What God Says About Gay Marriage
- Max Lucado Pastor and Author
- 2004 14 Jul
On May 17, 2004, the State of Massachusetts recognized a thousand same-sex weddings. A cultural bomb exploded. This week, Senators will vote on the Marriage Act, a constitutional amendment that defines and protects one man-one woman marriage. What does the Bible have to say about this? What does God have to say about gay marriage? I can't think of a more timely topic.
The recent move toward the legalization of homosexual marriage leaves many people searching for answers. On one hand they see no problem with the idea. They have homosexual relatives or friends. They watch "Will and Grace" or "Ellen DeGeneres" on television. They look at such people and think - what's wrong? Why would same-sex marriage be an issue?
Yet, at the same time, unrest rumbles within. How will homosexuality impact our culture? What about the spread of disease? If gay lifestyle and gay marriage is endorsed - what follows? Polygamy? Legalized incest? If we can't draw a line, will lines be drawn at all? Many wrestle with such questions.
Those of a Judeo-Christian background ask a more fundamental question. What Does God Say about Gay Marriage? For the God-fearer, God's voice trumps all polls, politicians, studies, and sitcoms. So it is to this question we turn our attention this morning. Dividing it into three sub-questions will offer a helpful outline.
What Does God Say About Marriage?
Follow the institution of the family upriver to her headwaters and you'll hear God resolve: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (Gen. 2:18 NIV)
God created marriage. No government subcommittee envisioned it. No social organization developed it. Marriage was conceived and born in the mind of God. His phrase, "I will make..." suggests a plan. And the phrase: "I will make a helper suitable for him..." envisions a special partnership. For the woman to be described as a "helper" is anything but demeaning. The same word is used elsewhere (Ex. 18:4; Ps. 121: 1,2) to describe God. The wife, then, is a godlike presence for the man. Hebrew scholars interpret the phrase " a helper suitable" as meaning "exact correspondence." Marriage is a divine match-what one lacks, the other supplies. This was God's plan.
He gives Adam a task. "The man gave names to all the tame animals...But Adam did not find a helper that was right for him." (Gen.2:20 NCV)
The point of the animal parade is clear: no animal could offer what Adam needed. A special act of creation was necessary. So God created Eve. From the frame of man, God made woman. She was of equal value, born of the same father, but she was different. When Adam saw Eve, he knew he'd met his match-his perfect match. His, and mankind's, first spoken words trumpeted the harmony between man and woman. "Finally!" he declares, "Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! Name her Woman for she was made from Man." (Gen. 2:23 MSG)
Lest we miss the immensity of the moment, Moses follows the first spoken words with the first commentary: "So a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife and the two will become one body." (Gen.2:24)
Note the steps. First there is a leaving: man and woman wave goodbye to mom and dad and unite. They cleave. This is no casual date, no clandestine affair. Marriage is a covenant publicly sealed between a man and a woman. God could have given Adam a man, but he didn't. God could have given Adam two women, but he didn't. God could have given Eve to Adam for one night, but he didn't. He gave her to him for life. And, in doing so, he gave us his definition of marriage. One man-one woman for life. Heterosexual monogamy.
We cannot overestimate how radical this was. In the ancient east, no other religion honored the female as an equal partner of man and no other moral code called husband and wife to sexual fidelity.
By the time the Torah was presented through the Jews to mankind, religions were promoting flagrant, unbridled sexual activity. Egypt, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Cyrus, Canaan...religious life in each of these nations was marked by temple prostitution and ritual sex. This is understandable since early religions saw their gods as sexual beings. The Babylonian god, Ishtar, seduced a man. The Egyptian god, Asiris, had sex with his sister. Krishna, the Hindu god, had many wives. According to the Greeks, Zeus married Hera, and Poseidon married Amphitrite.
In such a sexually-saturated era, homosexuality was widely practiced. Martha Nussbaum of Brown University describes gender as a non-issue in ancient sexual activity. Sex was seen not as interaction, but more as doing something to someone. "Homosexuality," agrees Jewish commentator Dennis Prager, "was universally accepted, valued, and practiced." David Greenburg writes: "...none of the archaic civilizations prohibited homosexuality per se."
