This is the first in a series of columns based on the just-released book, “What Every Christian Should Know About Same-sex Attraction.”
In May 2015 Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular vote after a referendum found that 62 percent of voters favor changing the constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.
As of today, 19 other nations have approved same-sex marriage, most recently the U.S.
Response to the Irish vote varied from euphoria (“It’s our Berlin Wall!”) to despair (a “defeat for humanity”).
The church is divided on the issue, with some denominations sanctioning gay marriage, others blessing same-sex unions, and still others remaining staunchly opposed to any sexual conduct outside the confines of lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual marriage.
A sense of inevitability
If polls are any indication, a majority of Americans already favor same-sex marriage, and that number continues to grow. The issue of gay rights, which is not restricted to same-sex marriage, has advanced with great speed to the point where many Americans are resigned to the belief that the public celebration of homosexuality is with us to stay. No doubt, many Christians share this sense of inevitability.
Indeed, leaders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community have done a masterful job of equating gay rights with civil rights. Therefore, to oppose homosexual behavior in general, or same-sex marriage in particular, is akin to being racist.
Through legal action, the media, educational initiatives, and other means, the LGBT community has sought to marginalize those who stand against the gay lifestyle on convictional, and particularly religious, grounds. Carry a Biblical worldview into the public square and you risk being labeled a right-wing extremist engaged in “New McCarthyism.”
At the same time, through the way we live our lives, Christians to some degree have surrendered the moral high ground. Numerous surveys show that the sexual and marital behavior of Christians does not differ significantly from that of non-Christians, meaning our conduct stands in stark contrast to what the Bible teaches about God’s intent for sexuality and marriage.
As the argument goes: If Christians engage in premarital sex, adultery, pornography, and divorce about as often as non-Christians, who are we to judge others?
God has spoken clearly
Thankfully, God has spoken clearly in His Word. His standards of sexual purity and marital fidelity apply to all people. They reflect both His holiness and His creative intent for pleasure, security, and procreation through life-long monogamous relationships between men and women created in His image.
It’s to our benefit, therefore, to revisit the issue of homosexuality through a Biblical lens – not just to know what the Bible says, but also to know what God has instructed the church to do about it.
Our appraisal of any belief or action must be grounded in the Word of God. Our response should be seasoned with equal doses of conviction and compassion.
As we begin, it’s important to draw a distinction between the temptation known as unwanted same-sex attraction, which is not a sin, and same-sex desires and behaviors, which the Bible always characterizes as sinful.
Every human being struggles with what the apostle Paul calls the flesh – the tarnished image of God warring against God’s Word and, for the believer, against God’s indwelling Spirit.
We should explore what God has to say about sex and marriage; they’re both good, by the way. We should rejoice in God’s creative design, earnestly pursue personal holiness, vigorously contend for the faith, and love those who experience same-sex attractions, whether they celebrate these attractions or acknowledge them as foreign to the will of God.
The world is watching. And the world is judging our response to LGBT people. Rather than wring our hands over their stunning victories in our courts, especially the court of public opinion, the church should seize this divine opportunity to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
Too often we have spoken loveless truth, or surrendered truth in the name of love. Scripture calls us to embrace both truth and love.
Next: Seven Biblical truths about sex and marriage