Several years ago the members of Pueblo West Baptist Church voted to make clear in our statement of faith what we believe about marriage. The vote was unanimous. Here’s what we as a church agreed on:
We believe marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime, designed by God to be a picture of the relationship of the union between Christ and His church, and is the means for procreation of the human race. The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. – Statement of Faith, Item #15
Now that same-sex marriages are legal and acceptable in multiple countries, it’s highly probable some of us will be invited to a same-sex wedding ceremony (if we haven’t already). An unbelieving son or daughter, grandchild, long-time family friend, a co-worker – someone will send us an invitation and we will have to decide whether or not to attend. Here are six truths I believe each of us should take into consideration.
It really isn’t a marriage – not in the biblical sense of what the word ‘marriage’ has come to signify. The word marriage refers to what God designed from the very beginning — the coming together of one man and one woman that they might be one flesh. He instituted marriage to fulfill the mandate to be fruitful and multiply. In great love and perfect knowledge (and for His glory) the Lord provided a creature for the male that would complement him — to be his helpmate and they would become one flesh (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:18-25). That divine blessing is impossible for two people of the same sex to carry out. Therefore, our attending would give credence to a mirage not a marriage. It’s a mirage because that ‘union’ cannot, nor ever will, receive God’s blessing. And it’s a practice of sin that if not repented of, only awaits His judgment (I Cor. 6:9-11).
It really is about our approval of their sin. Marriage between a man and woman is the only context in which sexual intercourse is ordained by God. Therefore, we should only encourage sex in that context. All sexual practice in any form outside of marriage is sin (Lev.18:22; 20:10; Rom. 1:26-27; I Thess. 4:1-8). No matter how beautiful the ceremony, how happy the couple, how flowery the vows, it doesn’t change the fact our approval of their sin is what’s being sought. They want validation, and they get it with our presence. Our showing up is saying: “I endorse your sin and will support you as you practice it, ‘til death do you part!” According to Scripture our presence would be giving a ‘hearty approval to what God says is worthy of death’ (Rom. 1:26-32).
We already know what Jesus would do, and is going to do. How would believers’ celebrating a same-sex union call those involved to repentance? That’s what Jesus did – he called all people to repentance (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:14). How would our participation be understood by the couple as a call to them to repent and turn in faith and obedience to Christ (Acts 17:30,31)? Not once in the Gospels do we see Jesus endorse a person’s sin or commend them to continue in it. In fact, it was just the opposite (John 4:1-38; 8:1-11; Lk 19:1-10). In no situation did His ‘friendship with sinners’ encourage the practice of their sin; rather, He used every opportunity to ‘draw men to Himself’ (Matthew 5:17-48; 11:25-30; John 3:16-21; 5:24; 7:37, 38; 12:27-36). How would our happily enjoying the wedding cake and strutting through the beer barrel polka, call anyone’s attention to the judgment that awaits those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (I Thess. 4:3-8; 2 Thess. 1:6-9)?
It’s a ceremony that only promotes a lie. A wedding ceremony is an event in which two are making an agreement in the presence of witnesses. Words are spoken and heard, ceremonial acts performed to be witnessed and validated by those in attendance. That’s why you were asked to come – to witness their union. So voluntarily attending a same-sex wedding ceremony would be affirming it is right and good those two people are uniting together.
We may say to ourselves, “Well, that’s not why I’m going. I’m going to show I really care for them and love them, even though I don’t agree with what they’re doing.” Be honest: Would you actually say or do anything at the ceremony that would register your disagreement? Would you interrupt the service to make plain what they are doing is declared by God to be abominable and will never be right or acceptable in His eyes? Let’s face it: The ceremony only promotes a lie, and you’re there to participate in it. Examine what Paul writes in I Cor. 10 about ceremonies dedicated to idols – public ceremonies devoted to what is a lie but treated as being real (I Cor. 8:5,6; 10:19-22). He says those who participate in such ceremonies ‘fellowship with demons’ (10:20). Why wouldn’t this apply to a same-sex wedding ceremony? Is not its whole intent to promote what God says is evil as being good?
We claim God has spoken with clarity and authority. We as a church did not follow cleverly devised tales or man’s traditions when we wrote our statement about marriage; it is a valid summary of what God’s Word clearly states. If we as a church body can be united in clearly declaring what marriage is, how could we as individuals willingly attend a ceremony antithetical to what we agree to be true and authoritative? Granted, we can’t control others from defying what God has spoken, but we certainly have control over where we go and what we affirm. Do we not have an obligation to abide by the Word ourselves and come out from among them and be separate as the Lord declares (2 Cor. 6:14-18)?
Certainly we’ll have to wrestle through practical matters of living in a society that has embraced same-sex marriages. That’s something we’ll address another day. But this essay addresses voluntarily participating in a ceremony that blatantly celebrates the very opposite of what we’ve agreed as clearly declared by God Himself to be true.
God saves sinners from same sex sin; He doesn’t save them to practice it. The nature of every human is corrupted by sin (Eph. 2:1-5). One historic church document describes our nature as ‘wholly defiled in all parts and faculties of soul and body’ (Westminster Confession of Faith). In other words, everything about us is disordered by sin, including our sexual attractions and drives. That defilement shows up in a variety of ways, not just same sex desires and practices (Mark 7:20-23). No child of Adam is undefiled in their sexual interests or entirely pure in their sexual desires.
When the Word of God comes to us, we are confronted with the guilt of our sin; we are convicted of our sin. We are called to repent and turn from our sins. We now rejoice that we are saved from the eternal penalty of our sin, but the same Gospel by which we are no longer condemned also instructs and helps us to fight the remaining principle of sin within us (Titus 2:11-14; Rom. 7, 8; Gal. 5). While sin is never entirely eradicated while in this body, it can be and is to be resisted. Further, our desire and work by the Spirit to put it to death is one evidence we really are born of God and are His children (I John 3:9; Rom. 8:12-14).
So even though none of us can live out our sexuality in total purity, we are still expected to honor and strive for what God blessed from the beginning – one man, one woman in a one flesh union for life.
Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. – Hebrews 13:4
Jesus defined marriage when He said: “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” – Mark 10:6-9
To attend a same sex marriage endorses what people are to turn from and resist, not practice. We would be giving ‘hearty approval’ to the practice of sin (Rom. 1:32). Instead of urging these two sinners to turn from their sins, we would be honoring them for their commitment to pursue their sin over a lifetime!
As your pastor I encourage you to examine the Scriptures and consider what I’ve written. We are called to keep our behavior excellent among the Gentiles (unsaved) – I Peter 2:9-12. We’re commanded to not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness (Eph. 5:11). It is my conviction these words would apply to us attending a same sex marriage ceremony. For some situations, particularly those involving our own kin, this will bring much sorrow and conflict. Jesus said allegiance to Him may ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother” (Matthew 11:32-39). We groan over the tension this may cause, but we humbly submit to the One who bought us with His own blood and solemnly acknowledge: He who loves father or mother more than Christ; or he who loves son or daughter more than Christ is not worthy of Him. And, we serve as ambassadors, begging sinners on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God – II Cor. 5:20.
Pastor Tedd Mathis