God loves sex. The first two commands recorded in the Bible are “have dominion over creation,” and then “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:26-28). In other words, rule the world and have lots of sex. Not a bad day at the office.
Whoever said God was some cosmic killjoy? God created sex and declared it to be “good.”
Within Christian circles, it’s assumed God only wants us to have sex if we’re married. Sex outside of marriage is one of the clearest, unquestionable prohibitions in Christianity. But where does the Bible teach this? Can you name a verse?
Many will race to the Ten Commandments: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). But adultery means having sex with someone else’s spouse; it doesn’t refer to an unmarried couple sleeping together. Likewise, when Jesus condemns lust in Matthew 5, He does so in the context of adultery. In other words, we should not sexually desire another person’s spouse as our own.
God loves sex. But He’s designed us to have sex within the boundaries of a marriage covenant.
Others might turn to Leviticus 18. This “sex chapter” lists all sorts of sexual prohibitions including incest, bestiality, adultery and other sexual sins. It’s fascinating, though, that nowhere in Leviticus 18 is sex before marriage condemned.
Some might argue that when the Bible condemns “fornication” or “sexual immorality” this includes sex before marriage. And maybe it does. But this needs to be shown and not just assumed. Again, the Old Testament’s most detailed list of sexually immoral acts (Leviticus 18) does not include sex before marriage.
So Does the Bible Really Say It’s Wrong?
Before you book a hotel room and call up your girlfriend with the good news, please keep reading! Yes, the Bible does say that all forms of sex outside of marriage are wrong. Here’s how.
The early chapters of Genesis give a basic blueprint for marriage, and even though it never says “Thou shall not have sex before marriage,” it certainly suggests that sex outside of marriage flows against God’s design. God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1) is joyfully heeded by Adam and Eve after they are joined in marriage (Genesis 2:24-25; 4:1, 25). The same goes for their descendants. Noah, Shem, Abram and others all have sex and therefore have children within the confines of a marriage covenant.
When they turn to other women, such as Abraham’s sexual relations with Hagar (Genesis 16), the act was not considered an affair. Hagar was more like a modern day surrogate mother who bears a child in the place of an infertile wife. Nevertheless, these acts don’t appear to be sanctioned by God, even though they were widely accepted in Israel’s culture.
Throughout the Old Testament, it’s assumed that God designed sex for marriage. Deuteronomy condemns a soon to be wife who has had sex before marriage (Deuteronomy 22:13-19), and the love poetry contained in the Song of Songs delights in the joys of sex but reserves it for a husband and wife. Extra-marital sex is never looked upon with divine approval in the Old Testament, no matter how bright the love-flame burns.
The Role of Tradition
The Jewish tradition that flows from the Old Testament and cradles the New Testament was even more explicit in condemning pre-marital sex. For instance, it was believed that Joseph (Jacob’s favorite son) was adamant that he and his future wife, Asenath, remain pure until their wedding day. There’s nothing in the Old Testament that validates such concern; Joseph’s marriage to Asenath is only mentioned in passing (Genesis 41:45, 50-52). But the later retelling of Joseph and Asenath reflects a widespread Jewish view: Sex before marriage is sin.
And this is the ethical world that Jesus and His followers were raised in. Jews and Christians had many disagreements about what constitutes right and wrong (food laws, circumcision, strict Sabbath keeping, etc.). But when it came to sexual immorality, they found much in common. Sex before marriage was clearly condemned in Judaism, and the same goes for Christianity.
For instance, Paul—a Jew—argued that the only proper outlet for sexual desire is within marriage: “because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). Again, if unmarried people can’t control their sexual desires, Paul doesn’t tell them to head to the brothel, or to their boyfriend, or their betrothed loved one. Rather, “they should marry” since “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9). In other words, we should not satisfy our sexual passion with someone other than a spouse.
Not Just Adultery
Paul says in another passage: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
Paul’s words here can’t be limited to adultery. They clearly include all forms of sex outside of marriage. We know this because the Gentiles of the Roman world Paul refers to actually abhorred adultery and considered it a crime. However, sexual activity outside of marriage was perfectly fine—as long as it wasn’t with another man’s wife. So when Paul tells Christians to not engage in “the passion of lust like the Gentiles,” this can’t be limited to adultery. What separates Christians from other Romans was that Christians, like their Jewish brothers, believed that sex outside of marriage was sin.
Many other passages in the New Testament confirm what we see in the letters of Paul. Revelation 14:4 assumes that unmarried Christian men who desire to be faithful are not having sex. Matthew 1:18-19 celebrates the chastity of Joseph and Mary. And Hebrews 13:4 considers sex outside of marriage to be immoral: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” This verse can’t just be limited to adultery, since both “sexually immoral” and “adulterous” are listed.
