A Biblical View of Marriage and Homosexuality
Christians should be able to define clearly what the Bible teaches are marriage and sexuality, particularly in a cultural climate that increasingly defends homosexuality. This is really about what the Bible teaches, so let’s walk through this a little.
Before looking at the biblical case, we need to consider a foundational disjunction. Either sexual relations should not have any restrictions or they should have restrictions. If they should not have any restrictions, then literally anything should be allowed and acceptable. But no one reasonably argues that sexual relationships should have absolutely no restrictions at all, for such would open the door to all manner of perversions, including pedophilia, rape, incest, and polygamy. Yet, if sexual relations should have restrictions, then who has the right to make those restrictions? If those restrictions are to be made only by fallible people who happen to be in power, then such restrictions are cultural, preferential, capricious, and cannot be bound universally. This position, we maintain, cannot be held consistently and is not backed by any rational, ultimate authority. This leaves us with a greater, divine authority as the reasonable option. If the restrictions are divine, then they are universal and binding, based upon the authority of the one who created us and knows what is best. We contend that only God has the right to place restrictions upon sexual relationships. His instructions concerning this are found in Scripture, so what do we find there?
First, we find that the only situation in which sexual relations are approved by God is in marriage (Hebrews 13:4). Therefore, any sexual activity with another person outside of marriage is either fornication or adultery. This necessarily includes homosexual practice. If any legitimization of homosexual practice is to be found, it must be found only within marriage. That does not therefore mean that God permits same-sex marriage. It only means that all sexual activity between two people will only be permitted within a legitimate marriage relationship.
Second, if one is concerned about marriage as defined in Scripture, then we must recognize that God is the only One who can say what is acceptable. If the Bible doesn’t matter, then how we define or apply marriage wouldn’t matter either, for then we are back to our own opinions about it all. The debate would be pointless, and we are forced to the “no restrictions on sexual relationships” position.
Third, if we are going to accept the Lordship of Jesus, then we will submit to His statements on the matter. If we are not going to accept the Lordship of Jesus, then we will do whatever we want. If Jesus is not Lord, then what He says about marriage wouldn’t matter at all, and we could just go back to doing whatever we wanted. Again, the debate would be pointless, for we would only be arguing our preferences, and our positions would be untenable because they are not based on any ultimate authority.
But if Jesus is Lord, then we do not have the option of defining marriage our own way. What did He say? When asked about divorce, His response was, “Have you not read that He who created from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 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” (Matthew 19:4-6).
From the beginning, God created male and female, and said, “for this reason…” He created male and female specifically so that He could join them together as husband and wife. God is the one who joins male and female. Upon His joining them, they are not to be separated by man. Nowhere in Scripture is there any kind of indication whatsoever that God would ever join together male to male or female to female. Male and female were made “for this reason.” God’s definition of marriage is clear: male and female joined together for life. Homosexual marriage is illegitimate because it cannot fit within the specified boundaries established by God from the beginning and later sanctioned by Jesus Christ.
Paul’s teaching further backs this point up. He taught marriage within the context of male and female (I Corinthians 7) right after teaching that the body is not made for immorality (I Corinthians 6). Among those listed as not inheriting the kingdom (I Corinthians 6:9-10) are fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, and homosexuals. “Effeminate” refers to the passive male partner in a homosexual relationship. “Homosexuals” in this passage is a combination of arsen, male, and koite, bed, thus literally “male in a bed”; the term is used to indicate the one who takes the more active role in a homosexual relationship. There is no question but that Paul strictly condemns the practice of homosexuality here (cf. also Romans 1:18ff). We should stress “practice” here. Those who argue that they are “born gay” (even if it could be proved) cannot show that they must act out their inclinations. That view would open up a can of worms no one wants to see or defend. What of those inclined toward children? What of those inclined toward hurting people? There is a difference between inclination and practice. The former can be brought under control so that the latter does not occur (see James 3:14-16). Having an inclination does not grant us the right to do any and everything we are inclined to do. Self-control must be maintained.
What is the answer to the problem of immorality (I Corinthians 6)? Paul argues that marriage is the answer, and that such a marriage consists of male and female (I Corinthians 7). Any other relationship results in something that will cause a person to be lost.
Further, marriage was given for the context of having children (Genesis 1:28). This alone should help answer the question as to whether or not homosexuality is natural (and would even argue against the evolutionary notion here, which requires the ability to reproduce — if homosexuals cannot reproduce together, then how does this fit with Darwinism? I should think Darwinists would find themselves in quite a dilemma over how to explain homosexuality, for natural selection simply cannot explain it.). Obviously, not even every heterosexual couple can have children for one reason or another, but the action that leads to the children is natural, and children will only come from such action involving male and female. A male and female couple may try with reasonable expectation. Try as they may, the homosexual couple can never produce children of their own. This tells us that God’s intention was for children to be born from a marriage of male and female. If sexual activity is acceptable only within marriage, and children must necessarily come from the fruit of sexual activity, then this is God’s plan all along, and this is what is natural. We might just point out here that children who are born out of wedlock are not themselves illegitimate or less than human (it’s not their fault). They are human lives that need to be nurtured and cherished no matter what the circumstances were that brought their lives about.
