Gay Marriage and the Christian Response
Pastor Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources
Homosexual Practices Condemned
Within the Jewish and Christian teachings there have been strong judgments against homosexual activity. In the Old Testament we have the account of Sodom and Gomorrah. Of pertinence to this discussion is the account of the men of Sodom who sexually desired the visitors to Lot’s home (Genesis 18-19). Elsewhere in the Old Testament and then on into the New Testament there is a uniform condemnation of homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9).
At this point is valuable for us to step back and consider what these Bible references can tell us:
1. It is clear that homosexuality was practiced. Why else condemn what otherwise wasn’t being done? Homosexual practices and tendencies did not evolve in a later generation. From the time of Abraham, conservatively estimated to have been about 2,200 years before Christ, it was being practiced. This means a biblical position against homosexuality is not a new interpretation of Scripture.
2. Secular history collaborates the practice of homosexuality. The Epic of Gilgamesh, considered by some to be the oldest written story on earth (predating the time of Abraham into the 26th century B.C.), talks of the relationship between Gilgamesh and Enkudu (two male characters) as being like that “with a wife.” The Assyrian laws around the 14th century B.C. reference it as follows: “If a man has lain with his male friend and a charge is brought and proved against him, the same thing shall be done to him and he shall be made a eunuch.” The Egyptian Book of the Dead (ca. 240 B.C.) references men “laying” with men.
3. There is a clear distinction in Scripture between eunuchs and the practice of homosexuality. Eunuchs, for those who have never been quite sure of what one is, are males lacking the sexual organs for sexual intercourse and/or reproduction. According to Jesus, this condition can exist from birth or be caused (ref. Matthew 19:12). Most importantly, in this context, is the reality that a eunuch was not able to practice his sexuality. This stands in sharp contrast to modern revisionists who seek to redefine a eunuch as a possible practicing homosexual. This view must be rejected on the very etymology of the word “eunuch.” It comes from the two Greek words, “eune” and “ekhein” which mean “bed” and “to keep” respectively. Being absent of sexual organs eunuchs were considered ideal servants for protecting the bedchambers of women. To assume they were homosexual is simply to ignore the etymology, biology, and the practicality of what it meant to be a eunuch. In contrast, the one practicing homosexual deeds is clearly condemned for the practice of those deeds.
4. The Bible does not really recognize a “homosexual” but rather homosexual deeds. I would be careful not to read too much into this from the Bible’s silence on the matter. This does not mean the Bible absolutely refutes any notion that homosexuality has some genetic links. As I have written previously, the propensity to sin, and to sin in certain ways, may have genetic links. That does not make it less of a sin or any more excusable before God. What is clear, however, is that regardless of any link to genetics, biology, heritage, or whatever, the practice of homosexual deeds is wrong and a sin.
5. On the matter of homosexuality, I find it interesting that the Old Testament speaks only of it among men and makes no reference to women. The New Testament, of course, includes women performing homosexual acts in its condemnation. I mention this not to open a can of worms. I personally see no reason to assume that somehow homosexual practices among women were tolerated and among men were not in the Old Testament times for believers. In fact, in light of the moral climate of Paul’s day, if he were introducing some sort of new doctrine in this regard it seems reasonable that it would have warranted more discussion, commentary, and perhaps even debate in the early church. Rather, it would appear Paul’s statement condemning homosexual practices was received as a restatement of the Old Testament condemnation.
6. Within the context the condemnations against homosexual practices are seen as no more or less serious than other sins. Like other sins their performance jeopardize the soul. What is noteworthy, however, is the punishment that was prescribed for homosexual practices. It is in that punishment that I believe we find some guidance for making our debate of this issue in the public arena. The punishment is death.
Worthy of Death
First of all, before any social liberal picks up these words and immediately wants to distort my position, let me make it clear that I am not now advocating that all who practice homosexuality be put to death. Rather, I propose that in the prescribed punishment for homosexual practices we have a greater insight into the contemporary and residual effects of homosexual practices.
As we learned in our theological training, the three kinds of laws or codes given by God are the moral, civil, and ceremonial codes. All three codes were applications of the two guiding principles clearly articulated by Jesus when He said,”‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matthew 22:37-39).
