**This is part 1 of a 2 part examination of the Christian Worldview on same-sex marriage**
On June 25th in my home state of Indiana, a district court judge declared our law stating that marriage is between a man and a woman (Indiana Code 31-11-1-1) to be unconstitutional. The next day hundreds of same-sex couples traveled to their Clerk’s Office seeking a license for marriage. The following day, the Seventh Circuit Court granted a stay on those licenses, and by the end of that day my Facebook was ready to explode. I decided at that time I would restrain myself from jumping into 20 different discussions on the matter, and instead write my thoughts down here.
The purpose of ‘A Clear Lens’ is to examine the worldviews which we all use to make both the mundane and the pivotal decisions in life. Given that this is a Christian blog, and many readers here profess Jesus Christ as their Savior, I think it best to take a serious look at how the Christian worldview is applied to this issue. Therefore, this article will be aimed directly at my Christian brothers and sisters, specifically regarding what the New Testament says on the matter of same-sex marriage. Judging by a lot of the shares, likes and posts I’ve seen on Facebook, it seems to me we have a serious gap between what the Bible teaches, and the worldview that Christians apply in their daily lives. I’m not trying to alienate any non-believing readers we have here, but I also wouldn’t expect any of this to be persuasive to you since, well, you don’t believe the Bible is God’s word anyway. But first, let me make a few things perfectly clear…
Clearing the Air
I am not a Jew. I am a Christian. I am not subject to the laws and commands of the Old Testament. I am however subject to the commands in the New Testament. That is why you won’t find any reference here to Sodom & Gomorrah, or any verses from Leviticus calling homosexuality a sin. I don’t need them. Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Old Law in His blood and nailed it to the cross (Col. 2:14). In fact, whenever I read of Christians citing Leviticus as their trump card, I just shake my head. Why?!? The New Testament has plenty to say on the matter. So unless you’re talking to a Jew, a verse in Leviticus isn’t going to carry a whole lot of weight with anyone.
Secondly, allow me to restate a saying that has stuck with me for a while: The words in black are just as important as the words in red. In most Bibles today you’ll see Jesus’ words in red ink. When this began or why, I do not know. However, fellow Christian, don’t think for one minute that the words of Peter, Paul, James or John are any less important or binding on you than Jesus’ words. Read through John’s Gospel, chapters 14-17, with a specific eye for how often Jesus emphasizes that he will send the “helper” (The Holy Spirit) to teach His disciples all things and help them remember everything he taught them. What Jesus’ disciples taught is directly related to what they were inspired to teach (2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Pet. 1:21) by the very Spirit that Jesus sent. Therefore, what the apostles instruct on any matter is equivocal to Jesus instructing it. I hear many Christian supporters of same-sex marriage saying things like, “Jesus never said it was wrong” or, “The Bible doesn’t say clearly that it’s wrong”. I’ll be the first to say that the Bible never quotes Jesus addressing same-sex marriage or homosexuality directly. But there’s a reason for that which we’ll get into later. He did in fact talk about marriage. But even if he didn’t, the words in black are just as important as the words in red, and the words in black have plenty to say on the matter.
So What DID Jesus say about Marriage?
Be that as it may, and because many will still hang their hats only on what Jesus is quoted as saying, a good starting point would be to discuss what Jesus actually said about marriage in general. Very little, in fact. I haven’t done the math, but I would guess that Jesus’ teaching on marriage comprise less than 1% of all his words we have recorded in the New Testament. His lone teaching on marriage came via a response to questions concerning divorce.
Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined 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 no man separate.” -Matthew 19:3-6 (companion to Mark 10:2-9)
From this response we can ascertain some important details regarding Jesus’ position on marriage:
- He appealed to the arrangement set forth by God “from the beginning”. He didn’t appeal to anything Moses said, He didn’t create a new arrangement for his disciples to follow, He stuck to the way God created it.
- He specified male and female. This is hardly noteworthy except for the fact that the current cultural landscape is making this an issue. Even the most obvious of things must now be pointed out for the sake of clarity.
- He said the husband and wife are now “one flesh”. The immediate context suggests that Jesus means this union is so close that no man shall separate it. Additionally, some background context as to Jesus’ Jewish heritage suggests an inference to child-bearing. Malachi 2:15 says in reference to marriage, “Did he not make them one… and why one? He seeks godly offspring.” Obviously, only a man and a woman can produce offspring.
- Finally, the marriage union is a gift from God. It is not something mankind created, it is something God prescribed for man and woman. It existed long before any governing body decided to grant a license for it. It is something that we describe, not something we define. If we did not define it, it follows that we should not meddle in redefining it.
