With the Supreme Court’s decision on the marriage case expected by month’s end, questions on homosexuality and same-sex marriage abound. We regularly receive inquiries from sincere Christians who want to know how to best navigate this sensitive topic with their children, neighbors, coworkers or friends. Other questions we receive, especially from members of the press, are from those who can’t quite understand why Christians can’t just “evolve” with the growing cultural consensus.
It’s important we understand this issue from both a legal and theological perspective. At the same time, I also hope that those who might disagree with our viewpoint wouldn’t dismiss our strongly held beliefs as a result of prejudice or bigotry. Although public opinion has shifted over the years, what conservative Christians believe about homosexuality and same-sex marriage is rooted in thousands of years of tradition and, ultimately, God’s holy Word.
With that in mind, I want to address some of the most frequently asked questions about same-sex marriage. In some cases, I’ll be sharing wisdom from other Christian experts, teachers and leaders. I hope this FAQ post is helpful.
Q: Isn’t it true that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality and same-sex marriage?
Homosexual leaders often point out that the Bible doesn’t record Jesus ever directly talking about homosexuality or same-sex relationships. In their reasoning, this undermines Christian support of traditional marriage.
However, their arguments don’t hold up under more careful consideration.
For starters, Christians believe the entire Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, so the Gospels are not more authoritative than those books of the Bible that prohibit homosexual behavior. This means that verses that do reference and admonish homosexual behavior – Scriptures like 1 Timothy 1:9-10 – are just as an inerrant part of God’s Word as are the recorded words of Jesus.
But while Jesus didn’t specifically address homosexuality in the Gospels, He did clearly list heterosexuality as God’s created intent for human sexuality. In Mark 10:6-9, Jesus says,
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Matthew 19:1-8 also records this account.
To learn more on how to answer gay revisionist theology, you can download free resources from Focus’ Thriving Values team. These informative e-booklets address basic questions about homosexuality, the Bible and our culture.
Q: Why are Christians obsessed with homosexuality?
Pastor Rick Warren recently shared with me that he was scheduled to do a series of media interviews on the various initiatives he’s well-known for, including topics like mental health and poverty. In 18 of 22 interviews, even though the interview topic had nothing to do with same-sex marriage, the interviewer’s first question had to do with … same-sex marriage.
Like Pastor Rick, I’ve found myself in the same situation many times. I’m scheduled to talk with a reporter about a completely different issue – our adoption initiatives, for example – and I’m also asked about topics related to Focus’ position on homosexuality.
That’s the conundrum many Christian leaders find ourselves in. Many of us are busy teaching Scripture, helping families, placing ultrasound machines in women’s pregnancy centers, feeding the poor, advocating for orphans – and yet, we get asked about homosexuality again and again. But when we answer, we’re accused of being obsessed with the topic!
Of course, sexuality is an important part of the human experience, and it’s good for Christians to explain what the Bible says about sex. The culture is currently grappling with important issues related to sexuality, and there’s a lot of brokenness that can be healed through Jesus Christ. That’s why I’m always happy to address these topics. However, that’s a far cry from focusing entirely on homosexuality or ignoring the other teachings of the Bible.
Q: How can Christians be opposed to “marriage equality”?
This question assumes the law is currently treating heterosexual and homosexually identified people differently. That’s an incorrect assumption.
Current law allows for a man, no matter if he’s heterosexual or homosexual, to marry a woman, no matter what her sexual orientation may be, provided they are of age, not closely related by blood, etc. That’s equal treatment under the law.
The question before the courts is therefore not really about “marriage equality.” Instead, it’s if we, as a country, should redefine the historical and legal understanding of marriage as the lifelong union of a man and a woman.
Q: Shouldn’t Christians support giving same-sex couples protections under the law like the right to inherit property, hospital visitation rights, the right to make emergency medical decisions and so forth?
My colleague, Bruce Hausknecht, a judicial analyst here at Focus, answers this question:
“You don’t need to re-define marriage to take care of people’s basic legal needs. Most of these issues can be handled through simple contracts, wills, and other readily available legal measures which can be as easy as filling out a form. More difficult issues can be solved via the democratic process on an issue-by-issue basis.
“Americans are fair-minded. We can be trusted to pass laws that meet legitimate needs while protecting existing rights like religious freedom and the fundamental institution of marriage. Courts can’t be as creative as legislatures because their role is constitutionally limited. And most notably, court-imposed solutions end the democratic process instead of inviting it, creating problems that even the legislative process can’t fix.”
Q: Shouldn’t people be allowed to love whoever they want to love?
People who are same-sex attracted are indeed “allowed” to love who they want to love. In other words, it’s not illegal for homosexually identified men and women to love each other or even live together. Therefore, the issue at stake in this country isn’t about two men or two women “being allowed” to love each other: it’s about if we, as a nation, should redefine the millennia-old understanding of marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman.
In a HuffPost Live interview with Marc Lamont Hill, Rick Warren put it this way:
Hill: What about the love part?
Warren: It’s not illegal to love somebody.
Hill: But you think it’s a sin.
Warren: No, it’s not a sin to love somebody. It might be a sin to have sex with them.
Warren: It might be. OK. See, I’m very conservative. I believe sex outside of marriage is always wrong. That’s because my view is based on the Bible. That’s my worldview.
Q: How does same-sex marriage impact me?
Carrie Earll, who heads up our Thriving Values/policy efforts at Focus, answers:
“Like other social issues that deviate from God’s design, same-sex marriage impacts more than the two people who want to get married. For instance, while abortion and pornography may not impact you directly, the legalization and practice affects the culture you live in by lessening the value of human life and sexuality. It also fosters confusion about what it means to be a boy or girl, man or woman.
