This is my small attempt to respond not to the Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriages, but an attempt to respond to the “Christian” divide over this issue. So let me be clear, this is not to anyone who doesn’t call themselves a follower of Jesus. This post is to those who claim to love and follow Jesus as Lord.
I think the main issue at hand here is this: Is same-sex activity a sin, or not? This seems, to me, to be the main issue that’s at hand for most of my friends who are Jesus-following, gospel-loving people. If you disagree with me, that fine, just allow me the internet space to share some of my thoughts. Let me break up some of my Jesus-following friends into different corners for a moment.
One corner is saying: “God is love, and it’s not unloving for two faithful women to commit themselves to each other in marriage and share their lives together. I couldn’t imagine Jesus ever getting angry at those women and ask them to not share their lives together in that way.”
The other corner is saying: “God is love, and therefore we should love the homosexual community in the same way we should love anyone else who is human and sinful. But God is love and He gets to define what love is and who can share their lives together. It’s only a man and a woman who can do that, and same-sex sexual activity is a sin and should not be accepted.”
Still, there could also be another corner that says: “God hates homosexuality and it’s gross and should not be allowed in the church at all.” In my opinion, this is not a biblical stance and does not portray the love of God in Scripture and should be avoided by anyone who calls themselves a Jesus-person.
What I want to add to this discussion among my friends in various corners is this: Same-sex marriage and our support of it or not is not the main issue; “love” is the main issue.
[On a side note though, I am in support of same-sex unions, not because I think it’s okay, but we can’t make it illegal in the same way we can’t make adultery illegal in our context. I am also in support of giving certain rights to same-sex unions that doesn’t keep them from living with the rights of other families. But I do not agree that marriage is up for debate as to what it means. God ordained marriage between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24), and woe is me if I am going to say it’s anything else than what God says it is.]
Okay, the issue of love. A biblical definition of love could begin with this verse from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
I like that definition, maybe because I’m biased to God’s word, the Bible is a good starting place for this discussion, because the definition and implications of “love” has been radically skewed. So in the case of love between two men or two women, the Bible never condemns that. Take for instance, David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1), Naomi and Ruth (Ruth 1:16-17), Jesus and John (John 13:23), or Paul and Timothy (2 Timothy 1:2).
I give you these examples of same-sex love and commitment from Scripture, but not one of these love relationships involved sexual union. Parents love their children with deep affection. God loves us deeply and intimately. But parents’ love for a child and God’s love for people is not love defined by sexual union. God is certainly pro-love. God is love (1 John 4:8)!
In my opinion, the argument about homosexuality isn’t whether love is okay between different groups of people. Of course love is okay, indeed it is mandated to love all peoples, tribes, and nations. Love is always God’s will. So what is the argument? The argument, I think, is whether or not sexual relations in the above referenced biblical example is what God intended.
The Bible clearly speaks against adult children and their parents or siblings engaging in sexual relationships. Parents and adult children are consenting groups who could certainly love each other deeply and have a strong connection, but the Bible rejects sexual relationship between these groups.
God is love, and love is “always” right between “all” people, but sex is not the same as love and shouldn’t be represented as if it is. The Bible’s definition of love is very different than our culture’s definition of love. Love isn’t defined as attraction, sex, or intimate passions (I am not saying that same-sex relationships are only made up of attraction, sex, or passions). What I am saying is that attraction, sex, or intimate passions are not the definition of love.
The gospel of Jesus demands love between all (Mark 12:30-31), but not sex or marriage between all (Mark 10:6-7). I think it is beautiful for two women or two men to share their lives together intimately. Ruth left her country and her people to devote herself to Naomi. Listen to what she says to Naomi: “For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17).
This is a beautiful picture of self sacrifice, life-long commitment, and love between two women. This is the type of love the Bible speaks of when it says love never fails; love always hopes; always perseveres. This is the kind of love that is displayed in Jesus dying for those who didn’t deserve it, you and I (1 John 4:9-10)!
Love is seeking another’s good while putting aside our own desires, sacrifice, and restraint. This is what Jesus modeled on the cross for us. His death means we live.
My overall point is this: Love is “always” right, but adding sex to love isn’t always right. To illustrate this point, nobody has a problem with a brother loving his sister, but every normal person I know is put off at the two of them engaging in sexual activity. Why? What if they were careful not to get pregnant? What if it was just sexual foreplay, but not “intercourse”?
If biblical teachings are disregarded or are freely interpreted however ones cultural lenses see it, then on what grounds would we be able to object to an adult son and his mother marrying one another? When we toss out the Bible (or freely and unaccountable interpret it; and I mean this for both sides of the issue) because it’s teachings aren’t what the “majority knows to be true”, then we are left with a morality that says anything is right if it feels right to me at the time. This is relativism at it’s finest and it’s dangerous.
This is the same kind of thinking that certain fundamentalists have used with church history and their view of women, or slaves, or the neglect of the poor. Just because the majority believes something to be true, doesn’t mean we say, “The ship has sailed and we better get on it.” I say, “Stay off that ship because it doesn’t float, or at least won’t float for very long.”
So if you object to a mother and a consenting adult son marrying and joining one another is sexual matrimony, I must ask, why? Because it is non-traditional? Because it’s gross? Because it’s illegal in our country? Should we lobby towards making it legal for those parent child relationships who want the same marriage rights?
Dale Kuehne mentions that Aristotle lived in a culture where same-sex relationships were acceptable and common, but Aristotle claimed that marriage is to be only between a man and a woman. Why? Because sexualizing a relationship brings slavery into the friendship, where each person is trying to get something off of the other. Sexualizing friendships will always undermine the friendship; this is true in every relationship.
Kuehne goes on to say, “Do you know anyone who has been married for 7 years, and after those 7 years, their sex life is what holds that marriage together?” The answer is no, but our culture has made sexuality the penultimate in a relationship. What is it that fulfills us? Is sex really the answer? Is being married to the person I’m attracted to most? There’s nothing (person, place, or thing) we can imagine, that if we get it we won’t become bored with, and there’s always going to be someone or something more attractive to you.
This is why it’s so important as believers that we truly believe that if we are in Christ, then mysteriously we are seated in the heavenly realms with the Lord at the same time we are here in the flesh, and that the relationship we have with the Divine, God Himself, is the only relationship that won’t terminate on itself because He’s perfectly loving and eternal.
When we are connected to the Divine in this way, we will not live and think that “in order to live the best and most fulfilling life, we have to be in a sexual relationship with the person whom we are most attracted to.” No… actually we will be able to be more committed people to our family, friends, children, bosses, and co-workers. Being in a love relationship with Jesus is so utterly satisfying; so much so that we are free to live our lives never fully being able to gratify the desires of our flesh.
We must, as Jesus-following, gospel-loving people, think through this issue better and biblically. Let’s be better students of the word, and better lovers of people. The times and the gospel demands it!