God loves sex. But He’s designed us to have sex within the boundaries of a marriage covenant. To violate God’s design in an effort to lay hold of creation’s pleasure is not just foolish, but actually rejects the delights God wants us to enjoy. Sex outside of marriage mocks the Creator’s will and elevates human desire over God’s wisdom.
Christians can mess up and receive God’s free pardon. God’s scandalous grace covers all of our wrongdoings, and He dishes out such grace liberally. But it’s one thing to struggle and fail, and quite another to call sin good and wrongdoing righteousness. Christians—genuine Christians—must strive to live in line with the Creator’s intentions and celebrate the good gifts He gives to His people.
Written by Dr. Preston Sprinkle, www.prestonsprinkle.com.
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The following are a series of statements we recommend you and your church leaders discuss, pray about, adopt, and make available to the entire congregation. The resulting church covenant will become the map for helping your church become an even more empathetic and loving fellowship to those who experience same-sex attractions without compromising what the Bible teaches. (Unless the leadership of your church has specifically endorsed all these statements, this proposed covenant may not yet accurately reflect your church leadership’s viewpoint. In that case, they are being presented here for your evaluation and discussion.)
Sample Church Covenant:
An Introduction and Context
Our churches’ Statement on Human Sexuality describes what we believe. This Church Covenant describes our aspirations for how we hope Christians who experience same-sex attraction or struggle with gender identity feel at our church, and how we behave toward them. The leadership of our church is committed to changing the culture within our church to be more empathetic and understanding of those who are navigating same-sex attraction, as well as their families.
If Jesus said the second greatest commandment is “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), as a whole church, we must confess we have not always done that to certain people groups (such as the LGBTQ community).
Jesus was criticized by the religious establishment for associating with those who were perceived as “untouchables.” The untouchables of Jesus’ day were the people whom religious Jews would never befriend (Luke 15:1-2. To imitate Jesus, we must risk what Jesus risked—our reputation. Our goal is to help our church understand these sexual issues biblically and respond gracefully in order to make Jesus’ command to love a reality in our church.
We Believe and Promise…
As a church, we will make every effort to accommodate the needs of transgender individuals, while respecting the privacy and safety of all our church members and visitors. Due to the ever-changing laws and recommendations surrounding this issue, please see one of our pastors if you believe the needs of a transgender person are not being met at our church.
Similar to the experience of SSA, we do not believe Christians need to resolve their gender confusion in order to be in a right relationship with God. A transgender person’s experience may continue throughout their life, even as they grow in their faith. Transgender people are strongly urged to seek out one of our pastors for a referral to a counselor in general alignment with the teachings of this church before any attempt to surgically or hormonally resolve this tension.
Obviously, no known pedophile or sex offender will be allowed to volunteer in our church in any ministry involving minor children. Our church conducts criminal background checks on all volunteers working with children—both heterosexual and SSA men and women. The church has in place other policies that give us confidence our children are safe. However, no system or policy is 100 percent effective. The best protection against sexual abuse is parents talking to their children and inviting them to report any attempt at a sexual advance by a peer, adolescent, or adult.
Additionally, all volunteers are interviewed, observed, and supervised to assess their emotional, relational and spiritual maturity and judgment. Our church reserves the right to decline the volunteer services of anyone the leadership considers unsuitable for the task or who may pose a potential risk to children.
Sex Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE)
There are serious questions about the effectiveness of reparative therapy (also known as sexual orientation change efforts, SOCE) among respected Christian and secular mental health experts. While some SSA individuals have experienced a lessening of their SSA and/or an increase in heterosexual attraction using these techniques, the self-reported percentage who have experienced change as a result of faith-based therapy is small. Within this group, the change in sexual attraction or orientation is on a continuum, with some change in attraction, identity, and behavior being far more common than a dramatic switch from full homosexual orientation to full heterosexual orientation.
When change efforts are unsuccessful, tremendous guilt sometimes occurs within the SSA individual. Also, parents and friends hoping for change may feel anger when they believe that the SSA individual just isn’t trying hard enough. Despite these risks, some SSA individuals find that the effort to change is worth it, especially when they are personally motivated to change.
It’s helpful to remember that pedophilia and SSA are not the same thing. According to the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), Pedophilia is a sexual attraction to prepubescent children (roughly eleven years and younger) by someone sixteen years and older, and is considered an official mental disorder when a person acts on these attractions with a child or is distressed by them.