This basically sums up all of Jesus’ teachings on marriage. So yeah, he never expressly forbade same-sex marriage. If you think that’s a smoking gun in favor of same-sex marriage, have at it. But you’re standing on a weak foundation. Let’s not pretend that we need a “Thou shalt not” alongside every “Thou shall” before we can start ruling things out. If the parameters in which Jesus endorses marriage are necessarily exclusive to same-sex unions, then we can say with confidence that he does not endorse same-sex marriage.
The Rest of the New Testament
The great majority of scripture Christians have regarding marriage come from the various letters to individuals and/or congregations following the four gospels. Most of which come from Paul. Allow me to give a quick rundown of the remaining scripture dealing with marriage in any way, and a short summary of what it says:
- Heb. 13:4 → Sex in marriage is honorable, sex outside marriage is not.
- 1 Cor. 7:1-5 → In order to avoid sexual immoralities (adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bestiality, etc.) each “man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband”.
- 1 Cor. 7:6-9 → Sexually speaking, the only alternative to marriage is self-control (abstinence).
- 1 Cor. 7:10-40 → Various commands on marriage and divorce, all between man and woman.
- Rom. 7:1-4 → Husband and Wife are “bound by law” just as we are bound to Christ.
- Eph. 5:22-33 → Writing of an allusion to the church, Paul describes how a husband is to love his wife, and the wife is the respect her husband.
- Col. 3:18-19 → “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.
- 1 Tim. 3:2, 11-12 → Deacon requirements include they be the “husband of one wife”.
- 1 Tim. 5:14 → Younger widows encouraged to marry and bear children, implying a husband.
- Titus 1:6, 2:4-5 → Elders are also to be the husband of one wife, and young women are instructed to love their husbands.
- 1 Pet. 3:1-7 → Wives submissive to their husbands, husbands give honor to their wives.
There you have it. Every mention of marriage in the New Testament, and each time it’s specific to a husband and a wife.
Why So Silent?
I said earlier that Jesus was “silent” on the matter of same-sex marriage. In truth, the entire New Testament is “silent” on the matter. Many folks believe that if scripture is silent on a matter then it’s giving allowances or freedom in that issue. That’s a pretty terrible hermeneutic to put into practice. What we should ask ourselves when confronted with an apparent “silence of the scriptures” in a certain matter is this: Why is it silent? In the case of same-sex marriage, we have a perfectly good reason why it isn’t covered. The reason is that same-sex marriage presumes homosexuality, and homosexuality is fully covered in the New Testament, being clearly described as a sinful practice.
Let me put it to you this way: If I told you that being a drunkard was a sin, would you conclude that having a glass of wine at dinner, or a beer at a tailgate with friends, was sinful? Of course not! Consuming one beer or one glass of wine doesn’t make you a drunkard. Now, if I told you that drinking alcohol was a sin, would you conclude that getting drunk was sinful? Well, yeah! Getting drunk presumes the act of drinking alcohol. We have that very same scenario with same-sex marriage. It presumes the act of homosexual intercourse, and that is well established as a sinful practice in the New Testament.
Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome, described in some detail an aspect of some who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness”…
“Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper…” -Romans 1:24-28
Again Paul, in his first letter to the church at Corinth, tells us some characteristics of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God…
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” -1 Corinthians 6:9, 10
Finally, in his first letter to Timothy, Paul explains that the Law is for the lawless and rebellious, for…
“…the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.” -1 Timothy 1:9-11
The act of homosexuality is a sin. We don’t need specific attention paid to same-sex unions in our scripture because a requisite of such unions is homosexuality, which is clearly covered. There really is not a more simple way to break it down to you. And before you say to me, “That’s Paul’s opinion, not Jesus’s”, don’t forget that the words in black are just as important as the words in red. Jesus affirms the writings of the apostles through the Holy Spirit which he sent them.
So what? If that is your response to this comprehensive rundown of what the New Testament has to say regarding marriage and homosexuality, then I say this to you in the most gently instructive and corrective way possible; You are exactly who I am referring to when I say there is an enormous gap between what the Bible teaches and the worldview that Christians apply in their daily lives. There should be virtually no difference between the two. If you accept Jesus as your savior, part of that is submitting yourself to His will. That means acknowledging that His way is higher than your way, and certainly higher than the way your government or the culture decides is worthy.
The next part in this study will focus on the application of the things we’ve uncovered in the New Testament here about marriage and homosexuality. As Christians, how does this play out in our lives? What position should we take when it comes to considering same-sex marriage as a legal marriage in our country? Come back in about a month or so (link here) for my next piece, “Same Sex Marriage and the Christian”, where I’ll cover those items, and more.