Sex: What do Christians believe about gay marriage?

Sex: What do Christians believe about gay marriage?

Jesus was a rabbi—a teacher of the Old Testament. In His ancient Jewish context, homosexuality was universally seen as contrary to God’s design. Had Jesus wanted to overturn the obvious Old Testament stance against homosexuality, He would have needed to make a lot of noise. But the New Testament offers ample evidence that His views aligned with the Scriptures He had at hand.

Like other New Testament voices such as Paul, Jesus unabashedly grounded right sexual practice in the created order of Genesis 1–2. Robert Gagnon, who has likely done more scholarly work than anyone on the Bible and homosexuality, summarizes the evidence:

There is little historical doubt about Jesus’ view of homosexual practice. Although focused on the indissolubility of marriage, in Mark 10:5–9 he clearly presupposed that the presence of a “male and female” was an important prerequisite of marriage (Gen. 1:27). Only a “man” and a “woman” are structurally capable of being “joined” through a sexually intimate relationship into a one-flesh union (2:24)…For Jesus, then, the Creator ordained marriage—it was not just a social construct—as a lifelong union of one man and one woman. Both the Scriptures Jesus cited with approval and the audience addressed—indeed, the whole of early Judaism, so far as extant evidence indicates.1

Gagnon draws the conclusion in another article, “Had Jesus wanted his disciples to think otherwise, he would have had to state such a view clearly. As it is, we know of no dissenting opinions on the issue in earliest Christianity.”2

It is clear that Jesus saw the male-female marriage bond of Genesis 1–2 as the prototype for human sexual relationships. Anything outside those boundaries was off limits.

Despite this strong evidence, supporters of homosexuality nevertheless often appeal to Jesus, claiming that “Jesus never condemned homosexuality” or even “He never mentioned homosexuality.” The Huffington Post, for example, ran an article titled “What Jesus Says about Homosexuality.”
When you click on the link, up pops a tattered old Bible flopped open to blank pages, as if Jesus came up empty on the subject. The presentation might be clever, but it proves nothing. Jesus’ apparent silence on rape, incest, or pedophilia does not make Him a proponent of those things. It simply confirms those issues were settled among the Jews. Jesus was no coward when it came to speaking up in order to rattle conventional thinking and effect change. If He was silent, it was because He saw no need to challenge the position His listeners already held.

Jesus does speak of the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The names of these ancient cities get tossed around by both sides of this debate, but you should read for yourself the actual Bible background:

But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly.” (Gen. 19:4–7 ESV)

That quote comes from the longer story in Genesis 19:1–29. Jesus later said, “I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day” (Matt. 10:15 NLT). Jesus declared that Sodom and Gomorrah endured God’s righteous “judgment” because they were “wicked.” He said, “I assure you, even wicked Sodom will be better off than such a town on judgment day” (Luke 10:12 NLT). And He added, “On the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:29 ESV).

If you want to look up the most concrete texts in the New Testament on this issue check out passages like Romans 1:26–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:9–10, 2 Peter 2:6–10, and Jude 7. As Philip Towner writes, “Contemporary arguments that advocate the legitimacy of homosexuality cannot resort successfully to the biblical texts and etymology. The exegesis of these passages is not in question.”3

You can with integrity say you accept biblical teaching—or not. You cannot with integrity say that the Bible supports any kind of sex apart from heterosexual marriage. The Bible is clear, and those who read it should be clear that they agree or disagree.

The Bible is a collection of writings that Christians have historically held to be uniquely inspired by God. We believe that God has spoken in these specific writings and given them an eternal value that transcends the circumstances in which they were written and passed down. Simply put, the Bible is not an old book that is outdated but rather a timeless book that is always timely.

The content of the Bible is for us far more than a mind game. It is a practical handbook for living. We believe that when the Bible speaks, it is actually God perfectly and authoritatively speaking through human authors.

And because we accept the Bible as our authority on sexuality and every other area of life, we strive to act on what it says. It is not surprising that we rely so consistently on the book. Our goal is to wholeheartedly live according to its truths. We do not read it as if it contains a secret that no one else can figure out. We believe that its message is plain for all honest readers. We also do not read it ignorant of the trends of our society and values of our neighbors. Instead we ask, “What did it mean back then—and what does it say to us now?”

The opening pages of the Bible say that at creation God made everything “very good.” It adds that while “God made man upright, he has gone crooked chasing many schemes” (Eccles. 7:29). When God was done, everything was good, not bad. There was only life, not death. Then sin entered the world, with the result that everyone and everything was infected and affected so that nothing today is the way it is supposed to be.

The average non-Christian assumes the world can get brighter, but the average Christian assumes the world can only get darker. The non-Christian view of the world is that things are normative and improving. The Christian view is that things are abnormal and declining. We do not believe that the world is the way that it is supposed to be. We do not hold that the world is getting better. We believe that the world stands opposed to God in a state of rebellion. All of us at the core of our beings are meant to reflect the glory of God’s handiwork but the brokenness that entered the world when Adam and Eve willfully sinned has made that impossible.

As a pastor, I feel compelled to say to every person I meet no matter what their lifestyle is: “Who you are is not how you’re supposed to be. Just because it is natural for you does not mean that it is holy for you. You are a sinner.”

On the issue of sexual activity, in fact, I find it incredibly offensive when a guy keeps impregnating women with no intention of caring for the child they create. And I understand what it is like to have strong sexual desires out of line with Scripture. I was sexually active with my girlfriend prior to becoming a Christian. We should not have been dating, and we should not have been sleeping together. I won’t even pretend to be someone who has never done wrong. Upon my conversion, I started reading the Bible and taking part in Sunday services and midweek classes and Bible studies at a solid church. I learned that I was not acting in accordance with God’s Word. Loving leaders explained that in obedience to God, I needed to stop fornicating. And by God’s grace, I did. I was given the truth in love. I did not feel hated, despised, rejected, or anything of the sort. Eventually, my girlfriend and I were married and recently celebrated 26 years of faithful marriage by God’s grace. As a Christian, I started looking to Jesus, who lived the perfect and most impactful life in the history of the world without ever having sex. For some people to follow Him faithfully means they must do the same. That news shocks our system. As pastor and scholar John Piper pointed out in an interview I conducted with him for this project, “Sex is so much a part of what it means for us to be satisfied and happy that putting any restraints on it feels like comprising our very humanity. But that premise contradicts the greatest person who ever existed. Jesus Christ was the fullest human that has ever lived. Nobody was a more beautiful human being. No one was more fully human than Jesus. And Jesus never had sex.”

For me as a spiritual leader there would be nothing easier than to say, “Go ahead and take your pants off whenever, wherever, with whomever you want.” That is once what I wanted. But Christianity is about loving repentance. In love, we should accept people wherever they are—just as God accepts us. But also in love, we should call them to repent of sin—just as God calls us to turn from our wrongdoing. If at any point God’s people fail to echo God by repenting of their own sin and lovingly inviting others to do the same, then we are in fact guilty of perpetrating a massive and dangerous lie. There is no real Christianity without practicing and preaching loving repentance. This includes repenting of being unloving when we don’t echo what the Bible says, which I have been guilty of.

This is an excerpt from Pastor Mark’s Christians Might Be Crazy. You can get the free e-book here.

  1. Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon, 2002), 159–83.
  2. Robert A. J. Gagnon, “Sexuality,” in Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, ed. Kevin J. Vanhoozer (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 745.
  3. Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 128.