There is a significant difference between adults who experience attractions toward children (e.g. a five-year-old) and an adult who experiences an attraction toward teenagers who have reached puberty. While both are sins, they are different types of sins. For example, a nineteen-year-old man who has consensual sex with a fifteen-year-old girl commits a sex crime, but that does not make him a pedophile. But if that same man has sex with a nine-year-old, whether a boy or girl, he is considered to be a pedophile.
Additional research indicates that most adult men who are attracted to adult men are not also attracted to children. There is a significant difference between these attractions. Likewise, the best research also indicates the even fewer adult women who are attracted to other adult women are also attracted to children. In any case, male or female, heterosexual or straight, to engage in sexual activity with minors is both a sin and a crime, and this church is committed to placing all precautions in place.
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. Butterfield, Rosaria Champagne. Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ. Pittsburgh: Crown and Covenant Publications, 2015. P. 140.
. Kaltenbach, Caleb. Messy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others without Sacrificing Conviction. Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2015. P. 152.
. We, the authors, do not have this policy in this document. Your church may or may not have such a policy. If it does, please use the proper name of that policy here.
. Yarhouse, Mark A. Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture. Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015.
. “Statistics on Perpetrators of Child Sexual Abuse.” Statistics on Perpetrators of CSA. 2012. victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/statistics-on-perpetrators-of-csa. See also “Child Sexual Abuse Statistics” on the same site.
. “Experts recommend that in order to prevent child abuse of all forms, churches should conduct more than background checks. For example, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) recommends that personal safety lessons should be taught to the children, pastors should occasionally talk about the sin of sexual abuse from the pulpit (emphasizing the perpetrator as the only sinner—not the child), and do a more complete, comprehensive background check that includes a review of child protection records, newspaper stories about the worker, employment history, and speaking with persons who have knowledge of the worker. Visit www.netgrace.org/common-questions/#question-1 for more information.
. Beckstead, A. L. “Can we Change Sexual Orientation?” Archives of Sexual Behavior 41.1 (2012): 121-34. ProQuest. Web. 7 Mar. 2016.
. Jones, Stanton L., and Mark A. Yarhouse. “A Longitudinal Study of Attempted Religiously Mediated Sexual Orientation Change.” Journal of sex & marital therapy 37.5 (2011): 404. Web.
. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association.
. Herek, Gregory M., Ph.D. “Facts About Homosexuality and Child Molestation.” Facts About Homosexuality and Child Molestation. 2013. psc.dss
The following statements are presented to give you a prototype for a theological framework for deciding what your church’s position will be regarding sexual sin in general, and for responding to challenges against a historical Christian view of marriage. We suggest that they be reviewed carefully by the leadership of your church and eventually adopted in part or whole as your church’s own Statement on Human Sexuality. (Therefore, the position put forward below may not yet accurately reflect the beliefs of the leaders of your church.)
Sample Statement on Human Sexuality:
An Introduction and Context
The sexual ethics of American culture have never been more confused and contorted. Divorce is rampant, sex before marriage is almost universally accepted as a reality, cohabitation before or instead of marriage has become normal, new technologies have made pornography immediately accessible, the once inconceivable notion of same-sex marriage is now recognized by law, and gender has become fluid. The need for a clear voice from our church on all these matters is critical—both for the health of our church community and to serve as a faithful witness to the world.
The following Statement sets forth a Christian vision of human sexuality as a good gift from our God.
In it, we will affirm marriage, singleness, celibacy, sexuality, and gender as we believe God intended them, as well as address a variety of sexual attractions, behaviors, and relationships that the Bible prohibits. We will focus primarily on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. And later, in our Church Covenant, we will address what believing these things will mean for our churches and what the pastors and leaders expect of our members.
Our definition of a biblical marriage
Marriage is the original and foundational institution of human society, established by God as a one-flesh, covenantal union between a man and a woman from different families that is life-long (until separated by death), exclusive (monogamous and faithful), and generative in nature (designed for bearing and rearing children).
This is still true whether a couple is able or intends to have children. Procreation was one of God’s original intentions for marriage but may not be a requirement in the present age. Additionally, there are circumstances under which we recognize a biblical divorce, which allows for remarriage, but that was not God’s original intent either.
1. In Scripture, monogamous, heterosexual marriage bears a significance that goes beyond the regulation of sexual behavior, the bearing and raising of children, the formation of families, and the recognition of certain economic and legal rights—all of which are important. Marriage between a woman and a man is emphatically declared in Scripture to create a “one flesh” union (Gen. 2:23-24; Matt. 19:5), which exemplifies the mystery of the union and relationship between Christ and his body, the Church (Eph. 5:22- 33).
2. Although most people do choose to get married, the Bible (especially in the New Testament), celebrates singleness. Jesus, Paul, and many early Christian leaders were both single and celibate. Singleness gives greater freedom for service, is desirable, and should be celebrated and honored in the church (Matt. 19:10-12, 1 Cor. 7:1, 8, 25-30).
3. All humans have a sinful nature. This doesn’t mean that everything humans do is sin, but it does mean that sin has affected all aspects of human nature including our sexuality (Gen. 3; Rom. 3:23; 5:12). Therefore, all people—straight and LGBTQ—have a broken sexuality which is manifested in different ways and in need of the healing grace of Christ.”
Whether the prohibited heterosexual or same-sex attractions and temptations men and women experience are the product of their life experiences, their biological or psychological influence, or the influence of demons or another source—no matter the origin, they are not what God intended. They are the result of the Fall and sin’s corruption of creation. Therefore, while we try to understand those circumstances, these prohibited behaviors are still sin. God did not make us this way. It’s what we’ve become as a result of sin.
4. Temptation (including sexual temptation) may not be a sin—if it is a brief and fleeting thought, almost immediately dismissed and not seriously contemplated. Even multiple temptations are not a sin. Jesus was tempted three times, and “in every way,” and did not sin (Matthew 4:1-11, Hebrews 4:15).
Same-sex attractions/temptations in themselves are not sin. Leviticus 18, 20, and 1 Corinthians 6 all refer to the sexual act (not the person) as sinful. However, someone who is attracted to the same gender is not allowed to engage in it either physically (sexually), according to these passages, or mentally, according to Jesus in Matthew 5.
Indeed, God does prohibit the serious contemplation of sin, and the Bible warns us against dwelling on it because it often leads to the actual act (James 1:13-15). For instance, although the Bible does not call temptation sin, it prohibits not only adultery, but the desire for adultery (Matthew 5:27,28). Therefore, while same-sex attraction alone is not a sin, dwelling on homosexual thoughts, engaging in lustful fantasies, and ultimately acting on same-sex behaviors are all sins. Living holy lives in spite of ongoing temptations must be the goal of all Christians.
5. The good news of the Gospel is that all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who gives us both the desire and the power to resist temptation. Therefore, saying, “I’m powerless to overcome my sin,” is a lie from the deceiver (Romans 8:9-11, Eph. 4:30, 1 Timothy 2:25, 26, James 4:7, 1 John 2:4, 1 John 4:13, 18).
6. Cohabitation of two unmarried people, whether by an SSA or a heterosexual couple, may not be a sin if there is sexual abstinence, but it may be unwise for these reasons:
For these reasons we urge cohabitating, heterosexual couples to either choose marriage or live separately. Cohabitating individuals may continue as members, but it is not likely that they will be allowed to teach or lead in our church.
7. The Scriptures have much to say about sexual behavior, from the beautiful affirmations of the Song of Songs to the prohibitions found throughout the Bible (e.g., Rom. 13:13-14; 1 Cor. 5:1-2; 6:9-10, 15-18; Gal. 5:16-21; 1 Thess. 4:3-8). Jesus himself warned against all sexual immorality (porneia), which includes all sexual practices prohibited in the Torah (Mark 7:21). The Apostle Paul affirms that among believers “there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.” (This includes both heterosexual and homosexual immorality as found in Eph. 5:3, 1 Timothy 1:9, 10.)
References to same-sex behavior in the Bible are always expressed in negative terms. All same sex, sexual behavior, whether it is consensual or not, is specifically condemned as sin in both the Old Testament and the New Testament (Gen. 19:4-11; Lev. 18:22; Lev. 20:13; Judges 19:22-25; Rom. 1:24-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:8-11).
Homosexual behavior and other prohibited sexual behaviors, along with the experience of same-sex attraction, are not God’s intent for human sexuality as revealed at creation and throughout Scripture. We can assume from Scripture that it was God’s intention that men be attracted to women and women to men. Additionally, there are no examples in Scripture of any other human sexual attraction of which God approves other than opposite-gendered attraction. So, even if it sounds politically incorrect, any other sexual desire, whether intentional or not, is not God’s original intent for humans (Romans 1:26, 27, Gen. 1:27-28, 2:18-25, Mat. 19:4-6).
8. We have this warning from God in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
God, through Paul, is not referring to those who struggle with committing various sins, repent of them, seek forgiveness, make a serious effort to resist temptation, and call on the Holy Spirit to help them in these areas. Instead, God is warning those who have given up the struggle, who no longer call it sin, and have given themselves over to and embraced, accepted, or celebrated these behaviors. God warns that in so doing, individuals prove themselves not to be children of God, thereby disqualifying themselves from inheriting the Kingdom of God.
