It is amazing how something rather simple can be made messy and complicated. Take one’s desktop (the literal one in your office, or the pixelated one on your computer). This is a rather simple device, yet for many it can easily and quickly become a complete mess.
Kind of like defining marriage.
All across the Western world for the past week numerous persons claiming to speak for Christians are trying to tell us that the definition of marriage has changed, that the Bible doesn’t actually mean what it seems to mean, and that two people of the same sex can be married in the same sense as two people of the opposite sex.
At the same time there are many who are speaking against traditional Christianity and claiming that to define marriage in any way that excludes same-sex marriage is homophobic. (In the US this is especially potent since classifying something/someone as homophobic makes one potentially liable for “hate crime.”)
We have the making of a messy, confused, and unnecessarily complicated scene.
Is it possible that the Bible defines marriage in such a way to exclude a same-sex union and yet at the same time prescribes an antidote to homophobia? I think so…
Firstly the Bible is quite clear that marriage was created, designed and instituted by God, as such He has the prerogative to determine who qualifies to participate in this institution.
Genesis 1:26-31 & 2:18-15 provide for us the clear account of God’s creation of man and woman and his uniting them together in marriage for the purpose of companionship, procreation, and creational stewardship.
Matthew 19:4-6 provides us with Jesus’ clear affirmation of this creational design for marriage. They were created in the beginning male and female.
Ephesians 5:22-33 provides us with the Apostle Paul’s pattern for how this male/female marriage is to function as an outworking of a man and woman’s mutual confession of their sin and faith in Christ which forms the glue to their convental commitment with one another in marriage.
God has created marriage to be between one man and one woman. I am not misreading my Bible here. It is the plain, simple understanding of the text. Even those who support gay marriage agree with this:
I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says…I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us. By so doing, we explicitly reject as well the premises of the scriptural statements condemning homosexuality-namely, that it is a vice freely chosen, a symptom of human corruption, and disobedience to God’s created order. (Luke Timothy Johnson)
But to state this view, doesn’t that make the Bible, me and any other Christian who says such homophobic? No. No more than stating marriage should not be redefined to allow 10 year olds to marry demonstrates a phobia toward 10 year olds.
One will say, OK, but the Bible also states homosexual practice is a sin, now that is surely homophobia. No…
Homophobia is “antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, or irrational fear” toward someone who identifies themselves as “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.”
To call something sin or to define marriage in such a way as to exclude certain participants is not a phobia.
The same Bible that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, the same Bible that states clearly (in both the Old and New Testaments) that homosexual practice is sinful, also states that for me to hold “antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, or irrational fear” toward another person created in the image of God is sin.
I am called by God to love my neighbour (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:36-40; Rom. 13:9-10), I am told in the Bible that “perfect love casts our fear” (1 John 4:18), I am instructed by Jesus to tangibly and practically show care for those who are different than me (Luke 10:27-37).
Fellow Christian, are you clearly and unashamedly holding fast to the truths of Scripture when defining and discussing marriage?
Fellow Christian, are you homophobic? Not because you hold fast to the truths of Scripture, but because you do not love your homosexual neighbour?
What’s the antidote, what can give us the clarity to hold fast to the truth of Scripture while at the same time love those who deny those truths?
The gospel reminds me that I am a sinner saved by grace. I am no better than anyone else. I, like all mankind, deserved the wrath of God in judgement due to my sin, yet He poured out His wrath on His Son, Jesus Christ in my place as He died for my sins and rose again to victorious life, conquering sin and death. I did nothing to deserve this. I simply called out to God confessing my sins, trusting in Christ alone for the forgiveness made possible through His death and resurrection, thereby receiving this free gift of grace.
And this free gift is available to all those who will believe! (Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:1-10).