The ceremonial code reflected how God wished for those people at that time in their worship practices to obey the “first and greatest commandment.” The civil code was how those people in that society were to obey the “second” great commandment in expressing love for others. The moral code was an application of both great commandments that was to having lasting value not tied to culture or worship practices. Loosely worded, regardless of your society and denomination, it would always be wrong to have any other god besides the true God. It would also be wrong to not allow the worship of God in your life. It would always be wrong to be murder, steal, commit adultery, etc.
The prescription for the death penalty can be classified as applying in three circumstances: 1) disrespect for God; 2) taking of another human life; and 3) for violating the natural relationship that is to exist in a family. It is this within the context of this latter point that we find the Old Testament words against homosexual practices. It reads:
“If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head. If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife — with the wife of his neighbor — both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. If a man sleeps with his father’s wife, he has dishonored his father. Both the man and the woman must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. If a man sleeps with his daughter-in-law, both of them must be put to death. What they have done is a perversion; their blood will be on their own heads. If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you. If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he must be put to death, and you must kill the animal. If a woman approaches an animal to have sexual relations with it, kill both the woman and the animal. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” (Leviticus 20:9-16)
While there may be honest debate among the use of capital punishment, there is no denying its practice and endorsement by God in the Old Testament. The prohibitions against taking a human life are clear and stern — a life for a life. The tension between protecting life and the permission to take the life of a murderer is troublesome for many and understandable when considered outside the fuller context of Scripture. However, in its context, capital punishment serves as the greatest of all deterrents. It is as if to say, “Life is so valuable, so precious, so within the sole prerogative of God that if anyone takes that life, he must forfeit his own.”
Aside for this expressed command from God and the related permissions made in time of war, human life is not to be taken. The prescription of capital punishment for blasphemy is again best understood contextually. While modern thought is that “we all worship the same god” and that no one can stake a claim to the “right religion” God says differently. To the pluralists out there God says, “There is no god besides me” (Deuteronomy 32:39). To therefore act like there are other gods is to deny the truth and to reject the True God. Apart from the faith-based communion with God there is no life, and no life worth living.
Now we come to family relationships. How does that fit?
We have rightfully taught in our confirmation classes that life is a “time of grace.” It is a time to come to faith, grow in that faith, and share that faith. It is the faith component that ties it all together. It is the Spirit-induced blind acceptance of the things of God because God says it. So critical is faith to the very essence of human existence that Jesus once observed, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)
Faith is the tie from the present to eternity. It is the conduit that extends existence beyond the futility of the moment. It is, when rightly centered on Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior from sin, the personalization of God’s desire for all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).
Anything which would disrupt the faith process of human existence is worthy of capital punishment. Obviously, blaspheming God would be such a crime. To discredit the sole Supreme Being is to thereby dismiss the salvation He personally delivered in the person of His Son, Jesus. To terminate life before it can come to faith, or share that faith, is to cause an offense not just to the Author of life but to the Author of faith. To disrupt the divinely established conduit of family for personal pleasure and passion is to jeopardize not only a divinely-established order for relationships but to risk the establishment of a cycle that can jeopardize the future.
Let me be more practical and less ethereal.
There needs to be a common thread between the faith, life, and family. Any challenges to the three carries with it the ultimate punishment of death. While death is the common punishment, the conduit of faith is the common thread.
Consider, now, the role of family in this conduit of faith. Paul talks about it with Timothy like this: “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5).
In his first letter to Timothy Paul again ties faith with the family when he wrote: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). The family must survive. It is central to human existence and the divine plan for the salvation of souls. To neglect the family is to create the greatest disconnect to God’s transmission of the Gospel.
I mention this knowing full well that we have become very church-oriented. We tend to think that outside of the context marriage, that plan of salvation continues nicely with faithful preachers. We even get the impression we have Paul’s endorsement when he praises celibacy in the service of God. It is clear, however, that some of our most compelling passages of Scripture on marriage, family, and against homosexual acts comes from the hand of someone who also endorsed celibacy. My point is, that Paul, despite his advocacy of celibacy, never denies but rather venerates the place of the family in human existence and ties it closely with God’s plan of salvation.
Consider for a moment the one “family” commandment that we have. It reads, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). We call it the only commandment that comes with a promise but I fear that is too simplistic of an explanation. It is a bridge command between the two commandments to love God and love each other. Remember why you cannot live long on the earth — blaspheming God or killing others?
We have long faced the challenging question of the believing and obedient child who dies at a young age and wonder why this commandment did not seem to apply in this circumstance. While we allude to the providence of God in such matters I think the explanation is found more in the punitive measures. This promise of long life is a subtle reminder that the family is the platform or conduit by which we learn to honor God (and therefore preserve our lives by not falling victim to disrespect and blasphemy) and loving our neighbor (by not doing things which would harm our neighbor). It is within the family context that these principles are learned.
The problem with permitting gay marriages is rooted, obviously, in a tolerance and acceptance of homosexual practices. It is certainly a lesson in the snowball effects of permissiveness — what is tolerated today becomes accepted and codified tomorrow.
The state has a genuine interest in the way it protects the family. That interest is rooted not only in the orderliness for society but in the propagation and continuation of the species. Gay marriage dismantles this institution in the following ways:
1) It compromises the propagation of the human race. Yes, there are surrogate parent options (which carry with it its own ethical challenges), and yes, a gay couple can adopt. These practices, however, are anomalies to the propagation of the species. While I have not seen the data, I am fairly confident statistics show that gay couples are not “having” children at a replacement rate level. As killing the unborn through legalized abortion seriously harms the demographic of society, so also does instituting as “marriage” a relationship that cannot by its nature fulfill one of its callings as the place for the propagation of the species.
2) It is an affront to God and therefore blasphemy. To legitimize gay marriages church bodies have had to do what is the only option open to them — dismiss part of God’s Word. As we have seen time and time again, itching ears will find comfort given enough time. Some church will ultimately say that prohibitions against homosexual practices reflect antiquated notions of the time and not a genuine and eternally-lasting divine ordinance. For those of us who accept the Bible as entirely the Word of God, such denial is analogous to blasphemy. It makes God out to be a liar and man out to be his own god in usurping God’s dominion on this matter.
3) It is an act of lovelessness for fellow man. Relationships, homosexual or heterosexual, for the primary or even sole purpose of sexual gratification is not love but infatuation. A willingness to de-institutionalize an estate like heterodox marriage is not an act of love but an act of selfishness. It suggests to some that there is a legitimacy to a sexual practice that neither Scripture nor history have acknowledged.
Perhaps most disturbing by society’s new fascination with gay marriage is that little thought has gone into considering the ramifications. Yes, allowing a gay couple to openly and legally practice their love and sexual persuasion (as a heterosexual couple does) may be special for that couple. But what does it do for our society and for the generations to come?
Mankind has a demonstrated ability to go further, bigger, and more passionately down paths — right or wrong. Legalized abortion in 1973 has a borne out not only a passive acceptance but an active endorsement by leaders of partial-birth abortions — one of the most heinous of all medical procedures. Who thought it would go that far?
George Carlin’s seven forbidden words on the radio seem almost tame compared to what we now hear in movies and on televisions shows. Who thought it would go that far?
In the Scopes trial, evolutionary thinking was wonderfully challenged by the orator William Jennings Bryant. The Supreme Court later overturned the verdict and soon what was suggested as a theory is often taught as fact. Who thought it would go that far?
The sad reality is that left uncontested, homosexual practices once deemed offensive will become not only accepted but contrary views will be mocked. Isn’t that what we see with abortion, swearing, and evolution? Aren’t we seeing it already? Opposing gay marriage has one tagged as homophobic, unloving, and outdated.
We cannot deny that homosexual deeds have been around for a very long time. I am not even sure we can deny with certainty there isn’t a biological or organic disposition that inclines some toward homosexual practices more than others. What I can be sure of is that Scripture is clear on the matter. To permit homosexual deeds, and to then elevate them to be equal with heterodox marriage, is foundationally wrong.
Edmund Burke once said, “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” We may be tempted to “let this one go,” because, not being homosexually inclined, it doesn’t affect us. To do so, however, is an affront to God, sends a very confusing message to others, and is ultimately lovelessness towards our fellow man and the generations to come.
We are reminded in Ezekiel 3 the great responsibility we have to warn when there is error. This warning is not self-righteous, condescending, or insulting. Rather, we warn, first and foremost, out of dual love for God and love for others. That is why we correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction.
Gay marriage is wrong — pure and simple. To say so now is hardly politically correct, but it does not change the reality that it is wrong. Out of respect for God, out of love for those who sin in homosexual practices, and out of concern for those misled by permissive homosexuality, we cannot be silent.