9. In Scripture, God has made it clear that he values and guards the moral and spiritual health of the community above that of the individual. This was true both in Israel (in the Old Testament) and in the Church (in the New Testament). Therefore, an individual’s right to disobey God in order to “be happy” never trumps the declared will of God for his people (Deut. 19:20, 1 Sam. 2:25, Acts 5:9-11).
10. As followers of Jesus, we are to find our primary identity in Christ, and not in our sexuality or any other distinctions. Christians have rarely identified themselves as Baptist Christians or heterosexual Christians. We are first and foremost Christians who may be Baptists, or who are straight. Therefore, we encourage but do not require Christians who experience same-sex attractions (SSA) to not use the term gay Christian. To do so can have the appearance of having a dual allegiance of identity (Eph. 2:19, Gal. 3:26-28, Phil. 3:20).
11. Having read, understood, and considered the best affirming interpretations of Scripture, we have concluded that they do not present a more faithful or compelling Christian vision for human sexuality than the historic Christian view.
12. The church is to be a new community that resembles a family of brothers and sisters united in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, displaying deep relationships of love (1 Cor. 12:12-13; Rom. 12:10; 1 Tim. 5:1-2). Celibacy and singleness—whether by heterosexuals or same-sex attracted men and women—are to be celebrated and affirmed within the church family.
13. The theology of self-denial is based on Christ’s description of what it means to follow him and take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23,24). Any teaching that elevates personal sexual expression and sense of fulfillment over clear Scriptural commands fails to account for Christ’s demand that each of us joyfully suffer the consequences of self-denial and obedience.
Further, Paul’s and Peter’s desire and plea for Christians was to suffer rather than compromise their faith (Luke 9:23, Phil. 3, 1 Peter 3:14-15, Hebrews 11:24-26). Therefore, as we interpret that for our church today, our positions on human sexuality may be very unpopular with some people, both homosexual and heterosexual men and women. It is quite likely that as individuals and as a church we may suffer for holding to them and living by them.
Note: You may want to include your church’s position on divorce and remarriage in this Statement.
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With the legalization of same-sex marriage in June of 2015 by the Supreme Court, you might think this discussion is irrelevant. However, just because same-sex marriage is now the law of the land, that doesn’t change the reasons Christians should oppose it and be able to explain to our children why we do. Abortion was legalized almost half a century ago, but most Christians still oppose it on biblical grounds and try to discourage it whenever possible.
We’ve heard it asked many times, “Why do you Christians care what goes on behind closed doors between two consenting adults? Who cares? Why not let gay men and women marry?” In this discussion we’ll try to answer some of the most commonly asked questions by both non-Christians and affirming Christians, and suggest some alternatives to marriage.
But before we do, we need to remind ourselves that many of those who favor same-sex marriage, whether they are LGBTQ or heterosexual, Christians or non-Christians see it strictly as a civil right. They don’t understand that we believe our position to be God’s position as revealed through Scripture, not simply our opinion.
Q. The Bible doesn’t prohibit same-sex marriage, so why should Christians?
A. While it’s true that the Scriptures do not prohibit same-sex marriage outright, marriage is always described in the Bible as being between a man and a woman. The first chapter of the Bible says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Differentiation of the human race into two complementary sexes (“male and female”) is the first fact mentioned in connection with being made “in the image of God.”
Genesis 2 describes in more detail the process summarized in 1:27. Here, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). The word “helper” is ezer kenegdo, which means “helper” and “like and against me.” This implies someone who is like Adam (a human), but against or opposite him (a complementary female).
Genesis then applies the example of Adam and Eve to all marriages: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). This “one flesh” sexual union was thus established as the pattern for marriage generally, which Jesus himself reaffirmed when he cited Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 as the normative pattern that God expects all marriages to follow, as expressed in Matthew 19:5: “And [Jesus] said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’” Paul reiterates this teaching yet a third time in Ephesians 5:31.
From the Old Testament to the New Testament, the Bible assumes the logic of sexual intercourse implied in Genesis: a sexual bond between a man and a woman requires two (and only two) different sexual halves (“a man” and “his wife”) being brought together into a sexual whole (“one flesh”).
Finally, to justify same-sex marriage strictly because the Bible doesn’t specifically prohibit it is problematic because it gives equal weight to an argument from silence against hundreds of examples of married people in the Bible who were married only to a person of the opposite sex. It also ignores the fact that the Bible always speaks of same-sex intercourse in negative terms. And since sex and marriage go hand-in-hand, the prohibition of same-sex sex rules out marriage.
