), David and Jonathan had an intense same-sex friendship; 1 Samuel 18:1-5. But the Bible doesn’t seem to suggest anything is permissible in the name of love—whether that’s sex prior to marriage, adultery, or the act of homosexuality.
We do know that neither gender nor marriage will define us in heaven (Galatians 3:28; Mark 12:25), so we can only assume that the directive is in place because homosexuality impacts us negatively as individuals, and our communities, here on earth. And honestly, there’s a variety of opinions among Christians about what impact homosexuality and same-sex marriage have on the common good. An oversimplification of the primary arguments follows:
- It goes against nature; we’re created male and female and intended to procreate
- It opens the door to a complete redefinition of marriage, which is a slippery slope that could include polygamy, incest, etc.
- It can cause destabilization in social order and undercuts social stability
- It pulls down healthy boundaries that help protect children and provide family support units
- It falsely normalizes homosexual behavior which can create gender confusion in youth at an impressionable stage of their lives
- It allows personal desires/values to supersede the values of the common good—and the meaning of life becomes individual gratification
Whatever the reason, it isn’t the intention of Christians to deny the civil or human rights of anyone—and we recognize this is the allegation thrown at Christians who disagree with same-sex marriage. We believe that we are all made in the image of God, and we should certainly treat each other with respect and dignity because of this.
A civil issue, or a religious issue?
There’s a religious side and a civil side to marriage.
We’ve largely discussed the religious side up to this point. With a worldview grounded in Christianity, millions of American Christians believe same-sex marriage isn’t good for any society or any individual, because we were all created by the same God who didn’t design us for those things.
However, we don’t believe civil laws are going to make anyone Christian or change anyone’s beliefs about homosexuality or same-sex marriage. We don’t think civil laws exist to cause people to buy into a particular moral code for their individual lives. We have more modest expectations for civil laws: they exist to enforce an ‘outward morality’ that maintains a healthy society and keeps people from harming each other.
Therefore, we’re not suggesting legislation against homosexuality or homosexual acts. We don’t even think our laws need to defend the Christian version of marriage in and of itself, since a number of religious traditions have similar concepts of marriage as Christians, and we recognize these in our civil society. From a civil angle, the issue is whether the traditional societal description of marriage (that happens to align with Christian beliefs) is the version that should officially be used by our modern civil society.
What parameters of marriage (especially in terms of sex and gender), with what civil advantages attached to it, are most beneficial to the common good?
Are the Christian arguments legitimate regarding same-sex marriage’s negative effects on society?
Questions like these arise any time we’re trying to decide what we promote as optimal behavior in our society. What activities in civil society do we encourage and reward—whether that be law and order or tax exemption for non-profits? What lines do we draw in our society for the benefit of the common good, without violating human rights or discriminating against our fellow human beings? And for sure, as Christians, we want to be engaged in that debate and promote our point of view as fellow citizens.
Is being gay a sin?
Regardless of what our contemporary society thinks, a percentage of Christians will continue to believe that same-sex marriage is not okay. Fortunately, society’s discussion on same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ+ issues is helping Christians to learn more about what certain individuals are feeling and dealing with, so that hopefully we can get to know them and approach their needs in a kinder, less judgmental way. If Jesus were walking the earth today, we can assume that he would engage people first with love, and then with truth in healthy balance.
Many Christians are beginning to acknowledge that homosexual orientation is not usually a choice. We do understand that a percentage of people have a genuine sexual attraction for the same gender. Is homosexuality a learned or born behavior? We don’t really know, but it’s probably both. We live in a world impacted by the fall. Christians believe that sin happened when Adam and Eve became self-centered, instead of being centered on God and his creation. The impact of sin has been devastating. All human beings are born into this world with a sinful nature and with unintended genetic traits. So being born homosexual is certainly possible, but that isn’t the sin; it’s acting on an inappropriate sexual desire that’s the sin.
Sexual sins have been an issue for humanity since the fall—especially for heterosexuals. In the eyes of God, sexual sin is a big problem because of the significant impact sex has on the individual and the community. Acting on sexual desires that are not condoned (in this case, same-sex), is a sin. The Bible explains that inappropriate sexual behavior, not being attracted to the same sex, is the sin. A sexual sin is a sexual sin—whether that’s homo- or hetero-sexual in nature.
Of course, we accept that heterosexuals can express their condoned sexual desires in the context of marriage, so it isn’t really fair. We’re not overlooking the loneliness this causes a gay person. Is there potential for someone who is homosexual to be ‘healed’ of their sexual tendencies? Well, we believe in a God that transcends our understanding, so we have to say, yes, it’s possible—but as a general rule, this does not seem the trend.
So where do homosexuals fit in?
Not being able to experience a relationship with one individual that includes sexual intimacy is a harsh and lonely reality for Christian homosexuals. But being in a Christian community and joining in the sacraments of the community should provide comfort, strength and support—not hate and alienation.
The Christian community was never meant to be the club for people who’ve made it spiritually; it’s definitely not full of perfect individuals (as many of you have found out). We don’t ignore and/or endorse sin, but we are re-learning the reality that we are all sinners and only renewed by the grace of God. We are devastated by the hurt that the church has caused—intentionally or unintentionally to homosexuals. We can strive to love and accept all people in our community, just like Jesus did.
As Christians, the reality that we’ve lost sight of is that addiction, abuse, abortion, infidelity, limited parental involvement, and lack of commitment among heterosexuals (including Christians) have been far more devastating on marriage and the family than same-sex marriage. In all honesty, we ought to be prioritizing our focus on these bigger issues for the sake of our communities.
- We have often failed to separate our long-held beliefs from discrimination towards LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer +) people, and for that, there is no excuse.
- We have marginalized LGBTQ+ folks and disparaged their individual identity causing untold pain and even suicide, and for that, there is no excuse.
- Our personal feelings toward homosexuality have clouded our love for LGBTQ+ people, and for that, there is no excuse.
- We have not carried the burden of loneliness with homosexual folks who decide not to act on their sexual desires, and for that, there is no excuse.
- We have not treated LGBTQ+ people like we would our own children or family, and for that, there is no excuse.
- Our lifestyle as Christians has been inconsistent with what Jesus called us to do, and for that, there is no excuse.
If you have homosexual tendencies and feel ostracized by the church, keep looking. You are not alone, and you can find a community of Jesus-loving people who will welcome you and provide sanctuary for you. Your sexual orientation does not have to prevent you from knowing and loving Jesus. If he were here today, he would hold you and get to know you and love you unconditionally. There are Christians who can put their pride behind them and do the same.
Other voices in this conversation: