The debate over gay marriage, highlighted by President Obama’s endorsement this week, makes me sad. Extremists on both sides of the argument are either dancing for joy or arming for battle. Politicians, rather than focusing on the economy, foreign relations or American security, are using gay marriage to invigorate their base and to raise campaign funds. Pastors, rather than encouraging people to love God with all their heart, mind and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves, are self-righteously pontificating on things they know very little about. It is amazing that an issue that impacts a small percentage of the population has become such an important dividing line in American culture. (According to an article in the Huffington Post, Gary Gates, demographer-in-residence at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA, estimates that 1.7% of US adults self-identify as gay or lesbian.)
I have been wrestling with the biblical principles surrounding gay marriage. Three major tenets guide my understanding:
- The chief end of man is to glorify God
The purpose of life is not individual happiness or fulfillment; life is about living in a way that reflects God’s glory. In dealing with contentious issues I have to ask, “How does my speech and attitude reflect the glory of God? Is my goal to find and spread individual happiness or to reflect Kingdom principles?” Wrestling with these questions seldom leads to good sound bites, increased fund-raising or pithy sermons; but these are the questions we have to grapple with on a daily basis.
- All have sinned and come short of the glory of God
Are gays and lesbians sinners? Of course they are. As are senators and presidents, Democrats and Republicans, as well as Cub fans and Cardinal fans.(Cubs fans are also not very smart, but that’s another post.) Sin is anything that misses the center of God’s will, and we all miss on a daily basis.It is easy to become self-righteous in an issue as emotional as gay marriage, but the Apostle Paul says there is no one righteous, not even one.
- God’s description of marriage is between a man and a woman
The center of God’s will, according to both the Old and New Testaments, is a committed, lifelong relationship between one man and one woman. We have to remember the Bible is an accurate record of real people, so there are polygamists, adulterers, rapists, people who sleep with their siblings, people who sleep with their step-mothers (yuck!) mentioned throughout the Bible. But the only relationship that always gets God’s gold seal of approval is a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman. That is the center of God’s will.
So how do we bring this all together? I think the most important thing we can do is to focus more on what we are for rather than on what we are against. I am for a healthy marriage between a man and a woman who are both committed to bringing glory to God by serving each other. As we move further and further from that target we move further and further from the center of God’s will. To me here are the top five enemies of God’s ideal marriage relationship:
- Internet porn
- Inappropriate relationship with another man or woman
- Sex outside of marriage
- Cohabiting before marriage
I’m sorry, but gay marriage (which impacts 1.7% of the population) doesn’t make the top 5, top 10 or even top 100 list.
So here is how I feel about gay marriage:
- Do I think gay marriage is God’s perfect will?
- Is gay marriage a sin?
Anything outside of God’s perfect will is sin, so yes
- Do I think gay marriage should be legal in the US?
I don’t really care. Pornography is legal. Adultery is legal. Pre-marital sex is legal. Focusing on my own needs rather than the needs of my spouse is legal. Legislation will not improve marriage and legislation will not destroy marriage
- Would I marry a gay couple?
I believe the role of a pastor in performing a marriage is to affirm God’s blessing on a relationship. That is why I normally won’t marry a couple who is living together, a couple who I believe is unequally yoked (a Christian marrying a non-Christian), or a couple who is not entering into the marriage with a sober commitment to a lifelong relationship. The government can legalize gay marriage (as it has so many other relationships), but it can’t force me to perform a ceremony.
The issue of gay marriage makes me sad because it has become the centerpiece topic of conversation, the litmus test of who we’ll associate with. There are so many other things that impact so many more lives, I hope we can move past this soon and refocus on becoming the men and women God created us to be, bringing glory to God.