It was into such a world that the Torah entered. And it was against such a downstream flow that the teachings of Yahweh swam. According to the Torah, God is not sexual, but holy. Man was not conceived in a sexual act, but created in a divine one. Men and women were not intended for identical gender but opposite. Woman is not a sexual object, but a God-given partner. And sex is not a recreational sport but a matrimonial privilege. The God of the Jews put the genie of sex into the bottle of heterosexual marriage. Homosexuality, by its very nature, resists this truth. Which takes us to the next question.
What Does God Say About Gays?
Were Jesus to come face to face with a homosexual what would he say? What would he do? Though the New Testament contains no such conversation, we know how he would act.
He would express his love. Like with Zaccheus, he might go to his home. Like with the Samaritan woman, he might sit in the shade of the well. As he did with Matthew, Jesus might offer a personal invitation. The exact words he would use, we don't know. But of their sentiment, we have no doubt. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. This includes homosexuality. Jesus loves his gay children. He made them, came for them, and died for them. And he would tell them so.
He would speak to them with compassion. But he would also speak to them with conviction. And he would also tell them the truth. As he did with Zaccheus, the Samaritan woman, Matthew, and others, Jesus, always full of grace and truth, always told the truth. And the truth is this.
God never approves sexual union outside of marriage. The two unmarried, but sexually involved singles? God disapproves. The two married people who are sexually involved but not married to each other? Their adultery angers God. The man who seduces children? The sibling with sibling? The man with man or woman with woman? The Bible never singles same-sex intimacy out as a sin above sins.
At the same time, the Bible never minces words regarding God's feelings toward homosexual activity. To the men of Israel, God warned: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination." (Leviticus 18:22 NKJV) One Hebrew scholar writes: "When the word toevah (abomination) does appear in the Hebrew Bible, it is sometimes applied to idolatry, cult prostitution, magic, or divination...It always conveys great repugnance."
But isn't such teaching archaic? Pro-gay Bible students want to clump the prohibition of homosexuality with cultural instructions like washing feet or wearing veils. If teachings against same sex unions were random or sporadic, we'd have to agree. But God's denouncement of homosexual intimacy Amazons its way through scripture-from one border to the next. From the earliest code of the Torah, to the later epistles of Paul-the sentiment never changes. God's disdain appears as early as the first book in the Bible when the men of Sodom wanted to see Lot's male (actually, angelic) visitors.
"Bring them out to us that we might know them carnally." (Gen. 19:5 NKJV)In the days of Moses, God had not changed. "If a man has sexual relations with another man as a man does with a woman, these two men have done a hateful sin." (Leviticus 20:13 NCV)
To the Romans, God spoke with identical firmness: "Women stopped having natural sex and started having sex with other women. In the same way, men stopped having natural sex and began wanting each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and in their bodies they received the punishment for those wrongs." (Romans 1:26, 27 NCV)
To the church in Corinth: "Those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshipers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers-none of these will have a share in the Kingdom of God." (I Cor. 6:9,10 NLT)
From start to finish, Scripture categorically condemns same sex intimacy. Why? Some answers are found in our concluding point:
What Does God Say About Gay Marriage?
I find no answer but this: He categorically opposes it. It violates his plan for man-woman permanence. It frustrates and denies complementariness in nurturing. The church must stand with her Maker on this issue. Too much is at stake. Why oppose gay marriage? Here are three answers:
(1.) The legalization of gay marriages will erode the traditional family. For proof, go to Scandinavia. Stanley Kurtz, who has a Harvard Ph. D. in Social Anthropology, addressed a Senate sub-committee on this subject. He writes: "Marriage is slowly dying in Scandinavia. A majority of children in Sweden and Norway are born out of wedlock. Sixty percent of firstborn children in Denmark have unmarried parents. Not coincidentally, these countries have had something close to full gay marriage for a decade or more....[In Scandinavia] married parenthood has become a minority phenomenon..."
Can you imagine the complicated consequences of same-sex parenting? Distinctives between the genders will blur. Young people will have confusing and conflicting models from which to choose. Studies show that daughters with no father are more likely to experience teenage pregnancy than other girls. Motherless children miss the emotional security only a mom can give.
Any opportunity for children to learn the skills of a husband loving his wife and vice versa will be gone. The benefits of marriage as God intended will be missed by many. Over ten thousand studies have proven that children do best when raised by a loving mother and father.