Q. But if gay men and women marry, doesn’t that solve the moral issue for Christians?
A. The idea behind this argument is that if the biblical objection to homosexual relationships is solely based on the biblical prohibition of sex outside of marriage, why don’t we solve it by allowing gay men and women to marry? If they do, the moral objection to same-sex sex goes away, just as it does when heterosexuals marry. Problem solved!
If having sex outside of marriage were the only biblical objection, then that would solve the problem. But it’s not. To endorse same-sex marriage is to endorse same-sex behavior. Sexual union is implicit and even honored in marriage. When we accept same-sex marriage, by implication and over time, the sin of homosexual sexual behavior will be legitimized by us, our children, and future generations.
Q. The Bible opposes divorce, and yet the church has accepted that as a fact of life. Why not accept gay marriage in the same way?
A. Divorce and same-sex sexual union share this in common: Both are forgivable sins for those who repent. However, neither in Scripture nor in the church has divorce ever been celebrated as a part of “the glorious diversity of the body of Christ,” as gay marriage is being touted. Divorce is and has always been viewed as an example of sin in a fallen world. This is why we don’t have divorce ceremonies in the church, in which we bless it. We recognize divorce as a sad tragedy and not the intention of God.
Q. But why should we get so worked up over what goes on behind closed doors or in same-sex marriages by people who are not Christians?
A. The legalization of same-sex marriage has repercussions way beyond what two adults do behind closed doors. Here are a few reasons:
Q. What about the separation of church and state?
A. Those who favor the separation between church and state believe Christians are attempting to impose their views on everyone by opposing same-sex marriage. Ironically, however, they have no reservations about imposing their worldview on Christians and others. Here are just a few examples:
The point is that there are serious mandatory efforts underway to teach your children and grandchildren things that are antithetical to a biblical worldview and to the values of their parents or the church. Unfortunately, many of the sex education classes normalizing heterosexual sex outside of marriage in the 80s and 90s laid the groundwork for reducing sex to a health issue rather than a moral or spiritual one.
Freedom of religion?
Q. Do you really expect gay men and women to be lonely and celibate all their life?
A. It can be incredibly lonely to live alone your entire life. Many heterosexual people are already doing that simply because they choose it, or haven’t found ‘the one.’ Most people want to be married and have children and grandchildren. But it’s also true that many people find marriage to be difficult—hence the high divorce rate. Married people must balance their personal freedom and time with the responsibilities of caring for their spouse and children. Marriage is both a blessing and a sacrifice.
Yes, same-sex attracted men and women should remain celibate if they are not married to someone of the opposite gender or have no desire to marry someone of the opposite gender. God expects all unmarried believers to remain celibate all their life—both same-sex attracted and straight. This isn’t an exclusive requirement for LGBTQ men and women alone.
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul goes out of his way to make the case for all Christians to remain unmarried if they are able. Almost the whole chapter is devoted to the advantages of being single. He begins with this statement, “Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.” And then goes on to say, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.” In verses 32 and 33 he says, “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife.”
For two thousand years, unmarried Christians have lived productive, spiritual, and fulfilled lives without marriage or sex. Not only can it be done, it has been done, and done well!
Henri Nouwen, a deeply devoted Christian, philosopher, and author struggled with same-sex attraction all of his life, yet was committed to celibacy. This enabled him to devote the last decade of his life to living in community at L’Arche Daybreak, in Toronto, caring for mentally disabled adults. Nouwen once wrote, “The way out of our loss and hurt is in and through. When Jesus said, “For I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13), He affirmed that only those who can face their wounded condition can be available for healing and enter a new way of living.” 
Q. Does the Bible allow any options to address the loneliness of celibacy?
A. The following are some unconventional ideas put forward by Christians to resolve the pain of loneliness. If you are like many Christians, your initial reaction to these ideas may be shocking. While your church may not necessarily endorse all these ideas, there does not appear to be any biblical prohibition against them.
1. A same-sex attracted Christian could marry a heterosexual person of the opposite sex and have a family
I, Laurie, one of the authors, am one such person. I exclusively experience same-sex attractions, but am growing in love and attraction for my husband. I am not in love with all men; I am in love with my husband, Matt. As I run more toward Jesus to fill the core needs of my heart, and fall more in love with Him, I find my same-sex attractions decrease, and wanting to live my life with greater connection to Matt.
The authors know of another celibate, same-sex attracted person who felt called to be a pastor. This man graduated from a conservative seminary and began a friendship with a heterosexual woman. As the friendship deepened, the man admitted to this woman that he was same-sex attracted, but said his desire was to marry, have a family, and serve the church. He admitted that their sex life would undoubtedly never be what either might desire, but he loved her and was committed to live as her faithful loving husband all of his life. After much prayer and in consultation with her pastor, she agreed to marry him. They now have children, and he is still a pastor of his church.
