This is a blog post that first occurred to me a few weeks ago. However, the subject matter is quite controversial, even for me, and I was a little reluctant to “come out” (no pun intended!) about my views. However with President Obama himself “coming out” in favour of gay marriage, once again I was struck with the idea of writing this post.
Basically, I believe that Christians are completely missing the point in the debate about gay marriage. And if we fail to grasp the pertinent aspects of the Christian position, then how can we honestly represent it to anyone else? Actually, this goes for more than same-sex marriage, but also for everything that we believe contradicts the stated will of God in His Word, the Bible.
Prepare to be offended?
Let me just warn you beforehand that this blog post might cause you offence. I intend to be very frank about what the Bible says about homosexuality. And yet, offending anyone is my last intention in this article. Whatever your views on homosexuality, and homosexual marriage, could I ask you to just bear with me, and carefully read and listen to what I say to the end of the article to fully hear out my viewpoint? I hope that on conclusion you will find it offers a positive and hope-filled – and also very pragmatic approach!
I have gay friends, and I hope that they will know that I greatly respect them (otherwise they would not be my friends!) I also know people who are gay and Christian, and find no tension between their faith and their sexuality. I would rather have it that someone was a follower of Christ, following precepts of Christ, as a practising homosexual, possibly disagreeing with my own views – than that they were not Christian at all.
What the Bible says
With all due respect to my friends who are gay, the Bible makes it very clear that God regards homosexual practice as a sin. It is utterly indisputable that this is what the standard Bible as we have received it, and as it exists today, says. In both Old and New Testaments, homosexual practice is represented as being an utter abomination. In the Old Testament, it qualified for the death sentence (that is, male-male; female-female as far as I am aware was not mentioned).
However in the New Testament, the religious death penalty for adultery, and by implication other sexual sins including homosexuality, was effectively abolished when Jesus said, in reference to the woman caught in adultery:
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” – John 8v7
In the New Testament female-female does get an oblique reference, but is represented as an aberration, a sign of the depravity of the times.
“For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature”… -[ reference to female-female homosexuality]
v27 [reference to male-male homosexuality]… “Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”
Even though verse 26 referring to women does not make it very clear that it is talking about homosexuality, in verse 27 referring to men it is totally clear that this is exactly what the writer is talking about, and the “likewise” shows us that the Apostle Paul was talking about the same thing in verse 26 as he went on to talk about in verse 27. This is why we can conclude very confidently that he was indeed talking about female-female homosexuality in v 26.
In these and other Bible verses of both Old and New Testaments, it is made clear that homosexual practice is wrong.
And yet, there are people who present arguments to refute this, to argue that homosexual practice is not quite the sin that these passages would suggest. I have read arguments pointing out that Jesus never spoke about homosexuality, or perhaps people would query the authorship of the letter to the Romans, or suggest that individual verses were possibly inserted later etc etc. I have to admit that I am not an expert in these arguments, and if you are interested, I would advise you to research more deeply into them. However my stance in this article is the traditional Christian one, that homosexuality is indeed a sin in God’s eyes. If you can present a credible argument that homosexuality is not a sin, biblically speaking, without eroding the authority of the Bible as infallible, then by all means please post a link to this argument in the comments below. (That said, I did read a comment that made the point that Jesus did not speak out about a number of sexual practices like child marriage or…other examples which I’m sure you can think of. Are we then to conclude that all those other practices might be acceptable, just because He did not speak out about them?)
How Christians are missing the point
This is how I believe we as Christians are missing the point. In both the UK and the US, and perhaps also in other places too, Christians are actively campaigning and voting to make sure that laws are not passed legalising homosexual marriage. It is as if Christians are trying to impose the will of God or obedience to God’s law, on society generally, through legislation. This will never work. Both the UK and the US have significant Christian heritages, to the extent that Christians in these countries can think fondly of both the UK and the US as being “Christian”. To me, it is as if Christians in these countries are trying to desperately maintain the Christian identity of these countries, through issues like the same-sex marriage debate.
Now, I am not saying that we should discard our Christian heritage in the UK and US, and happily embrace the idea of our countries being as godless as possible. What I AM saying is that it was not through legislation, it was not through aggressive campaigning and politicking that these countries acquired Christian identities in the first place. It was through prayer, seeking God, fervent intercession, preaching the Gospel of Christ. This is the way God works. His Spirit comes in and changes the heart of each individual, to make us all want to conform to His will. If our countries have lost their general Christian outlook, it is because individuals within the country have hearts that are turned away from God and His Word and His truth. If we want to reclaim that Christian heritage or identity, then we as Christians have to return to the old ways. We have to seek God, we have to intercede passionately for our country in prayer, we have to fast – and we have to preach the Gospel.
When, hopefully, our countries are restored to true faith in God, then we can never afford to get complacent. We have to keep praying, we have to keep interceding to make sure faith in Christ remains at the forefront of our communities. Heaven is the only place where we will be able to afford to get complacent. As long as we remain on Earth the enemy of God and of mankind, the devil, can always creep in and seek to pull us as individuals or as a society away from the truth of God – as he has clearly managed to do in the UK with society generally. This is why we must remain vigilant. Even if we were to win the same-sex marriage debate or votes, this would not actually change people’s hearts, would it? The only thing that can effectively change people’s hearts is God, working through His Spirit, or through His Word.
Remember that for many decades – if not centuries – at least in the UK – there were no laws against homosexuality. This was because there was no need for these laws. People on the whole were so tuned into God – or pretended to be – that the idea of disobeying God in something that He called an abomination was largely unthinkable. I am sure that some people were (of course) engaged in homosexual practice but it was probably something done very quietly, discreetly.
So this then, is the reason why I believe that we should never have to impose our own faith on others. Let us instead impose our faith and our wishes on the one Person who can actually do something about it – God – and then HE will act to turn the hearts of society back to Him and His ways. Also, when God genuinely changes people’s hearts, it rarely feels like an imposition. Rather it is something joyful and exciting, something that people rush to do. The Gospel is Good News! This is all the more true when we realise that God loves us more than we could ever love ourselves, so ALL His commandments are ultimately for our benefit. If God tells us not to engage in X, it is not because He wants to beat us with a big stick, but rather because He loves us, and He knows what is best for us. When we truly understand this and embrace it, it helps us more easily to put aside things that we had been previously been clinging to.
Post-Script: After a few exchanges on Facebook, I feel I should clarify the terms I have used in this article. By “MARRIAGE”, I have meant getting legally joined together. This is confusing as in the UK (at least) a distinction has been created between getting legally joined, or civil partnership, and “marriage”. Currently in the UK people can legally engage in homosexual civil-partnerships, but “marriage” is reserved for heterosexual unions. I have always felt that this is a case of “words” or semantics. After all, civil partnerships have essentially the same rights as heterosexual marriage, while heterosexuals cannot be joined in civil-partnerships – so it is as if the word “marriage” is what is used for heterosexuals, while “civil-partnership” is used for homosexuals. However, a Facebook friend pointed out that with the term “marriage”, people might be able to get joined in church or another religious institution regardless of whether their union contradicts the teachings of that religious institution or not. I think that this would then be a case of society imposing its views on Christians or faith generally. The Christian faith is not a democracy. What is acceptable in the church building or in the Church as the Kingdom of God cannot be decided by public opinion, but rather by the Word of God. However, I still believe that the way to preserve our own Christian entitlement to worship God His way is through prayer. When we pray, then God can work in people’s hearts so that society as a whole can democratically elect to let Christian institutions be governed by Christian principles.