So, in light of the facts that 1) marriage is specifically defined as being between male and female, and that 2) homosexual practice is specifically listed right alongside fornication and adultery as a sin that will keep one out of heaven, the biblical conclusion is clear. Sexual relations are acceptable only within marriage, and marriage is acceptable only when God joins together male and female. Anything else defiles the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4).
Does this position constitute hatred and bigotry? Only if people are going to define the terms marriage, hatred, and bigotry apart from Scripture and by personal preference can they argue such, but then they must defend either another position that has restrictions or a position with no restrictions. Just calling someone a “bigot” or “hateful” is pejorative and poisoning the well. It is argument by labeling instead of presenting legitimate argumentation, and it should be rejected as fallacious.
Believing that marriage is restricted to male and female who can be joined together by God is anything but bigoted or hateful. Every male and every female begins on the same playing field. No one is saying that a man cannot get married, even if his preference or inclination is toward another man. Getting married in itself is not what is restricted here. To whom one gets married is the issue, and unless one believes that anyone should be able to marry anyone under any circumstances, we will all agree that there should be restrictions.
Does the person who thinks that the biblical position is bigotry believe that anyone under any circumstances at any time should be able to get married? That would be surprising. Most who accept homosexual marriage would say that marriage to a child would be wrong. But why? Are they being bigoted, too? If they have rejected biblical standards, then what is the basis for rejecting the idea that an adult can marry a child? “Because the child is not a consenting adult” would be the only reasonable response. Okay, then they, too, restrict marriage, and “consenting adults” is their required definition. Why? What is the standard for saying that this is the only acceptable definition? Where does their authority for this view come from?
What about the man who wishes to marry many wives? If all the adults involved are consenting, then what is the problem? Most would restrict marriage in this case, too. Why can’t people who are married get married again to someone else while still married to the first person? Why should we not have cross-marriages with each partner married multiple times in some interconnected web of matrimony? What does monogamy have to do with it? Why restrict marriage that way? Why do states have restrictions on marrying within the family? Why not allow brothers and sisters to marry each other? The point is that few would believe that marriage should be allowed between any two (or more) under any circumstances, even if all the parties involved truly love each other. No one really argues that sexual relationships should not be restricted in some way. There are restrictions, and recognizing restrictions does not equate to bigotry and hatred.
One of the more common objections given has to do with the fact that we are to love one another. Didn’t Jesus say that we should love one another? Isn’t denying marriage to same-sex couples contradictory to the command to love one another?
Basically, this is arguing that love should allow us to do pretty much whatever we want when it comes to marriage as long as we can call it “love.” This also is arguing that “love” should be defined however we feel. We just decide this is what we want, call it love, and anyone who doesn’t agree is hateful. If this is what Jesus meant by “love one another,” then they might have a point. But “love one another” does not mean “marry one another,” nor does it mean “enjoy sexual relations with one another.” Jesus taught His disciples to love one another (John 13:34-35). We are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). We are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Would they really mean to imply that we should be able to marry everyone that we love, even if that includes children, family, or multiple people? Why have any restrictions at all as long as we can say we are loving each other? Why restrict any activity to marriage at all as long as we love each other? Indeed, the argument would destroy marriage entirely, for love cannot be restricted to marriage. The man who cheats on his wife can justify it if he did it out of love, and his wife should be tolerant and accepting of that, for she might otherwise be a bigot for being intolerant. Everyone knows that this kind of argument cannot work. Everyone knows that restrictions are needed.
The question is who defines the restrictions. Once again, either we define them (society or individual), in which case they are essentially arbitrary and based upon preference, or God defines them and we choose to submit to His will. If there are no divine restrictions, then neither fornication nor adultery can be considered sinful, for marriage is just a matter of cultural convention with no ultimate meaning. If there are restrictions, then following these restrictions cannot be considered bigoted or hateful, for they are given by God for our provision and protection. In this case, the loving thing to do is to teach God’s will, for souls do hang in the balance.
We are to love one another. Christians should love all people regardless of background, lifestyle, race, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else that might distinguish a group. Christians should also love drunks, rapists, and murderers. Christians are to love all those who are lost in sin enough to teach the Gospel to them. Since we, as Christians, recognize that we, too, are guilty of sin against God, we wish to spread God’s grace around to all. We are not to discriminate when it comes to the Gospel. We believe in the power of the Gospel to change lives. After Paul had listed those sins, which included homosexuality, he said, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:11). We need to trust the power of God to change all of us.
So if we are going to accept that only God has the right to restrict sexual relationships, then the conclusion is quite clear. If we are not going to accept God as that authority, then there is no ultimate authority or reason why there should be any restrictions at all, unless we are simply going to argue that the whims of those in power should control everything. I will opt for divine authority.