We find no biblical reasons to prohibit a marriage like this and find it to be an elegant solution to the problem of loneliness, even though, sadly, mixed-orientation marriages often fail for a variety of reasons. They are clearly not a “cure” for homosexuality. Same-sex attraction might always be a temptation in these marriages. However, sexual temptation and fulfillment are problematic in many straight marriages as well.
2. Create spiritual friendship communities
In his book entitled Spiritual Friendship, Wesley Hill, a man who experiences same-sex attractions, describes a number of ways he and others have addressed this issue. One idea is that men and women who are committed to celibacy could live in community in a large home, with one person per room, holding each other accountable to sexual purity—all the while enjoying the camaraderie of both male and female friends.
The bottom line is this: The church will have to stretch conventional thinking to assist a growing number of single adults—both heterosexual and homosexual—to live lives of purpose and purity. None of these ideas are easy. Marriage is not easy. All human relationships are potentially dangerous, difficult, and flawed. However, none of these ideas violate any teaching of Scripture, but in fact, actually capture the ideal of a caring, loving community.
Q. What if I’m invited to a same-sex wedding?
A. Option 1 (adapted from Joe Dallas’s book, When Homosexuality Hits Home):
I do not believe it’s right for a Christian to attend a same-sex wedding ceremony. I realize that there are Christ-centered, sincere believers, who also believe homosexuality to be wrong, who thoroughly disagree with me about attending a wedding.
A same-sex wedding is a ceremony and celebration solemnizing something that in God’s sight cannot and should not be called a marriage. Yes, the betrothed couple probably know you are a Bible-believing Christian who doesn’t condone homosexuality. But they invited you anyway, hoping that, in spite of what you believe, you’ll put that aside for the sake of their joy and celebrate with them. Thus, a “sorry, cannot attend” RSVP will almost certainly be hurtful, and may end the relationship. While I don’t recommend attending, I do recommend continuing the relationship.
Attendance at a same-sex wedding or any wedding cannot be seen as anything other than a silent endorsement. This violates Paul’s clear instruction in Ephesians 5:11 which says, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” He also advised Timothy to “neither be partaker of other men’s sins” (1 Timothy 5:22, KJV).
Broadening that principle to other behaviors, if my friend were an alcoholic, I’d still be a friend. But if he asked me to “partake” and to have a drink with him, I’d decline because I’d not want to send mixed messages that I approve of that decision by participating with him.
The question of attendance at a same-sex wedding boils down to this: Is it possible to attend and not signal, on some level, my approval by my attendance? I don’t think so. That’s my dilemma.
Option 2 (adapted from John Wesley Reid’s blog, “Should I attend my gay friend’s wedding?”):
Some may oppose attendance at a same-sex wedding because they believe it’s a declaration of the attendee’s approval. While I’m charitable to this position, I am not sold on the logic. I will attend my friend’s wedding because they invited me. If my friend considers me close enough to merit an invitation to their wedding, then they will already know my position on gay marriage. In one sense, it’s flattering that they would invite me, considering that my opposition is an offense to their lifestyle, yet they still love me enough to invite me.
I will attend because I love them. And by “love them” I don’t mean I’m willing only to criticize their lifestyle, and then pray for them. By “love them” I mean I desire to walk with them, do life with them, and grow with them while praying vigorously for them to understand their sin—as I would anyone.
My love for them does not compromise my hate for sin—indeed my hate for sin compels me to love them more just as Christ loved me despite my sin.
I’m not going to wear black and sit stone-faced.
And I’m not going to take every opportunity when meeting someone to explain away my decision with a, “Yes, I’m a friend of Joe’s, BUT I’m not at all in support of his decision.”
I’m going to sign the guest book.
I’m going to bring a gift.
I’m going to dance.
I’m going to love and pray for them.
Option 3 (from Preston Sprinkle’s book, Living in the Gray):
“Can I attend a gay wedding?” I get asked this question more than any other question related to homosexuality. You can probably see why it’s tough to answer, but let’s lay out the dilemma so that we’re all on the same page.
On the one hand, if you refuse to attend the wedding of your gay friend (or family member), this could come off as unloving, self-righteous, and judgmental. Perhaps you’re trying to lead your friend to Christ (assuming they’re not a Christian already). If you don’t attend, they may view this as a denial of the love you say you have for them.
On the other hand, if you attend the wedding, will your friend and others think that you now approve of homosexual relations? Aren’t you endorsing gay marriage by attending the wedding?
What do you think? There seems to be truth in both responses. While I don’t think there’s a clear right or wrong answer to the question, here are some things to consider.