“Same-sex marriage hurts children who, according to research do best when raised in a home with their married mother and father, are denied either a dad or a mom. It negatively impacts faith-based adoption agencies that are forced to close their doors when faced with the choice of violating religious tenets or placing children in homes with same-sex parents. Photographers, bakers, inn keepers, florists and others who politely decline to use their talents and businesses to participate in same-sex ceremonies experience harassment, legal challenges and crippling fines. Parents who want a say in what their young children are taught in school about homosexuality find legalized same-sex marriage is a trump card that overrides their parental rights.
“Proponents of same-sex marriage will continue to claim no one is hurt. There’s ample evidence that’s not true, and the track record for protecting children’s rights, religious freedom, free speech and parental rights on this topic does not bode well for the future.”
Q: Should Christians attend same-sex weddings?
Pastor Kevin DeYoung answers this question well.
You might also want to read R.C. Sproul Jr.’s take on answering this difficult question. He writes with clarity, truth and compassion, and makes important additional points:
“It is true enough that there are plenty of reasons why Christians are called to object to some heterosexual marriages. Those unbiblically divorced are not in fact free to marry, and Christians should not attend such weddings either, for the same reasons. The argument isn’t that both parties are sinners, and therefore we shouldn’t go. All those who marry are sinners. The question is, is the wedding itself biblical?
“… there is no such thing as homosexual weddings. You can no more witness a homosexual wedding than you could draw a square circle. Weddings are between men and women. That said, those participating in these events believe they are participating in a wedding. Our attendance, no matter how well intentioned, encourages them in their delusion. Which is one key reason why they so object to our not attending their weddings, or our not beautifying them with cakes and flowers. If we won’t admit that the naked emperor is dressed to the nines, the state will be called and we will be ruined.”
I encourage you to read Sproul’s complete answer.
Q: I don’t believe same-sex marriage is biblical or right for society but I also don’t want to offend my friends and family who disagree. How can I speak what I believe with love and truth?
It’s clear that the topics of homosexuality and same-sex marriage generate a high level of energy and passion. People on both sides hold strong opinions, so one good guidepost to follow is found in Romans 12:18, “… as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (ESV). That doesn’t mean avoid the conversation but engage from a place of peace; not unbridled emotion. Bring salt and light into the dialogue (Mark 9:50) along with peace and try to extract any “heat” you may feel about the topic. You can’t control if someone is offended by your view; you can control how you present yourself and the cause of Christ on this issue.
Whether you interact on social media or around the dining room table, be prepared with a few points that express your concerns about legalizing same-sex marriage. Listen to the other viewpoint. Be respectful. But don’t be shy about presenting your position with kindness. No one likes conflict, especially with people you know and care about. However, your point of view deserves a hearing, too. Indeed, if we truly love our neighbor, how can we withhold God’s blueprint for human flourishing in this vital matter?
Finally, remember that this is part of a larger spiritual struggle that doesn’t begin or end with you. Your response is a word of witness upholding God’s design for sexuality, marriage and family, and you never know what seeds of truth will be planted in your faithfulness to speak up.
Q: Why don’t Christians just evolve with the times?
Researcher and pastor Ed Stetzer has pointed out that the secularizing of the culture is causing the Church to be “more clearly defined.” In other words, as the cost of being a “convictional Christian” increases, cultural Christians increasingly no longer identify as such.
We’re seeing some faith leaders reject biblical teaching and embrace culture’s new take on foundational issues such as marriage. For example, just this week, Pastor Tony Campolo issued a statement where he called “for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.”
This gradual shift isn’t enough for some homosexual rights advocates, however. Some are becoming bolder in demanding Christians change their biblical views on same-sex relationships. I recently shared how Frank Bruni, a columnist with The New York Times, wrote that Christians “must be made ‘to take homosexuality off the sin list.’”
“Must be made”? How? By whom?
Clearly, the pressure to “evolve” is strong, and it’s only getting stronger.
And yet, many Christians – myself included – refuse to deny our sincere, biblical beliefs. As I’ve explained to several journalists lately, we’re not the editors of the text — we’re only followers. We understand that all the words in the Bible – even the ones that aren’t in red – are God’s. We believe God created marriage, and His definition is the only true one. Being true to our faith means we don’t have the option to evolve on marriage. And if living out that belief costs us popularity, our livelihood and even more, we’re willing to pay the price.
Q: But the polls indicate acceptance of same-sex marriage is growing rapidly. Is the issue already lost? I just don’t want to be on the wrong side of history!
History is long. In the end, I want to be on God’s side of history. Nothing else matters. Regarding the polling, two things. Many polls are designed to make it appear as though the debate is over. Second, we don’t look to polls to determine what is right and wrong.
For the Founding Fathers, religious freedom was the bedrock upon which our government was first established. As such, religious freedom is a fundamental right given by God, not government. Therefore, to strip religious liberties from people is a break with the contract of this country. And that action, if taken by the court, ultimately means our God given right to the “freedom of religion” is really a right bestowed by government not God! There was no mention or additional writings at the time our nation was created about the need to provide a way for homosexuals to attain marital status, but there was clearly the intent to allow people to practice and express freely their faith. For us as Christians, this is the issue. What people do sexually is out of our control. We can only warn and persuade, and always do so in humility and love.
Let me know if the questions featured today are the ones you’ve heard people ask. If you think I missed some, won’t you include it in the comments section?