Gay Marriage and the Bible
December 09, 2008 eNews issue
In Newsweek's December 15, 2008 issue, religion editor Lisa Miller defends gay marriage using the Bible as her text. Her basic argument is that God really isn't against loving, monogamous homosexual relationships, and Bible-believing folks should support marriage for same-sex couples. She argues that Jesus would in fact reach out to gays and lesbians, for - quoting her friend who is a priest - "Jesus does not want people to be lonely and sad."
Unfortunately, Ms. Miller attempts to make the Bible say what society might want it to say, rather than just taking in the full counsel of God. She also fails to appreciate that when Jesus reached out to the outcasts of society, the prostitutes and tax collectors, they never stayed the same. In his great love and power, he freed people from the sin that held them down so fiercely.
Miller's Newsweek article uses the Bible in her effort to support gay marriage and therefore deserves a response from the Bible-believing community. Her arguments, and those like hers, need to be answered in far more depth than this simple article can offer, but the following short responses to her contentions can be used as spring boards for more study on the subject of marriage and the Bible:
Contention: The Bible
does not offer a consistent definition of marriage:
Miller says, "Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists."
In Genesis 2:18, God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him."
God gave Adam a single Eve to be his partner in life. God did not dislodge several ribs and hand Adam a harem. The fact that He put up with His servants deviating from that model doesn't change God's purpose. God permitted polygamy, but that was not His model. Jesus says that the Law allowed divorce too "because of the hardness of your hearts…but from the beginning it was not so," (Matthew 19:8).
Miller says, "The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better…Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments - especially family."
Jesus taught that no relationship is more important than the one with God. Yet, Jesus honored marriage. He recognized its holiness and appreciated that a wedding feast was a joyful occasion. In fact, he repeatedly referred to himself as a bridegroom. [His marriage celebration is going to be the greatest ever (Rev 19:9).]
In Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus reminds his hearers of Genesis 2:
"Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?' Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh."
It is difficult to be "one flesh" with more than one person.
Miller says, "The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust."
Because of the troubled times, Paul did not encourage people to take on marriage if they could help it (1 Corinthians 7:25-29). However, Paul gives one of the most excellent descriptions of a man's role in marriage found in any piece of ancient literature. In Ephesians 5:25,28-29, Paul says:
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it… So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:"
The Apostle Paul, scholar of the Scriptures, also recognizes a one-man-one-woman marriage as God's model, because he instructs church leaders stick to it as part of being "blameless" ( 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6).
Either way, Miller's arguments do not help her position The Bible is not a prude book – it does not shy from describing what happens in people's bedrooms. Yet there is not a single instance in the Bible in which homosexual sex is mentioned in a positive way.
Contention: The Bible's
objections to homosexuality are outdated.
Miller recognizes that the Bible includes verses that condemn
homosexual sex, but dismisses those verses as old worn out laws
based on an out-of-date culture. She says, "Most of us no longer
heed Leviticus on haircuts or blood sacrifices; our modern
understanding of the world has surpassed its prescriptions."
That understood, moral law not only remains, but has been stepped up. Jesus calls his disciples to a higher morality than the mere letter of the Law (Matthew 5-7). We are now supposed to live by the Spirit, by whom we avoid fulfilling "the lusts of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). (It's when we try to do it in our own strength that we fail miserably.)
Contention: Rejection of
gay marriage is the same as racism.
Miller contends, "If we are all God's children, made in his likeness and image, then to deny access to any sacrament based on sexuality is exactly the same thing as denying it based on skin color -and no serious (or even semiserious) person would argue that."
She's assuming that people are born gay or lesbian. While this is a popular idea in our culture, it is not been close to being proven scientifically. The precise causes of same-sex attraction are still not understood.
Yet, while the Bible states that all human beings are equal in the eyes of God, regardless of their ancestry (Colossians 3:11, Rev 7:9) homosexual sex is always referred to negatively - not simply when it is in violence or debauchery, as Miller also argues. Gay intercourse is condemned in Leviticus 18:22 just before bestiality (Leviticus 18:23) and after child sacrifice (Leviticus 18:21).
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Bible scholar Paul says:
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."
The words "effeminate" and "abusers of themselves with mankind" are two different terms for those who engage in homosexual acts. What the KJV translates "effeminate" is the word for a male prostitute, a catamite, or the passive partner in male intercourse.
The next term, "abusers …" is a very clear word meaning, "male homosexual" or "sodomite" – the active partner in male intercourse. It's the Greek word arsenokoitç, which is a combination of two Greek words meaning "male" and "bed". Paul doesn't leave any loopholes for men in bed monogamously or in a loving romantic relationship. (There's also not a lot of room for people who have ‘good' reasons for being idolaters or thieves or adulterers or extortionists either. We are all in desperate need for the grace of God.)
On Healthy Same-Gender Love
"I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women."
The Bible always blesses deep love between men and yet always condemns homosexual sex. The Bible blesses men embracing each other and kissing each other, and John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved" lay on his breast at the last supper. (The word "loved" is from the root word agape, and not eros.)
Perhaps we have such an epidemic of same-sex attraction among men because men do not know how to show each other affection without its being considered a sexual thing. The purity of simple masculine love has gotten skewed and ruined by humanity's focus on sex. It's good for men to "love one another with a pure heart fervently" (1 Peter 1:22) and yet not "burn in their lust one toward another" (Romans 1:27).
Perhaps if men as a group loved their wives the way Christ loved the Church – cherishing and nurturing their wives, and laying down their lives for them – perhaps fewer women would feel drawn to the arms of members of the same sex. Perhaps if women were taught to reverence their husbands (not be door mats, but truly respect their husbands) there would not be the man-hatred we see in the world. Either way, it's women's responsibility to love one another but not, "change the natural use into that which is against nature" (Romans 1:26).
The Word of God absolutely doesn't change just because society changes. The Word of God is living, but it does not evolve. It lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:25).
God loves each one of us, and He is more powerful than the sin that so easily besets us. In our weakness He is strong. We need to give ourselves wholly to Him, no matter what that means. His is the most important relationship we have.
"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." - Hebrews 4:14-16.