“Love and the Inhumanity of Same-Sex Marriage” by Jonathan Leeman

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images-1April 22, 2013 [Traditional Marriage] (condensed from April 15 blog post at www.thegospelcoalition.org)

By Jonathan Leeman: More and more commentators are saying that we have passed the tipping point on same-sex marriage in the United States. . . . Whether or not same sex marriage is a political fait accompli, I don’t know. What concerns me in the present hour is the temptation among Christians to go with the flow. The assumption is that the nation no longer shares our morality, and that we must not impose our views on others and blur the line between church and state. . . . How hard Christians should actively fight against same-sex marriage is a matter for wisdom. But that we must not support it, I would like to persuade you, is a matter of biblical principle. To vote for it, to legislate it, to rule in favor of it, to tell your friends at the office that you think it’s just fine—all this is sin. To support it publicly or privately is to “give approval to those who practice” the very things that God promises to judge—exactly what we’re told not to do in Romans 1:32.

 . . . There are members of my church who experience same-sex attraction. We worship with them, vacation with them, love them. What Christianity does not do, however, is grant that fulfilling every natural desire is what makes us human. Christianity in fact offers a more mature and deeper concept of humanity, more mature and deep than the person engaged in a homosexual lifestyle has of him or herself. Christianity begins with the frank admission that fallen human beings are corrupted all the way down, all the way in. A child assumes that all of his or her desires are legitimate. Adults, hopefully, know better.  . . . This is why Christ commands us to go and die, and why we must be born again. We must become new creations, a process that begins at conversion and will be completed with his coming. . . Rooted in biology or not, there is a difference between gender, ethnicity, and “orientation.” Orientation consists primarily of—is lived out through—desire. And the fact that it involves desire means it is subject to moral evaluation in a way that “being male” or “being Asian” are not.

Here is what’s often missed: neither the fact of the desire, nor its possible biological basis, gives it moral legitimacy. . . .We understand this quite well, for instance, when it comes to the behaviors associated with some forms of substance addiction or bipolar disorder.  The biological component of these maladies certainly calls for compassion and reams of patience, but it does not make their attendant behaviors morally legitimate. To assume they do means treating human beings as just one more animal. No one morally condemns a leopard for acting instinctually. Yet shouldn’t our moral calculations for human beings involve something more than assent to the biochemistry of desire? We are more than animals. We are souls and bodies. We are created in God’s image. To legitimize homosexual desire simply because it’s natural or biological, ironically, is to treat a person as less than human. . . .

Christianity offers a more mature and deeper concept of love, too. Love is not fundamentally about a narrative of self-expression and self-realization. It is not about finding someone who “completes me,” in which I assume that who “I am” is a given, and that you love “me” authentically only if you respect me exactly as I am, as if “I” is somehow sacred. It’s much more mature (see 1 Cor. 13:11). It recognizes how broken people are, and it loves them in their very brokenness. It is given contrary to what people deserve. We feed and clothe and befriend them, even when they attack us. But then Christian love maturely invites people toward holiness. . . .

What then shall we say about the public square?  . . . [There is a] distinction between laws that criminalize an activity and laws that promote or incentivize an activity. The laws surrounding marriage belong to the latter category. . . . In other words, institutionalizing same-sex marriage does not merely make government neutral toward unrighteousness; it means the government is promoting and incentivizing unrighteousness. . . . 

To put this in biblical terms, institutionalizing same-sex marriage is nothing other than to “give approval to those who practice” the things that God’s word condemns (Rom. 1:32). And behind this moral affirmation, Paul tells us, is the religious “exchanging of the immortal God for images” (Rom. 1:23). To establish same-sex marriage, in other words, is an utterly religious act, by virtue of being idolatrous.

For the Christian, therefore, the argument is pretty simple: God will judge all unrighteousness and idolatry. Therefore Christians should not publicly or privately endorse, incentivize, or promote unrighteousness and idolatry, which same-sex marriage does. God will judge such idolatry—even among those who don’t believe in him. . . . Does this mean we can impose our faith upon non-Christians? No, but endorsing same-sex marriage is another kind of thing. To endorse it is to involve yourself in unrighteousness and false religion, and an unrighteousness that God promises to judge. In fact, same-sex marriage itself is the act of wrongful governmental imposition. . . .

Churches should embrace their brothers and sisters who struggle with same-sex attraction, just like they should embrace all repentant sinners. And churches should stand fast on deeper, more biblical conceptions of love by loving the advocates of same-sex marriage more truly than they love themselves. . . . Christian love will prove costly to Christians and churches. Even if you recognize the Bible calls homosexuality sin, but you (wrongly) support same-sex marriage, your stance on homosexuality will offend. A people’s strongest desires—the desires they refuse to let go of—reveals their worship. To condemn sexual freedom in America today is to condemn one of the nation’s favorite altars of worship.  . . . But even while Scripture promises short-term persecution for the church, it also points to long-term praise: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). I’m not sure how to explain that, but I trust it.

Jonathan Leeman, a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and the author of The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love. His PhD work is in the area of political theology.

Reprinted from The Gospel Coalition (thegospelcoalition.org) 15 April 2013. Read the uncondensed version here.

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