Today, the Supreme Court begins to hear arguments for and against legalized gay marriage. This is a huge debate in our country and popular opinion seems to be a on a roller coaster. In polls, people are evenly split over the legalization issue but when they vote they overwhelmingly defend a traditional definition of marriage.
Last Sunday, I mentioned that the problem of sin cannot be legislated, educated or argued away; God must change hearts. For some, that may lead to confusion on the subject of gay marriage and may even cause other Christians to wrongly believe that we (Christians) should support a governmental allowance for gay marriage. We should “do evangelism, not politics.” After all, “you can’t legislate morality.”
It is absolutely impossible to answer every question in a (relatively) short post like this one. But, because I love God’s people and God’s Word, a few things need to be said.
Politics and Evangelism
The “do evangelism, not politics” view is a very narrow, unbiblical view of the Gospel and its implications. It forgets that the whole gospel leads to cultural transformation, where things are on earth as they would be in heaven (Ephesians 1:7-10). As we learned in our disciplemaking course, our job is not to build our own Christian subcultures but to work for the good of the city (Jeremiah 29:1-7). God gave both the church and the government to restrain evil (Romans 13:1-7). Therefore, it would be incorrect to focus exclusively on personal evangelism. An example of this is slavery; though the gospel had permeated England and America, it was only through government involvement that the evil of slavery fell.
Role of Government
God has a design for government: to ensure peace by regulating fallen behavior (by protecting us from internal and external threats and injustices) until the eternal kingdom is in place. We’ve seen the degeneration of morality in our government happening for years (for example, abortion, where now more than 1 in 5 pregnancies end in abortion – shocking). John Murray’s famous quote sums up God’s design for government well:
“Civil government as such is not a redemptive ordinance. But it provides, and is intended to provide, that outward peace and order within which the ordinances of redemption may work to the accomplishment of God’s saving purpose…The tranquility and order established and preserved by the ordinances of government are benefits enjoyed by all. This blessing arising from divine institution we must regard therefore as a common blessing and therefore as one of the institutions of common grace.”
Gay marriage should not receive governmental approval because: 1) it gives government endorsement to something that is morally wrong (against the Bible and natural law), and 2) it will bring destructive results to the society (shorter lives, fewer children, unnatural parental relationships). These things are directly opposed to God’s design for government, even pagan ones.
What Do We Do Then?
As Christians, HOW we conduct ourselves in this matter is much trickier. How do we genuinely love those who have adopted a homosexual identity, while at the same time contending against an issue that they hold dear? My friend Mark Gignilliat describes this tension and its resolution better than I could ever attempt:
“With the issue of homosexual practice or same-sex relationships, the Bible does not equivocate. Its lips do not quiver. I’m fully aware of the historical-critical approach which would say the homosexuality of the first century is not comparable to our time: It had to do with pederasty rather than co-equal loving relationships. This reading, however, does not do justice the plain-sense of Scripture and its univocal claims regarding homosexual practice as “Exhibit A” of the creature working in opposition to the Creator (Romans 1). Homosexual practice for Paul is not the cause of God’s wrath per se, but is case-in-point that God’s wrath is already poured out on the created order. Paul’s wrestling with ‘male liars,’ my translation of a difficult Greek word, is rooted in his own translation of the proscription against homosexuality in Leviticus 18 which was not about power relationships or prostitution but about living within the boundaries set within God’s created order.
“[That said,] for those whose inclination is toward same-sex relationships, the Gospel hope for you is that the church is your home. Discrimination on the basis of orientation is a great travesty in the church. The lack of differentiation between orientation and practice is a fatal flaw in many conservative circles. The hope of the Gospel is that a person’s nature or natural orientation is not conflated in the Bible with the person’s behavior or identity as a Christian. The behavior is the sin. In our fallen world there are many impulses erotic and outside the erotic realm that are ‘natural’ to us or that we may be predisposed to, but in the grace of Christ our behavior does not have to be identified with our nature or orientation. The call to homosexuals is chastity because sex is a marriage gift and marriage is between male and female.”
This is a very difficult discussion but one that the Bible has given us much clarity. Rather than screaming and calling people names, we should do two things: 1) we must love the lost and give them Jesus; and 2) we must pray for our government that, for the “good of the city,” they would make decisions which protect society not destroy it.
For more reading, I highly recommend a blog post by David French, “I Was Wrong About Marriage.”