Gay marriage ruling: What does it mean for Christians?
The U.S. Supreme Court on June 26, 2015, declared that gay couples have a right to marry anywhere throughout the United States and that such couples who marry deserve the same rights, privileges, and benefits of other married couples. This will likely have two negative effects for New Testament Christians. It will appear to give gay marriages legitimacy because they are now recognized officially by government officials and agencies, and it will reinforce the false notion that rejecting that legitimacy is tantamount to being a bigot who opposes to granting people their fundamental civil rights.
In his dissenting opinion, Justice Roberts warns, “Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples. Indeed, the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage.”
Fellow dissenter Justice Alito concurs: “Today’s decision usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide whether to keep or alter the traditional understanding of marriage. The decision will also have other important consequences. . . . It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women. . . . The implications of this analogy will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”
Committed Christians are not bigots because they oppose a redefinition of marriage. They are only submitting to what God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and his apostles teach on the subject.
The Bible speaks clearly about homosexual acts: they are an abomination to the Lord. Leviticus 18:22 declares, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Also, Leviticus 20:13 states, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
The word abomination (Hebrew: tôʿēbâ) is a category that includes homosexuality (Lev. 18:22; 20:13), along with a number of other unlawful deeds:
- prostitution (Deut. 23:18; 1 Kings 14:24)
- sexual impurity (Lev. 18:26, 27, 29)
- idolatry (Deut. 17:4; 20:18; 32:16; 2 Kings 21:11; 2 Chron. 28:3; 33:2; 34:33; 36:8, 14; Ezra 9:1, 11, 14)
- making idols (Deut. 27:15)
- child sacrifice (2 Kings 16:3)
- worshipping the Astoreth (a fertility cult, 2 Kings 23:13)
- offering a blemished sacrifice (Deut. 17:1)
- witchcraft or sorcery (Deut. 17:9; 18:12; 2 Kings 21:2)
- cross-dressing (Deut. 22:5)
- using unjust weights (Deut. 25:16; Prov. 11:1; 20:10, 23)
- wickedness in general (Prov. 3:32; 6:16; 8:78; 11:20; 15:9, 26; 16:12)
- lying lips (Prov. 12:22)
- sacrifice of the wicked (Prov. 15:8; 21:27)
- being proud in heart (Prov. 16:5)
- perverting justice (Prov. 17:15)
- scoffing (Prov. 24:9)
- the prayer of the lawless (Prov. 28:9)
- being an unjust man (Prov. 29:27)
I give this long list so that you can decide: does a change of covenants from the Law to Grace transforms an abominable deed into one that is now holy and pure? An apparent exception to this list is prohibited foods (Deut. 14:3), where, in a context discussing idolatry, the same word is used, when typically a different Hebrew word for ‘abomination’ (Hebrew: šeqeṣ) occurs (see Lev. Lev. 11:10-13, 20, 23, 41-42; Isa. 66:17; Ezek. 8:10). We know that “Jesus declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19). No such similar declaration regarding homosexual acts occurs anywhere in the New Testament.
The New Testament makes equally clear statements about homosexual acts. For instance, in First Corinthians 6:9-10, the Apostle Paul declares, “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (This rendering found in the English Standard Version has a footnote for the phrase “men who practice homosexuality” that says: “The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts.”)
Whether those engaged have a casual or committed relationship does not make the homosexual acts committed illegitimate or legitimate. In Genesis 2:24, Moses writes, “[A] man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The Hebrew word for ‘man’ or ‘male’ and for “husband” are the same word (ʾīš), and the Hebrew word for ‘woman’ or ‘female’ and for ‘wife’ are the same word (ʾīšâ). Likewise, in First Corinthians 7:2, Paul commands, “[E]ach man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” Here, the Greek word for ‘man’ or ‘male’ as well as for ‘husband’ are the same word (anēr) and the Greek word for ‘women’ or ‘female’ as well as for ‘wife’ are the same word (gynē). Both the Old and New Testaments, therefore, clearly define marriage as heterosexual.
The first chapter of Romans states that as a consequence of willful rebellion against God, “God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Rom. 1:26-27).
These passages are enough to establish the consistent teaching of the Bible that homosexual acts are abominable to God and, along with other willful sins that a person may persist in committing, disqualify him or her from entering God’s kingdom. We need not debate with Christian gays the sin of Sodom, and we can dismiss as ridiculous their claims that biblical homosexual couples include David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, or even Jesus and “the disciple whom He loved.”
The same Bible also teaches, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18; Mark 12:31 and parallels), and our neighbors include the lesbian, the gay man, the bisexual, and the transsexual. We should be aware and sympathize with the struggles individuals of these orientations may have had, struggles that often include rejection and abandonment by family members, isolation from those around them, the deeply distressing ambivalence of a self-imposed compulsion to hide and to lie.
We can join our homosexual friends in condemning violence against gays, and we can offer them friendship, a listening ear, and acceptance of them as persons without condoning what the Bible calls sin, just like we make friends with those guilty of other sins that our society doesn’t stigmatize, like being greedy, getting drunk, overeating, overworking, indulging in heterosexual lust, being haughty, and being selfish.
We can confess to them our own sinfulness and our need for a Savior who inspires us to turn away from sin and find forgiveness in His cleansing blood. We can help them discover the Body of Christ, which meets our deep-felt needs for friendship, love, and unconditional acceptance. In time we may convince them, even if they never become Christians, that we are not bigots, that we care what happens to them, that we are committed to being their friends, and that we truly love them.
Want to go deeper?
- Eros Defiled: The Christian and Sexual Sin by John White. (www.amazon.com/Eros-Defiled-John-White-ebook/dp/B003ZSIS80/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1435359669&sr=1-1)
This Christian psychiatrist writes with understanding and compassion about sexual sins. He claims that most professional counselors believe that homosexual orientation can be corrected, and that the more experience they have in the profession, the higher is the proportion of those convinced it is possible. He concludes by explaining how local congregations can deal with sexual sin in a context of love and forgiveness.
- A Biblical Point of View on Homosexuality by Kerby Anderson. (www.amazon.com/Biblical-Point-View-Homosexuality-ebook/dp/B00547QX9Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1435360311&sr=1-3)
Chapters are: Homosexuality and Society, Homosexuality and Relationships, Homosexuality and Families, Homosexuality and the Schools, The Causes of Homosexuality, Homosexuality and the Bible, Homosexuality and the Church, Same-sex Marriage and Politics, Answering the Arguments for Same-sex Marriage, and The Social Impact of Homosexuality.
- The official opinion of the Court, published June 26, 2015 (www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf)
- The four dissents from the majority opinion (Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito): www.scribd.com/doc/269783479/Same-Sex-Opinion
- The opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit, which the Supreme Court overturned: www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/14a0275p-06.pdf
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I welcome your perspective: what should the Christian’s attitude be toward the June 26, 2015 Supreme Court ruling legitimizing same-sex marriages? Enter your comments below.