On Gay Marriage & the Church’s Response

What is there to say for a Christ-follower on a day where, in a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court of our land has approved the change of a definition of marriage?  This definition is measured not in decades or centuries, but in millenia — even according to some of the same justices who voted for the legalization of gay marriage.

What to say on a day when my WordPress blog editor has a rainbow banner across the top… when Ben & Jerry’s has a new Ice Cream flavor to celebrate… when American Airlines, Youtube and Google (& dozens of other companies) join in celebration?

What to say on a day when some Christians are angry, others are despairing, and others are resigned?

What to say on a day when, before the proverbial ink dried on the Supreme Court opinions, HuffPost’s Gay Voices editor (yes, they have one of those) said this:

“We can pass all of the laws we want and talk about public policy until we run out of air, but until our society stops thinking of queer people as deviant or corrupt or sinful or in any way less than non-queer people, nothing is going to change…  It’s only after we’ve challenged and changed the most basic and fundamental viewpoints about who we are that we can really begin to think about true liberation and true equality.”

Did you catch it?  True freedom for the LGBT community can only be found when Christians stop thinking they are sinful.  Their fight only stops then.  This is what insightful Christians have understood: that this was never the “final” battle — it was the first one.

How can Christians respond?  Here are a few thoughts:

1. Love, love, love.

We have to show and demonstrate the love of God toward those in the LGBT community in every way possible.  Love demands that we treat them with respect, treat them as we would want to be treated.  I would gladly bake a cake for a gay couple.  I would not do it for their wedding, but I would gladly bake a cake for them… and cookies.  And mow their lawn.  And feed their dog while they’re gone on vacation.  And have them over for barbecue.

Love also demands that we tell them the truth.  Sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong.

2. Deep, humble repentance.

We have devalued marriage as a society… and as a Church.  The divorce rates within our walls have been higher than they should. Guidance on married sexuality has not been clear and holistic, and has not adequately helped people of faith cope with the results of the Sexual Revolution.  We have not provided the tools of conversation, the authoritative teaching about the glories of sexuality in God’s intended boundaries.

Pornography use is rampant within the church, and few are really addressing it.  Some man (or woman) in your church is trapped by pornography, and has wrestled with the private pain and guilt for years, not knowing whom they could tell.  Another has found pornography on their spouse’s phone or laptop and has no idea how to respond, and is suffering in silence.  When was the last time you heard a sermon which frankly, lovingly dealt with this issue and offered guidance, grace and hope?

We have failed to adequately deal with abuse and molestation with grace and truth.  We have failed to face up to and help heal the brokenness that occurs to the victim.  We have failed to have the conversations necessary to lovingly & justly deal with the perpetrators.

We are not qualified to deal with homosexuality with a “thou shalt not” unless we are willing to also face the myriad sexual dysfunction and fallout of all kinds of sexual brokenness that is wreaking havoc in our culture.

We owe a time of heart-searching prayer and repentance to the God who created sexuality and ordained it for the joy and pleasure of mankind.

3. Simple, humble disobedience.

Study the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., especially “Letters from a Birmingham Jail” 

“One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”  Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”

I will pledge publicly that I will not obey the laws that inevitably will follow this one.  I will give up my church’s tax exemption.  I will go to jail if necessary.

This isn’t mean or harsh.  It’s conviction — the same kind of conviction that led MLK Jr. to choose jail rather than obey unjust Jim Crow laws.

4. A recapturing of biblical marriage.

Marriage did not start as a regulated, state-officiated institution.  It started as a spiritual, God-regulated covenant.  For 8-10 years, I’ve been saying that the church needs to get out of the civil marriage business.

Then, I would humbly suggest that the Church (not one denomination, but a consortium of the 20-30 largest Christian denominations in the USA) convene a super-conference.  I think this conference should consider these things:

  • That churches will no longer marry individuals in the civil sense.
  • That churches will only administer “covenant marriage,” which is a union before God & witnesses, which only the Church can administer.
  • How “covenant marriage” is regulated and administered by the included churches.
  • Requirements for “covenant marriage” before it will be administered, in keeping with our high view of its lifelong nature.  (Premarital counseling?  Marriage mentoring?  Discipleship?)
  • How to deal with couples that come to faith while in civil marriage only.
  • How divorces in these kind of unions would be dealt with.

If people want civil marriage for the tax deduction that it brings, fine.  They may do that at the local courthouse.  If they want to be married in the eyes of God and His Church, however, they will need to participate in “covenant marriage.”

This might be unrealistic, and unenforceable.  But I think it makes more sense than anything else I’m hearing.

To me, it is the recapturing of the purity and glory of a sacrament that should be (and should have always been) a great opportunity for teaching about the “profound mystery… about Christ and the Church” (Ephesians 5:32)

Carry on, friends.  I am hopeful that the greatest days of the Church of Jesus Christ are ahead.  When wickedness and brokenness abound, there is no lack of opportunity to preach a glorious, saving, healing, restoring Gospel.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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6 thoughts on “On Gay Marriage & the Church’s Response

  1. This is a great summary of the current state of our nation and the confusion/frustration within the church. I agree wholeheartedly with these thought. Putting them into practice will take patience and wisdom from THE ONE who can provide them. Thank you for an insightful writing.

  2. Darrell,

    This is a brilliantly worded and articulated response to the larger topic of alternative sexuality, which in my opinion, includes the topics of homosexuality, LGBT and same-sex marriage. However, after reading this article, following its counsel will require an extraordinary amount of courage, because the pressure to conform, compromise and concede will be as intense as ever. I wrote a series of articles earlier regarding Christianity and LGBT and you are welcome to read them if you ever have the time. They can be found on my blog, http://www.hermansneutics.com/?p=604. I will be coming back to hear more of your wisdom, my brother, thank you.

    • Thanks, Robert. I will do my best to get over and read your thoughts as well. Thanks for your readership. May God give us the courage for the hour, and make us (like Jesus) “full of grace and truth.”

  3. Thank you Darrell…. I will be reading “paraphrasing” your blog during our Morning Worship service today… giving you the credit due… Your thoughts are my thoughts… I have felt the same way about civil marriage for sometime.