The first thing to consider is whether the couple claims to be Christian. If they don’t then I don’t think it would be a problem to attend their wedding. Remember Paul’s words, “What have I to do with judging outsiders?” (1 Corinthians 5:12 ESV). Since we shouldn’t expect unbelievers to act like believers, I don’t think it would be wrong to attend a gay wedding if they are unbelievers. Or, if you refuse to attend, then you should be consistent and not attend any weddings between unbelievers.
But if they do claim to be Christians, then here are a few more things to consider.
Make sure you are consistent in which weddings you attend. If you don’t attend the gay wedding, then you also should not attend any Christian wedding that is unbiblical. For instance, marriages between a believer and an unbeliever. Scripture doesn’t allow believers to marry unbelievers. Or you shouldn’t attend a marriage when one of the partners has been through an unbiblical divorce.
It’s pretty hypocritical to attend certain weddings that aren’t sanctioned by Scripture yet not attend other weddings that aren’t also sanctioned by Scripture.
We (the authors) lean towards options 1 and 3. Joe Dallas’s thoughts are true to the Bible, and Sprinkle’s encourage a biblical self-examination and consistency in whichever decision a person makes. Some issues in the Christian life are black and white—this is not one of them. A wedding day is an incredibly important day in anyone’s life, and the people who have invited you may be very dear to you. God grant you the courage to say yes or no to wedding attendance, whichever you deem appropriate, as you believe God is leading you.
This is the end of the Small Group Edition of Leading Your Church to be as Gay-Friendly as the Bible Teaches. Although these are our final thoughts, this discussion is far from over. As a result of reading and talking through the discussions, our prayer is that you and your church will be better equipped to navigate grace, truth, and love better with your LGBT/SSA children, friends, and neighbors. As a last encouragement, we want to exhort you to be proactive. Take these ideas to your family and friends. Become the biblical, graceful thought leader on LGBT issues within your circles of influence. For further reading, we recommend the following resources as next steps:
People to be Loved: Why Homosexuality is not just an Issue by Preston Sprinkle, Zondervan, 2015
Same-Sex Attraction and the Church by Ed Shaw, InterVarsity Press Books, 2015
Other recommended books include:
Compassion Without Compromise by Adam Barr and Ron Citlau
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield
What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality by Kevin DeYoung
Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach
Homosexuality and the Christian by Mark Yarhouse
Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan
Recommended Web sites include:
Harvest USA at harvestusa.org
Hole in my Heart Ministries at himhministries.com
Lead them Home at leadthemhome.org
Living Out at livingout.org
The Gospel Coalition’s “50 Web sites for equipping the church on homosexuality and same sex marriage” at thegospelcoalition.org/article/50-resources-for-equipping-the-church-on-homosexuality-and-same-sex-marriage
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. Flanagan, Caitlin. “Is There Hope for the American Marriage?” Time Magazine, July 02, 2009.
. “Values Statements.” GLSEN. GLSEN, 2003-2016. www.glsen.org/values
. See Smith, Tovia. “NPR Interview.” NPR Interview. 2004. www.massresistance.org/docs/a8a/general/NPR_091304.htm. See also: Schoenberg, Shira. “Massachusetts Senate Passes ‘age Appropriate’ Sex Education Bill Pushed by Planned Parenthood.” Masslive.com. November 19, 2015. www.masslive
.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/11/massachusetts_senate_passes_ag.html. See also: Jan, Tracy. “Gay Rights Advocates and Health Educators to Push for More Inclusive Sex Education – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com. Boston Globe, 8 Sept. 2015. www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2015/09/08/gay-rights-advocates-and-health-educators-push-for-more-inclusive-sex-education/Z2gbYzVF2FonnHAdZrluXO/story.html
. Nouwen, Henri J. M., and Timothy K. Jones. Turn My Mourning into Dancing: Moving through Hard times with Hope. Nashville, TN: W Pub. Group,
2001. P. 7.
. To read more about Laurie and Matt’s journey, read their blog at himhministries.com.
. Edited from: Dallas, Joe. When Homosexuality Hits Home. Eugene, Or.: Harvest House Publishers, 2004.
. Edited from: Reid, John Wesley. “Should I Attend My Gay Friend’s Wedding? John Wesley Reid.” John Reid Blogs. 2015. johnreidblogs.com/2015/03/16/should-i-attend-my-gay-friends-wedding/
. Sprinkle, Preston M. Living in a Gray World: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Understanding Homosexuality. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015. P. 124-126. (Preston goes on to talk more about “What does this convey to those getting married?” We recommend reading the whole section.)
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