Same-sex marriage undermines God's plan for the family. Weakened families impact society. In their book, The Case for Marriage, Linda Whaite and Mary Gallagher write: "As marriage weakens, the costs are born not only by individual children or families but by all of us taxpayers, citizens, and neighbors.
We all incur the costs of higher crime, welfare, education and health-care expenditures, and reduced security for our own marriage investments. Simply as a matter of public health alone...a new campaign to reduce marriage failure is as important as the campaign to reduce smoking."
2. Legalized gay marriage will lead to legalized polygamy and other deviations. Utah polygamist Tom Green, is using the same legal leverage gays have used to achieve the legal sanction of his marriage to five women. The Utah ACLU seems ready to help him, stating: the nuclear family "may not necessarily be the best model."
Will gay marriage open the door to polygamy? What is to keep it from doing so? If we reject the Bible's definition of marriage-society becomes a weather vane whipped about by the whims and opinions of a black-robed panel of unelected judges.
If they recognize gay marriage, what will keep them from the next step? Who's to say that one man can't marry five women? Or two men and two women? How about a commune marriage? Or a marriage between a daddy and a daughter or a woman and a giraffe? Don't underestimate the evil bent of the human heart. In 1972, the National Coalition of Gay Organizations demanded the "repeal of all legislative provisions that restrict sex or number of persons entering into a marriage unit; and the extension of all legal benefits to all persons who cohabit regardless of sex or numbers." Rejecting God's law leads not to a belief in nothing-but a belief in everything.
3. The highest reason, however, for opposing gay marriage is simply this: God does. And God does because He loves us. Jesus had your best interest at heart when he said: "... 'a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.' Since they are no longer two but one, let no one separate them, for God has joined them together." (Matthew 19:5,6 NLT)
Marriage restores us to our Adamic state. Just as when God saw Adam and Eve, he saw one person, when God sees a married couple today, he sees one person. Marriage is the flagship institution predating all other organizations in the history of man. This is a high stakes issue from God's perspective.
Where does that leave the church? Contrary to the tragic decision made by our Episcopalian brethren-we must react as Christ reacts-with simultaneous compassion and conviction.
Compassion. Yes, homosexual activity angers God. But who among us has not angered God? It wasn't homosexuality that caused Jesus to cleanse the Temple. It was self-righteousness and greed: two sins that dog all of us. Let there be no gay bashing among God's people. No arrogant parading of signs.
There is no justification for gay jokes. Do we mock the alcoholic or shun the gossiper? Let's show the same grace to the brother or sister who struggles with sexual sin. Is the church not a collection of saved sinners? In fact, numbered among the members of the early church were some former homosexuals.
Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshipers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers-none of these will have a share in the Kingdom of God. There was a time when some of you were just like that, but now your sins have been washed away, and you have been set apart for God. You have been made right with God because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done for you. (1 Cor. 6:9-11 NLT italics mine) Ex-gays worshiped in the early church. Ex-gays worship in this church.
For those of you who struggle with this issue-be assured-you are welcome here. Should you desire help-we have people who stand ready to offer it. One call to our pastoral care office and you'll be put in touch with either a trained counselor or a former homosexual. The Guttmacher Report unveils that 1.1 percent of American men struggle with homosexual behavior. Another study showed that 2 percent of American men have exited the gay lifestyle. There are, in other words, far more ex-gays than active ones. Isn't this hopeful. Change is possible!
Let the church be a house of compassion. But let her also be a house of conviction. The Holy Scripture was the first code to call man and women to rein in their sexual desires and express them under the covenant of male-female marriage. Homosexual union then is not a step forward, but a step backward. A step back into the society from which God delivered us.
I urge you to elevate marriage. Honor God's plan for the home by nurturing your own. Also, pray urgent prayers for our national leaders. Especially pray and thank God for those who are taking the lead and taking the heat on the Federal Marriage Act. I urge you to contact your senators and representatives. Think this one through carefully. We cannot budge. Too much is at stake.
To contact your senator, visit: www.senate.gov
Visit Max Lucado's website here.
Max Lucado is a San Antonio, TX pastor and best-selling author. He is hosting a free online church and Bible study Facebook/MaxLucado. For more go to www.MaxLucado.com.