Matthew 19:3 reports a high-stakes encounter between Jesus and the religious-political operatives of his time. “Some Pharisees came to him (Jesus) to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
Why did Matthew say it was a test? The Pharisees wanted Jesus to take sides in an on-going debate. They wanted to force him to take an unpopular position and thus alienate him from the crowds.
The interesting thing is that, for once, Jesus obliged them. “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that in the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and 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’? (Vs. 4-5).
The Pharisees knew that most folks had a recent ‘celebrity divorce’ in mind. Herod Antipas – king of Galilee - had dumped his wife in order to take his brother’s wife. John the Baptist had publicly condemned the king and paid for it with his head. The Pharisees hoped to put Jesus in the same political position: enemy of Herod, and thus, enemy of the state.
That brings us to a similarly charged question for our day: Is it appropriate for us to take sides on such a politically charged issue as ‘same-sex marriage’? Shouldn’t we as Christians just love everyone, keep our morals to ourselves, and preach the gospel?
No for three reasons:
First, we cannot ignore anything the Bible addresses so directly. Jesus concluded his answer to the Pharisees’ this way: “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Vs. 6). Clearly, and contrary to conventional wisdom, Jesus has spoken about the fundamental structure of marriage.
Second, the Church is being tested over marriage and homosexuality. The reason for that is that most folks still recognize the Church – and I’m speaking of all Christian churches – as representing the sanctioning authority of God. Something approved by the Church is considered approved by God. (See Matt. 18:18). Cathy Renna of the ‘Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)’ said it this way, “People often get their views from their religions, so we don’t want the pulpit saying that gay is wrong.” The Church cannot be neutral about the approval of God on such an issue.
Third, God created the institution of marriage. He established the rules for it. As far as anyone knows, God has no opinion on the transportation industry. ‘Would Jesus drive an SUV?’ is an irrelevant question. Christians shouldn’t presume to speak with any more authority than anyone else on traffic laws, railway regulation or disputes about air traffic control. But God created marriage. He has a purpose and plan for it that we ignore at our own peril. Jesus had no qualms about taking a very strong stand on it. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate for us to take a position that reflects his.
Moreover, the pressure on people of Biblical faith to acquiesce on this issue is increasing, not abating. It is part of a broader war on gender distinctions going on around the world.
- eHarmony, founded by Christians, was for many years the largest online dating service. In 2010 eHarmony was sued for failing to offer a same-sex dating service as part of its business model. The plaintiff won and eHarmony was forced to open a same-sex dating service.
- Catholic Charities had to close its adoption services in Illinois, Washington D.C., and Massachusetts because it refused to place children with same-sex couples and would have been sued under state anti-discrimination laws. Thus the oldest on-going adoption service in America can no longer connect orphaned children with childless parents.
- Next week, Hutchinson, Kansas will vote on an ordinance that, among other things, could force churches that rent out their facilities for public events to make those facilities available for same-sex marriage celebrations.
America has adopted compassion as its highest value. We can always be counted on to root for the underdog. Same-sex marriage advocates have compassion on their side. It doesn’t seem fair to many Americans that two people who love one another should be denied the rights of marriage. Somehow, we as a society need to find a way to address that.
But rearranging our social DNA and dismantling the fundamental principle of religious freedom isn’t the way.
Legalizing same-sex marriage discards thousands of years of human moral wisdom. Columnist and radio host Dennis Prager points out that every advance in human morality was predicated on prior moral thinking. Civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. famously quoted scripture, as did William Wilberforce in the movement to abolish slavery in Great Britain. Yet no moral philosopher in history has ever advocated for same-sex marriage. “To argue that opposition to same-sex marriage is immoral is to argue that every moral thinker, and every religion and social movement in the history of mankind prior to the last 20 years in America and Europe was immoral,” says Prager. It is the equivalent of rearranging our social DNA and it will have sweeping, unintended consequences.
Legalizing same-sex marriage will also criminalize those of us who hold religious convictions contrary to the new law. Lawsuits, like the ones mentioned above, will increase. Pastors and teachers who teach biblical morality and repentance from destructive lifestyles will be liable to criminal indictment. And anyone who wishes to retain the historic definition of marriage will be as socially isolated and politically scorned as the KKK.All of human history, the Old Testament, the New Testament, Jesus and two millennia of moral philosophers tell us that same-sex marriage is bad for us. We would do well to listen.